Before the advent of Google Earth, when one wanted to see what the planet looked like, or to find a certain faraway place without actually travelling to it, one would consult a map - and you’ll recall that they didn’t always fit in your phone. We’ve made maps for millennia. It’s an art form unto itself, and as anyone with a love for antique maps can tell you, the variation in form and artistic style is both immense and awe inspiring.
Of course, there are different kinds of maps. From a technical perspective, there are topological and topographical maps, navigational maps, population maps, faction maps, marine maps, even wind maps. Most are concerned with demonstrating relative locations on Earth, but people have been making maps of the stars for almost as long as they’ve been giving each other badly drawn directions to the corner store. Celestial maps, as they’re called, offer a standardised view of constellations and individual stars, along with their relative position compared to specific points on Earth.
One of the problems with celestial maps, and actually with all maps, is the two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional object or space. In order to accurately plot locations and show a realistic measure of their position relative to all others, the cartographer must distort the actual shape of either the Earth or the heavens. This, obviously, can cause some problems when one wants to clearly understand the actual relationship between two locations. The answer? Globes!
Globes too, are split into two categories, terrestrial and celestial. The earliest known terrestrial globes date to ancient Greece (6th to 3rd century BCE), though no examples have survived the ravages of time. Celestial globes may have gotten a start much later, possibly as late as 2nd century CE, as a part of the Farnese Atlas, which is a Roman replica of the classical Hellenistic sculpture of Atlas, but depicting him holding up the heavens, rather than the world. Though, since no examples or records of celestial spheres have been found (yet) prior to this point, it’s not known when or who exactly started the trend. Antique celestial globes are most often made out of metal, usually bronze, and are usually hollow, but are also found in marble and other sculpting mediums.
In the realm of celestial globes, also known as celestial spheres, there are some spectacular surviving examples, and among those gems are hidden one of history’s most vexing puzzles.
In the 1980s, a Smithsonian historian of science, Emilie Savage-Smith, embarked on a journey throughout the middle-east, with the purpose of finding and studying celestial spheres from antiquity. She found a bounty of them, some of the most incredible works of cartographic art and engineering ever made by human hands.
Among those she found there were two distinct types; seamed and seamless spheres. Seamed spheres are, or were, made by moulding two halves of the sphere separately and then soldering them together, ultimately buffing the soldered seam to make a smooth sphere. Then artisans and astronomers would engrave the surface according to whatever specific element of the skies they wanted to depict.
Seamless spheres, however, were another thing entirely; something Emilie Savage-Smith discovered quite unexpectedly.
Up until Savage-Smith made her discovery, it was thought by virtually the entirety of the academic community and by metallurgists the world over, that all examples of hollow metal celestial spheres in existence were of the seamed type. This was owing to the long held belief that creating seamless hollow metal spheres is impossible. It turns out, that isn’t true.
One of the earliest examples of a seamless celestial sphere found by Savage-Smith, was found to be from a workshop in Lahore, Pakistan, though she soon found that the technique, described as ‘secret wax casting’ was widely known by metal craftsmen in Northern India from at least as early as the late 16th century and coming from the Mughal Empire. In fact, some of the workshops identified continued to use the technique up until the 19th century. Though it has apparently now been lost to modern manufacturing techniques.
According to some, the best surviving example of a hollow, seamless celestial sphere is one made by a Mughal metallurgical master and astronomer named Muhammad Salih Tahtawi in 1631. The sphere, known as the celestial globe of Muhammad Salih Tahtawi, is a massive bronze globe adorned with ornate engraving in both Arabic and Persian, as well as numerous pictographic representations of celestial bodies. Its manufacture would have been an immense undertaking, though Salih Tahtawi surely succeeded in creating a masterpiece unparalleled before or since.
The existence of the spheres, which are commonly known as Islamicate Celestial Globes, isn’t without controversy though. Aside from the obvious resistance among modern metallurgists to the idea that these objects were created as Savage-Smith asserts, there exists a good deal of misinformation about these spheres, stemming from what appears to be a reluctance to attribute such mastery to the Muslim ruled Mughal Empire. Several people have asserted that the existence of both Arabic and Persian language on many of the surviving examples is explained simply by the suggestion that those features were added long after the spheres were made. Presumably implying that the spheres themselves were made by a much older culture, perhaps even in a different area of the world.
Bronze casting techniques similar to that which may have been used to create these spheres, such as lost-wax casting, originated approximately 5700 years ago in Israel, but there is no evidence thus far to substantiate such a claim.
Circumstantially, it is a well-established fact that Arab and Muslim cultures were responsible for a great many technological and scientific advances throughout the middle-ages and long before. There seems to be no valid reason to deny that this particular innovation also came from their masters.
Unfortunately, the subject of seamless celestial spheres is little known in mainstream culture, and as such, in the few places it is discussed, the facts are often distorted or even completely made up. There are those who would like to claim that these magnificent examples of our history are actually OOP-ART (out-of-place-artefacts), suggesting that their origin is related to either a lost pre-historic human culture or aliens. Though as with most such arguments, there isn’t enough information at present to really dive into the discussion.
In any event, once again we are awed by the sophisticated and masterful creations of our forefathers, and once again, our steady march toward modernity has cost us the wisdom of the ages.
Sorry Apple, but I stopped using watches 25 years ago --& I'm staying that way.
- New Apple Pay is good news for cryptocurrencies, after all.
- Mainstream media cuts all conspiracy theories with the same loaded knife.
- Which of the Thames myths are really fakes?
- Tridents, pitchforks & Synchro-satanic news.
- Countdown to Carrington? Solar X-flare fired right at our planet.
- Bardarbunga, in Iceland, is the Energizer of volcanoes.
- This new mammalian fossil looks more Seuss-rassic than Jurassic.
- Restoring sight to the blind with ground-breaking treatments.
- Before taking those sleeping pills, click this link.
- My bloodthirsty ancestors are set to conquer Sydney.
- The Hiddenhenge beneath Stonehenge.
- The world's oldest sunken ship?
- Goth Gear: The Bat has a new ride.
- UFO seen with night vision goggles, by (alleged) Military instructor.
- The most dramatic mid flight encounter with UFOs you've probably never heard of.
- Red Pill of the Day: Godzilla's Honest Trailer proves me right --Pacific Rim was waaaay better.
Thanks to Chris Savia & Gustavo Cerati --Hasta siempre, genio!
Quote of the Day:
"Wisdom begins in wonder."
A French animation short, giving a nice ooh lala! twist to the Arthurian legend of Excalibur.
One wonders about the kind of incentive that would be offered for the Grail...
Fol'Amor, directed by Augustin Clermont, Gilles Cortella, Marthe Delaporte, Clement De Ruyter, Maïlys Garcia, Gaspard Sumeire, and Pierre Rütz. Short film released online by Gobelins L'Ècole de L'Image.
As I've discussed previously, we tend to fall into the trap of assuming that 'reality' consists of what we sense around us via our sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. But the truth is that we only see electromagnetic waves and hear audio waves from a tiny section of their entire spectrums. In the video above, neuroscientist Dr. David Eagleman discusses this topic, noting that this tiny slice of reality that we mistake for the totality of our environment is labeled our 'umwelt'. Our umwelt is determined by the physical apparatus we have at our disposal to take in sensory data - which to this point has largely been our biological sense organs.
But Eagleman also points out that the brain is hugely adaptable in terms of interpreting signals and forming the perception of the outside world from it:
The thing to understand is that your eyes and ears aren't doing the seeing in the first place. Your brain's doing the seeing, and the thing to appreciate is that it is locked in silence and darkness in the vault of your skull. So all the brain ever 'sees', are electrical signals coursing around in giant populations of neurons...that's all the brain ever experiences. It's not seeing the light or the dark out there, or the colours. It's not hearing the conversations. This is all that the brain is experiencing and nothing more.
But the brain is so tremendously flexible that what it's really good at doing is saying "okay well, I've got these data cables coming in...I don't know what information is carried on them." I mean we call those data cables the optic nerve and the auditory nerve, but it doesn't know what it is. All it sees is this kind of stuff, but it's really good at extracting patterns, and figuring out what to do with them, and eventually - amazingly - how to have a direct perceptual experience that it constructs about the outside world.
...It turns out that the brain doesn't care what the peripheral devices are that you plug in. These organs that we know and love like eyes and ears and fingertips - these are plug and play peripheral devices, and you can put anything you want into the system and the brain will figure out how to use it.
These two factors: the limited environment (umwelt) that we perceive through our biological sense organs, and the brain's adaptability to interpreting data fed into it, leads us to an exciting area of the future - augmentation. With the continual growth in technological power - and the continual shrinking in size of that technology - we have now entered an age where we can augment our natural sense organs with new data streams, feeding these new additions to our umwelt into our brains via our current sensory channels.
Eagleman currently has a Kickstarter project running which looks at augmentation as a means to cover the gap left by the failure of a sensory channel - in this case, the hearing impaired, via a sensory substitution vest which converts audio data into tactile data. This allows the brain to gain access to an 'information channel' which normally can't reach it. And as Eagleman explains, the brain quickly learns to recognise patterns from this 'new' data source and make sense of it.
This is just the beginning however - as Eagleman explains, we could feed any data source we wanted into the vest, as long as we have access to it in some way. From invisible radiation sources to stock prices and Twitter trends, we could 'jack' these information channels directly into our brains via augmented devices - in this case a vest, but the possibilities go much further than that - in order to expand our umwelt beyond our current limitations.
The horizontal lines in this image are all straight, and parallel.
Go home reality, you're drunk.
Darklore Volume 8 is now available!
- New Jack the Ripper DNA claim gets ripped by experts.
- Excavations reveal Gobekli Tepe had oldest known sculptural workshop.
- The company restoring Egypt's oldest pyramid has actually made it worse.
- The lost labyrinth of ancient Egypt (part 1).
- The case for using psychedelics to treat PTSD and depression.
- Science and sacraments: psychedelic research and mystical experiences.
- Paul Stamets - The future is fungi (how to save the planet).
- Believing in fiction - the rise of hyper-real religions.
- Albert Einstein endorsed a popular psychic in 1932. This Is the controversy that ensued.
- Eight things we can do now to build a space colony in this century.
- Myths and reality of the Nazi space rocket.
- Russia's secret plan to occupy the Moon with a permanent base.
- The bizarre robots of old Japan.
- The origin of "a glitch in the Matrix": Philip K. Dick discusses déjà vu and living in a simulation, in 1977.
- Time travel simulation resolves 'Grandfather Paradox'.
- Boater catches explosive volcanic eruption and startling sonic boom on camera.
- Numbers stations, shortwave radio, and their role in the intelligence community.
- Australian car crash coma victim wakes up in hospital speaking fluent Mandarin.
- UFO mystery as 'flaming space rock' falling from sky is feared to be alien craft.
- Not so bird-brained: cockatoos learn to make wooden tools to reach food.
- India monkey showers people with stolen banknotes in Shimla. I need more monkeys around here.
- Falling gargoyle kills bride-to-be in Chicago.
- Image of the Day: Obama does Stonehenge.
Quote of the Day:
I want to know God's thoughts; the rest are details.
After many decades of being a forbidden topic, research into psychedelic experiences and their possibly beneficial effects is once again blooming. For a fantastic exploration of the topic, check out the documentary Science and Sacraments (embedded above) which "surveys the history of psychedelic research and the current renaissance, focusing on the potential to enhance insight and creativity, foster psychological healing and growth, and catalyze spiritual awakening".
You can grab a hard copy of the documentary on DVD from the Institute of Noetic Sciences.
Fresh Fortean freakishness and futile futurism:
- From My Little Pony to tulpamancy, a cultural phenomenon now deserving of academic study.
- Brain to brain interaction at a distance.
- Can you ever really know an Extraterrestrial? Even to catch a whiff of them might be dangerous.
- Noam Chomsky contemplates the end of human history.
- Meanwhile, Stephen Hawking worries that the God particle may bring a more sudden conclusion to the whole universe.
- Is our microbiome our puppetmaster?
- Feel more free: have a pee.
- As psychoactive plants are now in season at Kew Gardens, UK Liberal Democrats pledge to decriminalise drug possession.
- 'Spirit Wrestlers' dress Nine Ladies in pink in an 'act of love', following earlier vandalism.
- The strange history of 'Mad honey', a hallucinogenic weapon of war.
- Is the pyramidal hill Gunung-Padang 12,000 years older than Gobekli Tepe?
- Where were you when episodic memories were located? In my memory palace.
- The thermodynamic theory of Ecology.
- Prahlad Jani claims he's had no need for food or water, for 65 Years.
- Caryatids found guarding Alexandrian tomb.
- Has DNA evidence identified Jack the Ripper, or was it the Loch Ness Monster ?
- The surprising verdict on Atheist TV: it's reasonably ok.
Thanks to Cat, John and Rick for links
Quote of the Day:
Sad species. Poor Owl.
This article is excerpted from Darklore Volume 8, which is now available for sale from Amazon US and Amazon UK. The Darklore anthology series features the best writing and research on paranormal, Fortean and hidden history topics, by the most respected names in the field: Robert Schoch, Nick Redfern, Loren Coleman, Robert Bauval and Daniel Pinchbeck, to name just a few. Darklore's aim is to support quality researchers, so it makes sense to support Darklore. For more information on the series (including more free sample articles), visit the Darklore website.
Believing in Fiction
The Rise of Hyper-Real Religion by Ian ‘Cat’ Vincent
"What is real? How do you define real?" – Morpheus, in The Matrix
"Television is reality, and reality is less than television." - Dr. Brian O’Blivion, in Videodrome
Ever since the advent of modern mass communication and the resulting wide dissemination of popular culture, the nature and practice of religious belief has undergone a considerable shift. Especially over the last fifty years, there has been an increasing tendency for pop culture to directly figure into the manifestation of belief: the older religious faiths have either had to partly embrace, or strenuously oppose, the deepening influence of books, comics, cinema, television and pop music. And, beyond this, new religious beliefs have arisen that happily partake of these media – even to the point of entire belief systems arising that make no claim to any historical origin.
There are new gods in the world – and and they are being born from pure fiction.
This is something that – as a lifelong fanboy of the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres and an exponent of a often pop-culturederived occultism for nearly as long – is no shock to me. What did surprise me, however, was discovering that there is a growing area of sociological study of these beliefs... an academic realm which not only seeks to understand these developments, but also provides a useful perspective on modern belief for both the Fortean and the occult practitioner.
I first learned about this area of study from a 2007 interview on the excellent religion and pop culture focussed website Theofantastique with the Australian sociologist Dr. Adam Possamai,1 in which he talks about his research into what he has termed ‘hyper-real religion’.2 Fascinated, I acquired his introductory text to the concept, Religion And Popular Culture: A Hyper-Real Testament3 and, later, the mammoth 2012 collection of research and essays on the subject which he edited, Handbook of Hyper-Real Religions.4 The term ‘hyper-real’ itself draws on the work of ... Read More »
A summary of all the stories and news briefs posted on The Daily Grail over the past week. Feel free to share anything interesting!
- Plague Sunday at Eyam - the Black Death village
- News Briefs 01-09-2014 (Monday)
- JREF Shake-Up: Headquarters Moved, James Randi Re-Installed as President
- New Movie Autómata Explores the Possibilities, and Risks, of Machine Consciousness
- News Briefs 02-09-2014 (Tuesday)
- The Origin of 'A Glitch in the Matrix': Philip K. Dick Discusses Déjà Vu and Living in a Simulation, in 1977
- News Briefs 03-09-2014 (Wednesday)
- More Evidence of the Intelligence of Birds: Cockatoos Learn to Make Wooden Tools to Reach Food
- News Briefs 04-09-2014 (Thursday)
- News Briefs 05-09-2014 (Friday)
- Have You Seen This Lost Wormhole?
- Obamahenge: US President Visits Stonehenge
- Darklore Volume 8: Now Available!
Have a good weekend!