Press Release: British Museum Reveals ‘Stellar Navigation of the Arabs'
A free talk at the British Museum on 27 July will reveal the secrets of how 15th and 16th century Arab voyagers read the stars to travel the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean.
The MBI Al Jaber Foundation lecture on Arab Navigation offers the public the chance to learn how sailors used the night sky to criss-cross the long coastlines of Africa and India, long before Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and chronometers. This remarkable celestial navigation was the key to forging commercial and cultural exchange between far-flung civilisations.
Dr Anthony Constable will shed light on the ancient technique grounded in maths, geometry and astronomy. The complex art was based on measuring the altitude of the Pole Star – Polaris – to establish latitude, and on the risings and settings of certain stars to find direction. This belied the simplicity of the instruments used, such as the khashaba – literally “piece of wood” – also known as the kamal. With a piece of string passing through a hole in its centre, this simple tool allowed sailors to accurately measure the altitude of Polaris or “shoot the Pole Star”.
The public lecture is part of the Seminar for Arabian Studies. The three-day event is the only annual international forum for the presentation of the latest research on the Arabian Peninsula. It is organised by the British Foundation for the Study of Arabia (BFSA) and supported by both the British Museum and the MBI Al Jaber Foundation, a British registered charity which aims to promote cultural dialogue and exchange between the Middle East and wider world.
Sheikh Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber, Founder of the MBI Al Jaber Foundation, says: “We believe that greater understanding will be achieved through improved awareness and respect for each other’s cultures. The Seminar for Arabian Studies at the British Museum offers the chance to learn more about the Arab world and its archaeology, history, epigraphy, languages, literature, art, culture, ethnography and geography.”
Tickets for the MBI Al Jaber Foundation lecture are free but places are limited and must be booked in advance. For more on this and the full programme visit www.britishmuseum.org
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Director of Public Relations