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The Dunhuang map or Dunhuang Star map is one of the first known graphical representations of stars from ancient Chinese astronomy, dated to the Tang Dynasty (618–907). Before this map, much of the star information mentioned in historical Chinese texts had been questioned. The map provides a graphical verification of the star observations, and are part of a series of pictures on one of the Dunhuang manuscripts. The astronomy behind the map is explained in an educational resource posted on the website of the International Dunhuang Project, where much of the research on the map has been done. The Dunhuang Star map is to date the world's oldest complete preserved star atlas
A recent analysis that examines the accuracy and projections used to make it notes the atlas marks positions of over 1,300 stars and outlines 257 Chinese star groups or asterisms. The star positions in the hand drawn atlas were found to be accurate to within a few degrees.
“From Dunhuang, China: The Oldest Star Atlas”
Nicolas David, Professor Emeritus, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Wednesday, October 17, 2012, at 7:30 p.m.
Oak Hammock at the University of Florida, Williston Rd and SW 25th Terrace
This lecture is hosted by the Gainesville Society of the Archaeological Institute of America, with UF’s College of Fine Arts, Classics, and Anthropology Departments.
The Dunhuang star atlas was discovered in 1907 in a town on the ancient Silk Road. Only recently has it been thoroughly studied by astronomers. In this lecture Dr. David will describe the atlas and set it in the cultural context of the Warring States, Han and later Tang periods in China. By following a number of clues – costume, paper, taboo characters, handwriting, the names in the document and internal astronomical evidence – Dr. David will suggest a finer dating, explain why the atlas ended up in the far west of Han China, and even identify the author of this remarkable and beautiful product of scientific observation that was also a closely guarded state secret.
THE DUNHUANG CHINESE SKY: A COMPREHENSIVE STUDY OF
THE OLDEST KNOWN STAR ATLAS