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Re Hamlet's Mill

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  • Barry Carroll
    Re Hamlet s Mill With all its flaws, Chris asks what good is this book.? True, HM is a flawed and hasty book. It could have used a rewrite and a good editor.
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 3, 2003

      Re Hamlet's Mill
       
      With all its flaws, Chris asks
      what good is this book.?

      True, HM is a flawed and hasty book.
      It could have used a rewrite and a good editor.
      As one critic points out, it smacks of being a
      first draft. The authors' flagrantly display their
      scholarly prejudices along with their beliefs.

      However when it came out, there was no other
      discussion of its topic. Now archaeo-astronomy
      and ethno-astronomy are legitimate subject areas.

      Short answer to Chris' question is:

      This book is valuable because it presents a
      cosmological vision of cyclical time not presented
      in any other easy to find single source.
      This is the baby that ought not be tossed out
      with the bath water.
       
      The precession of the equinoxes actually exists
      So does the 60 year cycle of conjunction between
      Saturn and Jupiter. This is not philosophical conjecture.
      Both these cycles are observable phenomena.

      The authors present the idea that intelligent
      people did observe them, that they developed a
      cosmological vision based on these observations
      and that the language in various cultures'
      supporting myths refer to these observable
      phenomena in their text. The image of the mill
      used in the title only dates to the final centuries BC,
      but an earlier understanding of cyclical time is not
      limited by this metaphor.

      The authors focus on language and don't explore
      very well how much support their ideas about
      transmission of precessional knowledge get from
      the presence of sexagisimal numbers embedded
      in mythic tales, This would be useful to them
      because in this case, math cross-checks myth.

      Certain numbers that appear repeatedly in Eurasian
      myths correspond to the lengths of precessional
      time cycles and their subdivisions as measured by
      the sexagisimal units. Early in the 20th century there
      was apparently a lot of controversy over whether 
      the appearance of these numbers was evidence of
      precessional knowledge
      or simply a mathematical coincidence rising out of
      the sexagisimal number system. It's the fact that
      these same numbers appeared regularly in cuniform
      tablets recovered during the excavation of 5000 year
      old Mesopotamian cities that seemed to raise the
      question of how far back precessional knowledge
      might go. The persistence of the sexagisimal number
      system itself is plain. The ancient Mesopotamian
      invention for measuring circles and the passage of time
      is so effective that we still use it today.

       From the critics of HM I have learned that you are
      a Pan-Babylonian if you believe that the Sumerians
      or Babylonians originated the zodiac of 12 equally
      divided parts, had knowledge of the precession and its
      effects and that this knowledge diffused to other civilizations. 
      It is true that HM proposes such a scenario. Likewise
      I have to admit that I am presently one of these people.
      I'm not convinced that it spread across the entire planet in
      ancient times, but I'm convinced that it spread thruout the
      Eurasian continent.

      The existence and diffusion of a cosmological vision
      based on precessional knowledge and transmitted by
      various means is not simply the stuff of idle speculation
      by the authors of HM.

      There are monuments

      Civilizations widely separated in time as well as by space
      have actually used precessional numbers to design
      monuments in ways that make it clear they understand
      the phenomena behind them.

      For example, as late as the 7th century AD, monuments
      like Ankor Wat or Borbudor demonstrate that the
      precessional numbers were transmitted somehow for more
      than 3000 years.It seems remarkable that after all that time
      two kings relied on the authenticity of these numbers to provide
      them with a legitimate cosmological image. Likewise it seems
      clear that at these sites the numerology at work in the Hindu
      and Buddhist mythological motifs portrayed by sculpture
      are  working also as a vehicle for astronomical information.
      Additionally, the numerical evidence shows conflation of the
      precessional numbers with other cycles and circles like the
      Yugas at Ankor and the wheel of Dharma at Borbudor.
      It is likely that the precessional references at these late temples
      in did not originate within those religious traditions but come
      from older sources.

      An interesting reference to the conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter
      appears in Keith Critchlow's Islamic Patterns. He demonstrates
      how star-shaped patterns that deliberately derive from the trigons
      of conjunction form the basis for a cluster of well-known tilework
      patterns.

      In summary, for all its flaws HM is the tip of a big iceberg.
      I still give the authors credit for taking a crack at a slippery
      subject. I have yet not read the criticism of the book by Edward
      Leech who says that alleging knowledge of the precession before
      Hipparchus in 2nd century AD, is just "false".
      However amidst Santillana and von Deschend's jumble there
      is what seems to be a lot of fascinating circumstantial evidence re
      the existence and survival of precessional knowledge. Some of it
      seems to get support from elsewhere. Some perhaps not.
      Fortunately now-days if you are interested in ethno-astronomy there
      are a lot of other places you can start, like for instance the books
      of Anthony Aveni, E.C. Krupp or McKim Malville.

       B

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