The current issue of Astronomy has an interesting article about the Temple of the Fox, which is being excavated in Peru. It is approximately 4200 years old and is the oldest observatory to have been found in the Western Hemisphere. It is aligned with the solstices, and also with the rising of a dark-cloud astronomical figure known as the Fox. I am very curious to know more about the civilization that built it. Does it even have a name? Apparently, it predates even the Olmecs, and was probably contemporaneous with whatever civilization built Stonehenge.
Posts Tagged ‘history’
Having read Tom Holland’s excellent Rubicon: The Fall of the Roman Republic, I was eager to read his latest work of popular history, Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West. My expectation, and hope, was that the emphasis would be on the “First World Empire” aspect, rather than the “Battle for the West.” Holland had done a stellar job of vividly illustrating Roman life, politics, and warfare, and I was hopeful that he would bring the same talent to bear on the even more distant and mysterious ancient Persians. This he does to an extent, but the subject of the book really is the epic clash between the Greek and Persian civilizations and its place in the continuing story of the conflict between “East and West.”
It is all fine for the most part, but I think the subject would have been served better by a separate book on the rise of the Persian Empire with a little more about its antecedents (and a lot more about the specifics of Persian religion, military tactics, and technology), and a separate book about the Persian Wars with Greece. Whilst I’m wishing aloud, I’ll also mention my desire for a separate treatment of the Pelopponesian War and its aftermath, and yet another about the career of Alexander the Great (with lavish details about his exploits in India).
Persian Fire is a good book overall, and I suppose I ought to be satisfied with it, but I can’t help wishing he had written a book more about the Persian Empire itself, rather than its relationship to the West.
I spent my Summer Solstice at the ancient art exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art. Once again, as it happens each time I venture into that room, I found myself captivated by the Greek pottery most of all. Ah, to have such pieces on display where I could see them every day… Would I appreciate them as much? I think I would. If they were presented to me new I would appreciate them as much, and I would use them as they were intended.
Suddenly, I want to visit museums and ancient sites in Britain. Now.
Och, there so many things to rant about, I don’t know where to start. To be honest, I’ve been trying mightily not to give in to my emotions on a variety of topics. Should I breathe fire or be consumed by it? That’s the question. The solution is probably a Buddhist one, which is fine, but my ancient ancestors were worshipers of a thunder goddess, and I tend to commune with her whether I like it or not (figuratively speaking, of course).
Wandering to other things, I would like to know the true origin of the Picts, since I carry their blood thanks to their mingling with the Celts. Where were they really from, and to what linguistic family did their language belong? Has any of it survived apart from Latin transcriptions? Have Pictish human remains ever been found and has any DNA testing been able to ascertain if there are descendants apart from the Scots? Or whether there are Pictish remains or settlements in Europe or elsewhere? [Edit: Pictish human remains have been found, but I don't know if they have tested anyone other than modern Scots. That's a waste of time, of course — it's common knowledge that the Picts were gradually absorbed by the Celts in Scotland. The question is: From whence did they migrate to Scotland, and are there surviving descendants from their earlier continental settlements? And did they build megaliths? O.K., three questions. Actually, I can think of more than three...]
On a related subject: Has anyone yet determined with certainty the true identity of the ancient Caledonians, i.e. whether they were Picts or Britons?
I guess I’m just making a note of these questions for future reference. The thunder goddess reference started my thoughts in this direction again. Her name was Bolg, by the way.
[Edit: This is reprinted from my LiveJournal posting, because it's better suited here.]
I recently watched the documentary Searching for the Great Hopewell Road. The Hopewell were one of the ancient Moundbuilder civilizations that “built thousands of monumental earthworks in the central Ohio Valley, including the largest geometric enclosures in the world.” Most fascinating to me were the links made between some of the cultural beliefs of the Woodland Indians of this region, the Anasazi of the Southwest, and the Mayas. All three purportedly had a belief that the Milky Way was some sort of sacred road of the spirit world, and all three constructed long, wide, straight roads that may have represented on earth the spiritual road they discerned in the night sky. The focus of the documentary is the discovery of what may be a straight road, 100 feet wide, connecting two sites of mound enclosures 60 miles apart. It is maddening how little is known about the ancient cultures of this continent, especially in this region.
Another thing of great interest to me were the interviews with descendents of some of the Ohio tribes, such as the Shawnee, Miami, and Delaware, who described various beliefs, some of which may have been inherited by their ancestors from the Moundbuilders. I was particularly interested in their Creation myth, which involved an endless expanse of water and a turtle coming up with the idea of creating the Earth by diving to the bottom, gathering mud, and piling it up to make some land. A mischievous muskrat helped, but he piled the mud on the turtle’s shell instead, and the turtle itself become the land. Creation by way of practical joke — it makes sense to me (and explains quite a lot, if taken further). I was also interested in two other ideas that separated the Woodland tribes from most others: they referred to the Great Spirit as “She,” and the moon was far more important to them than the sun. This last revelation was what led some of the scholars studying one of the great mounds connected by the road to look for lunar, rather than solar, observation markers at the mound. Sure enough, whereas there had been no evidence indicating any conscious attempts to trace the passage of the sun, there is evidence that the mound was used to trace the much more complicated lunar cycle.
I only wish the documentary had been longer. I love this sort of thing.
Before I go to work today, I must remember to return a DVD to the public library. The DVD in question is Cromwell (1970), starring Richard Harris as Cromwell and Alec Guinness as Charles I. I have never seen either character portrayed with greater depth or complexity. In general, I found it to be significantly above average, especially for an historical movie. History tends to be grievously distorted when adapted to film. This movie in particular had interested me since I first learned of its existence, and I was very pleased to discover it on the New Acquisitions shelf in the library. Is it my imagination, or are Americans far more interested in the American Civil War than English are in the English Civil War? Perhaps I ought to rephrase that. Is the American film industry more interested in the American Civil War than the British film industry is in the English Civil War, and if so, why? Does it have something to do with budget limitations? Do British film audiences find the subject of civil war in their own country less compelling? If they don’t, is it just that they would prefer not to explore the subject for other reasons? Are there political reasons? Are my questions misdirected because I am underestimating the number of films about the English Civil War that have been made? If I am right that there is a relative scarcity of films on the subject, I suppose I would prefer a handful of jewels to a hill of something much less valuable. (Not that there are no good films about the American Civil War, but there are certainly far more that are not.)
Krispy Kreme doughnuts are better enjoyed at work or home than at a Krispy Kreme location. Dreary little places they are. I entered one expecting to have a pleasant moment enjoying a doughnut and a cup of coffee as I gazed through the window or read the newspaper, but as soon as I stepped inside I couldn’t wait to leave. One would think a doughnut bakery would have a delicious aroma, wouldn’t one? Beyond the peculiar odor, it had a distinctly unwelcoming atmosphere. And there were no customers. Hm…
I still do not know whether to post my Robots in Film and Television survey here or at Mr. Cooper’s Journal. I think I’ll post it here first, and then I’ll post it there. Before I post it anywhere, I need to watch Alien (for the first time) so I can take down the name of the android. No one I have asked who has seen it remembers the character’s name. That isn’t my sole reason for watching Alien. I have wanted to see it since it was first released, and I was very frustrated that I missed it when it was briefly released in cinemas again a few years ago.
Egads, I just remembered I also need to return Howl’s Moving Castle to the video store. I thought it was good, but it isn’t my favorite Miyazaki movie. (My Neighbor Totoro still holds that honor.) The animation seemed inferior to some of his other films. Perhaps it’s a trick of my memory, but I seem to recall being distinctly more impressed by the animation in Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. There were also some ambiguities in the plot, and I don’t know whether it was the book upon which it was based or the script itself that was the source of the ambiguities. As I mentioned, I thought the movie was good, but it lacked some of the sense of wonder that his other films evoke so well.
The subject of this entry reads like an Iron Chef Game Design recipe. Design a role-playing game incorporating the following ingredients:
- Oliver Cromwell
- King Charles I
At any rate… Be seeing you… :-?