978-0-8027-0745-1 / 9780802707451

Early Man and the Cosmos


Publisher:Walker & Co



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About the book:

To a degree incomprehensible to the modern mind, skywatchers of the ancient past found the night sky a source of wonder and mystery. As Evan Hadingham so brilliantly demonstrates in his latest book, they found the skies an enormous challenge as well.

These ancient astronomers met the challenge by devising techniques with which they could predict, often with astounding precision, the cycles and eclipses of the sun, moon and planets as they passed across the heavens. With these skills - and with the visions of the universe they created as a framework for their observations - early astronomers were able to address both the everyday and spiritual needs of their people. At times, some of them may have used their arcane craft to wield vast religious and political power over their fellow men.

Drawing on the latest findings of archeologists and modern astronomers, Hadingham explores the ample evidence of the ingenuity of the early astronomers: the ziggurats of Babylon (the Tower of Babel); Egypts pyramids; Stonehenge and other megalithic arrays in Great Britain, and the enigmatic 360-ton fallen megalith, the Fairy Stone in Brittany.

Moving from the Old World to the New, Hadingham illuminates recent discoveries of the American Southwest: the Chumash cave art of California; sun-dagger solar devices of New Mexico; and the intriguing alignments of twelfth-century pueblos, near which "early astronomers" still practice a form of their ancient art today. Particular attention is given the extraordinary current studies of the temples and cosmologies of the Maya, whose ancient priests compiled books of lunar cycles so accurate that their error is only two hours every five centuries.

Wherever they worked, Hadingham points out, the ancient astronomers evolved a unifying vision of their universe, through which they provided a myth explaining the natural and supernatural order of things. Often overseen by a pantheon of super beings that bolstered the powers of earthly kings and priests, these celestial visions helped to order such matters as planting and irrigation and to maintain calendars for the affairs of men. Most importantly, the visions inspired great ceremonies that celebrated life on earth and life hereafter.

Early Man and the Cosmos is a fascinating study of mans perception of the universe that illuminates our understanding not only of ancient man but also of ourselves.

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