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Darwin’s Tea Party Ancient Knowledge Part I: Middle East The Hanging Gardens of Babylon with Ziggurat of Marduk on the left (artist’s recreation)

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Presentation on theme: "Darwin’s Tea Party Ancient Knowledge Part I: Middle East The Hanging Gardens of Babylon with Ziggurat of Marduk on the left (artist’s recreation)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Darwin’s Tea Party Ancient Knowledge Part I: Middle East The Hanging Gardens of Babylon with Ziggurat of Marduk on the left (artist’s recreation)

2 Ancient Near Eastern Knowledge By the end of the Neolithic period (6,000 ya or 4,000 BC) conditions were right for the birth of civilization. This happened first in the Ancient Near East, where agriculture had also appeared 4,000 years earlier. A Ziggurat – like the pyramids, these public religious buildings show the advanced science and technology as well as religious beliefs of Mesopotamian civilization

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4 Ancient Near Eastern Knowledge The Ancient Near East includes two major areas:

5 Mesopotamia (now mostly in Iraq)

6 Egypt (along Nile river) Mesopotamia (now mostly in Iraq)

7 Ancient Sumer Ancient Sumer has been called the “cradle of civilization”.Ancient Sumer has been called the “cradle of civilization”. Others claim “history begins at Sumer”.Others claim “history begins at Sumer”. The Sumerians are believed to be the first culture to develop writing and built the first large urban centres.The Sumerians are believed to be the first culture to develop writing and built the first large urban centres.

8 Ancient Sumer The Sumerians developed cuneiform writing.The Sumerians developed cuneiform writing. This is one of the tablets of the famous Epic of Gilgamesh (c BC).This is one of the tablets of the famous Epic of Gilgamesh (c BC).

9 Ancient Babylonia A few hundred years later and a few hundred miles to the North the civilization of ancient Babylonia with its capital in the city of Babylon.

10 Ancient Babylonia The Babylonians developed the lunar calendar, mathematics and astronomy/astrology.The Babylonians developed the lunar calendar, mathematics and astronomy/astrology. These influenced the neighbouring Egyptian civilization as well as the ancient Greeks.These influenced the neighbouring Egyptian civilization as well as the ancient Greeks.

11 Ancient Babylonian astronomy/astrology The Babylonians, like most other civilizations, built their civilization along the rich agricultural river valleys – in this case the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.The Babylonians, like most other civilizations, built their civilization along the rich agricultural river valleys – in this case the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

12 Counterclockwise from bottom: Sirius (Arrow), Pegasus + Andromeda (Field + Plough), [Aries], the Pleiades, Gemini, Hydra + Corvus + Virgo, Libra. Drawing by L.W.King with corrections by J.Koch. Neue Untersuchungen zut Topographie des Babilonischen Fixsternhimmels (Wiesbaden 1989), p. 56ff. Ancient Babylonian astronomy/astrology Assyrian Star map

13 Babylonian numerals Babylonian number system was based on 60

14 Like other civilizations, the Babylonians needed to have a reliable calendar and time-keeping system Their mathematics and astronomy/astrology came out of these practical needs. Ancient Babylonian astronomy/astrology

15 The calendar could help them predict when the annual floods would come. It could also help establish the dates for important religious holidays.

16 Ancient Babylonian astronomy/astrology The Babylonians developed a number system based on 60 (called the sexagesimal system) whereby:The Babylonians developed a number system based on 60 (called the sexagesimal system) whereby: –60 seconds = 1 minute –60 minutes = 1 hour –24 hours (6 X 4) = 1 day –360 days (60 X 6) = (1 year)

17 Ancient Babylonian astronomy/astrology The 360 days of the year corresponded to the 360 degrees of a perfect circle: 360 degrees

18 Ancient Babylonian astronomy/astrology 360 degrees This perfect shape was the shape of time – the time it took the sun to go around the earth!

19 Ancient Babylonian astronomy/astrology And is now the perfectly circular shape of your watch, also based on the sexagesimal system of 60 and a circular view of time! 360 degrees

20 Ancient Babylonian astronomy/astrology Note how the 360 days don’t add up to a full year. The Babylonians understood that a year was actually over 365 days and added an extra month every few years. But they were still committed to the perfect circle view of the time cosmos.

21 Ancient Babylonian astronomy/astrology Thus they maintained the circular view of things for “esthetic” reasons and for “religious” reasons. How else would the gods have arranged things but by perfect circles?

22 They night sky was divided up into constellations like this one – called Cygnus (the Swan). Ancient Babylonian astronomy/astrology

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24 The Babylonians saw mythologicaly and religiously inspired themes in the jumble of stars in the night sky. It’s possible to make your own constellation out of randomly chosen stars!

25 Ancient Babylonian astronomy/astrology They also believed the stars were the abode of gods and goddesses. Since observation of the stars could help in the prediction of the annual floods, they also believed the same knowledge could predict the fate of people on the earth. And this is how astrology was born! Sumerian-Babylonian god of the sun, Utu (Shamash in Babylonian). Note the rays emanating from his shoulders and one of his feet on the mountain of the East which he crosses daily.

26 Ancient Babylonian astronomy/astrology Symbol of Shamash

27 Babylonian moon god Sin. Ancient Babylonian astronomy/astrology

28 Two images of Ishtar – goddess of love and war – with the evening star (Venus) representing her.

29 The Nature of Ancient Knowledge Thus we learn that: 1.Ancient civilizations (like the Babylonian and Sumerian civilizations) helped advance science and technology. 2.These sciences were an important part of their religious and mythological traditions and not seen as separate from them.

30 The Nature of Ancient Knowledge In Babylon, for example, the science of astronomy was thus deeply intertwined with the religious system of astrology. But all sciences began this way: they were at first deeply intertwined with magic, religion and mythology.

31 The Nature of Ancient Knowledge Do you know other examples of sciences originally rooted in magic, religion, mythology?

32 The Nature of Ancient Knowledge Alchemy was a religious or magical system which was the origin of modern chemistry The “philosopher’s stone” was supposed to be able to convert the base metals into gold and even contain the secret of immortality.

33 The Nature of Ancient Knowledge Thus ancient civilizations made no distinction between what we now call science (or philosophy) and what we now call religion. Science (L. scientia, = “to know”, “having knowledge” Gr. Gnosis = “knowledge”), the body of knowledge obtained by methods based upon observation” (L. Fischer) Religion (L. “religio” = to bind or tie together). “The belief in an unseen world and that our greatest good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves hitherto” (Wm. James).

34 The Nature of Ancient Knowledge However, one ancient civilization did begin to distinguish between religious explanations and scientific explanations (or, philosophical explanations ) of the world.

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36 End of Ancient Knowledge (Part I)


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