Listening to the distant past as we whisper into the far future.
I recently read (well skimmed) Deep Time by Gregory Benford. I was hopeful for the subject, but alas, Benford’s focus was on space probes, and his experience with the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. The plant is a waste disposal for nuclear waste from energy, weapons, and medical sources. One of the challenges they face is determining a way of identifying the location for the next 10,000 years so that future generations would know to stay away. The solution would have to address erotion, changes in politics to the surrounding region, cultural shifts in language and symbology and so forth. He also discusses trying to communicate across space.
I think that this is an intriguing subject, and an important one, which hasn’t received much attention as our collective attention spans have diminished at an astounding rate. The Clock of the Long Now is a project which seeks to address this, by creating a means of timekeeping that reminds us of our cultural longevity. (book notes here: the Clock of the Long Now).
Rediscovering Our History
In the post, Wonder of World Wonders, I looked at the great circle of monuments, the focus of which is the pyramid complex at Giza. I often wonder if the Egyptians even built these great edifices, or whether, like us, they discovered them, and put them to use (or even took credit for them). It’s not outside the realm of possibility (the realm of the probable is another matter altogether).
The monuments, such as the constructions of ancient Egyptians, and the Inca, are of huge stone blocks that fit together in irregular patterns, fit together so precisely that a knife blade couldn’t slip between them. These blocks withstand earthquakes, and other cataclysms (although not vandalism, as the limestone cover was taken from the pyramids).
If these structures are the result of an ancient culture that predates the Sumerian, maybe even predates prehistory, then how have they chosen to communicate with us, given that they could not predict the Internet and English (I presume), short-term mindsets, and a mixed relationship with symbols?
The pyramid complex at Giza is a mathematical wonder, combining proportions of ∏ and Φ (pi and phi). Regardless of the numbers themselves, it is the ratios they represent which are important. Ratios can be determined by comparing any two dimentions (provided the measurer recognizes lengths, widths, heights, circumferences, and radii).
As was mentioned in the Lost Millennium, there are many ways to correlate past events, however, one of the most reliable is celestial mechanics. If a historical document refers to a solar eclipse at a particular location, it can be used to pinpoint the event in time. The pyramid complex at Giza may, in fact, be indicating a point in time relative to the stars. This depends on our inheriting the Zodiac system from the distant past, which lasts even to this day.
Our Inheritance from Babylon
the zodiac as we know it (Aries the ram, Taurus the bull, all the way to Pisces the Fish) has been around since the Babylonians, and very early on it made its way to the Indian sub-continent, throughout the middle east, north Africa and Europe, and now, the world. It has deep roots, and is at least passingly familiar to a great cross-section of the globe (even as the Chinese zodiac is becoming more and more familiar in the west).
The modern version fixes the signs to a particular part of the sky, such that the sun, moon and planets are said to be in a particular house, or sign. At the time of this writing the sun has just passed into Gemini. However, if you were able to look past the Sun to the starfield behind it, you would see the constellation of Taurus.
The real solar zodiac (i.e. the position of the sun and planets relative to the constellations in the night sky) is observable by any astronomer, and this is the system that we have inherited. The difficulty with it is that due to a wobble in the Earth’s axis, the position of the constellations change by about 1 day every 72 years or so. Thus, if the Sun passes into Taurus on May 14th this year, in 72 years, it will pass into it on May 13th. It will take just under 26,000 years for the Sun to pass into Taurus on May 14th again.
The sphinx combines features of the lion and man, which relates to the two constellations opposite each other – Leo and Aquarius.
When I conceived of theAbysmal Calendar, I imagined these Babylonian astrologers creating a timepiece aligned with the stars, such that as the Constellations made their rounds of the sky over 26,000 years, we could keep track as they had. It surprised me that I had not read anything piecing together the constellations, the precession of the equinoxes and calendar systems. No doubt it was common knowledge in some circles, but it certainly wasn’t common knowledge among the broader population. Astrology gets panned an awful lot as being nonsense and meaningless, however, it depends what meaning you’re looking for in the stars.
They are the context in which we exist, although as they are increasingly hidden behind air and light pollution, they fall further and further out of our awareness, and this is truly a great loss. It is what connects us, more than any pyramid, to the people in the past, and those in the future. The Sun, Moon and Stars are the touchstone we all have in common, regardless of the environment or culture in which we live our day to day lives. Any process of long-term communication through deep time will necessarily have to use these touchstones. The language of symbol with which to communicate is a whole other problem.
208 Days to Dec 21st 2012