Looking Skyward

Part of the Petra exhibition.

Zodiacal Lamp

Thousands of years ago, the ancients looked skyward because they believed the natural world was filled with divine clues about future events. Associating the planets with gods, royal astrologers interpreted the movements of the heavenly bodies to predict the future. Well before 1000 BC, sky watchers developed a way to track planting and harvesting seasons by charting the Sun and Moon--the beginnings of the science of astronomy.

Petra exhibition
© AMNH Photo Studio

The Nabataeans embraced the zodiac by building on earlier notions passed down through the Greeks and Romans, who had assigned their own gods to the planets. In depicting the zodiac, the Nabataeans incorporated images of Tyche and Nike to symbolize the abundance and prosperity bestowed by the heavens.