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"Living with the Gods" - Neil MacGregor
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tjj
tjj
3340 posts

"Living with the Gods" - Neil MacGregor
Oct 26, 2017, 20:22
This evening quite by accident I caught up with Radio 4's 'Book of the Week' which airs at 9.45am and 7.45pm - happily also on iplayer and download. This evening's episode 'Here Comes the Sun' was a joy (made doing the dishes an actual pleasure). Listen if you can, you won't be disappointed:

"Neil MacGregor continues his series on the expression of shared beliefs in communities around the world, and focuses on light.
He experiences the sunrise whilst inside the monumental stone passage tomb at Newgrange, Ireland, a structure older than Stonehenge or the pyramids in Egypt. Here, on the winter solstice, thanks to the design of the tomb, a bright, narrow beam of sunlight reaches deep inside the structure.

He also considers the story of Amaterasu, the Japanese sun goddess, whose decision to hide herself in a cave plunged the world into darkness, and reflects on how - centuries later - the image of rising sun became closely linked with Japanese national identity."
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09bfnhc
thelonious
216 posts

Re: "Living with the Gods" - Neil MacGregor
Oct 26, 2017, 22:21
Enjoyed that, thanks tjj :-)
CR
2 posts

Re: "Living with the Gods" - Neil MacGregor
Oct 29, 2017, 10:00
Better than some other 9:45 slots :)

But episode 1 presents the Upper Palaeolithic 'lion man' makers as 'scrapping together a subsistence', rather than as an advanced non-sedentary population.

The 'the lion man' is also presented as a 'Religious' object rather than in terms of a 'Magical' object : ie likely it was not representational/'symbolic', but was an actually potent item.
tjj
tjj
3340 posts

Re: "Living with the Gods" - Neil MacGregor
Oct 29, 2017, 17:41
CR wrote:
Better than some other 9:45 slots :)

But episode 1 presents the Upper Palaeolithic 'lion man' makers as 'scrapping together a subsistence', rather than as an advanced non-sedentary population.

The 'the lion man' is also presented as a 'Religious' object rather than in terms of a 'Magical' object : ie likely it was not representational/'symbolic', but was an actually potent item.


Thanks for the nudge. I rarely catch the 9.45am slot so could have missed this excellent little series. Have just listened to the first 'lion man' episode (headphones on) am now listening to 'fire' episode.
david gregg
13 posts

Re: "Living with the Gods" - Neil MacGregor
Nov 22, 2017, 14:21
Hello. The interest in light and specifically sunrise is ubiquitous. Can I recommend 'The Crystal Sun' and 'Egyptian Dawn' by Robert Temple. If you are willing to be patient these large books contain gems of information. For example Temple describes the site of Mezorah in Morocco, a huge megalithic ellipse. I analysed it and found great similarities to European sites ...and an emphasis on sunrise. Temple says the name means 'from the sunrise'. Strangely nearby is the ancient town called Lixus by the Romans. However I found that the old Berber name was 'Maqum Semes' which means Station of the Sun. (In modern Arabic maqum is connected with mathematical musical theory).

As for Japan the Jomon people predated the arrival of the Japanese, probably by millennia. Their stone 'circles' are based on classical megalithic geometry again familiar from Europe. I have analysed 4 of the largest myself. It is uncanny. The gods spoke to many peoples in the same geometrical terms
which they then used to define (and worship?) the movements of the Sun God!

Professor D P Gregg (retired)
nigelswift
7413 posts

Re: "Living with the Gods" - Neil MacGregor
Nov 22, 2017, 14:32
David, you may be interested in this https://heritageaction.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/the-mysterious-moroccan-megalithic-menhirs-of-mzora/
david gregg
13 posts

Re: "Living with the Gods" - Neil MacGregor
Nov 22, 2017, 15:19
Hello. Thanks for this. Yes my analysis was based on the Mavor survey. It
really is a very striking site and my old friend the megalithic yard turns up there!
Temple's analysis of the mythology which probably relates to this site is fascinating and telling.
Dave Gregg
Littlestone
Littlestone
5384 posts

Edited Nov 22, 2017, 21:41
Re: "Living with the Gods" - Neil MacGregor
Nov 22, 2017, 15:52
david gregg wrote:


As for Japan the Jomon people predated the arrival of the Japanese, probably by millennia. Their stone 'circles' are based on classical megalithic geometry again familiar from Europe. I have analysed 4 of the largest myself. It is uncanny. The gods spoke to many peoples in the same geometrical terms
which they then used to define (and worship?) the movements of the Sun God!

Professor D P Gregg (retired)


You may be interested to know, David, that the standard (linear) unit of measurement in Japan (known as the shaku) is just a few millimetres short of our linear foot. Traditional Japanese architecture and crafts all use the shaku - from the thick tatami floor mats measuring 6x3 shaku (which then dictates the size of Japanese rooms, doors and walls) to the size of things like Japanese handmade paper which generally measures 2x3 shaku.

Unlike us dividing the foot into 12 the Japanese divide the shaku into 10, giving 10 sun to the shaku. This in turn is divided into bu, giving 10 bu to the sun. This in turn is divided into rin, giving 10 rin to the bu. This in turn is divided into mo, giving 10 mo to the rin. You can imagine how small this is by now (mo literally means a strand of hair).

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe (but perhaps that’s another story. :-)
david gregg
13 posts

Re: "Living with the Gods" - Neil MacGregor
Nov 23, 2017, 17:02
Hello and thanks. Yes, metrics are intriguing. There are clear relationships between many. However for fun I always mention the Chinese units. The Shang bu was 1.005 m. The Zhou had a chi of 0.199 m later so 5 chi was 0.995 m and the bu was 6 / 5 m and so on. In modern times the British at Hong Kong standardised the local foot or chek as 14 and 5 / 8 inches or 14.625. However the Egyptian base building unit was the remen of 14.58 inches. Ironically when China metrified they defined the chi as 0.3333 m or 13.12 inches. This is very close to 2 ancient Shang chi of 13.18 inches but also to the Indus Valley foot of 13.1 - 13.2 inches and the Babylonian foot of 13 inches. Coincidence? Maybe, but 'idea stimulus diffusion' and trade may explain some ancient links. Myself, I suspect that some metrics were related simply because several cultures used scaled down geodetic measures...but that is a long and disputed story.
Prof. Dave Gregg
Littlestone
Littlestone
5384 posts

Re: "Living with the Gods" - Neil MacGregor
Nov 23, 2017, 21:50
david gregg wrote:
Myself, I suspect that some metrics were related simply because several cultures used scaled down geodetic measures...but that is a long and disputed story.
Prof. Dave Gregg


Might be geodetic measurements, David, but would you not also consider that many (or a least some) units of measurement relate to the proportions of the human form? The 3x6 shaku (foot) tatami mats that I mentioned earlier cater for a sleeping human, which then gave rise to practically everything else associated with Japanese architecture.

For me the interesting thing is how the shaku/foot are actually expressed materially (quite literally yardsticks). It’s one thing to say a shaku/foot is the right length for us to relate to but how do you scale that up, or carry it across borders. Just an idea, but I’ve noticed that the two shaku and three shaku bamboo rules still used in Japan show the nodes (from which the bamboo branches grow) of the bamboo occurring at roughly one shaku/foot from each other. It’s not exact of course but it’s a fairly acceptable standard, and one that traders in ancient times (I’m thinking traders along the Silk Route and beyond) might have been happy to accept.
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