I. Mythos to Cosmos

World-views from the Paleolithic through the (Aristarchan-)Copernican Revolution to Willem de Sitter
(>3 Mya to the early 20th century)


In this journey into the long prehistory and history of humankind's cosmologies, those seekers for truth, freethinkers, and pioneers who lived from thousands of years to decades ago, most of them before I was born, have become my teachers, as well as friends and companions in that quest to understand our Universe.

Ancient cosmologies

Chaco canyon 
(American SW)

Mythical cave painting, Les Trois-Freres, France: Perhaps of a shaman as a game animal, or of a 'lord of the beasts' deity (Aslan, 2017)

View from inside a megalithic portal dolmen toward the stars. "Looking out from inside West Kennet"  (c) CyberTigger.

These Neolithic structures are found in NW Europe and in Britain and Ireland

Similar megaliths are found all over the world.



I. Paleolithic & Ice Age humans, myths, goddesses, and cosmologies overview (>3 Mya - ~2,600 BCE)

Paleolithic times. From the dawn of prehistory, human beings have tried to make sense of the vast world and their relation to it. Some of the earliest obvious attempts at astronomical cosmology seem to combine ritual with sky-gazing and calendar making. Long before that, in the mists of the distant past most of humankind's journey, our cosmologies have been 'animated' with the numinous presence throughout nature (the product of our agency-detection mechanism), with spirits, ancestors, gods, and other mythical views of the numinous and of Nature itself. Our world-views at this time emerged from the story telling imaginations of our big evolved brains. This is mythos. As we began to observe natural regularities and eventually detected regularities and laws in Nature, we transitioned from mythos to the orderly world of cause and effect: Cosmos.

In this initial section, we will trace this in outline.

Africa, Birth and Homeland. The odyssey of humankind (our own genus Homo) originated in the varied landscapes of the geologically-active Rift Valley of Eastern to Southern Africa within the last ~2.5 Mya. Our hominin and hominid ancestry goes much further back in the same general fecund region of our tiny planet, but this is the time frame of the origin of humankind, the genus Homo

Early evidence of hominin bipedality in the human journey came from the Laetoli ash beds with the momentary group footprints of members of an Australopithecus species frozen in time from about 3.6 Mya (link). Scholarly Ref. to be added.

A representative fossil skull panorama of humans and human ancestors and sister taxa from the Miocene to the present, with the exception that I would classify our ancestral habiline hominin with the genus Australopithecus as Australopithecus habilis, which has also been documented with late contemporary hominin genera, Paranthropus (first user of fire) and congeneric species of our own genus Homo (link; Space imagery of the NE African Rift Valley, http://earth.imagico.de/views/eafrica_large.jpg).

Approximately 7 Mya of hominin and hominid evolution brought us from the forests to the plains through tool-making, climate drying adaptation, fire-making, symbolic thought, language, and finally the Ice Ages of the Pleistocene, anatomically modern humanity, and cosmology-making. The following panorama provides an artistic form that long meandering journey from "the sunflower forest," as Loren Eiseley called it, through to the paleolithic dawn of cosmology-making.

And phylogenetically, on the genomic 'fossil' as well as the physical paleoanthropological record, there is every reason to think that even our closest living relatives since the speciation / split within Hominoidaea to form the Hominidae, ~7 Mya, the way toward cosmology-making was already emerging: Suntsova, M.V., Buzdin, A.A. 2020. Differences between human and chimpanzee genomes and their implications in gene expression, protein functions and biochemical properties of the two species. BMC Genomics 21 (Suppl 7), 535. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12864-020-06962-8.

From lower right to left, and then up to upper left: From forest tree-dwelling facultative bipedal hominins through obligate bipedal hominins wandering out onto the African mixed landscapes, and ultimately migrating outwards through the late Pleistocene ice and the use of fire, discovering the world, and summarizing ~6-7 Mya (http://evolution-involution.org/images/lucys_world_invol.jpg).

Since that divergence, our hominin ancestors have acquired, modified, and utilized practical stone tools for up to ~3.3 Mya (Harmand et al. 2015.
3.3-million-year-old stone tools from Lomekwi 3, West Turkana, Kenya. Nature 521, 310. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature14464), and these magnificent tools have been found on every continent of the planet other than Antarctica. Aside from these practical tools, Manuports (L. manus 'hand' portare 'to carry') are natural objects which have been picked up from their natural context and carried away by hominids, while largely remaining unmodified (link) for even longer. These natural objects apparently acquired symbolic value in early hominid eyes, showing that hominids started 'classifying' and 'curating' unusual objects of interest or meaning to them (link). Two of the very earliest such symbolic objects are the nearly 3 Mya old reddish brown Makapansgat Jasperite Cobble [8.3 cm X 7 cm X 3.8 cm, reddish-brown; Bednarik, 1998. The 'Australopithecine' Cobble from Makapansgat, South Africa. The South African Archaeological Bulletin 53 (167), 4. https://doi.org/10.2307/3889256; https://www.jstor.org/stable/3889256], which was found a cave with Australopithecine bones and 4.8 km from its source rock. It resembles a reconstructed Australopithecine face, and characteristics indicating that it was held, carried, and worn from hand carry. The reason it was carried may be because it symbolized the empathic self-knowledge of an Australopithecine bipedal ape!
M cavefossils
Makapansgat Cave (South Africa) and some of the Australopithecine fossils (https://arimotravels.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Visiting-makapan-caves-world-heritage-site-676x423.jpg; http://www.riddledchain.org/makapan.htm)
Makapansgat cobbleMC
(Links: http://www.ifrao.com/manuports-and-very-early-palaeoart/; https://www.researchgate.net/figure/The-Makapansgat-cobble-scale-bar-7-cm-image-courtesy-of-Bernhard-Zipfel-ESI_fig2_330367438; http://margaret-cooter.blogspot.com/2016/12/south-africa-art-of-nation.html; http://www.abroadintheyard.com/wp-content/uploads/Makapansgat-pebble-c.-2.7-million-years-BP-and-a-portrait-reconstruction-of-Australopithecus-africanus.jpg).

And the symbolic meaning and significance of the train of manuports, such as mimetoliths (natural objects pictured as objects of significance) to mimetoliths modified (natural lithic objects adapted so that their pictured significance stands out more), and mimetomorphs modified (any other non-lithified natural object resembling objects of significance, and modified so that their pictured significance stands out more).
.mimesis Brain evoluiton
(http://www.rupestreweb.info/mimesis.html; cf. http://www.originsnet.org/pampau5gallery/index.htm).

That most rapid increase in human brain size and symbolic representation accompanied the earliest spread of the genus Homo out of Africa and around the world with its changing Pleistocene climates. This was before there was an H. sapiens species. With these journeys of the H. erectus within and out of Africa, the earliest ventures into cosmology-making had arrived.

The largest brain increase in volume happened shortly before a million years ago. After that there was a catastrophic genetic bottleneck in our Homo ancestral population gene pool with an effective population size (Ne) of nearly 100,000, new research shows that the between about ~900 and ~800 kya, there was a critical period of about ~117 kyr when our ancestral population collapsed to ~1200 individuals before expanding out to about ~27,000. The African and non-African dispersals of Homo sapiens sapiens took place after ~100 kya: Hu et al. 2023. Genomic inference of a severe human bottleneck during the Early to Middle Pleistocene transition. Science 381 (6661), 979. https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abq7487.

Early Homo facing extinction close to a million years ago, a chronological chart (link).

The Shanghai Institute for Health and Nutrition, CAS (Hu et al. 2023) researchers used the above formula estimates of phylogenetic predicted branch length to infer the existence of this ancient, extinction-threatening genetic bottleneck. The rock art from a cliff illustrates the concept of our beleaguered ancestors facing a danger back then but unknown to us today (link).

It would be informative and fascinating to see how this very much more distant genetic bottleneck may have affected the precursors of our Paleolithic mythologies and cosmologies. As we shall see, the much later extinction threat at the Younger-Dryas Pleistocene-Holocene boundary directly affected out mythologies and our cosmologies. 

Artistic expression of the cosmic brain
. Some of the earliest evidence of human artistic representation, involving drilling small holes in mollusk shells of different types, and even creating geometric patters, a type of world-representation cosmology, were the representational engravings by Homo erectus at Trinil, Java, and dated by 40Ar / 39Ar to "0.54
+/- 0.10 million years and a minimum age of 0.43 +/- 0.05 million years" (Joordans et al. 2015. Homo erectus at Trinil on Java used shells for tool production and engraving. Nature 518, 228. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature13962). Trinil in Java is the original Homo erectus species discovery site, and is on the southern, pre-Homo sapiens, early human migration out of Africa. These Trinil representational artifacts on shells have been dated to the early last half million years:

The sequential order of the engraved line markings have been established, and also examine closely in certain sections (Joordens et al. 2015, extended data figure 5, excerpted legend).

The early mollusk shell hole-drilling along with geometric representational engraving found at Trinil has been echoed in early human artistic-representational development since then (cf. Joordens et al. 2015. Extended data fig 10). The fluctuating isotopic δ18O ratios, over 2 million years, and especially over the last 1 million years of the Pleistocene, reveal an indication of the climate crises and challenges our human forebears (H. erectus; spp. neanderthalensis, & sapiens) faced over the millennia. Our representational geometric skills grew, skills which are important in cosmology-making.

Another of the very earliest artistic and thus, representation human traces are of Acheulian age (lower Paleolithic before there was a local population of anatomically-modern H. sapiens), and they were found in the earlier southern route of human expansion out of Africa along southern Eurasian continental coastlines toward SE Asia, including Java, where Homo erectus was first discovered, and toward where anatomically-modern H. sapiens would later settle from a much more recent migration about ~50,000 (~50 Kya) years ago into Australia. This far older site, Chief's Rock, Auditorium Cave, Bhimbetka, (central India), dates from 700,000-290,000 BCE (~702-~292 Kya) contains some innutile cupules, one which still had traces of red ochre in it (Bednarik, 1996. The cupules on Chief's Rock, Auditorium Cave, Bhimbetka. The Artefact 19, 63. http://www.ifrao.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Auditorium96.pdf). The site also had an Acheulian handaxe, a date-characterized cultural item known from other sites in Eurasia.

(cf. also photo excerpt with cupules 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7 above right, link; & link).

The evolving creative and artistic expression development by humans for abstraction, representational illustration, and reflective cognition serves as part of what is needed for cosmology-making, as part of human meaning-making. Another cupule location on the central Indian subcontinent showed evidence of likely specific representational pattern placement of cupules in a very early Lower Paleolithic context, perhaps even a cosmological placement? The DarakiChattan Cave contains a Lower Paleolithic human site in central India. See Bednarik, R. 2022. Lower Palaeolithic rock art of India and its global context. ResearchGate citation. The artwork pictured below is discussed by Livio Dobrez, 2011. Sex for its own sake. Rock Art Research 28 (2), 167, in discussion of Correa. Varella et al. 2011. Evolutionary aesthetics and sexual selection in the evolution of rock art aesthetics. Rock Art Research 28 (2), 153. ResearchGate publication).


An artistic summary from over half a million years to less than 50,000 years, prior to the Upper Paleolithic flowering of art.

(https://gingamegs.art/2020/06/05/creative-renderings-early-evidence-for-creative-minds/; cf. link; Nat'l Geography link).

>500 kya to <50 kya:
  • Homo erectus: Engraved shells, Trinil ~540 kya
  • Homo erectus: (representational) cupule manufacture and use, Chief's Rock ~290 kya
  • Blombos Cave engraved ochre ~65 kya
  • H. neanderthalensis La Pasiega gallery ~65 kya
  • H. sapiens: Lubang Jeriji Saleh Cave painting of a bull ~44 kya
  • Another even more abundant Paleolithic site with even more abundant cupules, Chandeshwar, India (above drawing).

The human African diaspora & our mythologies. Our species of Homo was not the first to migrate out of Africa. Congeneric species (also of the Genus Homo) of humans from the Homo erectus complex were the first, and then perhaps Homo heidelbergensis.

(link; link).

Whomever our forebears were and wherever they went, it is clear that our own younger species Homo sapiens sapiens also set forth from our native Africa and populated the world, the understanding of which has complexified over time with new discoveries anthropological, archaeological, and phylogenetic / phylogeographic.

The oldest known anatomically-modern human fossils documented so far were discovered in Jebel Irhoud (modern day Morocco) and dated at ~315,000 (+/- 34 kyr) years old:

Hublin, J. J., Ben-Ncer, A., Bailey, S. et al. 2017. New fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco and the pan-African origin of Homo sapiens. Nature 546, 289. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature22336. (Image link).

Double-pronged Migrations of Anatomically-modern Homo sapiens & Two Cosmologies. Anatomically-modern humans appeared only about ~315 kya, and with the ending Pleistocene climate shocks began their renewed migrations as a new and restless species out of Africa, who emerged from and then did interact with remnant populations of earlier species / subspecies of the genus Homo, such as descendent species of Homo erectus, H. heidelbergensis, and such subspecies, H. sapiens denisova, and H. sapiens neanderthalensis. Their migration routes and patterned diffusion has been traced by DNA trail they left behind them (maternal mtDNA, paternal Y-chromosome DNA, and ordinary chromosome autosomal DNA), not only in living descendants but in ancient DNA (aDNA):

Matrilineal mtDNA (yellow migration routes) and patrilineal Y-chromosome (dark blue spread patterns): See van Oven, M. & Kayser, M. 2009. Updated comprehensive phylogenetic tree of global human mitochondrial DNA variation. Hum Mutat 30 (2), E386-E394. https://phylotree.org/ (which has the latest mtDNA tree builds). https://doi.org/10.1002/humu.20921. Ongoing research in human phylogeography continues to complexify this schema.

In the time encompassing the Last Ice (most recent Pleistocene glacial maximum or last glacial maximum, LGM; above The Genographic Project map link):

Ice Age: Maternal mtDNA and paternal Y-chromosome migration patterns; migration patterns together with continental glacial extents and climate conditions during the climate cycles of the late Pleistocene (link; link).

The encounters of anatomically modern Homo sapiens with the Neanderthal humans are understandable because of paleontological biogeography as well as phylogenetics.


And Neanderthal humans were human in every meaningful sense, including speech (Conde-Valverde, M., Martinez, I., Quam, R.M. et al. 2021. Neanderthals had and Homo sapiens sapiens have similar auditory and speech capacities. Nat Ecol Evol 5, 609. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-021-01391-6)) and art, including symbolic art (Pitarch Martí, Africa, Zilhão, J., d'Errico, F., & Ramos-Muñoz, J. 2021. The symbolic role of the underground world among Middle Paleolithic Neanderthals. PNAS 118 (33), e2021495118. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2021495118):

Inner ear bones and crania of modern H. sapiens and Neandertal H. sapiens: reconstructed Neandertal woman (link);

And so we can safely include art going back half a million years to Homo erectus, and since, summarizing all of that artistic creativity associated with our genus Homo across two species, and two likely subspecies, and summarize that to which we above referred, thus:

A geographical distribution of some of the oldest artifacts of hominin / human artistic expression from ~2 Mya to 25 kya, divided thus among Homo erectus (~2 Mya - ~540 kya), Homo sapiens neanderthalensis (~130-51 kya), and anatomically-modern Homo sapiens sapiens (~73-25 kya; link).

Neanderthal Homo sapiens carved these chevrons into deer toe bones (Unicorn Cave; link).

From ~45,500 ya, warty pig art from the Leang Tedongnge Cave, in the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia (link).

Where there is story, there is mythos.... And so where there is art, there is story, because art is story! Where there is story, there is myth. And where there is myth, or mythos, there are world-views, and where there are world-views, there exists in those very world-views, cosmos (ordered human conceptions of the Universe), or cosmologies. That is the history we trace here. And yes, of course that includes also among the Neanderthal Homo sapiens of 75,000 years ago, as it does the Homo erectine humans of ~2 Mya to ~1.7 Mya to half a million years (540 kya) ago, and perhaps back to bipedal representatives of our subtribe Homininae >3 Mya. In recapitulation, the story of cosmology must begin with the first tool-makers, as summarized above.
Researchers now realize that this includes sculpted cave art by Neandertals from ~75 kya (link). 

In an important paper, we now have further evidence of art among Neanderthal human beings: Pitarch Martí, A. et al. 2021. The symbolic role of the underground world among Middle Paleolithic Neanderthals. PNAS 118 (33), e2021495118. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2021495118.

Pitarch Martí et al. (2021) Figure 2. Non-local red pigment imported into the cave by Neandertal human beings.

And where there are migrations, among human primates with stories and cosmologies, there is the blossoming of myth, and world-view construction and cosmology-making.

A comprehensive overview and approximate timeline of human global migrations over the last ~200,000 years to the present:

Why may we call Neanderthals, Homo sapiens? Because there has been direct introgressive, fertile hybridization events, meaning biologically they are the same species, without a reproductive barrier: Perhaps the evolutionary split (before extinction) should separate us all as Homo sapiens sapiens and Homo sapiens neandertalensis. Before the latest data from 2023, there was evidence of two genetic introgressive hybridization events between Homo sapiens sapiens and Neanderthals, Homo sapiens neandertalensis. Gene flow means that we were ultimately all the same species (cf. Ernst Mayr, biological species definition: Mayr, E. 1942. Systematics and the Origin of Species. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, discussed in de Queiroz, K. 2005. Ernst Mayr and the modern concept of species. PNAS 102 (suppl_1), 6600. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0502030102).

(link). The northern and southern migration patterns of Homo sapiens are also inferred and putatively hypothesized from evidence of encounters with Archaic humans.

Image derived from research associated with the Max Planck Institute (link).

To the ancient migrations above, we can now add that before 195 kya, there was an ancient introgressive hybridization between one group of Homo sapiens from sub-Saharan Africa with Neanderthals when they had migrated into Eurasia (Live Scinece link). The study is Harris et al. 2023. Diverse African genomes reveal selection on ancient modern human introgressions in Neanderthals. Current Biology Oct 13, S0960-9822(23)01315-5. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2023.09.066.

Our major language groups and families with their myriad individual languages and dialects have evolved and co-spread with our human journeys

The evolution of major groups of human language is congruent with human genetic phylogeography (link; link).

And with our human journeys, our languages and our myths and stories have also emerged, evolved, and traveled with us.

The earliest Mythologies and Cosmogonies: From more ancient Myth Motifs / Mythemes, Our Stories Begin....
Humans carried their stories with them. Human mythogenies are our begettings of our myths, which contain our even earlier myth motifs / mythemes, often the earliest phylogenetically-traceable units. Myths are elaborated from these traceable myth motifs or mythemes. Resources include the mythology and folkore database: https://www.mythologydatabase.com/ enables queries of a growing database with subsets including the Berezkin & Duvakin database of the thematic classification and distribution of folklore and mythological motifs by geographical area: https://www.mythologydatabase.com/bd/ (
the original version being in Russian: https://www.ruthenia.ru/folklore/berezkin/, translated by mythologist Prof. Jon White of the Crecganford organization, curating / hosting "A collection of over 130 historical books and 4,800 folktales, including 3,600 motifs noted across 37,500 myths, covering over 7,000 stories in total," reported as of April 2023) summarizes the myth motifs / mythemes by code, and lists their origins and distributions;

Note also the GitHub mythological queries with code (link); authors index for the Electronic Journal of Folklore (link) linking also to Berezkin's page; for popular introductions well-annotated to the scholarly literature, see Prof. Jon White's Crecganford video channel (https://www.youtube.com/@Crecganford), reviewing the scholarly research of myth and mytheme origins and phylogenies. These are a few of the resources which we use and will cite in our history of cosmology and cosmology-making in this introductory chapter. Following the definitional lead of Creganford's Prof. Jon White, we essentially utilize William Bascomb's classification system for defining myth, legend, folktales, &c: Bascom, W. 1965. The forms of folklore: Prose narratives. The Journal of American Folklore 78 (307), 3-20. https://doi.org/10.2307/538099. See also Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore: https://www.folklore.ee/folklore/.  (For more on the history and developments within the far younger, specific Abrahamic religions, note the interviews of scholars on the Mythvision podcast channel).

The popular journal Scientific American hosted an article following up on scholarship regarding one of the earliest northern myths, the Cosmic Hunt:
Julian d'Huy. 2016. Scientists trace society's myths to primordial origins. Scientific American 315 (6), 62. Dec 2016: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/scientists-trace-society-rsquo-s-myths-to-primordial-origins/?ref=longnow.org

Scientific American
. December 2016 (link).

Scholarly exploration of one of the oldest stories of the Far North involves the myth of the Cosmic Hunt which often involves references to the constellations of the Big Dipper, Orion, and the Pleiades when the variants are included. In 2005, Yuri Berezkin published data regarding the origin of this myth of an ancient hunter in pursuit of large game like Elk or Bison, often also pursuing the Sun which was elusive in the Arctic: Berezkin (2005). The Cosmic Hunt: Variants of a Siberia - North American myth. Folklore 31, 70. https://www.folklore.ee/folklore/dat/fl031FX000186.htm.  Also note the further study of Ernits (2010). On the Cosmic Hunt in North Eurasian rock art. https://www.folklore.ee/folklore/vol44/ernits.pdf. Down near the equator, there are also African myths of the Cosmic Hunt focused on the constellation Orion: Vieira, V. 2009. The constellation of Orion and the Cosmic Hunt in Equatorial Africa. Anthropos 104 (2), 558. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40467194. The similarities and differences of this myth's distribution with the early imaginings of the constellations along with lunar calendrical dots, lunar calculations, Elk, Bison, and Bulls in the Paleolithic cave and rock art can be seen elaborated in the subsection: III. The Origin and Evolution of our Constellations (~35,000 ya - IAU, 20th c CE)

Berezkin (2005).

The convergence of comparative mythology methods and phylogenetic algorithmic methods, such as are used in tracing evolutionary ancestries and phylogenetic trees with DNA, can be utilized in an interdisciplinary way to trace the origins and age of myths. A couple representative papers, and a monograph may be illustrative of the trend: d'Huy, J. 2013. A Cosmic Hunt in the Berber sky: a phylogenetic reconstruction of Palaeolithic mythology. Les Cahiers de l'AARS 16, 93. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259193627, building on earlier work, d'Huy, 2012. Un ours dans les etoiles: recherche phylogenetique sur un mythe prehistorique. Prehistoire du Sud-Ouest 20 (1), 91. https://hal.science/hal-00825883. d'Huy (2013) found that the Paleolithic myth of the Cosmic Hunt involving the Bear or the Big Dipper could be phylogenetically traced spreading outward from Siberia / Central Asia, west toward ancient Greece, and eastward across to what is now British Columbia and northeastern North America (d'Huy, 2013; Figure 1).

d'Huy (2013).

d'Huy (2013) found convincing the localization of the protomyth in the Yenisei River basin in north central Eurasia as suggested by Berezkin 2005. The cosmic hunt: variants of a Siberian-North American myth. Folklore 31, 79-100. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/26484663.

This map of the Yenisei River basin shows one of the cultural dispersal origin sites for the Cosmic Hunt myth involving the Big Dipper out of Russian / N Central Asia as documented in d'Huy (2013), and discussed in a video, "The OLDEST story in the World - The Cosmic Hunt - An INCREDIBLE Discovery" by Prof. Jon D. White on the Crecganford academic myth channel (https://youtu.be/ANRw-3C_MYA).

Similar to the
DNA data, the collected 93 mythemes in 47 versions in the (growing) database were analyzed by phylogenetic reconstruction methods for the ancestral states of mythemes and protomyth itself in the Eurasian root, using the majority of widely shared mythemes as the better root. In addition to the neighbor-joining algorithym (d'Huy, 2013; Fig. 1 above, citing d'Huy, 2012), the author also used maximum parsimony, maximum likelihood, and Bayesian inference, simulating DNA evolution on the phylogenetic tree using chosen models (Jukes-Cantor under a general time reversible [GTR] substitution model with gamma-distributed rate variation across variable sites and some proportion of invariant sites; see Methods). In reconstructing the first state of the (proto)myth, the parsimony treelength was calculated for the tree and matrix, using character matrices from the data files, where the branches of the tree branches were rearranged by subtree pruning and regrafting to make a majority consensus tree, where only clades (branches) in >50% of the trees present (200 trees; length of 213) were retained (d'Huy, 2013; Fig. 2). A high retention index (RI of 0.6966) and consistency index (CI >0.60) showed that most mythemes were shared by common descent and an inferred low horizontal transmission rate.

d'Huy, 2013, Fig. 2; Jay Coskey 2018 slideshare interpretation and discussion.

We return to the specifics in the pioneering work of Berezkin (2005)
. The Cosmic Hunt: Variants of a Siberia - North American myth. Folklore 31, 70. https://www.folklore.ee/folklore/dat/fl031FX000186.htm


Berezkin (2005).

Of the great northern Cosmic Hunt myth(s) and myth variants, Prof. John D. White (Crecganford) has made a reconstruction (in story form, adapted below) of perhaps an earliest traceable remnant, involving a solitary hunter and most likely an ungulate like an elk, taking into account the slightly different position of the Big Dipper in the sky ~40,000 ya (the 'Dipper bowl' representing the hunted animal):

One morning a Man is walking through the forest, and carries with him a spear and a pot, for he is hunting and hungry, as he hasn't eaten a substantial meal in a couple of days. And as he walks along a trail by the foot of the mountains, he sees, by a stream, and drinking from it, a Mother Elk. Man thinks he can hunt the Elk, and so he aims his spear, but as he throws it, the Elk notices him and is so startled that she runs up the mountain and jumps high in the Sky, catching the Sun in her antlers, and then so scared, she continues to run across the mountain tops, running away as fast as she can. Man picks up his pot and his spear, and chases the Elk, up the mountains, and all the time the Elk is moving the Sun. The Man knows he must stop the Elk, for the Sun can not be lost for there would be no more daytime. And Man gets close to the Elk once more, and throws his spear, his aim good. Again, the Mother Elk is aware of the hunter and jumps high in the Sky to avoid the spear, and the Sun falls from the antlers of the Elk, and falls behind the mountains. Day turns to Night as the Sun disappears. But the Mother Elk did not jump fast enough, and she is hit by the spear. And it releases the magic of the Sun which still lingers around the Elk, and as she dies she is turned into stars in the Night Sky. And the magic of the Stars consumes the man, and turns him into a star chasing her, pot to his side, and spear thrown. And if you look today you will see throughout the year the Man chasing the Elk in the Night's Sky, until the Winter, that is, when the Elk lays on the ground having been speared. But the Mother Elk is a special creature, and she has given birth to a calf during the days of the Hunt, a calf who will no doubt be seen wandering by the mountains when the days get longer again. And so allows the Hunt to carry on.
Adapted from the Crecganford video link, "The OLDEST story in the World - The Cosmic Hunt - An INCREDIBLE discovery" (>40,000 ya).

Within such a myth tradition, some
original story gave birth to the many variants of the great northern Cosmic Hunt myth, documented above. Was there an even older story? Or more likely, a far older myth motif, surviving longer than any whole myth? And did those even older myth(s) / motifs originate with humankind itself in the global South? We will return to these questions.

By comparison, Aubert, M., Lebe, R., Oktaviana, A.A. et al. (2019. Earliest hunting scene in prehistoric art. Nature 576, 442. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1806-y), point out that while paleolithic art with animals in Europe is relatively late in the European Paleolithic art expansion (starting ~40 kya), only appearing about 21-14 kya in the Lascaux Cave shaft in France (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1806-y/figures/3),
their discovery of the earliest known Paleolithic art with a hunting narrative to date is from
Liang Bulu'Sipong 4 (Sulawesi, Indonesia), dating to 43.9 kya. The authors comment, "The ability to invent fictional stories may have been the last and most crucial stage in the evolutionary history of human language and the development of modern-like patterns of cognition" (link). Or it could be far older just as Homo sapiens ourselves go back hundreds of thousands of years. A human cosmology is basically a story about the World / Cosmos.

A Paleolithic hunting representation from what is now Indonesia

The hunting tale tableau at Liang Bulu'Sipong 4 (Sulawesi, Indonesia, SE Asia; link).

Between the Paleolithic ages and the Ancient Near Eastern dawn of civilization times, one may find the central Asian dispersion of mythologies, as indicated in the myth of the Cosmic Hunt, which though later, parallels the data (Ernits, 2010) referencing in its summary discussion that some of the rock art may too readily have been assigned as representations of the Cosmic Hunt myth. However, some of the rock art of north Eurasia near the Arctic circle in the following (Ernits, 2010) figures does seem to be illustrative of the Cosmic Hunt myth and some not so much. (Compare with other the Paleolithic cave art cited later in this chapter):

Ernits, 2010. Figures 1-8 are further illustrations of the widespread myth of the Cosmic Hunt (see references above).

Further work on the phylogenetics of myth has been done in
Tehrani, J.J., d'Huy, J. 2017. Phylogenetics meets folklore: Bioinformatics approaches to the study of international folktales. In: Kenna, R., MacCarron, M., MacCarron, P. (eds). Maths Meets Myths: Quantitative Approaches to Ancient Narratives. Understanding Complex Systems. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-39445-9_6. Studying myth origins or mythogeny in the light of scientific data from biogeography and DNA phylogenetics, historical linguistics, comparative mythology, archaeology, and enables us to combine harder sciences with the humanities including anthropology, oral tradition, and art history to start piecing together an objective history and the subjective-artistic stories of humankind.


The myths, mythogonies and their cosmogonies may be traced based on the geographic routes of migration out of Africa and across the globe, on an oversimplified (I) the southerly routes and (II) the northerly routes of myth and mytheme migration, i.e., a trace of human cosmology-making.

Broad Southern and Northern migrations within and out of Africa (link); P.B. Demenocal & C. B. Stringer. 2016. Human migration: Climate and the peopling of the world. Nature 538 (7623), 49. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature19471.

Neolithic art from the high cave of Llidoner in Valltorta (Castellon Province, Spain), used here as a symbol of our restless exploring human ancestors (link; link, cf. link & link; link; link on dating with tech reference to follow): Esther Lopez-Montalvo, Valentin Villaverde, Clodoaldo Roldan, Sonia Murcia, Ernestina Badal. 2014. An approximation to the study of black pigments in Cova Remigia (Castellon, Spain). Technical and cultural assessments of the use of carbon-based black pigments in Spanish Levantine Rock Art. Journal of Archaeological Science 52, 535. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2014.09.017.

Two Competing Cosmologies. In his compilative metastudy combining historical, linguistic, and genetic research on indigenous mythologies around the world, Sanskrit scholar Witzel (2012, The Origins of the World's Mythologies. Oxford University Press) shows that through the origin and spread of anatomically modern Homo sapiens (what he called the so-called Pangaean or global mythology stage), between the Previous Glacial Maximum (PGM ~70-50 Kya) and the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM ~25-15 Kya) the major division in human migration led to a major division in mythologies and cosmogonies / cosmologies. The cosmological mythemes diverged between southern migration routes (Gondwanan; Afro-AustroMelanesian) with more steady climates, and the northern migration routes (Laurasian; Trans-Caucasian-Eurasian-Amerind) with more turbulent and alternating cold glacial and warming interglacial epochs. The stability or instability of their climatological worlds affected their mythologies and cosmologies, and the traditions which stemmed from each:

Marshaling the interdisciplinary data, Wetzel shows how earlier hypotheses of comparative mythology are lacking: (a) simple diffusional variation across geography, when myths do not show such clinal variation
(Frobenius, Baumann, Thompson), but rather sharp differentiations even in commonalities, (b) supposed 'universal' psychological archetypes (Jungian, Campbellian), which are actually not universal, (c) outline, binary psychological structures (Levi-Strauss), when such binary 'universality' is lacking in comparative mythologies around the world. In short, mythologies are conditioned by human biological and cultural geography in the Pleistocene and Holocene, with gradual differentiation into local cultural specificities.

As anatomically modern Homo sapiens restlessly traveled outward exploring the planet which they have bequeathed to us, their conspecific descendants, they told mythological stories which fell into the two following main human biogeographic and cosmological categories.

2012-Witzel_World mythologies
Witzel's (2012) migrational mapping of the distribution of the two major world mythology lineages.

The latitudinal, human biogeographical mythemes: Contrasting mythogonies, myths, cosmogonies, & cosmologies summary.
I. Southern Cosmology: Gondwanan; Afro-Austro-Melanesian commonalities
>315,000 ya - 50,000 ya, &c.
(distributed ancient sources, more eternal storyline)

II. Northern Cosmology: Laurasian;
ranscaucasian-Eurasian-Amerind commonalities

~100,000 ya - 11,000 ya, &c.
seems to come from a single source, following an overall story line, antecedent to stories of Vedic religions, Greeks, & captured later in the Abrahamic tradition, which evolved into the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions in the West)
  1. Eternality of the World: Heaven, Earth, and Sea were already existing. No cosmogony appears
  2. High God: In heaven &/or ascending to heaven later; tends to be a deus otiosus, removed and not caring about events on Earth
  3. Series of lower deities, totems, tricksters, & cultural heroes, often children of the high god
  4. Primordial age: The Dreaming (Australia)
  5. Creation of humans by lesser deities from a tree, split bamboo, clay, rocks, or sometimes descending from gods or totems
  6. Humans / demigods show hubris and a Flood comes as punishment, from various sources, depending on the myth.
  7. Trickster deities bring culture (fire and food). 
  8. No apocalypsis: No end of the world
Note. Comparisons between both streams of mythological traditions allows one, Witzel argues,
  • (a) to test the younger Laurasian 'novel' mythology hypothesis, and
  • (b) to search for primordial elements beyond the older Gondwanan and the younger Laurasian, such as the recurring ubiquity of the flood element, which is not surprising given the world-wide effects of the Pleistocene warming and melting episodes.
  1. Chaos: Primordial waters / chaos / 'nonbeing' guarded by a dragon
  2. Heaven & Earth: Primordial egg / giant / hill / island
  3. 'Titans': Father Sky / Mother Earth have 4-5 generations of children (4 declining Ages, cf. Hesiod)
  4. 'Olympians' v 'Titans': Heaven is pushed up from Earth (& Milky Way originates)
  5. The light of the hidden Sun is revealed / NW eternal winter --> 4 seasons
  6. Primordial dragon killed (heavenly drink), Earth is fertilized
  7. Contemporary gods kill their predecessors
  8. Creation of humans: Somatic descendants of father Sun god = creation of humans (chieftains) from earth, from a tree (older), from maize, from an egg, from a gourd
  9. Descent of 'noble' lineages: First humans / demigods & first evil deeds / hubris: Origin of death / the flood
  10. The Flood: Punishment for hubris
  11. Trickster deities bring culture (fire / food); Cultural heroes / shamans; humans & their rituals spread (local nobilities arise)
  12. Local history begins: Local biogeographic-culturalisms
  13. Final destruction of the World (kosmos apocalypse)humans (&) the gods (cf. variant of Four Ages theme)
  14. New heaven and new earth arise: Cyclical creation & destruction
Note. There is a sense that the world is a single organic being (emerging from incest) which is born, grows up, matures, and ages, dying at the end.
Two primal competing cosmologies. It is indeed fascinating that our earliest two major traceable streams of human mythology have contrasting cosmologies (I) an eternal world, and (II) a world in passing, from chaos to destruction. Furthermore, which cosmology was used depended on the biogeography of their ancestors migrations. It is worth noting that modern cosmology has undergone arguments between comparable analogs: (II) cosmologies with explosive beginning and apocalyptic ends vs (I) cosmologies with an eternal, persisting cosmos without beginning or end.

Cosmology-making is on the side of the aesthetic of the human brain, rather than strictly utilitarian for subsistence. As we have alluded before, human artistic and representational expression comprises indeed the first beginnings of cosmology-making, which eventually would become the science of cosmology. We must now set our two primal cosmologies against the long backdrop of our planet Earth's natural history.

Earth: Our Long Cosmic Planetary Natural History

(Search link from link).


Our Long Cosmic Planetary Natural History. As we will discuss more in a later chapter of this history, "Worlds aplenty: Evolution of Stellar Planetary Systems & the cosmic Origins of Life," our life-bearing planet Earth has a deep, eventful geological natural history of ~4.567 Gy which has been stratigraphically subdivided with increasing accuracy (https://stratigraphy.org/), one with an active planetary plate tectonic history (http://www.scotese.com/; https://www.ancient-earth.com/). Out of those ~4.6 Gy, life has been on Earth >4 Gy. It is this long backstory, this natural history of life on a geologically active and asteroidally-pelted planet which is the background of our species, our self-awareness, and our cosmology-making.

Because planetary climate cycles and variations are so critical to understanding human self-awareness and cosmology-making, we pause to glance at Earth's climate variation and transitions over the last half-billion years, essentially our current Phanerozoic Eon (538.8 +/- 0.2 Mya - Present; https://stratigraphy.org/chart#latest-version):

(Timeline not to scale; link).

One massive planetary transition long before us was the immense asteroidal impact in the Yucatan Peninsula which destroyed the Mesozoic world of the dinosaurs about 66.043 +/- 0.011 Mya {cf. Renne et al. 2013. Time scales of critical events around the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary. Science 339 (6120), 684. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1230492; cf. Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary}, opening the way for the rich adaptive radiation of the mammals. Since that catastrophe we may reconstruct through various stable isotope fractionizations serving as climate proxies, the global climate changes within the Cenozoic Era (~66 Mya - present). For the last 15 My, there has been an overall cooling trend.

δ18O stable isotope temperature proxies (link).

We may zoom in on the last ~5-7 My during the times when bipedal primates, including our ancestors and paleo-cousins of humankind, evolved in eastern rift-valley Africa to further trace the climate trends, where climate proxy isotopic fluctuations are hypothetically-modeled.

(link). Then came the Greenland and Antarctic ice cores which showed the recent cycles in the last few hundred thousand years:

The Vostok (Greenland) vs EPICA (Antarctica) ice records in stable
δ18O isotopic temperature proxies (link)

In terms of human prehistory, we set the stage now to return to both the older 'southern cosmology' mythos and the 'northern cosmology' mythos, as it appeared in the most recently inhabited region of Eurasia, what we now call Europe.

Broad Southern and Northern migrations within and out of Africa (link); P.B. Demenocal & C. B. Stringer. 2016. Human migration: Climate and the peopling of the world. Nature 538 (7623), 49. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature19471.

Phylogenetically, the last major deep divergence within Homo sapiens sapiens in our native Africa occurred during Marine Isotope Stage 5 (MIS5; 130-80 kya), specifically 135-120 kya according to Ragsdale, A. P., et al. 2023. A weakly structured stem for human origins in Africa. Nature 617, 755. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-06055-y. Using human DNA, Ragsdale and colleagues utilized linkage disequilibrium and diversity-based statistics of population admixture to test two hypotheses about deep human genetic natural history in ancestral Africa. In keeping with the earliest divergence by 130,000 - 120,000 ya, they found a reticulated or network phylogeny for the population genetic demographic history. These basic demographic models are starting point, Ragsdale et al. (2023) Figure 1:
The best fit log likelihoods are compared between (a) the continuous migration hypothesis and (b) the merger hypothesis. The better log likelihood score favors hypothesis (b), the merger model. Here is Ragsdale et al. (2023) Figure 2 with the data and log likelihood statistics in Table 1:

To these deep African, ancestral human genetic data, one should compare recent results which also include human ancient or aDNA, Lipson, M., Sawchuk, E.A., Thompson, J.C. et al. 2022. Ancient DNA and deep population structure in sub-Saharan African foragers. Nature 603, 290. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-04430-9. This second paper, by incorporating sub-Saharan African aDNA samples, are able to infer some population demographic dynamics within the last 18-20,000 ya (Figure 2 of Lipson et al. 2022).

To these increased details about human DNA biogeography of the 'southern cosmology' mythos over the last 200,000 years in Africa, we are now able to show on the 'northern cosmology' front that anatomically-modern humans arrived into West Eurasia (Europe) in three waves, which have been documented and dated archaeologically as occurring at (a) ~54,000 ya, (b) ~45,000 ya, and (c) ~42,000 ya (link) according to Slimak, L. 2023. The three waves: Rethinking the structure of the first Upper Paleolithic in Western Eurasia. PLoS ONE 18 (5), e0277444. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0277444; Figure 9, illustrating by map diffusion and stone tool culture in the three waves (top to bottom): .

We return to the late Pleistocene-Holocene climate epochs, narrowing our focus from the last ~500,000 y to the last ~50,000 y to bring us through the Pleistocene-Holocene tumultous transition and its impact especially on 'northern cosmology-making.'

Both in the northern and southern isotopic and ice records of the last half million years and more, showing repeated ice ages with warming interstadials, including the latest warming / cooling / warming transition to the Holocene (link; link; Yim, 2009, link; link; see https://icecores.org/publications). Between ~13 and ~12 kya (lower right), the major rise, drop, and rise again of temperatures is associated with the Bølling-Allerød warming interstadial and Younger Dryas episodes.

Fleitman et al. 2009. Precise timing of Dansgaard-Oeschger events 1-13 in stalagmites from Sofular Cave, Northern Turkey. Geophysical Review Letters 36 (19), L19707. https://doi.org/10.1029/2009GL040050, over the last ~50 kya.

The transition from the glacial advance / interstadial warming climate regime of the Pleistocene to the warming Holocene was epochal in affecting the story of cosmology-making among late Paleolithic humans. The rapid fluctuations of warming, cooling, and then rewarming involved in the loss of continental glaciation and consequent flooding, deeply impressed the human myth-making psyche.

(Representation of the Lake Missoula flood, Pickering; link).
When continental glaciers extended further south, tundra with unique wild flowers, including of the genus Dryas, as well as boreal forests also extended much further south, in a nested order continental glacial boundaries, tundra, and boreal forests (link; link).
After the great Ice Melt: The Younger Dryas divide (12.8 - 11.7 kya). Although anatomically modern humans have been on Earth for >300 kya, surviving through the many climatic episodes of the Pleistocene Epoch (2.58 Mya - 11.7 kya; Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy: http://quaternary.stratigraphy.org/major-divisions/), there was a catastrophic end-of-Pleistocene transition which not only shaped our environment, but also deeply affected our cosmology-making, particularly in the more northern parts of our planet, a source of our "Northern Cosmology." This most recent catastrophic transition involved massive climate change, and as we shall see includes emerging evidence of an impact event of cosmic proportions to humans on our little planet. We have re-learned about this transition in recent years—re-learned because our ancestors witnessed it.

The causes of the megafaunal extinctions at the end of the last Pleistocene Ice Age has been a matter of controversy. Cooper et al. 2015. Abrupt warming events drove Late Pleistocene Holarctic megafaunal turnover. Science 349 (6248), 602. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aac4315, have shown, using ancient or aDNA and 14C dating, from "31 detailed time series of megafaunal extinctions and replacements over the last 56,000 years" that rapid interstadial warming episodes are strongly correlated with rapid replacement or extinction of megafaunal species and major phylogenetic branches (link, cf. link).

Climate change versus megafaunal extinctions: Temperature proxies are shown along the bottom; the faunal black and red bars represent 95% confidence intervals. Most animals went extinct during warm interstadial episodes (shaded tan), and the last ice age, the last glacial maximum (LGM, shaded blue) had essentially no effect on extinctions (link, link).

Examples of skeletons of Pleistocene mammalian megafauna (image link; see Martin Sweatman's general research group blog as well as his personal blog on the Younger Dryas & Gobekli Tepe; and note also Ahmed Kabil's site on Goebekli Tepe and the Younger Dryas comet).

This shows more evidence that the final warming transition to the Holocene really was a time when those mammalian megafauna populations see to have irrevocably collapsed, as observed by Cooper et al. (2015).

It is interesting that we do have independent confirmation from ancient DNA (aDNA) genetics that some of the Pleistocene megafauna could survive the repeated glacial cooling and interglacial warming cycles of the epoch and still not face extinction until the climate turmoil at the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. In Pečnerova et al. 2017. Mitogenome evolution in the last surviving woolly mammoth population reveals neutral and functional consequences of small population size. Evolution Letters 1-6, 292. https://doi.org/10.1002/evl3.33, the authors showed by Bayesian phylogenetics from the mitochondrial aDNA
(maternally-inherited) genomes of populations of woolly mammoth remains found across the Siberian Arctic, including a population refugium on Wrangel island which lasted until ~4,000 ya before going extinct, that female effective (mating) population sizes (Nef) estimates while holding steady over the Pleistocene began to collapse at the transition point. In general Ne estimates are measures of the genetic health and viability of a population.

The Pleistocene had been a colder epoch, punctuated with temporary rapid warming Dansgaard-Oeschger Events (see the Cooper et al. 2015 figure above). During the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, ~27-~20 kya) lower temperatures had been relatively steady for an extended interval followed by gradual warming. Until the unsmooth Pleistocene-Holocene transition unfolded with a very rapid warming to the last glacial interstadial (the  ), ended by a decline and steep return to a severe cold episode (the Younger Dryas; references), which ended with another very rapid warming ushering in the Holocene.

Temperature stable-isotope proxies over the last 40 kya compared between Arctic and Antarctic ice cores records (link).

As one considers the temperature proxies over the last 40,000 years, its important to note that the rapid fluctuations, such as the Dansgaard-Oeschger Events, including the Bølling-Allerød warming interstadial and the Younger Dryas 'cold snap,' are far more pronounced in the Northern hemisphere (GRIP, Greenland) than in the southern hemisphere (Vostok & EPICA, Antarctica). That fact is correlative with, if not causally-foundational to, the stark differences in emphasis on epochal apocalyptic catastrophe in the Paleolithic "northern cosmology" compared with the more eternal, pacific, and less apocalyptic storyline of the older "southern cosmology" in our mythologies. The overall profile of the Bølling-Allerød warming interstadial / Younger Dryas whiplash in global temperatures can be summarized visually with these figures:
The Younger Dryas cold period following the Bølling-Allerød warming interstadial (link); and climate models predict more gradual transitions (red line) than the actual steep, rapid transitions (blue temperature reconstruction) reconstructed from the Greenland GRIP δ18O proxy, along with other climate trends, including cold periods highlighted in yellow (figure from Christo Buizert; link).

These illustrate precisely-timed global events by several proxies, reflecting late Pleistocene / early Holocene transitional climatic events, including continental glaciation rapid melting / catastrophic flooding, for which anatomically modern humans (any humans at all) were actually present. The Dansgaard-Oeschger Events of rapid temperature warming, were heightened even further by the special circumstances in the transition.

The approximate dating of the three Dryas episodes, cold stadials within the overall late Pleistocene warming trend: The Oldest Dryas (~18-14.7 kya), the Older Dryas (~14.4-14 kya), and the Younger Dryas (~12.9-11.6 kya; discussion on the Sundaland submergence during the end of the Pleistocene, link).
All three of the Dryas episodes are based on the biostratigraphic distribution of the Arctic-Alpine flowering plant species known as the "mountain avens" or Dryas octopetala (L).

(link; link).

In one general locality, multiple 14C datings provide timings for a late glacial advance in that area: Young et al. 2020. Evidence for a late glacial advance near the beginning of the Younger Dryas in western New York State: An event postdating the record for local Laurentide ice sheet recession. Geosphere 17, 1. https://doi.org/10.1130/GES02257.1. In western New York state, they took samples for testing which were part of formations resulting from the shorter glacial advance corresponding on the divider between the Bølling-Allerød warming interstadial warming and the Younger Dryas stadial cooling.

Bølling-Allerød warming and Younger Dryas (B-A/YD) intervals modified from Williams and Farrigno (2012, figure 21) with generalized Greenland paleotemperature curve and additional data as discussed in text from Rasmussen et al. (2014). Red GI-1b marks approximate location of Greenland Interstadial-1b cold interval of Killarney Oscillation in Canadian Maritimes (Levesque et al., 1993) that closely parallels the proposed timing of the B-A/YD event ca. 13.3-13.1 k.y. B.P. (link).

Those timings bracket the important climate transitions at the end of the Pleistocene Epoch:
  • Meltwater Pulse 1A: ~14,700 ya = start of the Bølling-Allerød warming interstadial (references);
  • Rapid onset of the Younger Dryas cooling = 12,900-12,800 ya (references); What event triggered this cold snap, plunging much of the northern hemisphere into the cold of the Younger Dryas or Younger Dryas Boundary (YDB)? (references);
  • Meltwater Pulse 1B: ~11,700 ya = end of the Younger Dryas, start of Holocene (references).
The changes in coastlines in Eurasia from the eustatic low stand at the Last Glacial Max (LGM), about 400 feet below current sea levels.

(Image link defunct, cf. link and link; see also Atlantis in the Java Sea site and the connection with the LGM, the Younger Dryas, and the Pleistocene-Holocene transition).

Locations where biomass burning residues have been found in cores (link).

The fiery dragon: Cometary / Bolide end of the Pleistocene. The hypothesis of a cosmic impact of cometary / bolide origin effecting ice ages and other disasters in the setting of Cenozoic natural history perhaps started scientifically with Hoyle & Wickramasinghe. 1978. Comets, ice ages, and ecological catastrophes. Astrophys. Space Sci. 53, 523. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00645040. The linking of such a hypothesized event to the onset of the Younger Dryas has developed over the years into a major dissident-at-first research program of a growing number of workers who display their published scientific papers and their outreach at https://cometresearchgroup.org/.

First proposed in 2007 and controversial, Firestone and colleagues published (2007), Evidence for an extraterrestrial impact 12,900 years ago that contributed to the megafaunal extinctions and the Younger Dryas cooling. PNAS 104 (41),16016. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0706977104. Figures 1 and 2 below.

Summarizing and synthesizing the work and dating of other workers (incl. Haynes, C. V. 2005. Paleoamerican Origins: Beyond Clovis. Eds. R. Bonnichsen, B. T. Lepper, D. Stanford, M. R. Waters. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press; pp. 113-132) at about 50 sites in North America, Firestone and colleagues found that at the ~12.9 kya horizon, at what they described as the abrupt onset of the Younger Dryas, or the Younger Dryas Boundary (YDB), there is / are (along with what other authors contributed to the list):
  • A carbon-rich thin black layer, or black mat, with in situ fossil bones of extinct Pleistocene megafauna together with Clovis culture tool assemblages, below but never within or above the black mat horizon. Within the black mat, there are abundance peaks of...
  • Magnetic grains enriched with iridium
  • Magnetic microspherules
  • Charcoal and soot from biomass burning
  • Carbon spherules
  • Glass-like carbon containing nanodiamonds
  • Fullerenes ('bucky balls') containing more extraterrestrially-common helium isotope, 3He
  • High-temperature, rapidly quenched microspherules and scoria-like objects (SLOs)
  • Corundum, mullite, and suessite (Fe3Si), a rare meteoritic mineral formed at high temperatures
  • Melted SiO2 glass, or lechatelierite, with flow textures (or schlieren) forming at >2,200 oC
  • Particles marked by high-energy interparticle collisions
  • so-called YDB spherules, dumbbells, gourds, and so on.
The work of others contributed to that list of evidence. Bunch et al. (2012. Very high-temperature impact melt products as evidence for cosmic airbursts and impacts 12,900 years ago. PNAS 109 (28), E1903. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1204453109) added a number of data points from 18 YDB dated sites in North America, Europe, and Asia, which show transient very high temperature phenomena occurred, such as would be generated by a cosmic impact, but not other terrestrial phenomena (see table above after 'fullerenes').

Below: Bunch et al. 2012 figures 1, 2, 7, supplementary figure 1, and supplementary table 1.

Supplementary Table 1. Comparing high temperature proxies from the Younger Dryas Boundary (YDB), Trinity atomic fission detonation, 1945 (TRIN), Meteor Crater, AZ (METC), Australasian Tecktite Field (AUST), and the 1908 Tunguska Event (TUNG).

Bunch et al. (2012) also discussed a number of papers dealing with 'black mats' of that general time frame (cf. Haynes. 2008. Younger Dryas "black mats" and the Rancholabrean termination in North America. PNAS 105 (18), 6520. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0800560105, opposed to the YDIH, and other papers), but only found one carbon mat, the YDB black mat, which had the predicted impact enrichment residues described. The others from evident other causes.

A refined YDB dating of ~12.8 kya by stratigraphy, 14C dating, and paleo-Indian cultural transitions. The next year, Wittke et al. (2013. Evidence for deposition of 10 million tonnes of impact spherules across four continents 12,800 y ago. PNAS 110 (23), E2088. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1301760110) used x-ray spectroscopy for geochemical analysis and electron microscopy for structural analyses, formational inference on ~700 spherules from 18 YDB archaeological sites dated to 12.8 +/- 0.15 kya. The dating corresponds also with the end of the Clovis point culture in N. America and the post-YDB rise of other cultural arrowpoints.
Wittke et al. 2013. Figures 1-3; supplementary figures 2, 4, and 11.

YDB layer with spherules and nanodiamonds, 'black mat' bounding mammoth tooth and Clovis culture point.

YDB layer with nanodiamonds and Holocene post-YDB cultural artifacts.

The refined dating was furthered by Kinzie et al. (2014). Nanodiamond-rich layer across three continents consistent with major cosmic impact at 12,800 cal BP. J Geol. 122 (5), 475. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/677046.In 2015, along with showing an impact proxy nanodiamond dispersion across the northern hemisphere west. 

Kinzie et al. 2014. Figure 1. Dispersal of a nanodiamond-rich layer in the YDB impact proxy field (color link).

In 2015, Kennett et al. summarized the data leading to a refined dating of the end of the Younger Dryas to ~12,800 ya using Bayesian statistical analyses of available dates: Bayesian chronological analyses consistent with synchronous age of 12,835-12,735 Cal B.P. for Younger Dryas boundary on four continents. PNAS 112 (32), E4344. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1507146112.

Figure S3 of site locations along with a summary of the Bayesian synchroneity analyzed 14C dates in the review by Powell (2022), figure 11.


Adapted image from Powell review (2022) of calibrated radiocarbon dates of the Younger Dryas rapid onset.

The climate-catastrophic results of the YDB impact event were elaborated by and debated in followup on the work of Wolbach et al. (2018a, 2018b). Extraordinary biomass-burning episode and impact winter triggered by the Younger Dryas cosmic impact ∼12,800 years ago. 1. Ice cores and glaciers. J Geol. 126 (2), 165. https://doi.org/10.1086/695703. Part 2 in the same journal issue had the same title with this addendum: 2. Lake, marine, and terrestrial sediments. J Geol. 126 (2), 185. The distribution of anomalous biomass burning and 'impact winter' cooling of the climate into the Younger Dryas.

Wolbach and colleagues also cited papers which discussed the dangers of the Taurid complex of meteoroids, some of which are larger, as well as the general proposal of connecting ice ages and ecological catastrophes with cosmic impact: Hoyle & Wickramasinghe. 1978. Comets, ice ages, and ecological catastrophes. Astrophys. Space Sci. 53, 523. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00645040. An important paper linking potentially disastrous cosmic impacts to the Taurid complex includes the work of Dubietis & Arlt, 2007. Taurid resonant-swarm encounters from two decades of visual observations. MNRAS 376 (2), 890. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2007.11488.x. These authors confirmed over a number of years that there is an excess of fireballs during Taurid resonant meteoroid swarms, which in resonant swarm years could lead to dangerous meteorite impacts.

Taurid stream swarm resonance, Dubietis & Arlt (2007).

Napier (2010) made a connection between the Taurid meteor complex and paleolithic mass extinctions: Palaeolithic extinctions and the Taurid Complex. MNRAS 405 (3), 1901.
Palaeolithic extinctions and the Taurid Complex https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2010.16579.x, postulating that dangerous debris (50-100 km in diameter) from a short-period comet during the Late Paleolithic could have led to the catastrophic downturn 12.9 kya returning to Ice Age conditions for about 1300 years during the Younger Dryas. This proposal was followed up by a generalization of the possibility of cometary streams from the Oort cloud being diverted into Earth-crossing orbits during epochs when mass extinctions are more likely: Napier, 2015. Giant comets and mass extinctions of life. MNRAS 448 (1), 27. https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stu2681. Napier in his analyses found a strong correlation between dating of confirmed impact structures and significant mass extinctions, including major geological epochal transitions.

Napier (2015) summary of datings of impact structures in geological natural history, extinction episodes, and geological epoch boundaries.

In 2017, Spurn and co-workers put forward evidence for the Discovery of a new branch of the Taurid meteoroid stream as a real source of potentially hazardous bodies. A&A 605, A68. https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/201730787, (cf. figures link). Following are the Spurný figures 2, 8, 14, and 15 showing evidence of some of 115 Taurid fireballs with trajectories and orbits characterized by visual and radio intereferometry during the Taurid meteor shower.

The reddish-pinkish coloring marks the fireball members of the Taurids. 

The Spurný et al (2017) results show that perturbing resonances can shift orbits of this dangerous stream of the southern Taurids with its many fireballs into hazardous Earth-crossing orbits. Further summarizing work has been done by Egal et al. 2021. A dynamical analysis of the Taurid Complex: evidence for past orbital convergences. https://arxiv.org/pdf/2108.00041.pdf.

This hypothesis (like the K-T impact boundary theory of Alvarez) has been steadily growing in support as the data have accumulated. By 2022, J. L. Powell, could adequately argue, Premature rejection in science: The case of the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis. Science Progress 105 (1), 1-43. https://doi.org/10.1177/00368504211064272. Figs. 1, 9, 11, 12, Table 3. Powell also wrote the historical 2015 work, Four Revolutions in the Earth Sciences: From Heresy to Truth. (New York, NY: Columbia University Press), which discusses how the geological sciences struggled and eventually came to terms with the discoveries of
  • (a) deep time, including the acknowledgment of catastrophes, while benefiting from uniformitarianism and yet escaping the clutches of too constrained a version, a process which started in 1805 (and continued, we might point out well into our time, including Harlan Bretz work in the 1920s on the Cordilleran Ice Sheet meltwater flood episodes & their eventual acceptance, including their linking to the end of the Younger Dryas, see below). 
  • (b) continental drift and plate tectonics,
  • (c) the importance of meteoritic impacts on Earth history, and finally,
  • (d) the impact of modern anthropogenic emissions on climate warming. 
Progress Note: The eventual successful faring of the Younger Dryas Impact hypothesis is an advance of the geological sciences to continue to embrace and integrate both deep time and catastrophism into a growing actualistic reconstructing of Earth's natural history. This general integration trend will greatly facilitate more advanced correlations between Earth's episodic natural history and the paleontological, anatomical, and genomic natural history of the evolution of life and life forms on Earth.

Interestingly we do have independent historical-legendary confirmation of a catastrophic event coinciding with Meltwater Pulse 1B (~11.7 kya) in a report in Plato's Timaeus 21a-26a (written ~360 BCE; https://archive.org/details/timaeuscritiascl00plat/page/36/mode/1up, Greek text & translation from Bury, R.G. 1929. Plato, Vol. 7, LCL. Cambridge, MA: Plato Volume IX, Timaeus. Critias. Cleitophon. Menexenus. Epistles, link; cf. critique of Solon's Egypt journey in Timaeus).

Plato recounts a journey by his ancestor, Solon (c 630 - c 560 BCE) an important Athenian lawgiver to Egypt where he encountered an aged Egyptian priest (keeper of temple records) who told of prior destructions of civilization beyond the Nile to the north and elsewhere, including "an old tale" of an advanced and fierce nation of warriors on an island, Atlantis, to the west beyond the "pillars of Heracles" (Strait of Gibraltar) who made war and attempted to subjugate the Mediterranean world, including the ancient Greeks, but who were resisted. Proud and immoderate beyond their means, a great disaster came and their island submerged beneath the ocean, and this was the most recent destruction of the world. Solon asked for details and was told that it occurred ~9,000 years ago


Solon asked for details, and the aged priest told him ~9,000 years ago.
Ancient Greek Report of Plato in Timaeus 21a-26a (~360 BCE)
  • Solon (c630 - c560 BCE)
  • +9000 = 9630 BCE - 9560 BCE
  • 11,630 - 11,560 ya: Destruction of the kosmos / "world" and the submergence / subsidence of "Atlantis."
The Paleo-climatological data
  • Meltwater Pulse 1A: ~14,700 ya = start of the Bølling-Allerød warming interstadial;
  • Rapid onset of the Younger Dryas cooling = 12,900-12,800 ya;
  • Meltwater Pulse 1B: ~11,700 ya = end of the Younger Dryas

A summary timeline of catastrophic events in the last 13,000 ya, and possible mythic / symbolic representations of cometary cataclysm.

Illustration by Arthur Koopmans (https://www.secretsofthenorse.com/tag/catastrophism/page/2/), who wrote blogs parts 1, 2, and 3 about "comets and catastrophism" on his Secrets of the Norse website on Norse mythology.

"Plato meets the meteorite: Solon, Egypt, and Atlantis" (blog link).

"Akhenaten and Nefertiti worshiping the multi-rayed Aten, 18th Dynasty. Notice how they're holding what seems like hallucinogenic blue lotus flowers? Perhaps they were tripping while basking in the light of a giant comet! - source"; blogger Koopmans freely speculates that "winged disc" and "monotheism" such as that of Aten or Ahura Mazda may have arisen because of cometary imagery c1500 BCE (link).

"The Ragnarok myth explicitly mentions the falling of stars from heaven - screenshot from the Mind Escape Podcast" (link).

"A Zoroastrian winged disk symbol with what appears to be a deity or king on it. [Faravahar relief in Persepolis]" (link).

"'Medusa' by Jacek Malczewski (1900) - source" (link).

"Excerpt from 'Phaeton' by Gustave Moreau (1878) - source. The artist depicts Phaeton with long, disheveled hair."

"'The Primeval Giant Ymir' by Emil Doepler (1900)" (link).

"Thor's hammer was originally not a hammer, but a whetstone or grindstone, possibly meteoric in origin. [Thor's Hammer, Skane]" (link).

"Left: a symbol of the Sumerian goddess Inanna. Right: Engraving of a comet with tail" (source; link).

"List of suspected comet symbols in Norse mythology - screenshot from the Mind Escape Podcast" (link).

"The deadly beauty of long-haired stars" by Arthur Koopmans (above); (right:) "Notable comets of the period 1577-1652" [1688] (link).

"A vintage print from 1860 showing comets that have appeared in a variety of shapes" (link).

"The 'Great Comet of 1861,' drawing by E. Weiss [Comet C/1861 J1]" (link).

Goebekli Tepi
(9500-8000 BCE = 11,500-10,000 ya)



"Depictions of comets compared with the constellations Scorpio and Coma Berenices. Experiences with large and bright comets were likely passed on in the form of star myths" (link).

"Screenshot[s] from Martin Sweatman's blog, showing a collage of comet illustrations - source" (link).

Vulture Stone (Goebekli Tepe) a commemoration of the time of the Younger Dryas impact? (link).

The Vulture Stone is a "datestamp: World's oldest monument [Goebekli Tepe] memorializes the Younger Dryas impact" event (link).

"The constellation Ophiuchus as a spear-wielding god, with Scorpio and the golden-red Antares beneath it" (link).

"Screenshot from Martin Sweatman's blog, showing a collage of suspected comet symbols - source" (link).

The most dramatic effects of the Younger Dryas Impact Event (YDIE) have been found in North America. One of these may well be evidences of the massive melt in the rapid Missoula Flood in the Columbia River Valley in what is now eastern Washington State, known first via Harlan Bretz' pioneering research in the early 20th century: Bretz, J. H. 1925. The Spokane flood beyond the channeled scablands. The Journal of Geology 33 (2), 97. https://doi.org/10.1086/623179. For a more recent reference, see Waltham, T. 2010. Lake Missoula and the Scablands, Washington, USA. Geology Today 26 (4), 152. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2451.2010.00763.x. The melting of the Cordilleran Ice sheet led to the formation of glacial Lake Missoula and kindred lakes. A catastrophic event such the YDIE might have been just enough to break the 2,000 foot ice damn holding back the Cordilleran melt waters. The ferocity of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet meltwaters could well tie with the YDIE's likely focal region on the North American continental glaciers associated with the end of the Pleistocene Epoch.

North America continental glaciation near the LGM (link).

The Cordilleran Ice Sheet meltwater flood episodes in the basinal region of what is now eastern Washington state and the NW states as a microcosm of the Pleistocene-Holocene transition and the effect it must have had on human cosmology-making.




The 'channeled scablands' involved thousands of square miles of vegetation washed away.

Channeled Scablands of what is now eastern Washington state.

Giant boulder in eastern Washington carried by ice during the Lake Missoula Flood; cf. human on left for scale.

Dry Falls, eastern Washington; once a falls for a mighty cataract.

Drumheller Channels, eastern Washington.

Giant ripples (~24' high) in the Washington Scablands.

Camas Prairie giant ripples, Washington.
Links: https://humanoriginproject.com/younger-dryas-flood-prehistoric-earth/; https://humanoriginproject.com/evidence-younger-dryas-forged-human-prehistory/; cf. https://humanoriginproject.com/evidence-global-warming-end-of-last-ice-age/.

Potholes Cataract, Dry Falls, Washington (link).

With the apparently drastic effects of the YDIE and the climate change whiplash of the end of Pleistocene to Holocene climate regime transition, especially near the effect epicenter of the YDIE, it is not surprising that the appearance of civilizations immediately thereafter, such as Goebekli Tepe, and so forth should excite the kind of controversial claims such as appear in Graham Hancock's work, such as that the Sphinx may be older and may remember in body form the constellation location of the Sun at spring equinox at the time of the disaster.

(Old link).

Now the particular Hancock-speculated scenario regarding 'Atlantis' may well be questioned as the reality often may be more complex, as Crecganford's Prof. John White has summarized in "Atlantis: The TRUTH behind Plato's Story" (video link).

Anthroecology: Human anthromes show human curation of Earth's land ecosystems for millennia. There's a long persisting myth that humans have not affected natural biomes, except destructively and in very recent centuries. Research has now shown that this is very likely wrong: Ellis et al. 2021. People have shaped most of terrestrial nature for at least 12,000 years. PNAS 118 (17), e2023483118. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2023483118; (since with updated figures 1-4), in ways which were not destructive. The old Greek myths told of a primordial golden age. While that was myth, there is an element of truth in that humans have lived quite harmoniously with the lands of Earth for untold millennia. A whole database on the advances in anthroecology has been published and is expanding: https://anthroecology.org/, including an interactive guide to anthromes (link). Concepts such as 'domesticated forest' have arisen to describe human-shaped ecology, including in the Amazon Basin: Levis et al. 2018. How people domesticated Amazon forests. Front. Ecol. Evol., Sec. Agroecology 5. https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2017.00171, which is one of a whole set of 21 Frontiers papers on the 'Ecology and evolution of plants under domestication in the Neotropics,' frontiers link

Ellis et al. (2021). Updated Figures 1-4. A further elaboration of the database is further referenced in
Ellis, E. & Nicolas Gauthier, N. (2023). Anthromes 12K DGG v1 shapefile. https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/SZFCPX.

If we move back further in time into the Pleistocene (~2.58 Mya to 11.7 kya; link), we also find, as another study shows that even on island archipelagos where extinctions are more likely, and where extinctions have been interpreted as anthropogenic, the arrival of hominins and of Homo sapiens usually did not cause the Pleistocene faunal extinctions: Louys, J. et al. 2021. No evidence for widespread island extinctions after Pleistocene hominin arrival. PNAS 118 (20), e2023005118. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2023005118; (cf. Livescience link), along with Supplementary information, containing tables with dates of hominin and Homo sapiens arrivals usually long-predating faunal extinctions, and mostly showing no association between hominin and Homo sapiens arrival times and faunal extinctions.

Louys et al. (2021); Figures 1-4.

In summary, the arrivals of hominins (~1.3 Mya-<500 kya) including Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo antecessor, and the island diminutive Homo floresiensis and Homo luzonensis, as well as of our own species Homo sapiens (~100-14 kya) were not associated with but rather mostly preceded the widespread megafaunal extinctions by hundreds of thousands and tens of thousands of years respectively (cf. dates in Supplementary tables). The extinctions were rather associated with climactic changes, volcanic eruptions, &c., and only later modern human cultural and technological colonization since the 'age of exploration.' The implications are that hominins / humankind are not ecological intruders but rather healthy migratory participants in the Pleistocene-Holocene ecosystems of Earth, even in sensitive island ecosystems.

Mythos & Personification: And then came the Goddesses and Gods (~500 kya - 200 CE). One of the most striking set of symbolic emblems of the sacred or ultimate for tens of thousands of years (~< 300 kya) were the so-called "Venus" or "
Venus impudique" exaggerated and stylized female figurines found across Paleolithic Eurasia. Over 200 of them have been found. The very earliest of them is putatively the quartzite "Venus" of Tan-Tan, north bank of the Dray River, Morocco (between 500 - 300 kya) and the next oldest, the scoria "Venus" of Berekhat Ram, Golan Heights (280 - 250 kya) respectively, both of which have been argued to have indications of hominin / human alterations.
Tan-TanBerekhat Ram
(https://www.amusingplanet.com/2016/10/venus-of-berekhat-ram-worlds-oldest.html; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_of_Tan-Tan; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_of_Berekhat_Ram).

The later "Venus" figures are far less ambiguous. These may have represented a Great Goddess / Earth Mother, perhaps the first "supreme creator / deity" in human prehistory:

Left to Right (by row): Mammoth ivory "Venus" of Hohl Fels (40 - 35 kya); ceramic "Venus" of Dolni Věstonice (31 - 27 kya); ochre-tinted oolitic limestone "Venus" of Willendorf (26 - 24 ka); limestone "Venus" of Laussel (~25 kya); La Venus impudique (Paleolithic); mammoth ivory "Venus" of Brassempouy (26 - 24 kya); "Venus 4" from Kostenkyi (25 - 20 kya).
de Mentone
Some "Venus" figures transitioned to more abstract stylized in the later Paleolithic - Mesolithic: "Venuses" of Balzi Rossi (25 - 18 kya); "Venuses" from
Goennersdorf (15 - 11.5 kya); "Venuses" from Peterfels (15 - 11.5 kya); "Venus" of Monruz, Neuchatel (11 kya).

Although on the apparent wane, the "Venus" cult continued into the Mesolithic (20-8 kya SW Asia), the Neolithic (12-6.5 kya), and later:
"Venus" of Halaf culture, Mesopotamia (8 - 7.1 kya); "Venus" of Mehrgahr, Indus Valley (~5 kya).

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_figurine; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion-man; https://www.pinterest.com/pin/544161567475244453/; https://www.pinterest.com/pin/316870523782538423/).

Late in the eon of the "Venuses" a mythological transition may have begun. In the late Paleolithic, another new more male-composite mythological figure began to appear, as a statue and also in cave art. Here is one of the earliest examples of this emerging genre of mythological chimerae: The Lion-Man of Hohlenstein-Stadel, also known as the Loewenmensch, dated at 40 - 35 kya.
The Lion-Man or Loewenmensch carved from mammoth ivory (Links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion-man).

Rock art or parietal art includes human created markings on natural surfaces such as vertical stone, such as paintings, petroglyphs, or even reliefs, and later geoglyphs on land surfaces (link). Rock art first appeared as a world-wide cultural phenomenon in the Africa, Australia, Europe, and Asia of the Upper Paleolithic (~50 - 12 kya) among anatomically-modern (since >300 kya), Homo sapiens sapiens. Upper Paleolithic peoples artistically displayed their mythological worldviews and cosmologies on cliff shelters, overhangs, and cave walls back home in Africa since before the last Pleistocene glacial maximum (~18,000 ya). The upper Paleolithic Cro-Magnon people, recent immigrants from Africa, followed suit in the cave walls of western Europe during the last glacial maximum:
Cave paintings by Cro-Magnon artists in Font-de-Gaume,
Artist: Charles R. Knight (1920)


One of the earliest Paleolithic "lord / lady [god / goddess] of beasts" "master / mistress of the animals, ruler and guardian of the forests" ancient deity representations (Aslan, 2017. God, A Human History, Random House, NY) may have been the antlered composite (possibly androgynous) figure (~15 kya) of Les Trois-Freres, in the inner part part of the cave dubbed 'The Sanctuary,' from whom the animals may be proceeding, perhaps in a kind of procession of creation:
 tf tftf
 Engaged in a dance, the "master of the beasts" may exhibit a stag's antlers, an owl's eyes, a bear's fore paws, human legs, patella, feet, a wolf's or horse's tail, and possibly an erect phallus (cf. Aslan, 2017).

Also among the animal figures is another composite deity-like, shaman-like, or spirit-like figure, the Bison-Man (seen center left below):
And in detail:
Composite figure detail
And pulled out for possible juxtaposition of meaning & reproduced in color:
And this figure (perhaps a representation of a human hunter in disguise, or a spirit being) may be compared with the more well-known "sorcerer" deity / spirit figure.
Two figures

In another case (in addition to the goddess) where theogony may be crossing from prehistory into history, the master / mistress or god / goddess of beasts motif reappears in particular iconography in the late prehistorical / early and later historical periods, with a human-like figure between and grasping two wild confronted animals (link).

The Gebel el-Arak Knife (ca. 5500 - 5200 years ago) from Egyptian prehistory is a flint-flaked knife with an ivory handle containing Mesopotamian-appearing "master of the beasts" figure. Although purchased in an antiquities market, this possibly sacrificial knife is thought to have originated from the ancient sacred city which later came to be known under the Greeks as Abydos:
Back sideFront
"Master of the beasts" engraving on the Gebel el-Arak Knife. Other similar knives of the Naqada II culture have been found.

On a potential sacrificial knife, we see the impetus to put our values of reciprocity into the most extreme form: Religious sacrifice, including human sacrifice, which in evolutionary terms I have called Escalating Asymmetrical Reciprocity (EAR), by which humans sought to appease and gain the attentions, the favor, and the power of personifications of the powers of Nature, which our agency-detecting neural mechanism had turned into spirits and deities, as Scott Atran describes it in his comprehensive volume, In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion (2002; Oxford University Press).


A later Iron Age example of possible Escalating Asymmetrical Reciprocity (EAR) in likely human sacrifice in Oxfordshire, England (link).

In the contemporary Naqada II culture (c. 5500 - 5200 kya) aged panorama painting from Tomb 100 of what was later in the Greek period called Hierakompolis, we have a transition scene with Nile delta boats amongst rich game and hunting-gathering activities in the region. In one section (lower left), there is the "Master of the beasts" near an almost incantatory circle "enclosure" of goats (an early indication of domestication?), semi-domestication, animal slaughter / dressing, and human conflict: A kind of snapshot 'tik tok' "cosmic" world-view of Earth and its human inhabitants at the dawn of history.
Tomb 100 panorama Hierakonopolis
          of the beasts Domestication
The "Master of the Beasts" iconography: Master hunter & animal domestication details (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/41/Tomb_100_Hierakompolis%2C_Naqada_II_culture_%28c._3500-3200_BCE%29.jpg; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gebel_el-Arak_Knife#/media/File:Hierakonpolis_Tomb_100_Master_of_animals.jpg; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abydos,_Egypt).

Additional later "Master / Mistress of the beasts" divine imagery occurs from late prehistory well into more recent historical times. Another famous example of this divine mythology is found on the gold, silver, and lapis lazuli with the original wood gone and reconstructed "Lyre of Ur" (actually 3 lyres and 1 harp) found in a royal women's cemetery from the Early Dynastic III Period (2550-2450 BCE; ~4500 ya). Ten women, one of them positioned as if playing, were buried there. The most famous of these ancient musical instruments was dubbed the Queen's Lyre (link), with a gold bull's head with lapis lazuli beard, thought to represent the Mesopotamian sun god Utu/Shamash (link).
Queen's bull
          head lyrebull's head
Ur lyre in
          actionCylinder lyre
Details of the Bull's head lyre, the "peace" panel with the standard of Ur from the same site, lyre on Mesopotamian cylinder seal (see https://www.pinterest.com/pin/64739313367596295/; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyres_of_Ur; http://www.lyre-of-ur.com/pictures.htm).

Panel Decor and divinity iconography on the Bull's head lyre: Note that almost all of the figures are mythological composites from the "Master of the beasts" to the beasts, and on down the panel.

Of the 4 panels, we see interesting empirical hierarchy:

1. Master of the beasts, which also have human faces or rather a composite, brings to mind the composite cherubim of later Near Eastern lore.

2. Composite lion-human deities serving meat (having a knife) and possibly wine (having a cup or ladle for serving).

3. Composite deer-human (?) and bear-human playing a bull-adorned lyre, like on the very piece here, with a baby deer-human making an offering to the bull's head(?).

4. Scorpion-human and goat-human composites also rendering service of some kind to the royal deity retinue.

Other samples predating Ur sweeping from ancient prehistoric to late antiquity representations of the "Master / Mistress of the beasts" with "confronted beasts" are found below. One of the most fascinating syncretic contacts between the Paleolithic Mother Goddess and the Neolithic emerging "Master of beasts" cultus is the seated Mother Goddess from Çatal Höyük giving birth, supported on either side by female lions or leopards, as the Mistress of beasts (6000 BCE; 8 kya). Such representations (succeeding more primordial animist traditions of the numinous) more unified mythogonies perhaps allow us to espy some of the very early first inklings of the trend toward unified cosmologies, integrated mythological world-views from closer to the dawn of human time.

There is an even older such set of possible 'Master of beasts' in the so-called narrative reliefs found at Sayburc, in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic of Asia Minor, not far from the famous Goebekli Tepe site, due to the work of Professor Eylem Ozdogan. 2022. The Sayburc reliefs: a narrative scene from the Neolithic. Antiquity 96 (390), 1599. https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2022.125. This region of Anatolia is rich in artifacts from the 12-10,000 y interval.

Sayburc Reliefs: What many failed to notice was that these figures resemble powerful figures confronting animals, rather like the 'master of beasts' motif.

Perhaps dancing figure holding an object, charming a massive bison?
Sayburc Reliefs, 9th millennium BCE ~11,000 ya

Central figure with lion's head (?) grasping his member and confronting two leopards
Sayburc Reliefs, 9th millennium BCE ~11,000 ya
Mistress of Beasts giving birth, Çatal Höyük,
6000 BCE = 8 kya (
Museum of Anatolian Civilizations)
Stamp seal with 'twined serpents/creatures, or rotated,
a tree of life motif from the Halaf culture,
6100-5100 BCE = ~8-7 kya, northern Mesopotamia
(Louvre Museum)
Master of Animals, Susa I, 4200-3800 BCE = 6200-5800 ya
Ubaid, Mesopotamian
 Stamp Seal with Master of Animals motif, Tell Tello, ancient Girsu,
end of Ubaid period, Persia; c4000 BCE = c6 kya
(Louvre Museum) 
Gebel Arak Knife
Ancient Levantine God, Gebel el-Arak Knife
c 3450 BCE = 5400 kya
Narmer Palette
Narmer Palette, side with entwined serpopard, Egypt, c5000 kya
Sumerian Bulls
Master of Beasts, Sumerian Bulls, Ur, 2600 BCE = 4600 ya

Another motif with a sacred tree in the place of a Master of beasts,
Ur Royal Cemetery, Early Dynastic III, Royal cemetery
2600 BCE = 4600 ya (British Museum)

Kerman Bronze
Master of Beasts, Bronze Age I chlorite object,
Jiroft, Kerman, c2500 BCE = c4500 ya
(National Museum of Iran)
Gilgamesh seal
Gilgamesh seal of Master of Beasts,
Indus valley civilization,
2500-1500 BCE = 4500-3500 ya

Pashupati seal
Shiva, Pashupati seal, 2350-2000 BCE = 4350-4000 ya

Caduceus: Serpent god Ningishzida on the libation vase of Gudea, Mesopotamia, c2100 BCE = ~4100 ya

Ningishzida, with snakes emanating from his shoulders, on a relief of Gudea c2000 BCE

Sun disc on tree with two bull-men, Old Babylonian, ~2000-1600 BCE = 4000-3600 ya

Bearded deity of the underworld with small figures (perhaps dead souls),
Old Babylonian, ~2000-1600 BCE = 4000-3600 ya (link)

Minoan snake goddess
Θεά των Όφεων, Minoan snake goddess, ~1600 BCE = ~3600 ya
Lion's Gate
Lions Gate, Mycenae 13th c BCE = ~3300 years ago
Minoan pendant
Greek Minoan pendant (British Museum) with an ornate gold Master of Beasts,
1700-1500 BCE = 2700-2500 ya

Cylinder seal, Greek Minoan Master of Animals, c 1400 BCE = c 3400 ya.

Mistress of Animals (a pyxis lid of African elephant ivory), found in trade center of Ugaritic city of Minet el-Beida, 14th-13th c BCE = c 3300 - 3200 ya (link). Artistically a Greek Mycenaean image of Potnia, mistress of animals, and a forerunner of Asherah, a West Semitic sea goddess adored in Syro-Palestine, consort of high god 'El, later considered to be consort of Ba'al the god of storm, rain and harvest who battled the god of desolation, Mot, and died then rose again every year, often depicted with an upraised right arm and hand (see next Baal bronzes); who supplanted 'El. Asherah later yet became the consort of Yahweh, southern Edomite desert deity of ancient Israel (link), to which was also associated the upraised right arm and right hand numerous times in the Tanakh (Hebrew scriptures). Ba'al statuette:

Asherah in Ugaritic texts (link); 'El, Canaanite creator high god (El Elyon, El Shaddai, El Olam, &c.) who had 70 sons-deities by Asherah (cf. 70 nations of later religious tradition in Judaism), bronze with gold leaf, Megiddo (1400-1300 BCE = 2400-2300 ya; link; myth net) during the Mesopotamian early dynastic period (2900-2350 BCE = 4900-4350 ya); Asherah, Syro-Palestine Mistress of Animals (from before the 10th century down to the 7th century BCE; link; cf. link); Bronze Baals with upraised right hands (Tel Megiddo, ~15th c BCE; Ugarit, Ras Shamra, 14th-12th c BCE).
Harness ring, Luristan
Master of Beasts harness ring, Iran, Luristan bronze collection (LA County Museum, link)
10th-9th centuries BCE = 3000-2900 ya
Master of Beasts with winged lions, horse bit cheek piece, Iran, Luristan bronze collection, (
Cleveland Museum of Art), ~700 BCE = ~2700 ya

Winged hybrid Master of Beasts (cf. Les Trois Freres) with 2 panthers, Iran, Luristan bronze collection, c1000-c650 BCE = c3000 - c2650 ya

Mistress of Beasts giving birth, Luristani Fibula, Iran, Luristan bronze collection
c1000-c650 BCE = c3000 - c2650 ya

Master of Beasts with winged felines, cheek piece on a horse bit, Iran, Luristan bronze collection, c1000-c650 BCE = c3000 - c2650 ya

Master of Beasts with winged felines, ring for chariot pole?, Iran, Luristan bronze collection,
(Honolulu Academy of Arts),
8th-7th c BCE = 2700 - 2600 ya

Master of Animals, Finial, Iran, Luristan bronze collection (LA County Museum of Art)
c1000-c650 BCE = c3000 - c2650 ya

Master of Animals, openwork pinhead, Iran, Luristan bronze collection
(LA County Museum of Art), c1000-c650 BCE = c3000 - c2650 ya

Master of Beasts, openwork jewelry pins, Iran, Luristan bronze collection,
(LA County Museum of Art), c1000-c650 BCE = c3000 - c2650 ya

Master of Beasts, whetstone socket, tools & equipment,
(LA County Museum of Art), c1000-c650 BCE = c3000 - c2650 ya

Master of beasts with reptiles and vultures, Luristan, Iran
(LA County Museum of Art), c1000-c650 BCE = c3000 - c2650 ya

Double master of beasts, standard finial, Luristan, Iran
(LA County Museum of Art), c1000-c650 BCE = c3000 - c2650 ya

Double Master of Beasts (reflective), Iran, Luristan bronze collection
c1000-c650 BCE = c3000 - c2650 ya
Lurestan standard
Triple Master of Beasts, standard finial,
Lorestāni bronze, (LA County Museum of Art),
c1000-c650 BCE = c3000-c2650 ya

Asherah through the centuries in the Levant (link)

Kuntillet 'Ajrud, Palestine (link)

Blessing inscription from Yahweh of Shomeron and by Asherah (~850-760 BCE = 2850-2760 ya); Kuntillet 'Ajrud, Palestine (link).

Blessing inscription from Yahweh of Teman and by Asherah (~850-760 BCE = 2850-2760 ya); Kuntillet 'Ajrud, Palestine (link; cf. Hab. 3:3).

Blessing inscription of Uryahu by Yahweh for the sake of Asherah,
Khirbet el-Qom (~750-700 BCE = ~2750-2700 ya; link).
In Hebrew religion, the covenant ark, chariot, or throne of Yahweh was over-covered by confronting cherubim or winged creatures (link); myth imagery from the Levantine culture & ultimately the "Master of Beasts" motif, especially the Phoenicians and Egyptians:

Tutankhamun cherubim throne (c1332-23 BCE); confronted Egyptian winged beings, Samaria, Palestine (10th-9th c BCE); cf. Greek griffons. 

Cherubim throne, Ahiram sarcophagus, Phoenician Byblos (c850 BCE); sphinx-cherub chariot, Phoenicia (c 8th c BCE)

Imaginative reconstruction of the 'ark of the covenant.' Was an Asherah hidden in it? (link).
Parian pottery
Artemis, Parian pottery plate, 675-600 BCE; AM Mykonos, Paros Artemis 675-600 BCE = 2675-2600 yaa
Gorgon Kameiros terracotta, Kameiros, Rhodes 2600 ya
Potnia theron, Pithos
Pithos, Potnia theron Pithos, 625-600 BCE = 2625-2600 ya
Pec plate
Pithos, Potnia theron Pithos 625-600 BCE = 2625-2600 ya
Achaemenid cylinder seal
Cylinder Seal, Achaemenid, modern impression, 5th c BCE = 24 centuries ago
NAMA Artémis Orthia, pre-classical Spartan before 480 BCE = before 2480 ya
Ptolemaic Egyptian cippus
Egyptian cippus, Ptolemaic period; 305-30 BCE = 2305-2030 ya (
Ancient Collection MfA, Boston: 0751; link)
Persian Yahweh coin
Zeus / Yahweh, Persian province of Yehud Medinata, 4th c BCE = ~2300

Gundestrupkedlen Gundestrup cauldron - silver, Denmark, antlered figure 150-1 BCE

Coin (Sardis, Asia Minor) Münze aus Sardes mit Hermesstab, 140-144 CE
 Slotten, R. L. 1965. The Master of Animals: A study in the symbolism of ultimacy in primitive religion. Journal of the American Academy of Religion XXXIII (4), 293. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_of_Animals; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luristan_bronze; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potnia_Theron; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yahweh; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_ancient_Greece#Classical_Greece)).

In conclusion, the significance of this brief foray into prehistoric human mythology is illuminating because it allows us in part to glimpse how early humans constructed their world-views as hypostatic, personified views of the cosmos, and thus their cosmologies, and sought to assign final meaning to them via their fashioning of deities, gods, and spirits. Of particular interest is the reification of a father-mother figure in the ancient Paleolithic Master / Mistress of Animals motif, which has influenced Neolithic and Chalcolithic religiosities, and finally the later-arriving Abrahamic religions, which their developing dual / singular gods, the adoration of which has deeply influenced cosmology and cosmology-making down to the present. We return to this theme because it is significant in the Enlightenment revolution and the debates about cosmology since the Scientific Revolution. We will return to a summary of divinities and cosmic ontologies in the West, and the implications for how these play into the development of scientific cosmologies.

II. Megaliths: Cosmologies in Stone (upper Paleolithic-Neolithic: ~14,000 ya - 1150 CE)

We venture back into the ancient past to consider the models or cosmologies of the Universe anciently set in stone. Stonehenge & other standing stone circles and megalithic sites (dozens around the world of more or less disputed archaeastronomical use, link) indicate times (~12,000 BCE - ~1000 CE) when apparent observation of the heavens was combined with more elaborate calendric and religious ritual. Before Stonehenge, there were very early putative cosmological sites like Externsteine from where Late Paleolithic stone tools have been found dating from ~10,700-9,600 BCE, including microlith arrowheads and blades associated with the Ahrensberg culture (Truede & Zelle, 2012; link).

Externsteine megaliths (link).

Argimusco (link), a natural formation of rocks in Sicily, which may have played megalithic cosmological significance for Late Paleolithic people (~10,500 BCE and since) by resembling (to human eyes and imagination, modern and ancient) certain mythological figures and traditional constellations, such as Serpens, Ophiuchus, Sagittarius, Leo, Corvus, Cygnus, Virgo, and Aquila. Aquila, the Eagle, is one. These may rank as some of the earliest zodiacs - a type of unification of mytho-cosmology.

The paleolithic standing megalithic circles and megalith juxtapositions may be considered as Earth surface representations of the cosmos for our early human forebears.

Here are is La Rocchia dell'Aquila.

On the Salisbury plains in Wiltshire, southern England, Stonehenge (link) is the world's most famous Neolithic megalithic circle of standing stones, taller than typical and constructed with lintels. It was built between 3100 BCE to 1600 BCE (~5100 to ~3600 ya) probably in stages. It has long been recognized that it is aligned to the summer and winter solstices, and scholars have speculated that it was used a some sort of calendrical site, although the details remained obscure. The standing stones are traditionally called "sarsen stones" which is from the word for Saracen (Muslim), but in traditional English culture meaning anything non-Christian or pagan.

  drone view
Stonehenge early morningSolstice

Stonehenge in the sun, and at summer solstice along with some modern adherents of Hengian ways
(https://betterbe.co/life/unbelievable-drone-photos/7/; ;http://www.backpackeurope.com/images/England/Stonehenge.jpg;

In 2022, Timothy Darvill published, Keeping time at Stonehenge. Antiquity 96 (386), 319-335. https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2022.5 (cf. link), where he argued that the 30 standing sarsen stone marked a 30-day month, with the semicircular Trilithon Horseshoe of lintel-ed standing stones accounted for the intercalary days needed to make a 365 1/4 solar year, to keep track of festivals and important seasonal events. The first stage of construction he argues fitted a lunar calendar, but that the offset of 15 degrees in the second stand of construction corrected this to a solar calendar. He argues that cultural diffusion through trade, travel, and networking with the Mediterranean world replaced the lunar calendars common on the 4th millennium BCE with the solar calendar, first developed in Egypt and then diffusing into Mesopotamia by the late 3rd century BCE.

Darvill (2022), Figure 8.

Since the questions are far from answered, it was not surprising that Darvill's paper would be disputed by other scholars, who would argue the opposite: No, Stonehenge is not a solar calendar but a sacred burial ground with astronomical features (cf. link). Magli, G. & Belmonte, J.A. 2023. Archaeoastronomy and the alleged ‘Stonehenge calendar.’ Antiquity 97 (393), 745-751. https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2023.33, argue that Davill has made astronomical errors, analogies, and numerology. They also doubt that the cultural diffusion connection with the Ancient Near East can be established. Davill replies that nothing they write really undermines what he found (link). Comment. What's wrong with both being plausible as uses of Stonehenge?


Other standing stone circles and archaeoastronomy sites of Neolithic age are found widely in the hinterlands of northern Europe. There are a number of them in Ireland.

Stone circles (Beaghmore, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland)

                IrelandLight at Newgrange
Newgrange, ca. 5200 ya, is a 250 foot in diameter Neolithic structure in Ireland (left), designed so that a ray of sunshine penetrates it at the winter solstice (right).

Summer Solstice on the plateau of Giza amidst the pyramids, including the Great Pyramid of Khufu, 2613-2577 BCE
(Ramsey et al. 2010, link;

In the Old World, portal dolmens, standing stone circles, and such provided very likely a sidereal dimension, a uniting of  the ancient skies with the human calendar-making and cultural geography of Earth below. As such, they such archaeoastronomy artifacts illustrate our human cosmology-making.

New World excursus: Cosmologies of the American Southwest, Chaco Canyon (900-1150 CE) & the ancient Anasazi, ancestral Puebloan peoples (link).

In the New World, Neolithic stones indicated interest on the part of the first nations migrating to the Americas in constructing sacred cosmologies in stone. Although younger and thus later in time, the archaeoastronomies / paleo-cosmologies of indigenous North America illustrate how ancient world-views may be captured in stone and petroglyph, and thus be in the same categorical vein of the older stone circles and megaliths of the Old World.


Marked the solar calendrical observations of the people there (http://www.jqjacobs.net/southwest/chaco_meridian.html).

                over Chaco Canyon

Chaco Canyon at night aligned facing the North Star, Polaris


            spirals with sundagger
Solsti & Equinoces

ssun dags

Inverted petroglyph (Chaco Canyon)
Chaco Canyon: The Spring (Vernal) Equinox, the Summer Solstice, the Autumnal Equinox, and the Winter Solstice marked mid-day by the appearance of sunlight through the rock cracks falling in "sun daggers" on the rocks in relation to the complex of carved spirals there, and an inverted image of the petroglypic animals, figures, and spirals (; Archaeoastronomia; ; ).

There is suggestive evidence that the people of Chaco Canyon may have recorded the total solar eclipse 11 July 1097. Eclipse 1097
The stylized humanoid figure "above" the solar eclipse petroglyph is curiously juxtaposed.
eclipse MCE
These petroglyphs are reminiscent of active mass coronal ejection (MCE) events. That time (1097 CE) saw a very active period of the Sun's 11 year cycle (https://phys.org/news/2017-08-chaco-canyon-petroglyph-ancient-total_1.html; https://www.exploratorium.edu/ancientobs/chaco/HTML/TG-petroglyphs.html).

Before we leave Chaco Canyon, we should note that like the Chinese, the Puebloan Anasazi also seem to have recognized two other major astronomical events of their time: (a) On the 5th of July 1054, the supernova (remnant now expanding known as M1 or the Crab Nebula) in Taurus was only 3 degrees away removed from the waning crescent moon (link), with an apparent magnitude of −7; (b) the appearance of Comet Halley in 1066.

SN 1054
Ink drawing of SN 1054 and Halley's 1066

M1 pulsar
M1, the Crab Nebula, supernova remnant of SN 1054, has a spinning neutron star in the center, a pulsar which flashes our direction every 33 milliseconds (Images:
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/307300374577326054/; https://rockartblog.blogspot.com/2010/11/halleys-comet-pictured-in-chaco-canyon.html; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crab_Nebula).

Night sky with Milky Way over some of the Chaco Canyon ruins (https://fizzytravel.com/stunning-places-in-us-for-stargazing/).

III. The Origin and Evolution of our Constellations (~35,000 ya - IAU, 20th c CE)

The constellations are human-perceived (angular) projected groupings of stars or asterisms visible to the unaided eye to which human imagination added different mythological figures and events in many tales from around the world in almost every culture, which also served as a practical map for the science of naming, measuring, and navigating by the stars (IAU constellations summary). The heritage of the constellations is a combination of imagination, myth, story, art, and the early science of astronomy and astrometry, i.e., the naming and angular measuring of the distant stars, thus creating a diurnal and sidereal time and calendar system.

The Milky Way, an old tree, and star trails, northern Sicily (https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap220708.html).

Some of the very earliest astronomical observations were carved mostly portable objects, including bone, with engraved or painted rows of dots as lunar observations in the long Paleolithic (~3.3 Mya - 11,650 ya, link). One of these is the bone-carved representation of the waxing and waning Moon in a serpentine form found by Abri Blanchard in Dordogne (France) and dated to about 30 kya.

Waxing and waning lunar cycle etched as a serpent.

One of the very earliest constellation representations may have come from a worked baboon fibula (~35,000-32,000 BCE; 37-34 kya) from the KwaZulu Border Cave (NE South Africa), a site with a stratigraphic record of human habitation over ~200,000 years. On one side of the carved bone is an array of 86 knotches equaling the average number of days to be subtracted from a year to equal the average number of day of human gestation. On the other side of the carved bone is a posing human figure, which Prof. Rappenglueck attributes as a representation of Orion the Hunter, the number of knotches again also equaling the number of days a year when the bright star Betegeuse in Orion is visible from KwaZulu. Astronomical observations and human fertility are linked. The sophistication of this earliest astronomical observation from the eastern African rift valley cradle of humankind is breathtaking.

(KwaZulu Border Cave; knotched Orion engraving; BBC 'oldest star chart' found).

Another early one speculatively suggested by Bernie Taylor encapsulates, he argues, allusions to a number of constellations may be found within the rock gallery with an enigmatic set of red ochre discs in the El Castillo Cave, Cantibria (Spain; ~40.8 kya; ~37.6 kya; ~34 kya), and other designs including hand imprints and even some dots resembling arrangements of stars, asterisms. The Taylor hypothesis remains highly imaginative and speculative, although that can be said about all human attempts to see tales and mythic drama in the apparent groupings or constellations of the 'fixed stars':

Location of the El Castillo Cave in the northern Iberian peninsula (Spain).

Speculative deciphering of some of the earliest painted images (2017).

The panel of the hands (one dot dating to 40,800 ya, and one hand stencil dating to 37,600 ya) has a set of about 30 hands, and patterns of dots, one set of which resembles the later Greek constellation Corona Borealis (Northern Crown), shown here with Bayer Greek alphabetic magnitude designation (link).

Gallery of disks (U series dated to >34,000 ya, Pike et al. 2012 [Pike, A. W. G., Hoffmann, D. L., Garcia-Diez, M., Pettitt, P. B., Alcolea, J., De Balbin, R., Gonzalez-Sainz, C., de las Heras, C., Lasheras, J. A., Montes, R., Zilhao, J. 2012. U-Series Dating of Paleolithic Art in 11 Caves in Spain. Science 336 (6087), 1409. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1219957]. Taylor finds multiple images within the rock formations in the Gallery of Disks, exhibiting perhaps the same type of creative human imagination which gave us the constellations in the first place :).

Interpretation of a depiction of a cluster of three bears, a proposed hand gesture, compared with the Greek constellation Ursa Major (the large bear).

Interpretation of an aquatic creature, a proposed hand gesture, compared with the Greek constellation Pisces (the fish).
(Before Orion link).

To return to the ancient mother goddess cult of the 'Venuses,' we find that one of the earliest lunar calendars is associated with the famous 'Venus of Laussel' figurine dated to ~25 kya. She holds a crescent perhaps bison horn with 13 carved knotches, the number of lunar cycles, menstrual cycles in a year, as well as the number of days between ovulation and menstruation, again a linkage of astronomical observations and human fertility.

The 'Venus of Laussel' and her crescent lunar / fertility calendar horn.
Among the rich panoply of upper Paleolithic cave art, there are the paintings in Lascaux (present day France) which have been dated to the range of 17,000-15,000 BCE (19,000-17,000 ya; link), there is evidence of representations of some of our constellations, which are still remembered today, showing that the representational memory of these mythological figures as imagined and seen by early humans in the stars has persisted for millennia, perhaps longer than just about any unaltered part of any specific oral tradition. The Lascaux Cave not only contains splendid paintings of Ice Age fauna, it also contains early artistic-knowledge-based cosmologies or representations of the Universe, as seen in the Paleolithic world, including possible Paleolithic versions of asterisms or constellations.

Lascaux (France).

Lauscaux paintings of bison, aurochs, horses, deer, and Megaloceros (Irish Elk)
(Lascaux paintings; oldest lunar calendar?; Ice Age star maps).
Among those paintings were a number of them which hinted at astronomical phenomena, one of a possible lunar calendar of 13 dots and an empty square below the Irish Elk image, which could be interpreted as half a lunar cycle, from new moon to full. In addition to the half calendar, it may also be that there is a full lunar calendar with 29 dots beneath a dappled horse, next to a reddish cow.

And possibly recognizable are asterisms and constellations, such as the open star cluster the Pleiades and also the Hyades in what we know as Taurus the Bull, facing Orion the Hunter, as suggested by Rappenglueck (1996). The Pleiades in the "Salle des Taureaux" Grotte de Lascaux (France). Does a rock picture in the cave of Lascaux show the open star cluster of the Pleiades at the Magdalenien Era, ca. 15,300 B.C.? In C. Jaschek & F. Atrio Barandela (eds.). Actas del IV Congreso de la SEAC / Proceedings of the IVth SEAC Meeting 'Astronomy and Culture.' Salamanca, New York; pp. 217-225.

(link; IAU origin of constellations; link; Orion-Taurus sketch; Taurus in Lascaux Caves; Lascaux constellations, Society for Interdisciplinary Studies, cf. prehistorian blog; no bull—Taurus is in the Lascaux caves).

It is especially haunting that one of the earliest images should be of humankind as hunter facing the wild imbalance of Ice Age mammals, with danger and death accompanying, embodied in what since the Greeks, we have called Orion and Taurus. That is, before humankind could in any sense be considered "master of the beasts"! This slain hunter is in stark contrast with the Bhimketka portraying a pastoral goatherd / shepherd scene, showed the difference in climate and dangers between the two Paleolithic sites. 

(A slain hunter before the bull bison (Orion & Taurus?) in Lascaux; Bhimbetka shepherd).

The earlier, more northerly Cosmic Hunt(er) myth versus the later and more southerly Pastoral Shepherd motive can be seen in the juxtaposition above. See also Rappenglueck, M. 2013. Palaeolithic Stargazers and today's astro maniacs - Methodological concepts of cultural astronomy focused on case studies of earlier prehistory. In Ivan Sprajc and Peter Pehani (eds), Proceedings of the SEAC 2012 conference: Ancient Cosmologies and Modern Prophets. Ljubljana, Slovenia: Slovene Anthropological Society. www.academia.edu; cf. Researchgate.net.

Recent research has also shown that stereographic photography reveals how ancient humans took advantage of the 3D shape of cave walls and ceilings to re-create animal scenes in their rock art: Asiain, R., Ontanon, R., & Saura, P. 2023. Animals hidden in plain sight: Stereoscopic recording of Palaeolithic rock art at La Pasiega cave, Cantabria. Antiquity 1-16. https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2023.122. And
these people may well have been Neanderthals.

The dimensional genius of Paleolithic rock art. 

(link; cf. also, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cave_of_La_Pasiega).

At this point, we leap forward over much that is unknown in our account of the known constellations to the Ancient Near East. 
The Near Eastern Sumerians (~4500-1900 BCE; 6500 - 3900 ya) were among the earliest peoples engaged in ancient astronomy. Their very name Shumer from shem or 'points to sky' or also a 'pointed stone marker' emerges from their sky-watching ways.

Ancient Sumer in the Near East (maps).

Sumerians in Mesopotamia measured the year from the time in Spring when the Sun's path in the ecliptic crosses the celestial equator (the vernal equinox). Using a base 6 numerical system, they divided the year into 12 months, the day into 24 hours, and the circle / sphere into 360 degrees, each degree subdivided into 60 arc-minutes, each arcminute further subdivided into 60 arc-seconds. The Sumerians in their fertile river valley civilization also made use of astronomical calendar observations to guide their agriculture:

Sumerian cylinder seal, showing the Sun, new Moon, and perhaps 7 stars of the Pleiades at time of plowing and planting.

Their basic imaginative identification and naming of the constellations through the sky about 2500 BCE which the ecliptic passes (the zodiac) has been transmitted down to us (via the ancient Greeks thousand of years later).

Reconstruction of the Sumerian sky from 2500 BCE with superimposed Mesopotamian images of the constellations from cylinder seals:

(A Mesopotamian zodiac; Mesopotamian representations of the constellations superimposed on a reconstruction of the sky from 2500 BCE).

Some examples include Aquarius, the Water-bearer, adopted from >3000 years ago directly into the Greco-Egyptian Hellenistic culture nearly a millennium later.

Another example is Sagittarius, the chimeric archer-human-winged horse:

A third example is the chimeric Capricornis, the goat-fish:

The Sumerians not only knew about the basic patterns of fixed stars through which they Sun travels in the course of the year, they also knew about the 'wandering stars' or planets, and furthermore seemed to have pictured the Sun at the center of the system of the wandering planets, according to a  Sumerian seal.

The Sumerian zodiac nomenclature, and apparent heliocentrism in a Sumerian seal, VA/243 (link).

Furthermore, the Sumerians also apparently knew about the planets all the way out to Saturn, and that Saturn has rings:

(Saturn's rings in Sumerian planetary model, link).

Egypt. On the plateau of Gizeh, the great pyramids have direct evidence of being built in part for astronomical observations of Sirius to indicate the timing of the annual Nile flooding. There is also another speculative hypothesis, suggesting that the placement of the pyramids matches the three stars in Orion's belt, suggesting that the constellation of Orion was important in their early cosmology-making.

(Ancient Egypt; Link; link; cf. link).

One of the oldest known maps of the skies is the Nebra sky disk (~30 cm) from Nebra, Germany (~1750 BCE or ~3750 years ago), found in 1999 along with Bronze Age weapons, on the Mittelberg hill, near Nebra, and is now stored in the Landsmuseum in Saxony-Anhalt (link; cf. link), as a UNESCO world heritage document.

The sky disc itself is considered to date from ~1750 BCE or ~3750 years ago, and from artifact dating to be buried about 1600 BCE or 3600 years ago after several stages of development. There is evidence that northern European Bronze Age peoples were in communication with each other, not only between what is now Germany and the British Isles, but also with the Middle East. The sky disc seems to include the Pleiades, the Sun, and the Moon at first glance. However, it actually contains a diagrammatic representation of significant celestial objects, and the changes in seasons of the year, along with a representation of a boat with historical parallels to other water-faring peoples of the time. (See also Nebra sky disk map, the Unetice culture in https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap180319.html).

However, there's more there than one might think. There may be a sky calendar there, the transitions of the seasons, and reference to particular celestial objects including significant 'fixed stars' including reference to a boat among the stars, multicultural evidences of which may have contributed to the notion of the Greek constellation Argo Navis (as discussed below):

The 82 degree separated and crossing lines may point toward the summer solstice (upper left and right) and the opposing winter solstice (lower left and right; link), while the other axis points to the vernal (lower left) and autumnal equinoxes (lower right; link; cf. link, and also link).

The Sun and its location was critical to the life of northern European peoples of the Bronze Age, and other possible interpretations may be made of the stars in the disc:

(link and link; link).

It is quite likely that the sky disc was used to mark the seasons from the Mittelberg hill (see above right). This shows that these northern peoples were using the stars as part of their orientation in their world and in their world-views. (For more see here).

One of the earliest known representations of the recognizable constellations came from ancient China (4th century BCE, ~2400 ya):

Image from British Library (https://history.aip.org/exhibits/cosmology/ideas/astrology.htm).

During the same time frame and even earlier, the ancient Sumerians in Mesopotamia were also among the earliest makers of star maps and calendars. In the later subterranean tablet library of Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (668-627 BCE) in Nineveh, a fragment of a circular Babylonian star calendar has been found, with important stars and angular measurements of degrees, signed by a scribe Nab-Zuqup-Kenu (link), during the reigns of Sargon II (720-704 BCE) and Sennacherib (703-680 BCE).

Star calendar (cf. link).

Even more important a find from the Assyrian library is a 7th century BCE reproduction of a more ancient Sumerian astrolabe (>5,000 ya), a 13 cm in diameter clay tablet which which was called "the planisphere," (K-8538 in the British Museum), translated to reveal it's ancient origin.





A close examination of the 7th century BCE Ashurbanipal library planisphere is that it displays a much earlier view of the observable sky, as well as perhaps marking a particular epochal cosmic event for the ancient peoples of the Chalcolithic. 

Here are a couple hypotheses features worthy of note in attempts to understand this ancient planisphere (Left A; Right B):

Hypothesis A: The location of the celestial equator and the ecliptic crossed paths within the Milky Way in 3300 BCE (~5,300 ya). That rarely recurring event is hypothesized to be memorialized in this planisphere. Or, there is a more catastrophic hypothesis.

Bond & Hempsell (2008). Abingdon, UK: Reaction Engines.
Hypothesis B: A startling event on the early morning of 29 June 3123 BCE, Julian Calendar, observed by Sumerian astronomers (link). Bond & Hempsell (2008) identified and examined 8 sectors of the tablet: North, 5 prominent constellations, postulated cloud cover / cloud banks at the time, the path of arrival or trajectory of the incoming Aten asteroid which crashed far away in Koefels, and a persisting post-impact plume. (Drawing by L. W. King, 1912, British Museum). 
Reconstruction of what may have been observed ~5,200 years ago:


Another likely ancient star map documenting asterisms associated some of our known constellations as well as a possible novel celestial event like a nova or supernova has been found on a ~0.5 m stone disk at a proto-protohistoric hill fort rampart called Castelliere di Rupinpiccolo, one of several such Bronze Age-Iron Age proto-historic hill forts found in the Adriatic, Aegean, and Anatolia. Archaeologist Frederico Bernardini et al. (incl. astronomer Paolo Molaro). 2022. Prehistoric stone disks from entrances and cemeteries of North-Eastern Adriatic Hillforts. Documenta Praehistorica 49, 300-317. https://doi.org/10.4312/dp.49.7, explored 4 such stone disks, one of them dated to the Middle Bronze, ~3,000 ya, found at two proto-historic hill fort sites in the Adriatic, Castelliere di Rupinpiccolo (near Trieste, Italy) and Gradina on Veliki Brijun (on the Croatian coast). Some of these stone disks have semi-circular cuplike depressions, which are not randomly placed, most notably Rupinpiccolo disk 1, which has 29 such depressions carved into it.


Archaeologist Bernardini and astronomer Molaro went on to do an in-depth statistic analysis of Rupinpiccolo disk stone 1 depressions with known stars: Molaro, P. & Bernardini, F. 2023. Possible stellar asterisms carved on a protohistoric stone. Astron. Nach. [Astron. Notes] 344, e220108. https://doi.org/10.1002/asna.20220108. Of the 29 engraved depressions on the Rupinpiccolo disk stone 1,

The Greeks (a cultural alliance in the Aegean) imported most of constellations from earlier cultural traditions in Mesopotamia and Egypt, and apparently an ancient oral set of traditions in Eurasia. So we turn to the 8th century BCE and the epic poetry from the twilight of the so-called Greek Heroic Age, where the ground was evolving with prior stage-setting, if you will, for the most significant transition in human cosmology-making was to take place, the Ionian Dawn / Greek Enlightenment (6th-4th centuries BCE) turn toward natural causation. The Homeric-Hesiodic transition starts with the Afro-Transcaucasian-Eurasian-Amerind Northern Cosmology, and further assimilates from there.

Ancient Greek Heroic Age (Homeric): Chaos to Cosmos

Legendary epic poet, Homer (8th century BCE), author of the masterpiece epic poems, the Illiad (8th century) and the Odyssey (8th century) based on the heroic times of the Trojan War ( c 1260-1180 BCE).
In the heroic Greek world of Homer's epic poems, the traditional gods regularly interfere in the world, in human affairs, causing events and eventualities in the affairs of men and their fortunes.
Homer, epic poet (8th century BCE)
grants us a view of the traditional Greek mythological view of the Cosmos.
Hesiodos (~750-650 BCE).
Ἡσίοδος Hēsiodos, 'he who emits the voice' (link).

In his long didactic Ἔργα καὶ Ἡμέραι (Works and Days), he opined on the nature of the world and human life within it.

In one of the great transitions from mythogony to cosmology and historical cosmology (historicized account of the world), Hesiod posited a transition from myth to history with his 'ages of man' (lines 109-201, cf. link):

  • Golden Age: Fell within the reign of Cronus, Humans created by the gods on Olympus lived and walked among the gods, were good and noble, and had to do no work because Nature provided her bounty. Men were wise and beneficent beings on earth, δαίμονες from δαήμονες.
  • Silver Age: This age and since is within the reign of Zeus, son of Chronus. Men lived 100 years under the dominion of their mothers, and spent time in strife with each other. But upon death, they became "blessed spirits" in Tartaros.
  • Bronze Age: Men hardened by war, their central passion, and thus undone by their violent ways. Their armor and tools were forged of bronze. Their spirits were left with no name, and dwelt in the "dark house of Hades." This age ended with the flood of Deucalion. 
  • Heroic Age: The age of heroes was the exception in getting better than the previous age. These heroes fought at Thebes and Troy, and upon death went to Elysium.
  • Iron Age: Hesiodos writes here. Humans live in toil and misery, children dishonoring their parents, brother wars with brother, and the social contract between host and guest is forgotten. Might makes right, and the bad lie to be thought good. Shame or anger against wrong doing is lost. Babies will be born with gray hair, and the gods will have completely forsaken humans.
Adapted from link
The Greek pioneers in mythology, history, and science may be thought of as starting with the early poet and philosopher Hesiodos, who wrote Θεογονία, Theogonia or Theogony (origin of the World and the gods):
Chaos was first of all, but next appeared broad-bosomed Earth [Gaia]."

The Cosmos emerged in order (link): (a) Chaos (b) Gaia (Earth) (c) Tartaros (the Underworld), and (d) Eros (Love).

"The very first to exist is Chaos,
then Gaia, whose expansive lap
is the ever-safe foundation of the immortal gods
who live on the snowy peak of Olympos;
and then dark Tartaros, deep in the earth with its expansive paths;
and then Eros, the most beautiful of the gods...."

Theogony translated in Leonard & McClure. 2004. Myth and Knowing: An Introduction to World Mythology. McGraw-Hill Co.; p. 63.

Hesiodos' Theogony is a milestone in transitioning from myth to metaphysics to cosmology to history (cf. link), however, it is important to note that it fits will into the II. Northern Mythos-Cosmology of the early Homo sapiens 'out of Africa' migrations.
The apotheosis (or translation up into heaven among the gods) of Homer illustrates how mythology developed during and after the Greek Heroic Age. In fact, many of the constellations which the Greeks transferred from ancient antiquity to post-classical Greco-Roman 'modernity' indeed incorporated apotheosis or translation into the stars / asterisms with the very mythical figures memorialized there. Classicist Richard Miller showed in his history of the creative effect of the Greco-Roman apotheosis or 'translation fable' evolving mythology on early Christian belief in the resurrection (Miller, 2015. Resurrection and Reception in Early Christianity. New York, NY / London, UK: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group) gives many references to the classical sources on the transfiguration and apotheosis of not only Greco-Roman mythical figures but also cultural heroes / heroines of yore and of state into catasterisms, associated with our canonical constellations.

Apotheosis of Homer, in the 3rd century BCE
Archelaos sculpture relief with Zeus at the top, various figures described in detail, and Homer being seated and laurel-crowned at the lower left (cf. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iliad; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odyssey;https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bust_of_the_poet_Homer,_replica_from_the_Archaelogical_museum_of_Naples,_Neues_Museum,_Berlin_(8169127839).jpg).

Although reproduced in the 2nd century CE, the Farnese Atlas is likely a copy of a 2nd century BCE sculpture of the mythical Titan, Atlas, holding aloft the celestial sphere. This celestial globe contains the basic constellations compiled by the Greeks. 

Interestingly, the view of the celestial sphere is just the reverse of what you'd see looking up. It portrays a god's eye view of the celestial sphere, as if one were looking into the celestial sphere from the outside. This unusual perspective built into the globe, may infer that this globe was actually an astronomical instrument, a planisphere. (Farnese Atlas sculpture; image of the celestial globe).   

When Farnese globe image is inverted, we see the constellations as they appear when looking up into the sky.

The basic transmission of the ancient constellations into the canonical Greek constellations happened over this period with these key figures in the history of our constellations.

Eudoxus of Cnidus (Εὔδοξος ὁ Κνίδιος), c408 - c355 BCE

His works are lost, although their main content including the transmission of the constellations is preserved in a 4th century BCE poem by Aratos of Soli. 

Aratos of Soli, Άρατος ο Σολεύς c315/310 BCE - 240 BCE.

Wrote the poem Phaenomena (link) which described the constellations along with alluding to their mythological origins.

Hipparchos, Ἵππαρχος, (c190 - c120 BCE), a Greek astronomer, geographer, mathematician, has been considered the founder of trigonometry (link).

Claudius Ptolemaeus, Κλαύδιος Πτολεμαῖος (c100 - c170 CE)
The Almagest: 44 Constellations (link).

The geometric configuration by which Hipparchos estimated the distances in the Sun-Earth-Moon system (link): 

Constellations included in Ptolemy's Almagest (link), containing the line of constellations along the ecliptic (path of the Sun through the year):

The Dendera Zodiac, with it's internal referential allusions to a rare planetary configuration, a lunar eclipse (September, 52 BCE) and a solar eclipse (March, 51 BCE) led French astrophysicist Eric Aubourg to date the Dendera to ~50 BCE (link).

Dendera Zodiac

The Dendera Zodiac, ~1st century BCE
(image adapted from Wilson, 1980); cf. link.

Reconstruction of the putative original colors of the Zodiac, with the constellations identified, as well as the sky being upheld by 4 equidistant female figures and 4 pairs of falcon-headed figures, surrounded by 36 figures of asterisms, representing the 36 (40 minute) "hours" of the Egyptian night, and also the 36 decans or 10 day "weeks" plus 5 extra days of the Egyptian year (link).


The Dendera zodiac: The superimposed yellow circle traces the ecliptic (apparent annual path of the Sun through the constellations). The Egyptians had represented Sky as a woman (Nut) or a cow, or later a metal lid. The celestial bodies as was common in the time were personified and deified (image from http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/picture04122002.htm).

The lunar eclipse of 25 September 52 BCE is represented by the "eye of Horus" within a circle, while the solar eclipse of 07 March 51 BCE is represented by a circle encircling the goddess Isis holding the baboon god Thoth's tail  (link). Thus the Dendera sky map actually memorializes two memorable contemporary astronomical events.

Lunar eclipse of 25 Sept 52 BCESolar eclipse
              07 March 51 BCE


Arabic advances in Astronomy. Long after Hipparchos; Ἵππαρχος (c190 - c120 BCE), the Dendera Zodiac (1st century BCE), and also after the later times of Claudius Ptolemy; Κλαύδιος Πτολεμαῖος (c100 - c170) with his Almagest (the accuracy and integrity of some of which has been a matter of dispute by modern scholars), and also long before the early modern period of the Scientific Revolution, there was an important intervening period of preservation as well as advances in astronomy during the time of the Arab Islamic Enlightenment, also known as the 'Islamic Golden Age' (8th-13th centuries CE; link), which we will discuss further elsewhere. During this time, arising from the Qu'ranic and Hadithic promotion of knowledge, learning, and education, there were significant advances in state-sponsorship of scholarship, openness to prior cultural knowledge transmission from earlier civilizations, law, branches of philosophy, branches of mathematics, and of course, for this section, astronomy—including the naming of the stars. Open to the Greek science of ἀστρονομία (link) which is etymologically rooted in ἀστρον or 'stars' and νομία coming from νόμος, 'law,' i.e., 'law of the stars' and also a cognate of όνομα or 'naming of the stars.' And name them, the Arab-Islamic astronomers did, giving them Arabic names, many of which, even when corrupted by non-Arabic transcribers were transmitted to us: List of Arabic star names. Certain of these Arabic star names have persisted are are included in modern astronomical star atlases, while also being included in the astronomical knowledge cited for Islamic religious purposes: https://astronomycenter.net/star.html. In modern times, the International Astronomical Union (IAU; cited below) has adopted conventions for naming stars.

One of the improved astrolabes of the Arabic-Islamic Enlightenment epoch (link; for more examples of Arab-Islamic astrolabes, see link).

The Bahrain blog site points out that about 1000 named stars were given Arabic designations, stars that guided Arab travelers across the desert and the sea.

The Arab Islamic Golden Era / Enlightenment scholars also transmitted Ptolemy's Almagest or the Μαθηματικὴ Σύνταξις ('Mathematical Syntaxis'), in Latin, Syntaxis Mathematica, and later called Ἡ Μεγάλη Σύνταξις ('The Great Treatise') or in Latin, Magna Syntaxis. Working from the Greek for μεγίστη ('greatest'), the Arab Islamic scholars called the work, اَلْمَجِسْطِيّ, transliterated al-majisṭī, i.e., 'the greatest,' or what we know as the Almagest (link).

Pages from the Arabic Almagest with astronomical tables (Bodleian Library, University of Oxford; image).

See also the exhibit, "Arabic in the Sky: Astronomy a Thousand Years Ago" (link). On the Arabic-Islamic advances in astronomy, see Lebling, R. (2010). Arabic in the sky. Saudi Aramco World Magazine (September-October): https://www.academia.edu/2324827/Arabic_in_the_Sky.

Some of the brightest stars in our skies with their Arabic names (see link above).

A few centuries later, during the Scientific Revolution, Johannes Bayer published his Uranometria (1603, 1661; 'Bayer's drawings') star maps running through two editions in the years of the so-called Age of Exploration, based on accounts of travelers, added 12 more southern constellations in the celestial Southern Hemisphere.

Uranometria, 1661 (link).
12 new southern constellations of Johannis Bayer (https://skytonight.org/index.php/iau; 1603, 1661 frontispieces linked & above right).

Dutch cartographer Frederik de Wit's Planisphaerium coeleste (1670) not only portrays the constellations as viewed in 1670, after Bayer's epochal combining of artistic brilliance with his scientific magnitude classification of stars in Greek letters, but de Wit's planisphere also summarizes the contending 'war of the world-views' clash of cosmologies in the early Enlightenment: The Copernican and Tychonic systems vs the Ptolemaic system. This again shows that a time of real intellectual ferment includes controversy over competing cosmologies, a vital situation again achieved in the mid-20th century, before the new Ptolemic system began to shut down debate (as we discuss in the next chapter).

References on the origin & etiology of the Constellations
  • IAU Constellations (88). The Sky Tonight: The cultural archaeology of the stars. https://skytonight.org/index.php/iau. The 88 constellations with their 1922 established boundaries by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), as well as historical constellation star maps, including high resolution images of the most beautifully artistic of them all, the Uranometria (1603, 1661) of Johannes Bayer (1572-1625) with artist-engraver Alexander Mair (1559-1617). https://doi.org/10.3931/e-rara-309. (archived facsimile).
  • Archaeoastronomy overview: http://www.ancient-wisdom.com/astronomy.htm.
  • Barentine, J. C. 2016. The Lost Constellations: A History of Obsolete, Extinct, or Forgotten Star Lore. Heidelberg / New York / Dordrecht / London: Springer Praxis Books.
  • de Lacaille, N.-L. 1763. Coelum Australe Stelliferum. H.L. Guerin & L.F. Delatour. LINKS....
  • Kanas, N. 2019. Star Maps: History, Artistry, and Cartography (3rd edition). Chichester, UK: Springer, Praxis Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-13613-0.
  • Motz, L. & Nathanson, C. 1988. The Constellations: An enthusiast's guide to the Night Sky. New York, NY / London, UK / &c.: Doubleday.
  • Olcott, W. T. 1911. Star Lore of All Ages: A Collection of Myths, Legends, and Facts Concerning the Constellations of the Northern Hemisphere. New York, NY / London, UK: G. P. Putnam's Sons. The Knickerbocker Press.
  • Rappenglueck, M. A. 1996. The Pleiades in the "Salle des Taureaux" Grotte de Lascaux (France). Does a rock picture in the cave of Lascaux show the open star cluster of the Pleiades at the Magdalenien Era, ca. 15.300 B.C.? In C. Jaschek & F. Atrio Barandela (eds.). Actas del IV Congreso de la SEAC / Proceedings of the IVth SEAC Meeting "Astronomy and Culture". New York: Salamanca; pp. 217-225.
  • Ridpath, I. 1988, 2018. Star Tales (revised and expanded 2nd edition). Cambridge, UK: Lutterworth Press. Supplementary material online: Star Tales: Myths, legends, and history of the constellations: http://www.ianridpath.com/startales/contents.html. Astronomy writer and broadcaster: http://www.ianridpath.com/.
  • Schilling, G., Tirion, W. (star maps creator). 2019. Constellations: The Story of Space Told through the 88 Known Patterns in the Night Sky. New York, NY: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers.
  • Seddon, C. 2020. Astronomy from the Beginning: A History of Skywatching and early Astronomers from Cave Paintings and Stone Circles to the Renaissance and the First Telescopes. London, UK: Glanville Publications.
  • Taylor, K. 2012. Celestial Geometry: Understanding the Astronomical Meaning of Ancient Sites. London, UK: Watkins Publishing.
The de Wit 1670 planisphere which around the sidereal map, published in the midst of the Copernican Revolution, the various featured rival cosmologies and cosmic schemata of then and of yesteryear, on the margins (image). 
Argo Navis. The gift of the systematizing legacy of the sky-observing Greeks in augmenting and transmitting the ancient constellations to us, and of the astronomer-uranographers or cartographers of the heavens since who have together bequeathed to us a joint legacy of science and art, artistic mythology in the service of knowledge (scientia). A beautiful heritage they've given to us in trust. Although de-recognized in the International Astronomical Union's (IAU) constellations (the only one of Ptolemy's 48 constellations mistreated in this way), the ancient constellation Argo Navis illustrates their magnificent bequeathal to posterity.

Sailing through the Milky Way, Argo Navis, the ancient constellation recognized by the Greeks, but rooted in earlier traditions (image from SkySafari 5 Pro from Beguerra Island, off the coast of Mozambique, as per the Alpha Lyrae blog of M. Hodgson).

Argo Navis beautifully picture in Johannis Bayer's Uranometria (1661; link), following the tradition of sternward motion by Aratos (; see below).
Long known by the Greeks, Argo Navis was indeed not one of the constellations invented in their systematizations (link). In fact, a water-faring boat in the stars has been imagined by various, geographically-dispersed peoples for millennia (4000 BCE - 1500 BCE; 6000 ya - 3500 ya), long before the Greeks, in ancient Egypt, in Sweden and in what would become Germany.

Celestial boat from the Nebra sky disk (Germany), ~1750 - ~1500 BCE; 3750-3500 ya (link; link).

The Greeks derived Argo Navis from the ancient Egyptians around ~1000 BCE (~3,000 ya). Greek Middle Platonist Plutarch or Πλούταρχος (46-119 CE) attributed Argo to the ancient Egyptian "Boat of Osiris"[Orion] which plied the heavenly waters, perhaps depicted in this colored relief from the Temple of Hathor (Denderah, a prehistoric oasis site, Pepi I built here ~2250 BCE or ~4250 ya; temple evidence from the 18th dynasty, ~1500 BCE or ~3500 ya; a mammasi chapel to the temple 360-343 BCE, and finally the current structure began during the Ptolemaic period, July 54 BCE; link; cf. https://treasuresegypt.com/temple-of-hathor/). Comparable are the drawing representations of Osiris-Orion from the shrine of Mentuemhat (700-650 BCE), a priest-official from Thebes.

(https://pantip.com/topic/37225476/story; link; link; cf. Mentuemhat; cf. also here).

If we go back further, we may even have a cultural link between the sea-faring ancient Aegean Greeks of Minoa in the Phaistos Disc (~1850 - ~1550 BCE; i.e., 2nd millennium BCE) and the ancient Egyptians possibly connecting Argo Navis and the ship of Khufu, for whom was built the Great Pyramid. The story starts with a Minoan site on Crete being buried and preserved by effects of the massive eruption of the volcano Thera,
Θήρα (isle of Santorini, Σαντορίνη) sometime before 1500 BCE (~3500 ya), thus preserving an ancient disc of symbols from the Minoan palace at Phaistos (Φαιστός, link), called the Phaistos Disc (link). The date eruption of Thera remained disputed as sometime in the mid-2nd millennium BCE, until a paper was published, Pearson et al. (2022. Geochemical ice-core constraints on the timing and climatic impact of Aniakchak II (1628 BCE) and Thera (Minoan) volcanic eruptions. PNAS Nexus 1 (2), 1. https://doi.org/10.1093/pnasnexus/pgac048) used geochemical traces in ice-core climate proxies to anchor the Alaskan volcano Anackchuk II eruption to 1628 BCE, and thus calibratively constrain the possible dates for the Thera eruption, corroborated with predicted ejecta levels.

Left to Right: Aniakchak II (Alaska) & Thera (Santorini): link.

Their calibrated dating results tend to support a mid-1500s BCE dating for the Thera eruption.

Pearson et al. (2022), Figure 1 (left) & Figure 2 (above): link.

By pulling together the calibrated eruption signatures in the Greenland and Antarctic ice-cores with the radiocarbon (14C) dating probability (with plateaus) and the archaeological dating ranges, we are left with some best candidate dates for a mid-latitude eruption to leave an ice proxy record in both Greenland and Antarctica. With an unknown volcano (V1) tied to 1654 BCE and Aniakchak II (V2) anchored to 1628 BCE, the three best candidates for the Thera eruption date follows, keeping in mind possible cultural exchange with the Egyptian 'New Kingdom' (~1560 to ~1500 BCE):
  • V3: 1611 BCE
  • V5-6: 1561/1558/1555 BCE (geochem. pattern consistent with mid-latitude eruption & correlates with tree rings in the Mediterranean).
  • V7: ~1538 BCE.
This makes the 1561-1555 BCE interval a very likely dating for the eruption of Thera, and the preservation of the Phaistos Disc

The Phaistos Disc was found in a temple complex which had collapsed from an earthquake, possibly connected with the Thera eruption.

Phaistos archaeological site with sides A and B of the Disc (link).

For a long time, there have been several attempts to interpret the symbols / pictograms on the Phaistos Disc (sometime from ~1850 to ~1600 BCE). One evocative theory by C. G. Watson (
images link) suggests that the Disc contains hidden geometric patterns and symbols in the pictograms coding for various constellations in the heavens, notably here, Argo Navis, Minoan mariners, and possible references to ancient Egypt.

It is interesting to note that, if these stellar patterns are indeed discerned for the ancient Argo constellation through connecting the 15 pomegranate{-star} pictograms (below), then the ideogram of Argo Navis is depicted from an outside view (and inverted upside down) rather than the view from Earth, similar to the star map on the replica Atlas of Parnese. Also, the inversion makes celestial south 'up' rather than celestial north.

These hypothesized patterns may also allude to the stellar arrangements, including the stars and their light paths through air shafts cut into the Great Pyramid (Giza), when the light of Sirius is at the correct alt-azimuth to enter down into its pyramid chamber.

An inverted ancient Argo arrangement may have mimicked the truss rope arrangements of the MInoan and the Egyptian ships during the Bronze Age (3300-1200 BCE; 5300-3200 ya), such as for example the great boat of Khufu, pharoah of the Great Pyramid.

Minoan flotilla (above left) & Khufu burial ship (above right)

Watson suggests that the Phaistos Disc may memorialize marine cultural exchange between Minoa and Egypt. For comparison we may consider Phoenician ships which plied the Mediterranean during the same approximate time frame also, c 14th century BCE (link).
That is at least a highly speculative but evocative hypothesis. We return to the traditional Greek Argo Navis, with sails (Vela) to the celestial north, rather than rope truss structure to the celestial south.

The later classical Greek Argo Navis constellation is to be found in this region of the Southern skies which includes the thick Milky Way prominent on the left (with Crux, the Southern Cross) and Canis Major with Orion on the right, the bright star in the center right, Sirius in Canis Major and the other bright star in the lower center, Canopus in Argo. The same region has been broken up into IAU's modern constellations, the region of Argo Navis subdivided in green outline: Carina (Keel), Puppis (Poop deck; Stern), Vela (Sail), and later Pyxis (the compass), following the proposals of de Lacaille's Coelum Astrale Stelliferum (1763). I remember my own thrill when from the high desert I first saw in the sky and recognized the keel star, Canopus (Carina), and stars framing Argo's billowing sail (Vela):

Argo Navis, the ancient Greek constellation ship of the Argonauts, along with Pyxis (de Lacaille, 1756), the Compass (link).

Argo Navis region (https://davidmalin.com/fujii/image/)

Argo Navis region with IAU constellation boundaries (https://davidmalin.com/fujii/image/)

Aratos of Soli, Άρατος ο Σολεύς c315/310 BCE - 240 BCE; Phaenomena (link).

"[v342] Beside the tail of the Great Dog the ship Argo is hauled stern-foremost.
For not hers is the proper course of a ship in motion, but she is borne backwards, reversed even as real ships, when already the sailors turn the stern to the land as they enter the haven, and every one back-paddles the ship, but she rushing sternward lays hold of the shore. Even so is the Argo of Jason borne along stern-foremost. Partly in mist is she borne along, and starless from her prow even to the mast, but the hull is wholly wreathed in light. Loosed is her Rudder and is set beneath the hind feet of the Dog, as he runs in front."
Claudius Ptolemy, Κλαύδιος Πτολεμαῖος c100-c170 CE, oriignal title, Μαθηματικὴ Σύνταξις or Mathematica Syntaxis, later from Arabic Almagest (link), p. 403, VIII 2. Location of the Milky Way, paragraph H177.

     "After that the milk {Milky Way} passes through Argo. The western rim of the belt is defined by the northernmost and most advanced of the stars in the little shield in the poop [XL 5]. The star in the middle of the little shield [XL 6], the two stars close together under it [XL 8, 9], the bright star at the beginning of the deck near the steering-oar [XL 17] and the midmost of the three stars in the keel [XL 38] are just short of touching the same [western] edge. The northernmost of the three stars in the mast-holder [XL 22] defines the eastern rim, while the bright star in the stern-ornament [XL 2] is 1o within the same [eastern] edge, and the bright star under the rearmost little shield in the deck [XL 31] is the same amount, 1o outside the same [eastern] edge. The southernmost of the two brilliant stars in the middle of the mast [XL 27] touches the same edge, and the two bright stars at the point where the keel is cut off [XL 35, 36] are about 2o inside the advance rim. At that point the milk {Milky Way} joins the belt through the legs of Centaurus. The consistency in this area too. throughout Argo, is somewhat rarefied, but the sections of it around the little shield, the mast-holder and the point where the keel is cut off are more dense."

Let us sail in the Argo Navis!

James G. Brennan

(A free verse poem; link)

Dear Argo Navis
Let us sail
Across the Universe
In your ship of stars,
Let us resurrect you
To make you whole again!

Let us raise up Vela your sails!
Together with Carina's Keel
And stern of Puppis to
Glide us through the
Celestial sea.

Guided by Pyxis your compass
As we gladly man your ship
With your celestial crew,
Gamma Velorum, Zeta
Naos and Alpha
To name but just a few
Of your shimmering stars.
Some with planets,
Some with many star systems
In your ship of wonder,
Let us set sail
Dear Argo Navis.

Canopus the pilot
Is your brightest star,
The pilot of a Spartan King
No less! who's
Monument stands tall
At the mouth of the Nile,
Inspiring the name
Of the village resting
At the foot of his legacy.

Volans the flying fish
Carrying Beta Volantis
Will join us on our journey
Across the galaxy beyond our
Milky Way to the far reaches
Of our vast expanding Universe.

Maybe we will never reach its edge,
Dear Argo Navis.

Do Take us with you
Dear Argo Navis,
It is only with you
We would feel so safe,
Sailing through dust clouds
Interstellar gas clouds,
Meteor showers and comets
Around our galaxy
Full of constellations.

Let us visit Sagittarius and
The lagoon nebular,
Skip across to Taurus
To see the crab nebula,
I hear it has a pulsar
At its centre so small
Yet more dense than the Sun!
In the solar system
I call home.

Let's visit Pleiades the seven sisters,
Then on to Andromeda
With her trillions of stars!
Before heading off to
The billions of galaxies
Way out beyond
To the edge of our Universe.

Let's skip a black hole we don't need
An event horizon!
Our journey eventful enough
Sailing into the unknown
With a mighty constellation
Such as you dear Argo Navis.

You the one To safely see
Jason and the Argonauts
In their quest
For the golden fleece,
This, in turn, saw you
Take your place within the heavens
Our dear friend, the Argo Navis.

(Image of Argo across from Brennan poem generated by StarTrackerLite app {24 Dec. 2022}; ; ; Argo visualization with modern constellation lines, cf. link & link, right above 2 Argo paintings; ; Pyxis region to the unadded eye, upper left; Pyxis region with constellations visualized, upper right, dual image link; https://skytonight.org/pyx; Pyxis location in Galaxy; cf. link).

Another gift of the ancient Greek constellation of Argo Navis is that Abbe Nicolas Louis de Lacaille created another new constellation from Argo, Pyxis [box] or Pyxis Nautica, the Compass or Mariner's Compass in 1765 (one of 17 constellations which he added to our current 88).

On a Christmas Eve morning in the wee hours, while I was sky-watching in the high desert, and looking south at Argo Navis prow and sail above the southerly horizon, I saw Pyxis Nautica and realized that Pyxis pointed generally up over my head toward the northern celestial pole to my rearward celestial view, like a magnetic compass, with its own magnetic declination. Obviously, Abbe Lacaille must have noticed that too!

Poem: https://medium.com/share-the-love/let-us-sail-in-the-argo-navis-dcb25964aff3; image from link on recurring nova T Pyxidis.

In 1791, Constantin François de Chassebœuf, Comte de Volney (his contraction of Voltaire and Ferney, now the village of Voltaire-Ferney) in his 'philosophy of history' masterpiece, Les Ruines, ou Méditations sur les Révolutions des Empires, included his chart "A view of the Astrological Heaven of the Ancient, to explain the Mysteries of the Persian, Jewish, & Christian Religions" as part of a Radical Enlightenment attempt to explain the origins of the given religions:

(1796 facsimile).

By 1922, the International Astronomical Union (https://www.iau.org/) finalized recognition of 88 Constellations: https://skytonight.org/index.php/iau.


For a modern view of the skies, see the Tycho Catalog Skymap version 2.0, which includes star imaging data from the Tycho and Hipparcos star catalogs. This one shows down to magnitude 5. One can also see alternative sky views from other times and places (newer site).

Tycho Catalog Skymap 2, magnitude 5 (Note the north and south polar projection distortion: The light of Polaris is projected and spread out along the top, center left).

IV. Proto-Indo-European (PIE) origins, the PIE Creation Myth, Body as Microcosm (20,000 - 5,000 ya), then on to ancient Near Eastern Temples as Microcosms of Heaven & Earth with Microcosmic Concentricity (21st century BCE - 1st century CE; incl. 7th-4th c BCE, 10 creation myths in the Hebrew bible or Tanakh)

Now in pursuit of the history of 'mythos to cosmos' / cosmology we must return briefly to the time between about 20,000 years ago before the Pleistocene-Holocene transition and the Younger Dryas, and Meltwater Pulse 1B, to find the DNA, linguistic, cultural-mythogenic, and archaeological evidences for our cultural background which gave rise to our cosmologies over the last 5,000 years and the cultural and religious settings of modern cosmologies, &c., to bring us to and prepare for the Ionian Dawn of the Greeks (6th-3rd c BCE). This gaping interval from 20,000 ya to 6th c BCE covers some major, specific linguistic-mythic-religious-archaeological transitions essential to understanding the setting in the West for our story of cosmology, not covered under other sections in this chapter I.

Part of what fills in this interval is the history of the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language and cultural group which spread across much of Eurasia and the Near East from as early as the Early Neolithic (7,500-5,500 BCE ~ 9,500-7,500 ya), the Middle Neolithic (5,500-4,500 BCE ~ 7500-6500 ya) down through the Late Neolithic (6,400-3,500 BCE ~8,400-5,500 ya). There are a number of hypotheses as to how and in which where PIE development took place
(link). There is a large and development scholarship and evidence mounting on PIE origins, but a good introduction is found in Anthony, D. W. 2007. The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.  

Excursus on a paleolithic European 'dragon-slaying' ritual from 17,000 ya. We might here take a brief, and possibly significant excursis, on a late Paleolithic ritual of dragon slaying from central Europe, introduced by the Crecganford channel of Professor Jon D. White, "The 17,000 year old European dragon ritual, and its ancient mythological origins, link," which provides a background for what follows. In the 'northern cosmology' we find creation from primordial chaos and a conflict between opposites, &c.

In 2016, Julian d'Huy published a Premiere reconstruction statistique d'un rituel paleolithique: Autour du motif du dragon. Nouvelle Mythologie Comparee / New Comparative Mythology, No. 3. Published online. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313569680, we find material remnants of such a dragon-slaying ritual, carved in bone, near one of two headless snake skeletons (another in another paleolithic site) near clay sculptures of bison.

Fig. 5 has a consensus evolutionary tree; Figs. 7-8 show the dragon / serpent-slaying; Fig. 9 may show a triple-joined now headless serpent bundle in the upper left, followed by game animals and hunter like figures (d'Huy, 2016), perhaps making their world safe for hunting(?). See also the very important bibliography of d'Huy (2016).

A question: Could this Paleolithic 'dragon-slaying' ritual also be
a re-enactment of a 'northern cosmology' myth of the primordial conquest of chaos, which is a recurring theme in later Indo-European mythologies, and thus antecedent to the original Proto-Indo-European (PIE) creation myth? 

In 1814, a hypothetical ancestral family of languages (not ethno-cultures) called 'Indo-European' was proposed, and in 1905 its hypothetical ancestral language, 'Proto-Indo-European' (PIE) was proposed; PIE supposedly being, by the summary lights of historical linguists, to be about 5,500 years old, according at least to Etymology Online (see entries under 'Indo-European' and 'Proto-Indo-European'). But now interdisciplinary research, using not only historical linguistics, but also comparative mythology, human DNA phylogenetics / biogeography and mythemes / mythmotifs shows that to show that the age is older and the development more complex. [For an accessible specialist in PIE, Indo-European mythology, and more, complete with lectures, illustrations, and most importantly academic references and databases, see Prof. Jon D. White of the Crecganford podcast / video channel, introduced and cited earlier].

Since the 'northern cosmology' (cf. Witzel, 2012) in its later PIE rendition is found in some form from west-central Eurasia, the Norse (Northern Europe), central & Southern Europe, the Greeks, the Middle East, the Iranians, and India, it is from within the Indo-European language group, and more ancient hypothetical PIE language that the Proto-Indo-European creation myth emerges which is the origin of these widespread myths (see the Crecganford link). Two word examples illustrate PIE influence on later languages and their evolution for the moment.

The 'fatherhood' of the Proto-Indo-European ancestral language is illustrated by the Proto-Indo-European root word for 'father'
(maps below from link; derived from https://indo-european.eu/).

One could add, of course, Latin 'pater' (patr from where we get pattern, paternity, patron, patriotic, &c.; link), Italian 'padre,' Spanish 'padre,' French 'pere,' Catalan 'pare,' Portuguese 'pai,' Galician 'pai,' Danish 'far,' and modern Hindi 'pita,' &c., &c., (link). See also Etymology Online for 'father' (https://www.etymonline.com/word/father?ref=etymonline_crossreference#etymonline_v_1154).

The Proto-Indo-European word for deity, here a 'sky god' or 'sky father' also makes itself manifest in descendant languages, not only as a male but also a female deity, e.g., deva. Note: The Proto-Indo-Europeans were of course neither mono- nor henotheistic. They were polytheistic, but did include a 'sky god' as well as 'goddesses' in their language group pantheon like many indigenous and ancient human cultures both north and south. 

Of course, one could also add, Greek 'theos,' Latin 'deus,' Portuguese 'deus,' Galician 'deus,' Spanish 'dios,' Italian 'dio,' French 'dieu,' Corsican 'diu,' Catalan 'deu, {dewu}' Irish Gaelic 'dhia,' Scots Gaelic 'dhia,' Welsh Gaelic 'dwu,' Kannada 'devaru,' and maybe even Khazakh 'quday' [?], Finnish 'jumala' [?] (link). This of course all comes from a verb, a Proto-Indo-European root verb 'dyeu-' = "to shine," in derivatives, "sky, heaven, god" (quoted from Etymology Online https://www.etymonline.com/word/*dyeu-?ref=etymonline_crossreference, where a multitude of derivative words may be found).

So what is the multidisciplinary dating for the Proto-Indo-European putative language, in effect along with its creation myth? In 2011, R. D. Gray, Q. D. Atkinson, & S. J. Greenhill published, Language evolution and human history: what a difference a date makes. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 366 (1567), 1090. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2010.0378. Combining linguistics, anthropology, archaeology, and human genetics, they applied the methods of computational phylogenetic systematics (part of my own discipline) to generate this date-scaled evolutionary phylogeny or family tree, along with 4 different molecular clock statistical tests using the BEAST (Bayesian Evolutionary Analysis Sampling Trees) program (link):

As Gray et al. (2011) point out, the phylogenetic tree puts the PIE origin about ~8700 ya, and a major diversification by ~2,000 years later, which continued. 

Four estimates emerged, which we are color-coded above as frequency peaks for heuristic display.

These dates around ~8700 ya have been further supported and both the Anatolian and steppe sources of the Indo-Europeans have found support. See, Lazaridis, I., Patterson, N., Mittnik, A. et al. 2014. Ancient human genomes suggest three ancestral populations for present-day Europeans. Nature 513, 409. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature13673. and also Haak, W., Lazaridis, I., Patterson, N. et al. 2015. Massive migration from the steppe was a source for Indo-European languages in Europe. Nature 522, 207. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature14317.

From Proto-Indo-European to the Indo-European languages, we have this overall evolutionary family tree with citation:


And here we take a look back at the earliest PIE origins post-Younger Dryas:

Maps from link; derived from https://indo-european.eu/.

And what was that PIE Creation Myth?
Comparative mythology strongly suggests that under the large umbrella of the 'northern cosmology' background (tens of thousands of years) the Proto-Indo-European creation myth (~8,000-6,000 ya) from which the creation myths in our Indo-European mythologies and surviving religions descend with modification, including Vedic religion (later, Hinduism), Greek myth, Norse myth, Sumerian, Babylonian, Hittite, Egyptian, and the much later Abrahamic faiths, including the late-captured 10 creation myth versions textualized in our Hebrew bible (as we shall see below).
The Proto-Indo-European creation myth has been reconstructed thus in concise form by D. W. Anthony, 2010. The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press; as described with many more academic references by Jon White in the Crecganford channel ("The family tree of religion - Finding the Creation Myth of the proto Indo Europeans;" link).

The PIE Creation Myth reconstruction with its battle of primordial opposites
resulting in the origin of sky, earth, & ocean gods; also featuring mothering cattle,
and ritual sacrifice to guard against primordial chaos:

In the beginning of the cosmos two beings were created, Manus and Yemo, meaning man and twin, and also a giant cow on which they suckled. Manus wanted to stop wandering through the cosmos, and to have a home, and so sacrificed Yemo, and from his body created the Sky god, the Ocean god, and the Earth. He traveled down to the Earth, and became a priest, teaching that through ritual sacrifice he would keep the world in order {from chaos}.
Anthony, 2010; link; see also link on the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) creation myth.

In Southwest Asia, what we refer to as the Ancient Near East, the PIE creation myth was transmitted down a lineage of descent as illustrated:


The Enuma Elish has a geneology of gods descending from the primordial parents of Father Sky Apsu and Chaos Mother Tiamat (which is reflected in the allusions to the primordial chaos of waters, Tehom, and other monsters of chaos in the much later editions of creation myths in the Hebrew bible), as well as sibling rivalry and fratricide among gods and humans (see Derek Lambert's Mythvision podcast channel discussion of "The origin of Cain and Abel is insane;" link; as well as antecedent gods such as 'El, Ba'al, and Yhwh in the "Religion and literature of ancient Palestine," link; as well as also see the main homepage on scholarly and archaeological advances in Palestine: https://www.religionofancientpalestine.com/). 

Proto-Indo-European creation myth from the Russian Steppe and outward
  • ~9,000 - 7,000 ya
West Asiatic peoples traveled south from the Steppes and ultimately a group speaking what became Sumerian settled in Mesopotamia, bringing their own version of the PIE creation myth
  • ~5,500 - 4,000 ya
The old Babylonians settled and they had their own version of the PIE myth:
  • ~4,200 - 4,100 ya
The Enuma Elish "When on high...."
  • ~3,900 - 3,600 ya


Later representation of the Babylonian creation myth with the Monster of Chaos facing off against the Sun God (link).


Even in an age of basic geocentric / anthropocentric conception, these ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean world temples achieved an early conceptual breakthrough in that they focused the concentric cosmos not on humankind on Earth but on a divine space / spaciousness / emptiness in Heaven. This was inadvertently a step toward the Epicurean-Copernican-Brunesian Revolutions of a truly Universe-centric world-view to come. In that, despite the myth-as-literalism of later fundamentalists and political establishments in the later Abrahamic religions, they constituted a step forward in that Mythos-to-Cosmos process we are tracing in the history of cosmology and cosmogony. Exposing this extended story continues the Enlightenment legacy project of stepping behind the later and modern myths to trace our history. 

Ancient Mesopotamian tri-partite cosmos or world-view
                Imago Mundi
Oldest known world map, excepting the older temples described below: The Babylonian Imago Mundi (6th century BCE; Wikipedia).

Tri-partite cosmos or world-view (image from Wilson, 1980)

Mesopotamian Babylon / Ur. The Babylonian world system was adapted from an earlier Sumerian cosmology (image from Wilson, 1980). There is some evidence that the earlier Mesopotamian world-views sought to include naturalistic explanations of the Universe, before succumbing to the appeal to capricious deities and their strife in the origin of the world, which is normally associated with Sumerian, Akkadian, and Babylonian cosmologies (Sagan, 1985).

The tri-partite cosmos of the Mesopotamian cosmology and creation myths (link).

The much later Hebrew world system (known in the West from the Bible) developed from the older Mesopotamian and Mediterranean world-views, including the local indigenous Canaanite cosmologies in Syro-Palestine:

Tri-partite cosmos: From Harper's Bible Dictionary (digitalcolorbydoctrbill)
(cf. http://www.class.uidaho.edu/ngier/commoncosmos.htm).

Tri-partite cosmos or world-view: A somewhat more naturalistic representation in the late recension book of Job

A brief comparison & contrast between the older Mesopotamian and the younger Israelite / Judahite cosmologies

Ancient Near Eastern (ANE), Mesopotamian / Babylonian mykthology cosmology
Ancient Hebrew cosmology
(post-Exilic; 539 BCE to beginning of 1st century CE), a Judahite creation myth response to the more ancient ANE mythology
  • Earth set on foundations 
  • Dome of heaven with sun, moon, planets, stars 
  • Waters above the dome 
  • Waters under the earth 
  • World of the dead underneath 
  • Highest heaven— Babylonian version of the empyrean realm of light
  • Earth set on foundations 
  • Dome of heaven (firmament) with sun, moon, stars 
  • Waters above the dome 
  • Waters under the earth 
  • World of the dead underneathSheol 
  • Heaven of heavens, i.e., realm of God and His glory
Divine-mythological non-prior and non-transcendent, creation polythetic and invested with 'moral intent' Divine priority and transcendence, creation unitary, unworthy of worship & intrinsically devoid of 'final moral intent' at least in the later more naturalistic book of Ecclesiastes (hevel concept; Greer, 1995 unpublished). Although still mythologizing, the Hebrew system indicated a partial demythologizing of the Mesopotamian world, reflecting earlier mythos.

The ancient Near Eastern temples across the centuries and across cultures prior to the Common Era were actually tripartite microcosms of the ancient cosmos / world-views: the outer courts representing Earth and the subterranean world, the inner courts representing the skies, and the inner sanctum representing the heavens beyond the skies, the heaven of heavens (Walton, 2010. The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press). Aside from archaeology, because of the biblical tradition we have some familiarity in our day about ancient temples from the 2nd Temple period of Judaism. We start with other older ancient temples which exhibit such concentric microcosm reflection of the cosmos as the temple dwelling of the gods, represented in microcosm by the temple architecture.

The paradigmatic Near Eastern microcosm Temple of Amon-Re complex at Karnak in Thebes was built up during the "New Kingdom" (1550-1070 BCE), with site being first developed during the "Middle Kingdom" (2055-1650 BCE) apparently in a previous sacred site the Egyptians knew as "The Most Select of Places" (Ipet-isut).


"Tent pole" columns, Festival Temple of Thutmoses III
(c 1479-25 BCE) at Karnak, Luxor, Egypt (link).

Temple as [micro]Cosmos, i.e., microcosmic concentricity

"Conceptually, temples in Egypt were connected to the idea of zep tepi, or 'the first time,' the beginnings of the creation of the world. The temple was a reflection of this time, when the mound of creation emerged from the primeval waters. The pylons, or gateways in the temple represent the horizon, and as one moves further into the temple, the floor rises until it reaches the sanctuary of the god, giving the impression of a rising mound, like that during creation. The temple roof represented the sky and was often decorated with stars and birds. The columns were designed with lotus, papyrus, and palm plants in order to reflect the marsh-like environment of creation. The outer areas of Karnak, which was located near the Nile River, would flood during the annual inundation—an intentional effect by the ancient designers no doubt, in order to enhance the temple's symbolism."
(Ref. Wilkinson, R. 2000. The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt. New York, NY: Thames & Hudson; p. 77. Link; image link below).

The Hypostyle Hall (c 1250 BCE) referenced in Elizabeth Cummins, "Temple of Amun-Re and the Hypostyle Hall, Karnak," in Smarthistory, November 27, 2015,
accessed February 16, 2023, https://smarthistory.org/temple-of-amun-re-and-the-hypostyle-hall-karnak/.

Floor plans of various Ancient Near Eastern temples (Al-Jameel, 2008. link; Fig. 2).

'Ain Dara (1300-740 BCE). This ancient site contains a late Bronze Age to Iron Age Neo-Hittite temple in northern Syro-Palestine: Monson, J. M. 1999. The temple of Solomon: Heart of Jerusalem. In Hess, R. S. & Wenham, G. J. (eds.). Zion, city of our God. C. The Ain Dara Temple: A New Parallel from Syria. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing; pp. 12-19. And Monson, 2011. first published in 2000. In Shanks, H. (ed.). Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR); cf. Stone, E. C. & Zimansky, P. E. 1999. The Iron age Settlement at ʻAin Dara, Syria: Survey and Soundings. BAR International: J. & E. Hedges; 146 pp. Monson then republished a paper, in 2011: https://web.archive.org/web/20110714084050/. It has attracted increased interest because the 'Ain Dara temple is built on an ancient plan, familiar to us from the later Judahite legendary tales of a biblical 'solomonic temple' (I Kings 1, 6-7; II Chronicles 3), which was likewise described as being dedicated in a '7-day week' suzerainty covenant dedication interval. This was reflected much later in the 7-day cultic creation-dedicatory myth form within the later rescended Genesis 1 cultic retelling of the creation myth, that is, spatially and temporally both exhibiting microcosmic concentricity, respectively.

View of the 'Ain Dara basalt-on-limestone temple with the base mythical winged-lion creatures or cherubim, before it's criminal destruction by the Turkish Army in the criminal western proxy war against Syria (2011-present).

Another view of the magnificent pre-2018 'Ain Dara temple.

Again, an obligatory pair of winged lion mythical creatures or cherubim, in basalt.

Bas reliefs of cherubim at the base, upon the top of which are the feet and legs of outward facing mythical creatures, most likely also cherubim—all in magnificent basalt.

This largely intact (at the time) basalt mythological winged lion with eagle's claws, i.e., a cherubim, helps us reconstruct how the outward walls above bas relief consisted of outward facing cherubim.

Of great significance in our history of cosmology-making are the giant engraved footprints (each about 1 meter long, 3'3") entering the 'Ain Dara temple from the courtyard portico (see God: An Anatomy....). These seem to be the footprints of the deity, god or goddess, entering the divine microcosmic concentricity of the temple space. I've put them in negative inverse image to capture the cosmic significance of this proto-Copernican steps forward in these ancient temples, centering their temples on a divine cosmos space, guarded by myth—an important step indeed of the Mythos to Cosmos journey.


Above: Note the microcosm concentricity, and the portico pillars at the courtyard. Right: Note the mythological creatures, including winged cherubim.

This figure resembles the 'master of beasts' motif.

Monson (2011) figures 3-8, 12, 14, 15. The temple at Hazor (above lower right) is included by the author for comparison (link).

Tell Ta'yinat (
c1000-738 BCE). This Bronze IV site is an important center of Kinalua in the Neo-Hittite city-kingdom of Palistin ( c1000-738 BCE) in Syro-Palestine, which had an Iron Age II temple, built with the same microcosmic concentricity of the ancient Near Eastern cosmological temple-conceptions of the Universe. See Harrison et al. 2009. Neo-Hittites in the 'Land of Palistin.' Renewed Investigations at Tell Ta'yinat on the Plain of Antioch. Near Eastern Archaeology 72 (4), 174-189, 2009; and Before and After the Storm: Crisis Years in Anatolia and Syria between the Fall of the Hittite Empire and the Beginning of a New Era (ca. 1220-1000 BC). 2012. A Symposium in Memory of Itamar Singer. University of Pavia; pp. 7-8.

Left: The layout of the Tell Ta'yinat Iron II temple. Above: A pair of the obligatory winged mythological creatures, or cherubim.

From Batiuk et al. in Yener (ed.). 2005 (link).

See Osborne et al. 2019. Urban built environments in Early 1st Millennium BCE Syro-Anatolia: Results of the Tayinat Archaeological Project, 2004-2016. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (BASOR) 382 (1), 261. https://dro.dur.ac.uk/29754/2/29754.pdf. See also Batiuk et al. 2005. The Ta'yinat Survey, 1999-2002, in The Amuq Valley Regional Projects, Volume 1: Surveys in the Plain of Antioch and Orontes Delta, Turkey, 1995-2002, Oriental Institute Publications 131, 171. Oriental Institute, which may be found in Yener, K. A. (ed). 2005. The Amuq Valley Regional Projects Volume 1: Surveys in the Plain Of Antioch and Orontes Delta, Turkey, 1995-2002. Chicago, IL: Oriental Institute Publications. https://isac.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/uploads/shared/docs/OIP_131.pdf

Tel Motza (10th - 6th c BCE). Also in the southern reaches of Syro-Palestine, a younger Iron Age temple has been unearthed at Tel Motza about 7 km NW of the Jerusalem 'old city'
(https://www.telmoza.org/). The tell was apparently an important site far earlier in the pre-pottery Neolithic of the 8th-7th millennia BCE. The name Motza is mentioned in later biblical myth (Joshua 18, 25). There is evidence of settlement of the site during Iron Age II (10th-6th centuries BCE). The temple complex itself was constructed in the late Iron IIA (late 10th-early 9th c BCE) and involves a temple (exposed to about 20 m x 13 m) and a temple courtyard, with evidences of cultic use in different phases down to the late 7th - early 6th centuries BCE. The Tel Motza temple is similar to
other temples in ancient Syro-Palestine such as in Ain Dara and Tell Ta'yinat, discussed above. It has an E to W orientation. It is highly significant that this is an actual Iron Age temple from near the location where the legendary 'solomonic temple' was supposed to have been, thus illustrative of how later Judahite myth-making in post-Exilic times created an ideal in a legendary Davidic-Solomonic past, departing from historical realities.      

(cf. link).

The ancient Greek mythology had a god Chaos who was conquered in primordial ordering of the Cosmos / World.

"Creation" (1875) by George Frederic Watts (1817-1904; link).

The Greek Parthenon (built between 447-438 BCE upon on an older temple site for Athena and destroyed by the Persians in 480 BCE) also exhibits the same microcosmic concentricity.

The Parthenon in 1978 (link); scale and details of the floor plan (link).

The same temple microcosm of the primordial cosmology creation myths of microcosmic concentricity can be seen in Egyptian temples, including in the late Temple of Horus at Edfu (constructed 237-57 BCE).

Floor plan of Temple of Horus, Edfu (link).

The reconstruction of the Judahite so-called '2nd temple' in Jerusalem (c 586 BCE - 70 CE) also illustrates the more ancient patterns of temples as microcosm of the cosmos, i.e., microcosmic concentricity. As indicated the temple dedications in the ancient Near East also reportedly took place in 7 day time periods, the creation week in the latest recension of the Genesis 1 creation myth reflects a cultic tour through the temple patterned in Torah.

Reconstructed floor plan of the so-called '2nd temple' (Herodian) in Jerusalem (link).

Temple plan of Ezekiel hoped for in exile (based on words of a Hebrew prophet in the Babylonian exile, 593-571 BCE, probably written down later by scribes as stated in the Babylonian Talmud, Baba Batra 15a; link; referenced); a temple of religious vision still sacred in the faith of modern religious Zionists, Jewish and Christian.

The original PIE creation myth and its descendants entails the primordial conquest of Chaos:
Pictured here in this biblical engraving as "The destruction of Leviathan" (link).

Because ancient Near Eastern temples have influenced Western thought as well as cosmology, we should pause briefly to note that the first of about 10 creation myths which have ended up in our Hebrew bible, or the Tanakh. All of them have some mythic and / or temple microcosm references, so we list them and their likely dates of capture and composition in what became the Hebrew bible:
Genesis 1, the so-called "creation week" is actually a temple microcosm dedication ritual lasting 7 days, which is a topically-organized, rather than a chronologically organized, tour of the Near Eastern cosmos-view and the Near Eastern patterned Hebrew temple (described in Torah) as a memorial to the creation by high sky god 'El, a Canaanite deity in Palestine, which was supplanted by Yahweh in later Hebrew religion, an imported southern Edomite desert deity, south of Palestine, adopted over time into the Canaanite pantheon under 'El, until post-exile, and adapted until eventually supplanting and becoming the one god of Hebrew religion (henotheism to monotheism transition) in the Persian period.   

 7-day Temple-Microcosmos dedication: Days 1-3 forming & separating; Days 4-6 filling & adorning.
Prologue ('Day 0'):
Chaos formless & mixed
Day 1

Day 4
Day 2

Day 5
Day 3

Day 6
Epilogue (7th day):
Cosmos formed & set apart

Schematic conceptual organization (table above) corresponds to the pictorial illustrations (below) of the entrance into the Hebrew temple & of the passage through the topical, cultic-dedicatory 'creation week.' Stanhope (2020; see reference in the box below) has summarized data on the multiples of 7 in the numerology of these myths. The topical(-mythic) rather than chronological-literal organization of the cultic 'creation week' has been recognized for centuries among Judeo-Christian scholars (cf. Walton, 2010; &c.). Arises from the Northern Cosmology myths associated with Afro-Transcaucasian-Eurasian-Amerind more northerly migrations in the late Pleistocene-Holocene transition.
Hebrew temple entrance from outer court (bottom) beyond which is wilderness 'chaos' up through the Holy, and into the Holiest (top) corresponds to creation week days 1-3 (top right) and days 4-6 (bottom left). (Link).

Some of the latest research strongly suggests that our current version of the latest of the creation myths in the Hebrew bible, those in Genesis 1 and 2 may actually proceed from the Greeks, namely Plato's Timaeus (written about 360 BCE: https://classics.mit.edu/Plato/timaeus.html). As a part of a school of biblical scholars called the Copenhagen International Seminar  (22 volumes; link), Russell Gmirkin has published a number of books arguing for literary dependence in the Hebrew bible on Greek and Hellenistic texts: Gmirkin, R. with Mein, A., & Camp, C. V. (series eds.). 2006. Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus: Hellenistic Histories and the Date of the Pentateuch (The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies, 433). Edinburgh, Scotland: T & T Clark; 2019. Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible (Copenhagen International Seminar),
Oxfordshire, UK: Routledge, which compares the law codes of the Pentateuch with the Greek sources; and his forthcoming, 2024. Plato's Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts (Copenhagen International Seminar). Oxfordshire, UK: Routledge. Gmirkin argues controversially that the Pentateuch would have been written about 270 BCE, using Greek sources in the Great Library of Alexandria.

Comparison table between events in Plato's Timaeus and Genesis 1 and 2.

(Image from the Mythvision documentary, "Shocking Greek origins to Genesis," link, reviewing Gmirkin's work and the advances made in Greek & Hebrew bible comparative studies).

Whatever the dates of final redaction of these Hebrew scriptures, they build upon a long, multi-layered set of traditions and mythology going back to the proto-Indo-Europeans. Ultimately, they are part of the great Northern Mythology / story, and cosmology.

Judeo-Christian fundamentalists have forgotten, without ever apparently knowing, the original cultic-dedicatory-topical mythos meaning of those mythic traditions which became the Genesis 1 and 2-3
creationary myths, and have heralded instead a literal creation week ~5,700 years ago or less than 6,000 years. In fact there are at least 10 creation myths captured late in the Tanakh (Hebrew bible), and many more allusions to ancient myth. Post-Enlightenment, this counter-Enlightenment trend has been set in a literalist framework in conservative religious circles which has adversely affected the advances of scientific cosmology in cosmology-astronomy (as we shall see in later pages), geology, paleontology, and the biosciences. Furthermore, the fundamentalist literalism has also often included a persistence of numerology and numerological typology which has unfortunately contributed to malign dualistic mysticism and apocalypticism over the centuries, and sadly has too often been wedded to a covenantal ingroup-outgroup amorality (CIAO). The relevance to the actual advance of scientific cosmology is negligible, having generated heated controversies but very little light (other than some historical understanding of how cosmology has developed in the West over the last few centuries within one specific tradition stream), and therefore, we note it as the relic of modern misinterpretation which it is.

Fundamentalism can overlay what is essentially the old Babylonian myth of (the Sun) god triumphing over primordial Chaos
& superimposes it on a modern photograph / understanding of a galaxy, a star system (link). Fundamentalism too often mixes mythos with cosmos, and can end up understanding neither.

However, we should remember that these ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern temples were really (if one isn't sidetracked by the myth-as-literal or Abrahamic-political sectarian agendae of our disturbed age) that they were early, small steps toward a Universe-centered world-view, the Epicurean-Copernican-Brunesian Revolution, first pioneered by the pre-Socratic Greeks, furthered with the Enlightenment, and modern cosmology, to the extent that it has and is freeing itself from any New Ptolemaic System paradigm. In the rest of this website's chapters, we will continue exploring that.

Select References on Ancient Near Eastern Temple Concentric Microcosms and their dedications, and creation in the Hebrew Bible 
  • Ahlstrom, G. 1975. "Heaven on Earth" at Hazor and Arad. Religious Syncretism in Antiquity, ed. B. A. Pearson. Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, pp. 67-83.
  • Blenkinsopp, J. 2011. Creation, Un-Creation, Re-Creation: A Discursive Commentary on Genesis 1-11. Edinburgh, Scotland, UK: T&T Clarke International.
  • Clifford, R. 1994. Creation Accounts in the Ancient Near East and in the Bible, Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series 26. Washington, DC: Catholic Biblical Association.
  • Horowitz. W. 1998. Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.
  • Hurowitz, V. 1992. I Have Built You an Exalted House: Temple Building in the Bible in Light of Mesopotamian and Northwest Semitic Writings. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 115. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press; pp. 260-61, 275-76.
  • Kingsbury, E. C. 1963. A Seven Day Ritual in the Old Babylonian Cult at Larsa. Hebrew Union College Annual 34, 1-34.
  • Kugler, R. & Hartin, P. J. 2009. An Introduction to the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  • Levenson, J. 1984. The Temple and the World. Journal of Religion 64, 275-298.
  • ____. 1998. Creation and the Persistence of Evil. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Stanhope, B. 2020. (Mis)interpreting Genesis: How the Creation Museum Misunderstands the Ancient Near Eastern Context of the Bible. Louisville, KY: Scarab Press. See especially chapters 8-9 on Eden as "the cosmic mountain of god" and "the meaning of the seven days of creation," respectively.
  • Vogels, W. 1997. The Cultic and Civil Calendars of the Fourth Day of Creation (Gen 1,14b). Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 11, 163-80.
  • Walton, J. H. 2010. The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. (The Lost World Series). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Image link.

After that excursus on the Mediterranean-Mesopotamian-Levantine gods and their temple-microcosms in Near Eastern mythogony, and the cultural after-effects on the development of cosmology, we return back to the Ancient Greeks in the early times before when they first made a real transition from mythology to cosmology, from Mythos to Cosmos, in their pioneering attempts to understand the cosmos and its origins in naturalist terms. Naturally all of the deities of humankind are analogical in nature, falling within the purview of human inventiveness, and should never be confused with the ineffableness of Being, from which we see the Universe, not to be confused with our cosmos-models (see 'Canis Major' / Spinozista analogical table below).

Following on the legacy of the monistic Ionian-Milesian Greek Enlightenment philosophers, such as Epicurus, transmitted down to us via Lucretius' De Rerum Natura, and further by Giordano Bruno, one of the founding early modern natural philosophers who reinvisioned cosmology within in their path in our Western culture was Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677) who in his extended Note to I Ethica Prop. XVII, wrote concerning difference between our conceptions and the reality of that unified Deus sive Natura (God or the Universe): "...For intellect and will, which should constitute the essence of Deity, would perforce be as far apart as the poles  from the human intellect and will, in fact, would have nothing in common with them but the name; there would be about as much correspondence between the two as there is between the Dog [Canis Major], the heavenly constellation, and a dog, an animal that barks. "

Canis Major photo from Australia (50 mm lens; link).

Canis Major visualization (with globular cluster M41; modified from link).
In his Note on I Ethica Prop. XVII, Spinoza wrote concerning the difference between our conceptions and intellect / will and the reality of that unified Deus sive Natura (God or the Universe): "...For intellect and will, which should constitute the essence of Deity, would perforce be as far apart as the poles from the human intellect and will, in fact, would have nothing in common with them but the name; there would be about as much correspondence between the two as there is between the Dog [Canis Major], the heavenly constellation, and a dog, an animal that barks."

We think that Spinoza said "the least of it," writing cautiously, rather than expansively, in the spirit of his chosen motto, "Caute" or caution, a caution necessary in his unfree times!

(https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/5583/dog-facing-right; https://starregistration.net/media/wysiwyg/Constellations/Canis_major.png).

. The Ionian Dawn: The first Enlightenment (Greek)
(6th-3rd centuries BCE)

Mythos to Cosmos in the Greco-Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean. This episode in the development of human thought encompassed the first major systematic attempt to demythologize or rather naturalize the world, mythology, and cosmology into Nature or the Universe on the basis of natural causation. It encompassed doubtless the greatest revolution in the evolution of human thought and worldviews.

The Greco-Aegean world
Aegean land & sea

The cultural milieu stage for the Greek Enlightenment is the Greek colonization of the Mediterranean world (8th-6th centuries BCE):

Greek colonies in red; Phoenician in yellow (link).

The ancient Greek (Homeric) world-vew very much resembles the scattered islands and maritime home in the Aegean of the Greek peoples of these centuries before the common era. From this simple beginning emerged the first scientific revolution in the 6th through the 3rd centuries BCE. 

Early Greek cosmology as embodied in Homer and Hesiod
The Oikoumene or inhabited Earth = a floating disc of the Mediterranean world surrounded by the waters of Okeanus (Koestler, 1959; cf. Wilson, 1980; see striking astronomical pictures from yesteryear https://longstreet.typepad.com/thesciencebookstore/astronomy/page/5/).
The Greek Transition from Mythogony to Cosmology

Of all the ancient peoples who in their various cultures engaged in astrology, mathematical and calendrical calculation, engineering, and early science, the Greeks were the first (aside from perhaps the Indian subcontinent materialist Cervaka movement) to begin the transition from myth-generating or mythogony to seeking natural cause and effect explanations (cosmology) for accounting for the Universe in which we find ourselves. This transition is of great interest in our history of cosmology in the western world. We are indebted in part to the pithy, precis-like conciseness of Stefan Stenudd's 2007 history, Cosmos of the Ancients: The Greek Philosophers on Myth and Cosmology. North Charleston, SC: BookSurge). To show how far this natural philosophy Revolution went, we also cite historical summary of Margaret O'Leary (2008. Anaxagoras and the Origin of Panspermia Theory. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse) and the many historical sources, including the classical sources, she references. The first Greek Enlightenment ignited in the 6th century BCE. By the 5th century, some of the Greek Enlightenment philosophers even naturalized the origin of life (and biological evolution) by arguing that life itself is a natural production of the Universe, ubiquitous from the Cosmos with Earth not even central, the theory of panspermia. The earliest surviving source on the ancient Greek philosophers was the Epicurean Diogenes Laertius or Διογένης Λαέρτιος (3rd century CE) Lives of the Eminent Philosophers (translated).

Like other ancient peoples, the Greeks transmitted their mythologies, revered their gods and built temples and shrines to them, and manufactured / forged their cosmologies and world-views from these mythologies. The Greek literary tradition began in the Mycenaean period, c 1600-1100 BCE; ~3600-3100 ya (Stenudd, 2007). That tradition included and in many ways was founded in the epic poetic and dramatic tradition of Homeros (8th century BCE) in Illiad and the Odyssey which may have simply arisen from the textualization of an oral tradition, as well as Hesiodos (8th c - ~700 BCE) in the Theogony and Works and Days and their discussion of the origins of the Greek gods and myth, and the start of the tradition (pp. 26-39) to move from mythos toward cosmos. In this the milieu background was laid for how in the 6th century BCE, a small cadre of naturalistic seekers / searchers and doubters of the myths and the gods began to arise. We turn to their story.

The first Greek naturalistic philosopher was Thales of Miletus.  

The early Ionians

Thales of Miletos
Θαλῆς ὁ Μιλήσιος)
(c624-546 BCE)

Father of Western philosophy (B. Russell, one of the 7 sages)
  • Sought to explain natural phenomena by natural process without mythology; the elemental substance was water, the arche—disc-like Earth floats on water like a boat (shared the Homeric world-view of Earth).
  • Held that matter is a unity of substance.
  • Applied geometry to make measurements as a mathematician to calculate the height of pyramids and the distance of ships at sea;
  • Geometry: "Μέγιστον τόπος ἄπαντα γὰρ χωρεῖ, i.e., The greatest is space, for it holds all things";
  • Discovered Thales' Theorem: "If AC is a diameter and B is a point on the diameter's circle, the angle ABC is always a right angle" (link).
  • First known use of deductive reasoning, define principles, and the putting forward of hypotheses;
  • Predicted the solar eclipse of 28 May 585 BCE, according to Herodotus.

    "Greek philosophy seems to begin with an absurd notion, with the proposition that water is the primal origin and the womb of all things. Is it really necessary for us to take serious notice of this proposition? It is, and for three reasons. First, because it tells us something about the primal origin of all things; second, because it does so in language devoid of image or fable, and finally, because contained in it, if only embryonically, is the thought, 'all things are one.'" (Nietzsche, unpublished notes, 1873. Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks).

Thales: "What is the divine? That which has no origin and no end." (Diogenes Laertius, DK 11A1, 36).


In another form:

(www.forthnet.gr/presocratics/ thaln.htm; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thales_of_Miletus; Stenudd, 2007; pp. 54-55).

  • Introduced a 'naturalistic' cosmology to understand the mechanics of the Earth as free floating in space (Karl Popper saw this as one of the most revolutionary ideas beginning science), also sought to model meteorology, the phenomena of weather.

To replace the Homeric

  • Geography / Cartography: Reconstruction of Anaximander's probable map of the Earth:

"The earth is flat and rides on air; in the same way the sun and the moon and the other heavenly bodies, which are all fiery, ride the air because of their flatness.
" (cit. in Hippolytus, Refutation of all Heresies, i. 7; Cf. Aristotle, De Caelo, 294 b13-21).
  • Even though the figures below speak of Anaximander's 'universe' he actually believed in an infinity of worlds.
  • His model of our solar system is geocentric, with numbers representing the wheel diameter units & distances in those units from Earth:
  • The Earth is free floating within the conceptualized celestial sphere, with N and S celestial poles; he introduced the sundial:

  • Free-floating Earth: "The Earth is aloft, not dominated by anything; it remains in place because of the similar distance from all points" (cf.  analogous to a predecessor of Mach's Principle?)

Anaximander of Miletos

(Ἀναξίμανδρος ὁ Μιλήσιος
(c610-c546 BCE)

  • Cosmogony: The cosmos separated out of the apeiron (boundless): From Theophrastus: "Anaximander of Miletos, son of Praxiades, a fellow-citizen and associate of Thales, said that the material cause and first element of things was the Infinite, he being the first to introduce this name of the material cause. He says it is neither water nor any other of the so-called elements, but a substance different from them which is infinite" [apeiron, or ἄπειρον] "from which arise all the heavens and the worlds within them." Phys, Op. fr. 2 (Dox. p. 476; R. P. 16)."
  • Cosmology: Earth is free floating, and the heavens are concentric spheres of fire, enclosed in air: Sun, Moon, and stars are 'breathing holes' in the spheres. (See left).
  • In fact, infinite worlds come and go like everything else in the Universe, from the Boundless / the Infinite (ἄπειρον):
Whence things have their origin,
Thence also their destruction happens,
As is the order of things;
For they execute the sentence upon one another
- The condemnation for the crime -
In conformity with the ordinance of Time.

Written works now lost:
  • On Physics / Nature (Περὶ φύσεως)
  • Rotation of the Earth (Γῆς περίοδος)
  • On Fixed Stars (Περὶ τῶν ἀπλανῶν)
  • The [Celestial] Sphere (Σφαῖρα).

Roman 3rd c CE mosaic of Anaximander with a sundial from Johannisstrasse, Trier (Germany).
  • Naturalist origin of humankind (semi-proto-evolutionary): Animals including the ancestors of man came from the ocean, fish, fishlike, and feeding like sharks, until breaking their 'rough bark' (skin) they were able to emerge on land and self-perpetuate.
http://home.wlu.edu/~mahonj/Ancient_Philosophers/Anaximander.htmhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anaximander; https://iep.utm.edu/anaximander/#SH6h; Stenudd, 2007; pp. 56-58).

Anaximenes of Miletos
(Ἀναξιμένης ὁ Μιλήσιος)
(c586 - c526 BCE)


Like the other natural philosophers of Ionia & Miletos, he sought unifying causality in the cosmos, rather than isolating and / or personifying natural phenomena.

Similar to his monism, among the Pythagoreans, Aristotle indicated that they held that there exists "boundless breath... outside the heavens, which was inhaled by the world" (Physics Δ, 6. 213 b22).

Anaximenes was a student of Anaximander in the Milesian school
  • Material monist also, with air being the original primary substance, ex arche ( ἐξ ἀρχῆς)
  • Some surviving words of his: "Just as our soul (psyche; ψυχή), being air (aer; ἀήρ), holds us together, so do breath of life (pneuma; πνεῦμα) and air (aer; ἀήρ) encompass the whole Universe": First to equate air and breath of life (pneuma).
  • Held that substance changes forms (states) through rarefaction (hot, dry air) and condensation (cold, wet air) learning from the water cycle
  • May have been among the first to distinguish between planets and 'fixed stars'
  • Used analogies when speaking of the world of man on Earth and that of the Cosmos out there implied that the same natural laws observed on Earth apply out in the Universe, a powerful insight shown to be true by Sir Isaac Newton >2000 years later.
  • Through reason and natural observations he also sought  natural causal explanations of earthquakes, lightning, rainbows. 
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anaximenes_of_Miletus; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pneuma; Stenudd, 2007; pp. 59-60).

The Pythagorean Revolution and Regression (5th century BCE)

The so-called Pythagorean Theorem of the Triangle since the 1st c BCE has been commonly attributed to Pythagoras (although many classical historians dispute this): "In a right-angled triangle the square of the hypotenuse [c2] is equal [to the sum of] the squares of the two other sides [a2 + b2]."

  • In Aristotle's Protrepticus, Pythagoras is asked why humankind exists: "To observe the heavens!"
Earth as a sphere:
Spherical earth of ancient Greek Cratus
                  of Mallus
The sphericity of the Earth: Key philosophers who arrived at this conclusion
  • Pythagoras (6th c BCE)
  • Parmenides (5th c BCE)
  • Aristotle (330 BCE)
  • Cratus of Mallus (~150 BCE)
Became widely understood and accepted in late antiquity by the educated, but not necessarily by the general populace.
  • Eratosthenes of Cyrene (240 BCE) determined the circumference of spherical Earth:
Lunar eclipse_Earth's shadowShip at sea somewhat low on the
                    spherical horizon of Earth
Sphere of Earth: Curve of Earth's shadow on the Moon during a lunar eclipse; Ship at sea somewhat low on the spherical horizon of Earth.

Like some other Aegaean philosophers, Pythagoras included women in his school:

  • Established a monastic-like school with many religious and ascetic observances (including dietary and other restrictions), studying his mystical and philosophical ideas, including sacred mathematics, music, and medicine, eating all meals together like the Spartans, avoiding and excluding all others, having "all possessions in common among friends" (koina ta philon), learning teachings called symbols (symbola) about which they took a vow of silence to protect from telling non-members, and following the enigmatic aphorisms / oral sayings (akousmata) of the master.

"Pythagoreans celebrate the sunrise" by Fyodor Bronnikov (1869).

Pythagoras / Pythagores of Samos;
 Πυθαγόρας / Πυθαγόρης ὁ Σάμιος 

(c570 - c495 BCE)

Mystic-philosopher who among others linked nature with rational numbers: Mathematical relations and equations hold the secret of the cosmos
(Koestler, 1959). Pythagoras combined advances in cosmological understanding with often obscurantist mysticism—both are his legacy
  • One of the early ones to propose the sphericity of Earth
  • Pythagorean theorem of the triangle (see left)
  • Proposed Earth's motion along with the Sun & planets around a "central fire" or "hearth of the world"
  • Metempsychosis [transmigration of souls] According to Diogenes (II, 333): "He was the first, they say, to declare that the soul, bound now in this creature, now in that, thus goes on a round ordained of necessity."
  • Musica universalis / 'music of the spheres': Pythagorean mystical belief that the motions of the Sun, Moon, and planets is a form of music, which centuries later influenced Renaissance and subsequent mysticism (cf. Sibly's Astrology, 1806 figure).
  • Tetractys (τετρακτύς) of the dekad worship, a mystical triangular number (T4) summing to 10, important in Pythagoreanism, which they worshiped as the source of all souls and the cosmos, to which they took a sacred oath, & summing up their mysticism:
  1. Monad (unity) ~ element Air ~ 1st row: geometric 1 point; 1st 4 numbers = musica universalis & kosmos
  2. Dyad (limit/unlimited; peras/apeiron; power) ~ element Fire ~ 2nd row: geometric 2 points, line (1d)
  3. Triad (harmony) ~ element Water ~ 3rd row: geometric 3 points, triangle-plane (2d)
  4. Tetrad (kosmos) sums to higher dekad (10) ~ element Earth ~ 4th row: geometric 4 points, tetrahedron (3d)

  • Influenced by the Orphic mystery cult, Pythagorean mysticism in turn influenced others over the centuries since.
  1. Early Christians admired Pythagoras & their cults paralleled his in several ways, including in their traditions about their founder Jesus, the traditions about the use of aphorisms and parables, asceticism, communal insularity, and later including possible influences on the 3rd & 4th century CE rise of trinitarianism
  2. Hellenized Jewish mysticism / esotericism anachronistically claimed Mosaic influence on Pythagoras
  3. Later kabbalist esoterics anachronistically claimed Pythagoreans as kabbalists, linked their own reverence for the tetragrammaton (τετραγράμματον) name of god (יהוה, yhwh) to the tetractys, & there may have been some possible influence on their 10-11 noded kabbalist 'tree of life'
  4. Medieval esoterics like the Knights Templar and alchemists, late Renaissance mystics including 'royal arch' proto-freemasons, and subsequent freemasons and other early modern esoterics were also influenced,
  5. Including a number of the early pioneers in modern cosmology, so much so that Copernicus in his epochal De Revolutionibus praised Pythagoras, but refused to even acknowledge Aristarchus and his priority in heliocentrism. Even the great Sir Isaac Newton who created the first "physics of the skies" also was distracted by Pythagoras, biblical numerology / mysticism, hermeticism and alchemy.
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pythagoras; www.zepa.net/~kolya/fhs/zeldovic/ pythagoras.html;
www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/ Posters2/Pythagoras.html; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_earth; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetractys; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musica_universalis; Stenudd, 2007; pp. 61-63).

Cautionary Tale: One step forward & 3 steps back. With Pythagoreanism, as beautiful as the stated purpose of looking upward to the heavens, and as beguiling as the numerology and mysticism has been, their reverence for numbers did gave a boost to scientific cosmology, while at the same time retarding the rate of the advance of scientific cosmology with their obscurantist mysticism, their infatuation with numerology, and their ensuing occultic distractions, which turned attention away from the Universe. The retarding temptation toward mysticism in the some of the pioneers of cosmology was often made stronger to the extend they were influenced by the Judeo-Christian tradition. Pythagoreanism illustrates a cautionary tale, where an advance toward scientific cosmology, can be accompanied by 3 steps backwards into the beguilments of mysticism. It's an imporant lesson for modern cosmology too.

Parmenides of Elea (Παρμενίδης ὁ Ἐλεάτης)
(c515 BCE - c475 BCE)
Founder of the Eleatic school

1st c CE inscription found on the plinthe of a statue in 1969: ΠΑ[Ρ]ΜΕΝΕΙΔΗΣ ΠΥΡΗΤΟΣ ΟΥΛΙΑΔΗΣ ΦΥΣΙΚΟΣ = Parmenides, son of Pires, a native of Elea [?], a physikos [i.e., a natural philosopher]

A major founder of metaphysics or ontology, as well as furthering cosmology

"It is necessary that you shall learn all things, as well the unshaken heart of well-rounded truth as opinions of mortals in which there is no true belief." [Doubt]

Velia on the western Italian coast in the region of Magna Graecia, also known in ancient times as Υέλη later changed to Ελέα, where the Eleatic school of philosophy was formed.
  • Wrote a long poem now known as On Nature, in dactylic hexameter, only some of which survives. It contains three sections:
  • (a) Introductory proem about the narrator's allegorical journey to receive enlightenment from a goddess on the nature of the world, with such wonders as a chariot with glowing axles and horses, the House of Night, Gates of the paths of Night and Day, and maidens, "the daughters of the Sun."
  • (b) "The Way of Truth" (aletheia, ἀλήθεια) holds that the ontological unity of Nature (a proto-monism), while the diversity of Nature is more illusory or based on opinion. Excerpts have been preserved by Sextus Empiricus and Simplicius of Cilicia
  • (c) "The Way of Appearance/Opinion" (doxa, δόξα) common belief or received opinion, doxa in contrast to episteme, ἐπιστήμη, knowledge or science.
  • Parmenides' monism lead to Pyrrhonism, and also may have influenced Plotinus and Neoplatonism.
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parmenides; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velia; Stenudd, 2007; pp. 79-82; Υέλη, Ελέα).

Argument between the Epicurean Atomists and the Eleatic monists: Democritus vs. Heraclitus.

More to add.....

Earth set adrift in space. Philolaus' Pythagorean cosmos (Φιλόλαος, c 470-c 385 BCE).

Central fire & counter-Earth
Philolaus' Pythagorean cosmos complete with 'central fire,' Earth, reputed to have an anti-earth (antichton; actually resulted from Aristotle's notion of sun, moon, five planets and fixed stars (5th century BCE; from Wilson, 1980; http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/GreekScience/Students/Ellen/EarlyGkAstronomy.html; http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/Bios/Philolaus.html; http://www.math.brown.edu/tbanchof/STG/ma8/papers/mcecil/softball.html). Built on these ad hoc assumptions: (a) There is a "central fire" which we never see because of the Counter-Earth, (b) There is a Counter-Earth which serves to obscure from us the "central fire."

Archytas of Tarentino & an infinite Universe

Archytas of Tarentino
Archytas of Tarentino
Αρχύτας Ταραντίνος (428-350 BCE)
(from Miahanas.de)

Representation of solution to doubling the
Constructed proportional triangle
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (link)
Achytas was a mathematician and a Pythagorean philosopher, a student of Philolaus of Croton, tutor of Eudoxos (transmitter of the constellations), and a civil leader
  • Held the cosmos to be infinite, without limit, using a thought experiment: "Imagine that the Universe is finite, and I stand at one border: What hinders me from stretching out my hand beyond this border?"
  • Solved the Delian 'doubling the cube' problem with a geometric solution
  • Performed experiments on flight with kites and devices such as a wooden pigeon which flew about 200 m on "the secret blowing of air enclosed inside"
  • Worked on harmonics in music (link).
                    solution to the Delian cube problem, represented in

The Atomists

The ruins of Abdera in Thrace, where the Atomists began.
Leukippos (Λεύκιππος)
(5th century BCE)

  • Considered the founder of the school of Atomism (as states Theophrastus the prime student of Aristotle), Leukippos was the teacher of the famous atomist Democritos. 
  • Atomistic cosmology: Nothing exists
    • Atoms (smallest units of matter)
    • and the Void, which he identified as Nonbeing, but which he inferred by the fact that Atoms move through it
  • Started a school at Abdera (photo to the left), where Democritos was trained
  • Reputed to have written a major work now lost called The Great World System
  • Also wrote On Mind, from which we have his surviving quote, "Nothing happens at random, but everything from reason and by necessity."
Cf. Curd, P. & Graham, D. W. (eds). 2008. The Oxford Handbook of Presocratic Philosophy. Oxford University Press: https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195146875.001.0001; pp. 333-352.
  • Held to be the founder of the city of Megapontum on what the Romans later called the Magna Graecium coast of Italy, a theater of which pictured (photo to the right), and the city honored him with a silver coin en nomos Leukippos in 330 BCE (link). 


For the sake of temporal flow we turn to one of the towering founding philosophers of classical and western civilization, who influenced the founding of science as well as the philosophical-classical theological traditions of the three Abrahamic religions of Judaism (Maimonides et al), Christianity (Aquinas et al), and Islam (several). After a summary, we will turn to what he is less well known for and against which he was opposed even by his religious and philosophical admirers: His most important contribution to cosmology, the concept of the Universe as eternal, self-generating, without beginning and without end.

In this proposal he ignited a centuries long controversy over whether the Universe has a beginning or not, which is a foreshadowing of the controversy between the Big Bang and the Steady State cosmologies of the mid-20th century, and may be considered in the respective categories of the Paleolithic "northern cosmology" and the "southern cosmology." His name was Aristotle (link).
384-322 BCE
  • Born in Stagira in northern Greece, trained at Plato's Academy, tutored the young Alexander (the Great), son of Philip II of the greater Macedonia
  • Founded the Peripatetic school of philosophy at the Lyceum (Athens)
  • Also founded a library at the Lyceum and a school at Mieza, Greece (photo below)
  • Wrote hundreds of works (about a third of which survived)
  • Helped systematize knowledge as Metaphysics (ontology), Physics (the notion of 'natural philosophy' and the sciences), Epistemology (how we know), Ethics (morals), and Aesthetics (sense of perception and beauty). Cf. Aristotelian categories: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-categories/.
  • Contributed to a multitude of fields (in alphabetical order): aesthetics, biology, drama, economics, ethics, geology, government, linguistics, logic, metaphysics, meteorology, music, physics, poetry, politics, psychology, rhetoric, and zoology.
  • Influenced civilization and dialogue far beyond his own school of philosophy for centuries until the Enlightenment (mid-17th to 18th century) and modernity. 

Roman marble copy of a bronze sculpture of Aristotle by Greek sculptor, Lysippos (c 330 BCE).
Aristotle's school at Mieza: His critical rebellion against Plato and Platonism

Set the stage for centuries of thinking about the ontological status of causation until the Galilean Revolution in the 17th century on efficient causation in the Sciences and modernity, as pointed out in the famous essay "Man against Darkness" by Stace (1948).

See Wikipedia link.
The Aristotelian battle to propose an eternal Universe
Now we turn back to Aristotle's major, unsung contribution to cosmology. Aristotle also was the first to challenge Euclid's 5th postulate about the existence of parallel lines, thus anticipating the non-Euclidean geometries of Lobachevski and Riemann, which have been important in 20th century physics, as well as challenging the notion that the cosmos came into being, instead making a case for an eternal Universe: Temple, R. 2003. The prehistory of the steady state theory. Astrophysics and Space Science 285, 471. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1025465232097. In the following table, we summarize the Aristotelian debate over the eternality of the Universe.

. . . . The Eternal Universe . . . .
Aristotle & fellow Aristotelian pioneers

A World Beginning . . . .
Anti-Aristotelian reaction
  • First Book, De Caelo, 'On the Heavens': "That the world [kosmos] was generated all [prior thought] are agreed... having been generated, however, some say it is eternal, others say that it is destructible like any other natural formation" (Aristotle, 1970, 279b13).
  • In typical Aristotelian (& modern scientific) fashion, he opens, "Let us start with a review of the theories of other thinkers, including his teacher Plato . . ." (Aristotle, 1970, 279b6, which he does, and dismantles them, arguing, "to assert that the Universe was generated and yet is eternal is to assert the impossible; for we cannot reasonably attribute to anything any characteristics but those which observation detects in many or all instances. But in this case the facts point the other way: generated things are seen always to be destroyed" (Aristotle, 1979, 279b18-21). 
  • In 'On Philosophy,' he argued for 'the Eternity of the World [kosmos]' which is 'the Eternity of the Universe' (Aristotle, 1952) and his heretical views became known around the Greco-Hellenistic world.
  • Successor to Aristotle, Theophrastus (Θεόφραστος, c371-c287 BCE) in his own treatise on the Eternity of the Universe wrote against 'the sophists' who held the 'world beginning' view and their danger of persuading the public: "It is necessary to counter so much special pleading, in case anyone who lacks experience should submit to its authority' whose arguments he call 'deception' (Theophrastus, 1992, pp. 342-357).
  • Panaetius of Rhodes (c185-c110 BCE) & Boethus of Sidon (c75-c10 BCE) argued that 'there is nothing outside the Universe except possibly a void.... And if it were to be destroyed without a cause, clearly the origin of the destruction will arise from what does not exist' which is clearly an absurd contradiction (Philo, 2001, 15-16, pp. 239-241).
  • Another treatise, 'On the Eternity of the Universe' (mistakenly attributed to a 5th c BCE Pythagorean Ocellus Lucanus, when actually written in the 2nd or 1st c BCE by a later Aristotelian or Pythagorean): "It appears to me that the Universe is indestructible and unbegotten, since it always was, and always will be . . . there is not anything external to the Universe, since all other things are comprehended in the Universe, and is the whole and the all. . . . the Universe is without a beginning and without an end . . ." (Ocellus Lucanus, 1831, pp. 1-2; emphasis added by Temple, 2003). This treatise may be written by the Aristotelian head of the Peripatetic school in Athens named
  • Critolaus of Phaselis (2nd c BCE) who like Theophrastus about the misleading of the public by 'those who strengthen falsehood against truth' and that 'the Universe must surely be uncreated and therefore is indestructible' (Philo, 2001, 14-15, pp. 233-238).
  • Roman Skeptic author Cicero (106-43 BCE) wrote in Lucullus commenting: "When your wise Stoic has said all these things to you syllable by syllable, Aristotle will come with the golden flow of his speech, to say that the Stoic is talking nonsense; he will say that the world never came into being, because there never was a new design from which so noble a work could have its beginning, and that it is so well designed in every part that no force can effect such great movements and so great a change, no old age can come upon the world by lapse of time, so that this beauteous world should ever fall to pieces and perish' (Aristotle, 1952, Fragment 20 of On Philosophy, pp. 92-93).
  • Proclus, late Greek philosopher (5th c CE) observes about Aristotle's theory that "eternity is stable, infinite power" (Proclus, 1820, Vol. I, pp. 246-249). Although not knowing about an expanding Universe, if Aristotle had he would have recognized that his Eternality of the Universe would also require continuous creation of Atoms.
  • Thinking of the whole, in 'On the Heavens,' he wrote, "Anything which always exists is absolutely imperishable. It is also ungenerated, since if it was generated it will have the for some time of not being" (Aristotle, 1970, 281b26-27). Although the whole is eternal and ungenerated, yet the parts are generated and temporal, whether Atoms or humans, &c. Aristotle would have grasped this.
  • Aristotle states in the first sentence of his Book II of 'On the Heavens,' ". . . the heaven as a whole neither came into being nor admits of destruction, as some assert, but is one and eternal, with no end or beginning of its total duration, containing and embracing in itself the infinity of time . . ." (Aristotle, 1970, 283b26-30).
  • Aristotelian philosopher, also in the 6th c CE, Simplicius replied 'Against Philoponus on the Eternality of the World' by mocking his long and weak arguments, saying that Philoponus "regarded it as a matter of great importance if he could entice large numbers of laymen to disparage the heavens and the whole world [Universe] as things that are just as perishable as themselves. . . . this gentleman not only dared to write against Aristotle's arguments in his first book, 'On the Heavens' concerning the eternity of the heavens and the world - without understanding what the text says, as I have attempted to demonstrate . . . He also opposed the arguments at the beginning of Aristotle's 'Physics,' Book 8, which show that motion and time are eternal; his objections are beside the point, as one can clearly grasp from my replies to him" (Simplicius, 1991; pp. 107-108).
  • Even in HBBC inflationary scenarios, the Eternality of the Universe is there.
  • An interesting question is whether personality types play a role.
  • The debate over the Eternity of the Universe didn't start in the 1940s, or in Medieval times, but with Aristotle 2,300 years ago.
  • The later writer, Philo of Alexandria (c20 BCE - c50 CE) a pious adherent of Judaism who doubted not that God had created the world, wrote in his own treatise, "Aristotle was surely speaking piously and devoutly when he insisted that the world is ungenerated and imperishable, and convicted of grave ungodliness those who maintained the opposite . . . he used to say in mockery (we are told) that in the past he had feared lest his house be destroyed by violent winds or storms beyond the ordinary, or by time or by lack of proper maintenance, but that now a greater danger hung over him, from those who by argument destroyed the whole world" (Aristotle, 1952, Fragment 18 of On Philosophy, pp. 88-89).
  • The Stoic school of philosophy (3rd c BCE - 3rd c CE) advocated the view that the world was periodically created and destroyed, but two Stoics dissented: Panaetius of Rhodes and Boethus of Sidon.
  • Christian bishop Lactantius (3rd c CE) opposed the Eternality thesis in his Institutes, Book II: "If the world can perish as a whole because it perishes in parts, it clearly has at some time come into being; and as fragility proclaims a beginning, so it proclaims an end. If that is true, Aristotle could not save the world itself from having a beginning" (Aristotle, 1952, Fragment 20 of On Philosophy, p. 93).
  • In the 6th c CE, Christian philosopher Johannes Philoponus wrote a treatise, 'Against Aristotle on the Eternality of the World' (Philoponus, 1987). In his long and tortuous dissertation, Philoponus was determined to save a creation of the Universe against the outrage of Aristotle's Eternality of the Universe by appeals to many specious arguments, including the supposed circularity of the celestial motions, &c. 
  • The real reason for the Christian attack on the Eternality of the Universe is Christian religious dogma in the Darkening Age (4th-17th c CE), which cannot abide an eternal Universe:
  • The nature of the debate then, in between, and now suggests that commitments other than to data was influencing then as now with the New Ptolemaic system (see chapters III & IV especially, but the entire history of cosmology too). Cosmology is about human values and beliefs too.
  • What became the 'kalam cosmological argument' (link) started with Aristotelian reasoning & was in reaction against Aristotle's proposal of an eternal Universe.
References in table above are found in Temple's (2003) paper (https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1025465232097), which is also a chapter in C. Wickramasinghe, G. Burbidge, & J. Narlikar. (eds.). 2003. Fred Hoyle's Universe. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Continuing with the Atomists as natural philosophers who proposed that everything in the Universe is composed of fundamental entities, which cannot be cut (τωμως) any further, hence called atoms (ατωμως), the shape of which caused the observed properties of matter (image).

Democritus was among the early founders of the school of Atomism , who held that the world is made of individsible atoms, including Leucippus c 440 BCE; Epicuros 341-271 BCE, and one of the surviving sources to our day, the Roman poet, Lucretius, 1st century BCE).

I. In mathematics and geometry, he wrote a series of works,
On Numbers, On Geometrics, On Tangencies, On Mapping, and On Irrationals, indicating that he did not deny or suppress the existence of irrational numbers like Pythagoras' disciples did. He saw that any cone or pyramid has 1/3 of the volume of any cylinder or prism, respectively, with dimensions of the same width and height. 

II. About humans, plants, animals, and minerals, he wrote a series of works, which included a naturalistic anthropology, On the Nature of Man, also Causes Concerned with Seeds and Plants and Fruits, On Mind, On Flesh, On the Senses, On Flavors, On Colors, and a collection Causes Concerned with Animals

III. About Astronomy, Democritus held that the Earth is a sphere, there is "a plurality of worlds" in the cosmos (an insight reflected later by Giordano Bruno in the 16th century CE), the Milky Way is composed of distant stars (apparently the first to realize that), that the Universe can be accurately observed, following laws of cause and effect, although our interpretations may or may not be correct: An early instantiation of the skeptical-empirical method of science.

IV. About Cosmology / Cosmogony and atomic Physics, he held that the cosmos came from chaos into being composed of miniscule
ατωμως or uncuttable atoms, aggregating to form larger structures. His atomic theory described the Universe as composed of the infinite void (nonbeing) + nondestructible fundamental particles in motion (atoms, being): "By convention there is sweet, by convention there is bitterness, by convention hot and cold, by convention color; but in reality there are only atoms and the void."
  • All is made of physically (but not geometrically) indivisible and indestructible atoms.
  • Between atoms is empty space, the void.
  • Atoms have always been and will always be in eternal motion.
  • In the infinite void, there are an infinite number of and kinds of atoms, differing in shape and size.
  • All the observed properties of matter arise from the nature of the atoms, their shape, size, and consistency (e.g, atoms of fire, air, earth, water, and the ethereal realm of the heavens above).
  • The early atomists held that the 'atoms in motion in the void' conception demystifies the Cosmos, life, & death and leads to liberation from 'the terror of the gods' (Lucretius, 1st century BCE).
From Aristotle through the Middle Ages, atomism was opposed & suppressed as atheistic. Yet, the basic insight of atomism is so powerfully correct that it has stood the empirical test for nearly 2500 years.

Democritus lived a long and cheerful life (the laughing philosopher), and while some hated him, he was held in high esteem by many contemporaries. 


This laughing philosopher came from the ancient city of Abdera on the Island of Thrace (link).

"The laughing philosopher" (sourced quotes)

Democritus (
Δημόκριτος) of Abdera (link; link)
(c 460-c 370 BCE)

We know some about his life from Diogenes Laertius' Lives and Opinions of Emiment Philosophers (3rd century CE). None of his works have survived the classic civilizational collapse of the Middle Ages, however, we know that he was a pioneer in mathematics, geometry, empirical science including the experimental method, in ontology / metaphysics, in epistemology (how do we know?), in botany, in anthropology, and in ethics for how to live a contented life.
Diogenes Laertois summarized, "That atoms and the Void were the beginning of the Universe; and that everything else existed only in opinion. That the worlds were infinite, created, and perishable. But that nothing was created out of nothing, and that nothing was destroyed so as to become nothing. That the atoms were infinite both in magnitude and number, and were borne about through the Universe in endless revolutions. And that thus they produced all the combinations that exist; fire, water, air, and earth; for that all these things are only combinations of certain atoms; which combinations are incapable of being affected by external circumstances, and are unchangeable by reason of their solidity."

FIGURE 69. <i>The
                    Universe of Democritus</i> (<i>c. 430
                    B.C.</i>)<br> (From <i>Dante and
                    the Early Astronomers</i>; M. A. Orr (Mrs.
                    John Evershed), 1913.)
The Universe of Democritus (c. 430 B.C.)
(From Dante and the Early Astronomers; M. A. Orr [Mrs. John Evershed], 1913.)

The philosophical implications of Atomism are much more far-reaching than one might initially think. 

(https://www.universetoday.com/60058/democritus-atom/; http://www.newgenevacenter.org/biography/democritus2.htm

The Epicurean world-view (building on primitive Atomism) produced a comprehensive world-view, cosmology, and system of morality:

Epicuros (Ἐπίκουρος) of Samos
(341-270 BCE)

The Ionian philosopher who systematized the insights and implications of the primitive atomistic, naturalistic worldview was Epicurus (4th
-3rd centuries BCE).

Rebelling against Platonism, he established his own school of philosophy, "the Garden" (κῆπος) where he welcomed women and slaves to be part of his philosophical entourage. He authored over 300 works, all of them gone, except for 3 letters. Memories of his teachings were preserved by others, and recorded in poetic form by Roman poet Titus Lucretius Carus (c99 - c55 BCE).

He advocated "living in obscurity" (λάθε βιώσας) and an empirical rule (Κανών) / method for seeking knowledge of the world toward these goals:
(a) ἀπονία, absence of bodily and mental pain and distress
(b) ἀταραξία, imperturbability, equanimity, and tranquility of mind, peace, and freedom from fear
(c) εὐδαιμονία, happiness, well-being, flourishing, blessedness.

Developing the atomism of Leucippus and Democritus, Epicurus' cosmology: From the ἄτομος or uncuttable atoms in motion in the void, we have Nature which never produces something out of nothing & nothing is ever destroyed, but only undergoes transformations, comings to be and ceasings, in flux.

The Underlying Inference in the emergence of atomism, and the greatest inferential insight by humankind, following upon the ancient 'non-coexistence of opposites' idea: Nothing comes from nothing, and nothing ever ceases to be by vanishing into nothing

A Guiding Principle emerges from the Underlying Inference and gives us the following enumerated and astounding predictive inferences in the Epicurean cosmology:

The Guiding Principle: Nature has inherent lawfulness, a seamless causality, is self-generating and spontaneous, is not only causally-explicable, but intrinsically intelligible and coherent (Nature explains herself). Nature is the totality of the actions of a one infinite self-moving substance (monism).

I. Nature or the Universe must be eternal: Nothing comes from nothing, so all somethings (effects) must come from previous somethings (causes) ad infinitum & in turn into other somethings into the future ad infinitum. There is no before or after the Universe.
Infinite in

II. Nature or the Universe is infinite in extension: There is no outside of the Universe, nothing beyond, or external thereto. The human mind also is an ephemeral product of the laws of causation of Nature or the Universe.
No center no edge
Three galaxies in Draco (https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/image/0605/draco3_heutz_f.jpg).

III. Eternal, Infinite Nature or the Universe also has no center & no boundaries, is centerless & boundless, going off into infinity in all directions.
Egg of Night

IV. Nature or the Universe is everywhere and always emergent from one and the same fundamental substance, so the causal laws of Nature operate the same always and everywhere. Humankind is also an atomic derivation of that substance.

V. In Nature or the Universe, we are not alone. All other beings, great or small, whatever is and whatever our imagination can possibly conceive as deities or other beings living or imagined, are denizens of Nature or the Universe, in numberless worlds in infinite space-time, all subject to the universal laws of causation, whether out there, or in our minds, are also self-produced by Nature. Our human nature and our human minds are ephemeral products of that one Nature. 

The world-view of the Epicureans has been transmitted to modernity with the 15th century discovery of a single surviving copy of the Epicurean poem De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of the Universe) by Roman poet Titus Lucretius Carus (c. 99-55 BCE)
in 1417 by an Italian Renaissance humanist and manuscript sleuth Poggio Bracciolini (cf. Matthew Stewart, 2014. Nature's God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic, pp. 82-83; Stephen Greenblatt, 2011. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern; see Greenblatt at the Getty: "Lucretius and the Toleration of Intolerable Ideas" link). Although suppressed for 2 centuries more, early modern and Radical Enlightenment skeptical freethinkers, deists, and rationalists of renown were deeply impacted by this text; this time capsule message from the Ionian Dawn / Enlightenment.

A copy was even made for Pope Sixtus IV by Girolamo di Matteo de Tauris in 1483 (Link).

The first full published English translation of Lucretius' poem by Thomas Creech in appeared in 1683.
The light coming into the mind of Epicurus as atoms! (
Creech's translation of Lucretius
The whole translated work in rhyming couplets of iambic pentameter may be read here. Earlier, a Puritan lady named

Lucy Hutchinson (1620-1681; link; cf. link) translated De Rerum Natura into English verse, although it wasn't published until the 20th century (link). For a modern English recording of De Rerum Natura, see this link.

The Stoics (3rd century BCE)
. Stoicism (
Στωικισμός) was a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early 3rd century BCE (Wikipedia), which was essentially materialist, teaching that all being (ὄντα, where we get the word ontology) is corporeal but not necessarily all things (τινά), because of their rejecting any dualism of the corporeal and the incorporeal, which contrary to Plato and Aristotle does not exist. Everything, every object (whether concrete or abstract) in the world is derived from / made from primal, formless Substance (ὑποκείμενον). In and between these objects, qualities and relations inhere, and every part of the whole follows reason or logical causation (logos), such that the Universe is a material, reasoning Substance, which can be called God or Nature (cf. some roots of Spinoza's ontology, Deus sive Natura), with active and passive aspects.

Zeno of Citium
Zeno of Citium (Ζήνων ὁ Κιτιεύς), c334 - c262 BCE (Wikipedia)

The cosmos of the Stoics was a small concentric cosmos, centered on our solar system, spheres of the planets, & the sphere of the 'fixed stars' beyond that, surrounded by the great Void. 

Stoic infinite cosmos
The infinite cosmos of the Stoics (


Hipparchos, 2nd century BCE (19th century woodcut, from Wilson, 1980) possibly the inventor of the astrolabe,
and also one who helped the geocentric system to triumph in ancient Greece.

In addition to determining the relative distances and sizes of the sun and moon,

~230 BCE: On the Distances and Sizes of the Sun and Moon, (Περὶ μεγεθῶν καὶ ἀποστημάτων [ἡλίου καὶ σελήνης]) in which he calculates the ratio of the distance between Earth and the Sun to that between Earth and the Moon. (His estimate was more than an order of magnitude too small, but the fault was in his lack of accurate instruments rather than in his correct method of reasoning). This detail compares the line subtending the arc dividing the light and dark portions of the Moon in a lunar eclipse with the relative diameters of the Moon and the Sun. Aristarchos also found an improved value for the length of the solar year. (Link; http://wps.prenhall.com/wps/media/objects/1351/1383953/image/aristarchus_1.jpeg)

Aristarchos made one of the great inductive leaps—  
He postulated...

A heliocentric world-view 17 centuries before Copernicus!

  • Argued that the stars are too distant to have a detectable parallax

Aristarchos of Samos
(c310-230 BCE)
'The Greek Copernicus'

Or rather Copernicus was the 16th century Aristarchus!

  • Proposed a heliocentric cosmology: Sun, not Earth at center of the Cosmos (Philolaus' "central fire" = the Sun)
  • Calculated the distances and sizes of the Sun and Moon, accurately given his sparse data
  • Used continued fractional expressions to calculate the length of the sidereal (stellar) year to be 365+1/152 and the civil year to be 365+18/4868 days, & precession to be about 1.38 deg / century
  • Also proposed an ancient Greek time period, his 'Great Year' of 4868 solar years, equalling exactly 270 saroi, each of 18 Callippic years plus 10⅔ degrees. (Syntaxis, book 4 chapter 2)
(Koestler, 1959; Kristen Riley [1995]; cf. http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr161/lect/retrograde/copernican.html;

Archimedes of Syracuse
(c287 - c212 BCE)
Mathemetician, astronomer, physicist, inventor, and engineer

  • Approximated π by an infinitesimal method of exhaustion, where he placed circle-tangent polygons up to 96-sided and calculating their perimeter: Between 31⁄7 (~3.1429) and 310⁄71 (~3.1408), cf. actual six digit value, 3.14159
  • Proved that the area enclosed by a parabola and a straight line is 4⁄3 times the area of a corresponding inscribed triangle, expressed as an infinite geometric series with the common ratio 1⁄4:
  • Discovered the "law of the lever"": "Magnitudes are in equilibrium at distances reciprocally proportional to their weights."
  • Originated a mathematical method which included the use of zero and infinity, limits, and infinitesimals in ways similar to modern integral calculus
In the recently discovered Palimpsest (10th century CE), seven of his works are hidden underneath later Judeo-Christian psalms: Equilibrium of Planes, Spiral Lines, The Measurement of the Circle, Sphere and Cylinder, On Floating Bodies, The Method of Mechanical Theorems, and the Stomachion.

                spiral_Palimpsest (pseudocolor)
Image in ultraviolet-illuminated false color from the Palimpsest

Newton and Leibnitz were the 17th century Archimedes, the first discoverer of the calculus

Archimedes method of approximating of
π (Pi; http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/archimedes/pi-flash.html; local link)
Archimedes Pi approximation
(Image source)

Area of the parabolic segment limited by the diagonal line segment AE is equal to 4/3 that of the inscribed triangle ACE
(On the Quadrature of the Parabola; Image source).

Using the boyancy of a liquid displacement to differentiate the silver alloyed impurity in King Hiero's votive crown compared to a pure gold object of equal weight. Legend has it that upon realizing this principle Archimedes leaped out of his bathtub and ran through the streets of Syracuse naked, shouting "Eureka! [εὕρηκα!] I found it!" (Hydrostatic displacement referenced in On Floating Bodies).

Sphere & cylinder
A sphere has 2/3 the volume + surface area of its circumscribing cylinder.
Archimede's proudest accomplishment, placed on his tomb by his request.

Archimedes moves the Earth
"Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the Earth." [Greek: Δῶς μοι πᾶ στῶ καὶ τὰν γᾶν κινάσω] —Archimedes. "The law of the lever" from On the Equilibrium of Planes.

The rise (6th - 3rd centuries BCE) and decline of Greek science (3rd century BCE - 1st century CE)

(from Koestler, 1959).

Aristarchus' heliocentric world-view was forgotten in favor of the Aristotelian geocentric system, and the religious / mystical influence from the Orphic Mystery cult polluting the Ionian science via the Pythagoreans, signaled a departure from the naturalistic-rational approach to discovering the world.

With the arrival of the Socratic synthesis and the Platonic and Aristotelian schools, a long decline of ancient Greek science and cosmology began, which, abetted by the Judeo-Christian adoption of neo-Platonism and later the medieval institutionalization of Aristotle, lasted nearly 2000 years (developed more fully in Koestler, 1959).


V. The Ptolemaic Geocentric System: 2nd-16th centuries CE

Claudius Ptolemy
of Alexandria
87-165 CE

The Ideal-mundane (heavenly-earthly) dualism of Plato (with motivations later furthered by Christian influence by neo-Platonism) led rather directly to the mature Ptolemaic system with its search for 'uniform circular motion.'

However, observation showed that the planets were not behaving with such simple motion. The planets seemed to slow down, pause, and move backward (retrograde motion) instead of pursuing a straightforward motion:



Ptolemy (c 150 CE) The Almagest

So, Ptolemy suggested that the solution to preserve 'uniform circular motion' was to add extra circles or 'epicycles': 

Ptolemaic epicyclic system of planetary motion was able to predict planetary positions, but required a complex addition of ad hoc free parameters in a jerry-rigged, and ultimately untenable system to do so.

(http://www.physics.fsu.edu/courses/fall03/AST1002/section2/History.htm; cf. Koestler, 1959).

The Ptolemaic system required epicycles (circles centered on circles) to explain 'retrograde motion,' i.e., when a planet seems to pause and go in reverse for a time against the background of the fixed stars (since the Copernican Revolution we realize 'retrograde motion' is a perspective effect from the orbit of the earth around the sun).

When matured, the Ptolemaic system required no less than 40 wheels some turning clockwise and some counterclockwise to keep the sky (Sun, Moon, planets, and fixed stars) in 'uniform circular motion—an intellectual monstrosity (Koestler, 1959). Ultimately, the Ptolemaic system was in context a pious cosmology, friendly or at least non-threatening to the theological world-view: An ordered and insular world under divine supervision.


An example of "Epicycle calculations. 16th-century calculations of epicycle motions of an astronomical body. Epicycles were mathematical constructs used to explain geocentric orbits before heliocentric models simplified the calculations. This set of calculations starts in 1580 (labelled at right) and finishes in 1596 (labelled at left). An example of such a calculation was the orbit of the planet Mars as seen from Earth. This diagram is from 'Sphaera mundi' (1635) by Italian Jesuit astronomer and mathematician Giuseppe Biancani (1566-1624)" (https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/568682/view).

VI. Darkening Age: The Great Western Retreat
The cosmologies of Medieval Judeo-Christendom (3rd - 17th centuries CE)
& the pre-Renaissance (3rd to 14th centuries).

"View from the Greenwood cemetery, Brooklyn" (1881) by Rudolph Cronau (1855-1939); from the Brooklyn Museum (link; cf. link & link).
(19th century engravings accompanying Byron's "Greece, sad relic of departed worth"
and Southey's 1802 "Inchcape Rock" about northern Roman antiquity in Scotland).

The ancient science of the classical Greco-Roman was built certain values and methods in seeking a natural cosmology, as we have seen in the heritage of the Ionian Dawn and Greek cosmology. The foundations and achievements of science in the classical Greco-Roman world were multiform (Richard Carrier, 2017. The Scientist in the Early Roman Empire. Durham, NC: Pitchstone Publishing) and they shared and transmitted that knowledge, including cosmology, through education and libraries (Carrier, 2016. Science Education in the Early Roman Empire. Durham, NC: Pitchstone Publishing); see link. Carrier summarizes the epistemic value system of the ancient Greco-Roman scientists along with their methodological accomplishments:

Epistemological & Societal Values Method
  • I. Curiosity: Learning the secrets of Nature is a moral good.
  • II. Empiricism: Observing Nature to learn new things
  • III. Progress: Progress is possible and valuable
  • IV. Freedom: Unhindered by state, religion, or public
  • V. Socio-economic: Public-private careers, pensions, support for research. Physicians, engineers, philosophers, astronomer-astrologers enjoyed respect & middle class status.
Scientific method in the classical Ancient world:
  • (1) Innovative use of instruments
  • (2) Repeatable experiments
  • (3) Mathematical descriptions
  • (4) Logical argument from well-confirmed premises
  • (5) Seeking to establish consensus among experts, even despite their various philosophical schools of thought

A major intellectual change came over the West with the decline of the Greco-Roman classical culture and learning, and the rise of Judeo-Christianity-Islam into ascendance in the Mediterranean world, created a rejection of classical learning and spirituality, intolerance, war, and persecution of dissenters. Although there are classical and Enlightenment era scholar who discussed this decline into the "dark ages," the Renaissance, and then the Enlightenment, these four recent works summarize some of the intellectual and historical roots of the "darkening age."

Kirsch, J. 2005. God Against the Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism. New York, NY: Viking Compass, Penguin Group.

Freeman, C. 2005. The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason. New York, NY: Random House, Vintage.

O'Donnell, J. J. 2016. Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity. New York, NY: HarperCollins, Ecco.

Nixey, C. 2019. The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World. London, UK: Pan MacMillan, Pan Books.

Prelude: Theological world-views have at times delayed and hindered the advance of scientific knowledge of the world. During the decline of Western civilization in the post Roman imperial period, after fall of Rome in 476 CE, religious dogmatism in both Judaism and Christianity, or Judeo-Christendom, pulled various religious thought leaders back into major retreats from the scientific knowledge of the cosmos in the Greco-Roman classical antiquity era.

Kosmas Indicopleustes, 6th century CE entrepreneur, monk (of Nestorian faith), and traveler to the Orient, who authored
Topographia Christiana (547 CE)
  • World represented as a sacred tabernacle (cf. ark of the covenant), where Earth is flattened and bounded by oceans
  • His map of the World indicated a flat earth
Cosmas Indicopleustes world map
(Larger view)
                Christiana_parallelogram flat earth
The Kosmos or World

Macrobian view of the World as a Ptolemaic geocentric sphere, where Earth is spherical, globus terrae.

Macrobian Planetary Diagram
Macrobian cosmography (9th century CE; link)

Isidore of Sevilla's wheel Earth Isidore wheels
Bishop Isidore of Seville (560 - 636 CE) in his widely read Etymologies, held that Earth "resembles a wheel" with zones (cf. Anaximander's disc-shaped world).

With the approach of the Renaissance and the recovery of Greek learning through the Arabic Enlightenment and from Constantinople, a more spherical cosmography of Earth began to reappear.

Hildegard von Bingen's spherical Earth

Hildegard von Bingen (12th century CE) portrayed a spherical Earth with the four seasons in his book, Liber Divinorum Operum.

Left below: 14th century copy of the 12th century L'Image du Monde (c 1246 CE).
Right below: 1550 edition of the 13th century On the Sphere of the World, the most influential astronomy textbook of that time.
14th century
            copy  15th century

The partial Renaissance recovery of classical learning helped make the difference between the earlier view and the latter.

Universum, Flammerion wood
            engraving (1888)
19th century rendition of the medieval conception
indicating a mingling of the ancient Near Eastern idea of the 'dome' of the sky with a 'mechanistic' view of the celestial 'clock works' behind (Universum).

Medieval Judeo-Christian geocentric cosmos
Hierarchy: A modified view of the Medieval Judeo-Christian conception of the geocentric Cosmos, influenced in part by Biblical interpretation and partly by the Ptolemaic system (Joseph, 2010b. Now-defunct Journal of Cosmology, Vol 6, 1548-1615).

VII. The (Aristarchan-)Copernican-Brunesian Revolution
(16th - 21st centuries CE)

After many reluctant years, Nicolas Copernicus nearly on his deathbed, finally allowed his heliocentric theory to be published:

The Earth and all the other planets orbited the Sun, while the Moon orbited the Earth.
The Earth was no longer the center of the Universe.

Nicolaus Copernicus


De Revolutionibus Caelestibus

Copernicus' universe
Copernican system diagram (link).

The formative epoch (16th-19th centuries) of the Copernican Revolution encompassed:

Although the most important consequence was not grasped at first, the new Sun-centered or heliocentric worldview unmoored the Earth from her safe, insular place (in the ancient and Medieval worldviews) and set her adrift in the vast ocean of the cosmos: Every thought system since then has had to come to terms with this in some way whether honestly or otherwise.
Although other Christians and religious thinkers welcomed the evidence, some orthodox reactions were very strong against the new Copernican view (cited in Russell, 1935).
  • The Inquisition agreed to spare Galileo "provided that with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith, in Our presence, you abjure, curse, and detest the said errors and heresies." Mild sentence: "We condemn you to the formal prison of this Holy Office for a period determinable at Our pleasure; and by way of salutary penance, we order you during the next three years to recite, once a week, the seven penitential psalms"
  • Melchior Inchofer, SJ: "The opinion of the earth's motion is of all heresies the most abominable, the most pernicious, the most scandalous; the immovability of the earth is thrice sacred; argument against the immortality of the soul, the existence of God, and the incarnation, should be tolerated sooner than [such] an argument."
  • Martin Luther referred to Copernicus as "an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. . . . This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth."
  • John Calvin: "'The world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved' Ps. xciii, I. Who will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit?"
  • John Wesley: The new ideas in astronomy "tend toward infidelity"
  • Galileo's writings were on the Vatican Index of Prohibited books (Index Prohibitorum) until 1835 / 1822.
  • 1979: Pope John Paul II appointed a commission to study Galileo's case: 13 years later there was a report and...
  • 1992: Pope John Paul II apologized for the church's treatment of Galileo
N. Copernicus' revolutionary book was popularized and published with the assistance of Johannes Rheticus, a Protestant scholar from Wittenberg, the citadel of the Reformation. 
However as attributed to Galileo: "The Scriptures tell us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go" (Hummel, 1986). 

If the Earth was no longer the center, but only one planet orbiting the Sun, then suppose that the Sun was just an ordinary star in an infinite Universe of stars, the Earth would simply be one speck of cosmic dust . . . . within an infinite Universe of unified seamless causality. 

One daring Renaissance clergyman, inspired in part by the Epicurean Revolution, indeed took that next leap of imagination: Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), and thus was part of the underground forces which would launch the Enlightenment a few decades later. 

Bronze statue in the Campo de Fiori (Rome), where Bruno was burnt to death, casting an accusing glance toward St. Peter's:
Giordano Bruno (Campo de Fiori)
Giordano Bruno

Over 4 centuries ago (17 Feb 1600) the great, visionary Giordano Bruno (rebel Dominican friar, philosopher, mathematician, astronomer, free spirit, and even playwright and general polymath (who wrote extensively) was brutally murdered, burnt to death by the Inquisition after long years of imprisonment (Giordano Bruno; see http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/john_kessler/giordano_bruno.html) for various charges of heresies against Catholic dogma, as well as his expansive cosmology of plurality and eternity of worlds. He espoused the heliocentric (Copernican, actually Aristarchus was first) model, going beyond this and holding that the solar system was only one of an infinity of stellar systems in the universe (in fairness, this overall cosmic perspective should be called the Aristarchan-Copernican-Brunesian system). He coined Libertes philosophica, later taken up in the early Radical Enlightenment by Spinoza and Bayle as Libertas philosophandi, i.e., the freedom to think and reason, ideas that gained traction in the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic (before the Orangist restoration), and later throughout Europe in clandestine philosophical circles, and of course ultimately became enshrined in the Rights of Man in the French Revolution, US Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and the UN Declaration of Human Rights, etc. Scientifically and philosophically, Bruno influenced Kepler, Spinoza, and Leibniz, as well as so many others down to our day because he was one of the key founders of the modern scientific world view.

In his 1582 play, Il Candelajo (Candelier or Chandler), he anticipated the idea of the Enlightenment through freedom and the light of knowledge: "Behold in the candle borne by this Chandler, to whom I give birth, that which shall clarify certain shadows of ideas ... I need not instruct you of my belief. Time gives all and takes all away; everything changes but nothing perishes. One only is immutable, eternal and ever endures, one and the same with itself. With this philosophy my spirit grows, my mind expands. Whereof, however obscure the night may be, I await the daybreak, and they who dwell in day look for night ... Rejoice therefore, and keep whole, if you can, and return love for love."

[Continuing from left column... {image}].

In De la Causa, Principio et Uno (On Cause, Principle, and Unity, 1588), he wrote: "The Universe is then one, infinite, immobile.... It is not capable of comprehension and therefore is endless and limitless, and to that extent infinite and indeterminable, and consequently immobile." Bruno also wrote De l'Infinito Universo et Mondi (On the Infinite Universe and Worlds; 1584). The universe's "immobility" should probably be understood in the sense of being infinite and all-encompassing, since the next quote indicates his view of the dynamism within the infinite whole.

Also in De la Causa, he wrote: "This entire globe, this star, not being subject to death, and dissolution and annihilation being impossible anywhere in Nature, from time to time renews itself by changing and altering all its parts. There is no absolute up or down, as Aristotle taught; no absolute position in space; but the position of a body is relative to that of other bodies. Everywhere there is incessant relative change in position throughout the Universe, and the observer is always at the center of things." Given the limitations of knowledge in his time, it is interesting to spot Bruno's anticipation of the notions of the law of conservation of mass-energy, evolution of natural processes, relativity of position in space and time, the ever-changing flux (relativity) of reference frames / inertial systems of moving bodies, and the isotropy of the Universe from the observer's position, and so on.

Even though his day was not a time of freedom, he lived, lectured, and wrote as if free (although he was often on the run), commenting, arguing, denouncing, and expounding on a whole variety of issues that stirred his interest. Needless to say, in publicly critiquing prominent ideas and people, he earned the enmity of powerful enemies, and the fear and condemnation of the oppressive churches and institutions. During his long years of imprisonment, he defended himself vigorously, and refused to recant his views and freedom, even under the frown and threat of the powerful cardinals (including Bellarmine and Camillo Borghese, who became Pope Paul V). He was sentenced to death by Pope Clement VIII on January 20. He replied: "Maiori forsan cum timore sententiam in me fertis quam ego accipiam." "Maybe you give this sentence with greater fear than mine in receiving it." 

We are all among Bruno's beneficiaries!

'The restless spirit of the Copernican Revolution'
former Dominican turned itinerant philosopher, mystic, mentalist, and truth seeker.

Likewise following Lucretius, he anticipated the early Enlightenment Spinozists by monistically equating God and Nature as one infinite substance.
  • Advocated the Copernican system and placed it in an infinite starry universe, an "infinity of worlds":

"There are innumerable suns and an infinite number of planets which circle around their suns as our seven planets circle around our Sun."

  • Argued that the infinity of worlds is necessitated by the infinity of God—a conceptual precursor to Spinoza's thought that the infinity in Nature flows from the necessity of the divine nature (Ethica I).
  • Proposed an early form of the "nebular hypothesis" to account for the origin of our stellar system.

Bruno's theological and philosophical heresies, together with the mistake of returning from N Europe to his native Italy, earned him 7 years in the dungeons of the Inquisition and finally a death sentence. When sentenced to be burnt at the stake (1600) Giordano Bruno said to his judges:

"Perhaps your fear in passing judgment on me is greater than mine in receiving it."

(http://www.theharbinger.org/xvi/971111/birx.html; http://www.theosophy-nw.org/theosnw/world/modeur/ph-holli.htm).

Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) was a martyred witness to the might of truth and truth-seeking in the human quest for truth about the Universe and our place in it, against any and all temporary cults of power.

Giordano Bruno (1548-1600)
In Memoriam ad Gloriam Veritas
(cf. link).

(http://www.nada.kth.se/~fred/tycho/nose.html; http://www.nada.kth.se/~fred/tycho/index.html)

Tycho Brahe

The greatest observational astronomer of his age

Moved toward a heliocentric system by observations, but still held the more traditional cosmology.

Tycho Brahe's semi-heliocentric, semi-geocentric system
cf. http://www.astroportal.sk/astro_gallery/pages/008_ss_Tycho%20Brahe.htm).

A new "physics of the sky"

THE WATERSHED of the Copernican Revolution

Johannes Kepler

Johannes Kepler sought a cosmology not only able to predict the motions of heavenly bodies but able to give a physical explanation of those motions: He succeeded in explaining the retrograde motion as the result of our perspective from a sun-orbiting earth (eliminating the epicycles necessary in the Ptolemaic system). His dream of 'a physics of the sky' or a true physical explanation of the motions of the heavenly bodies would have to await the work of Sir Isaac Newton.

The Copernican model predicted the phases of Venus (which has a smaller orbit closer to the sun than earth). Galileo with his telescope first observed the apparent change in the size of Venus during its phases, an observation also consistent with a heliocentric model, but incompatible with the Ptolemaic system.


The Copernican model also provided an explanation for planetary retrograde motion, as a projection of the larger orbit against the night sky:


Kepler's three laws of planetary motion:
  1. Planets travel in ellipses around the sun, with the sun at one of the foci (work done with motion of Mars: Astronomia Nova, 1609)
  2. The sun-planet sweeps out equal areas in equal intervals of time
  3. The relation between any two planets around the sun is the ratio of the 3/2nd power of their mean distances.
Kepler's 3 laws (L) and the 2nd law (animated, R).


What Johannes Kepler did do for cosmology writ large was one of the early specific statements of the 'cosmological principle' (link) inherent in a 'Copernican-Brunesian principle' (link) where Earth occupies no special place in the cosmos but is a typical location, such that the Universe exhibits homogeneity and isotropy at sufficient (cosmological) scale—a principle which has been assumed and useful in cosmology-making in the modern era but not established. In his Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanæ (1617-1621), Kepler like a few thinkers ever since Democritus and Epicurus represented the Earth (Mundus) as simply belonging to our Sun as a star just as any star would be in our cosmos.

From Kepler's Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanæ (1617-1621), in a Doctrina Sphærica where M stands for Mundus or world, i.e., Earth (link), where by implication the 'cosmological principle,' where our Earth is not at a special vantage place or peering from a special view upon the Universe.

This was the continuing forward leap in cosmic world-view, getting outside of our conceptions and narrow self-focus. 

Galileo's Discoveries and his unintended Silent Revolution

Galileo sharing his telescopic discoveries about the Moon and the Jovian moons; Jean Leon Huens, Artist

Galileo's looking out at the Universe through the telescope is one of the pivotal and revolutionary moments in the human understanding of the cosmos, and the construction of a more enlightened world-view. For an excellent overview of the changes in views of the cosmos from prehistory to Galileo's telescopes, see link. As epochal as all that is, it was not the deeper Galilean Silent Revolution.

Galilean Silent Revolution. The natural philosophy edifice of Aristotle as institutionalized / hegemonized in Christendom is what Galileo overthrew in an unintended way. The hegemony of Aristotelian Ptolemaicism with a Judeo-Christian setting was the established Medieval cosmology, upon which were sur-added the "great chain of being" and so on.

Outside the sub-lunar terrestrial spheres are the incorruptible celestial spheres, beyond all of which is the Empyrean realm of the habitation of God over all (Peter Apian, cosmic representation, 1524).
Aristotelian causation included the "end," "purpose," or final "cause" (τέλος, telos), i.e., "that for the sake of which a thing is done." It is the last of 4 types of causes: (α) material, (β) formal, (γ) efficient, and (δ) final.

The Ptolemaic / Aristotelian physics / Christendom cosmology consisted of concentric spheres centered on the classical elements (i) Water, (ii) Earth, (iii) Air, and (iv) Fire (in the terrestrial corruptible spheres where the characteristics are made up of different elemental compositions (dry, cold, hot, wet), and the higher spheres include the 5th classical element Aether in the celestial spheres (link).

Galileo Galilei
Professor of Mathematics
University of Pisa
07 January 1610: First light: Galileo first turned a telescope on the heavens: Saw the mountains on the moon & the moons of Jupiter, &c.
  • In 1638, founded the modern science of mechanics (1638) by applying mathematics to the real world, reducing celestial and terrestrial motion to one kind of motion. 
  • In writings he defended the Copernican world-view and attacked the Ptolemaic.
  • Galileo's inadvertent punch, the Silent Revolution: Efficient causes replace 'final causes.' Natural events are explained by efficient causes, leaving appeal to 'final causes' apparently unnecessary and redundant:
    • Raised the specter of a "purposeless world."
    • Also anticipated a view of an ordered world of 'seamless causality' a recovery of the Ionian Enlightenment insights especially of Leuchippus, Democritus, Epicurus, and the Epicurean school.
(Audi [ed.] et al. 1995).

In raising up (again) the idea of efficient natural causation, Galileo revolutionized physics (and all science) on the basis of the study of empirical data, and made many specific advances toward a more accurate cosmology. What empirical world-view did Galileo begin to construct with his scientific instruments?

Galileo's telescope
Magnificent early Galilean telescopes

Some of his contributions were tests consistent with and then also confirmatory of the newly recovered, hypothetical cosmology, that of the (Aristarchan-)Copernican heliocentric system (link):

The Aristotelian Medieval view was that the more massive body would fall faster because it had a higher mixture of the heavier of the 4 elements, and so would get to the bottom faster. Galileo, using his law of falling bodies in uniform acceleration (in what we now call a gravitational field) predicted that they would fall at the same rate, if they were not interfered with my the material medium through which they passed. The Leaning Tower of Piza experiment embodies law of falling bodies. 

In 1971, Apollo 15 astronaut, David Scott, repeated the experiment on the Moon using a hammer and a falcon feather, chosen for the Apollo 15 lunar lander, Falcon. (Cf. Galileo's tower experiment; Apollo 15 video; on YT).
Law of falling bodies (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_Leaning_Tower_of_Pisa_experiment).


While the crescent phases of Venus could be explained by Earth-centered epicycles, where that of Venus had a smaller radius the epicycle of the Sun, the greater than half phases of Venus could not be explained in the Ptolemaic paradigm, but required a heliocentric model, the (Aristarchan-)Copernican cosmology.

Ptolemaic system prediction
(Aristarchan-)Copernican prediction

The Ptolemaic system only predicts different sizes of crescent-phases for Venus, while the (Aristarchan-)Copernican system predicts non-crescent, less than full phases of Venus as well (Image link).

The >1/2 Venusian phases and the telescopic angular size variations falsify the Ptolemaic system, and are consistent with and confirmatory of the predictions of the heliocentric (Aristarchan-)Copernican system:

In the animation, the magenta dot shows the postulated heliocentric orbital path of Venus from Earth's perspective (right), compared to the change in angular size (left) we would see in a small telescope as Venus' orbit brought it closer to and further from Earth, as Venus orbits the Sun (link).
The combination of Kepler's Laws of planetary motion (based on Kepler's ingenious extrapolations from Tycho's observations of the Martian orbit with it's retrograde motion) along with the Venusian phase observations of Galileo definitively falsified the Ptolemaic cosmology. Proclaiming that spelt trouble for Galileo down near Rome.

Galileo's famous confrontation with the established Roman Catholic Church and the Roman Inquisition is dramatically depicted in this painting:

Cristiano Banti (1857), "Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition"

The controversy over cosmology in both Catholic and Protestant Christendom continued for a number of centuries thereafter up through the Enlightenment and beyond. In our recent times, some quite apologetic re-writings of the history of the controversy have emerged, often making excuses for Christendom's actions against and suppression of heliocentricism, and even victim-blaming Galileo for not being more diplomatic and thereby hurting feelings in high places, and so forth. However, it is instructive to trace what earlier historians and many primary documents stated (see historian, educational reformer, founder of Cornell University, Andrew Dickson White's 1896 volume I of A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, New York, NY: Appleton; reprinted in 1993 by Prometheus Press, Amherst, NY; chapters III, IV; pp. 114-208; also https://archive.org/details/historyofwarfare189701whit).

The replacing of teleological (Aristotelian) 'final causes-purposes' by natural 'efficient causes' was Galileo's unintended Silent Revolution. If only natural 'efficient causes' need to be invoked, one might wonder whether teleological (Aristotelian) 'final causes-purposes' even exist, leaving one with a 'purposeless world.' This was one revolutionary philosophical result of Galileo's work. Essentially most of western history since and modern culture, literature, art, philosophy, and religion since then can be understood to be a reaction implicitly or explicitly, and a wrestling with the specter of a "purposeless world" raised by Galileo's Silent Revolution at the dawn of the age of science (cf. W. T. Stace's essay. 1948. Man against Darkness. The Atlantic Monthly 182, 53-58). The intellectual world of the West has never been the same since then.

The thesis-antithesis of Galileo's confrontation with the theological cosmology of western Christendom led to a synthetic denouement as regards the leading ecclesiastical institution of western Christianity, the Roman Catholic hierarchy, with whom Galileo directly clashed, and under which he suffered confinement and humiliation.

Vatican Observatory

The Vatican Observatory has given it's own apologetic retelling of "the Galileo Affair" so-called: The Galileo Affair, in explanation of the question of why Galileo got in trouble with the church, and claiming that the church has never been opposed in principle to the advance of science. That is of course a complex question for historical research of which there has been much, not a matter of Vatican assertion. Too much historical documentation shows that the church has often found itself in de facto and sometimes even malicious opposition to many advances of science.

On 10 November 1979, the then recently elected pontiff, John Paul II, in an audience celebrating the 100th anniversary of Einstein's birth with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the College of Cardinals, and the Vatican Diplomatic Corps, asked for theologians, scholars, and historians, with scientists to study and clarify the events of the confrontation between Galileo and the church, within the context of the so-called Ptolemaic-Copernican controversy of the 16th and 17th centuries. Thus started the Studi Galileiani commission which issued its reports in several volumes over the years (link), the one on science and epistemology co-directed by Director of the Vatican Observatory (1977-2006), George Coyne, S.J., appointed by Pope John Paul I. Pope John Paul II officially closed the work of the commission in 31 October 1992 with a conciliatory apology / non-apology for how the church treated Galileo and the controversy (Vatican documents).

Castle Gandolfo: Papal residence outside of the Vatican as well as home to the Vatican Observatory (link):
Castel Gandolfo Vatican Observatory (2018)

Although Galileo and his famous stand in the face of theological authority in Christendom triggered the Galilean Revolution, the pursuit of 'efficient causation' which was a furtherance of the Epicurean Revolution, re-introduced secretly through Lucretius' Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) in the European Renaissance. One of the major steps forward in the early Enlightenment was the philosophy of Rene Descartes (Cartesianism), and the development of the philosophical advance toward the modern scientific world-view and its vision of an ordered world of 'seamless efficient causality' was also the 17th century Dutch-Jewish dissident Radical Enlightenment philosopher, Benedict de Spinoza who became one of the very key founders of the Enlightenment and the modern world-view. He did this largely by opposing authority in religion and philosophy, rejecting neo-Platonic and Cartesian dualism in favor of a naturalistic (Epicurean) monism—the entire world is of a single coherent 'substance' or whole, determined by natural laws of necessary, of efficient causality.

René Descartes (1596-1650)
Early Enlightenment rationalist philosopher and mathematician, considered the father of modern philosophy
(http://philosophy-of-cosmology.ox.ac.uk/descartes.html; link).

The Cartesian Vortex cosmology image (link) from his 1644 Principia Philosophiae, resembling a bubble foam.

In the repeated references above and in chapter II as well as in the main hub of our Enlightenment legacy homepage, to Benedict de Spinoza (17th century optics-maker, philosophe, heretic outcast from Judeo-Christianity), and one of the founding fathers of the Radical Enlightenment, we must note that this philosopher in adopting and thinking through the consequences of metaphysical monism, he in a sense was also a contributor to cosmology, and viewing the Universe as a whole, and thinking about the relation of mythos to cosmos to ethos.

Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677)
Radical Enlightenment philosopher
(cf. Israel, 2001; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spinoza.jpg; see Chapter II).

Now we turn to the likely greatest genius and physicist of the last millennium, Sir Isaac Newton.

Sir Isaac Newton & a Physics of the Skies / the Universe at last

(Image; larger version).
Published the masterpiece Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, or the Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, in 1687.

Three Universal Laws of Motion (summarized and in translation from the Latin; link; link; link, where we use p from Latin pellere 'push, drive').

In summary:
  • I. A body remains at rest, or in motion at a constant speed in a straight line, unless acted upon by a force. (See the history of 'inertia' under E. Mach below).
  • II. The net force on a body is equal to the body's acceleration multiplied by its mass or, equivalently, the rate at which the body's momentum changes with time.
  • III. If two bodies exert forces on each other, these forces have the same magnitude but opposite directions.
And translated from Newton's Latin:
  • I. Every body perseveres in its state of rest, or of uniform motion [quantitus motus, 'quantity of motion,' i.e., inertia / momentum] in a straight line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.
    or     ,
where —>p or p (the momentum) = the
(mass times) X —>v or v (velocity is speed & direction).

  • II. The change of motion [mutatio motus, i.e., Δ in inertia / momentum] of an object is proportional to the force impressed; and is made in the direction of the straight line in which the force is impressed.
The Ist Law having defined momentum (inertia), the IInd Law defines force —>F
    , i.e.,    
as the instantaneous rate / derivative of momentum
—>p with respect to the time derivative, dt, which when there's no variation in mass m, dt acts only on —>v, i.e., acceleration —>a. Force can also be defined in terms of acceleration as the second derivative of location, d2—>s with respect to time, dt2:

  • III. To every action, there is always opposed an equal reaction; or, the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts [equal and opposite].

Newton's IIIrd Law also implied the deeper Law of Conservation of Momentum / Momenta (momentum of a system = vector sum of its momenta; link) with opposing forces F1 and F2 from the IInd Law, requiring a symmetry of + and - signs (cf. Noether's Theorem, link):

and of Kinetic Energy including in a system of many particles with a center of mass (link).
& center of mass calculations (Euler's 1st law):

which in a world with elastic head-on collisions, we have conservation of momenta and of kinetic energy, where u1 and u2 are velocities before collision, and v1 and v2

The laws of motion were also applied to angular momenta and ultimately to gravity.
Universal Law of Gravitation / Gravity (link, from Latin gravitas 'weight'): Force of attraction between bodies is proportional to the product of their masses and diminishing as the square of the distance between them:

where F (force), m1 and m2 are two masses, r2 is the square of the distance between, G is the gravitational constant, 6.674 × 10-11 m3⋅kg-1⋅s-2.

Apocryphally inspired by the fall of an apple from an apple tree in Cambridge.

(Smoot & Davidson, 1993).

Upon these universal laws and gravitation, any orbit and associated masses could in principle be calculated near & far across the vast expanses of the Universe.

The broad foundations of the questions which modern physics and cosmology seeks to address were largely laid by Sir Isaac Newton.

Sir Isaac Newton

Co-discoverer of the calculus with Gottfried Leibniz (nearly 1000 years after Archimedes,
who first proposed the methods of integral calculus in his Palimpsest), Sir Isaac Newton solved every major problem in physics known in his day, and has been called 'the greatest genius of all time'.... Newton provided 'the physics of the sky' sought by Johannes Kepler.

Newton's Laws of Motion (Momentum) and Gravity were built upon and depend on notions of coordinate space, intervals of time, particle-bodies or point-masses, velocity (speed over time in coordinate space) discovered by others, and prerequisite to making sense of Newton's work. Although, Newton called it 'the science of fluxions' or calculus, the method of limits and infinitesmals for which we use Leibniz' analytic notations, is a foundation of Newtonian physics.  

Velocity is the average change in location (speed) of a body / point-mass over an interval of time, as indicated:

where Δs is the change in location (speed) over Δt, the change in time, calculated by taking the difference between the end location s(t1) minus the starting location s(t0) divided by the difference in time interval between end of interval t1 and the start of the time interval, t0.

In order to find the velocity of a body / point-mass at any given instant in time, we take the limit of the velocity as the time interval Δt approaches 0, also called the derivative of Δs with respect to time (ds / dt) when Δt —> 0.

so that velocity (v) is the instantaneous change in position s(t) or ds at any instantaneous moment in time, dt.

Newton's 'fluxions' and laws of motion (& universal gravitation) were ultimately applied to harmonic oscillating motion, to multi-body gravitational systems (3-body problem), to statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, kinetic theory of atomic gases and Brownian motion of a larger particle pummeled by smaller atomic particles:

Brownian motion of particles in an atomic / molecular gas (cont. link).

As well as on to electromagnetism, special and general relativity, and quantum mechanics in the modern atomic world (see more below).

After Pierre-Simon Laplace published his five-volume Traité de Mécanique Céleste (1798-1825; volumes linked in the https://enlightenmentlegacy.net/ Chronology of the Enlightenment) converting Newton's orbital mechanics into analytic algebraic form, and solving other problems, Mary Somerville (see below) expanded on Laplace's first two volumes in her Mechanism of the Heavens (1831), where she built a towering pillar to the dream of a 'physics of the skies'—deducing the inverse-square Law of Universal Gravitation from from Kepler's 3 laws of planetary motion.

(p. 157; cont. link).

(Arp 273: Galaxies UGC 1810 and 1813 in a gravitational dance; link).

Sir Isaac Newton, a repressed, irascible, cantankerous, brooding, and lonely man, despite being in part enthralled by (a) the old medieval world of alchemy, hermetic esoterica, biblical prophecies, and arcane theology, and (b) being cautiously involved in the zeitgeist and semi-hesitant world-view of the moderate Enlightenment, nonetheless (c) his singular massive scientific contributions brought the Greek category of physics to the heavens, uniting the mundane and the 'supramundane,' the terrestrial and the celestial, decisively carrying the study of the Universe out of the old realm of 'metaphysics' and mythogeny into the new, emerging realms of physics, astronomy, cosmogony, and cosmology.
In all this, he inadvertently advanced the Radical Enlightenment tradition from Democritus, Epicurus, onward, upward, and outward toward the infinitude of Nature. Within the Epicurean-Galilean-Copernican Revolutionary tradition, Sir Isaac took some of the boldest steps in transforming our world-views from mythos to cosmos, and became one of the leading but reluctant luminaries of the Enlightenment. (For more on Sir Isaac's role and the role of moderate Newtonian philosophy in the intellectual conflicts of the Enlightenment, see relevant passages in the historical works by Israel, 2001, 2005, and Stewart, 2014, cited in the Enlightenment Legacy website's "Select Bibliography and Online Resources"). 

The Enlightenment Radicalizing of the (Aristarchan-)Copernican Revolution

One of the mind-expanding effects of the early Enlightenment was a vast conceptual expansion of the cosmology of the Copernican Revolution. Before the publication of the Newtonian advances in astronomy and physics (1687), there was the celestial cartography of Dutch cartographer, engraver, and artist of the Dutch Golden Age, Frederik de Wit (c1629 - 1706; link) who owned a shop, De Witte Pascaert in Amsterdam. As an engraver he worked on map publication, including Nova Orbis Tabula in Lucem Edita and Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Tabula (c1660). About 1670, he published his atlas of the Netherlands,
Nieuw Kaertboeck van de XVII Nederlandse Provincien (20 engravings), followed by a marine atlas in 1675. By 1695, he was publishing urban maps of Dutch cities. In 1898, he published his atlas of all Dutch cities and villages, Le theatre des plans de toutes les villes qui sont situeez dans les XVII Provinces du Pays Bas parfaictement deseigneez, under the title, Theatrum ichnographicum omnium urbium et praecipuorum oppidorum belgicarum XVII provinciarum peraccurate delineatarum (first edition with 124 engravings, 2nd edition with 128 engravings; title). It was in 1670, when de Wit published his planisphere and celestial sky map of the constellations (referenced earlier in the history of the constellations), with representations of rival cosmologies.

De Wit's 1670 celestial map of the ancient constellations, including Bayer's added constellations (link).

De Wit's celestial map was published 17 years before Newton's Principia in the midst of the Copernican Revolution, and on the margins he published graphical schema of the rival cosmologies from the ancient Greeks to the controversies of his day.

In the order in which De Wit placed them, with the main rivals Hypothesis Ptolemaica (top center) and Hypothesis Copernicana (bottom center):


From this milieu, philosophes of the Enlightenment (moderate and Radical) building on the larger Epicurean-Brunesian views of the Copernican Revolution took the further leap of imagining farther than ever seen before. By 1750, a mere 80 years later, visionaries reaching out beyond the telescopic vistas glimpsed by the Herschel family astronomers and others, not only saw the Sun with its orbiting planets, the stars as their own stellar systems (like Epicurus and Bruno), but also peered out to glimpse the possibility that our whole star system, the Milky Way, was just a speck, like our own Sun among the stars, amidst a boundless realm of star systems stretching away into infinity, a world of 'island universes' of alien star systems in the abyssal night. The scientific data confirming an 'island universe' cosmology only caught up to their imaginative vision more than one and a half centuries later, ending a 20 year controversy of the first two decades of the 20th century.

By the mid-18th century, two philosophers had taken that leap. In 1750, English astronomer and mathematician Thomas Wright published his An original Theory or new Hypothesis of the Universe, founded upon the Laws of Nature, and solving by Mathematical Principles the General Phaenomena of the Visible Creation; and particularly The Via Lactea. Compris'd in Nine Familiar Letters from the Author to his Friend. And Illustrated with upwards of Thirty Graven and Mezzotinto Plates, By the Best Masters (London, UK: H. Chappelle, Grosvenor-Street; entire 1750 volume Gutenberg pdf). In 1755, philosopher Immanuel Kant published Allgemeine Naturgeschichte und Theorie des Himmels or Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens (full text in German and in English).

Early pioneers of the "island universes" an insight that the Universe is far more than our local stellar system, the Milky Way. 
Figure of distant star systems from Wright's An Original Theory or New Hypothesis of the Universe (1750).

Of those numerous faint nebulae which we now know to be distant galaxies of stars, Wright wrote:
  • "..the many cloudy spots, just perceivable by us, as far without our Starry regions, in which tho' visibly luminous spaces, no one star or particular constituent body can possibly be distinguished; those in all likelyhood may be external creation, bordering upon the known one, too remote for even our telescopes to reach."
In a passage that surely resembles and seems to place Wright among the non-providential Deists of the Radical Enlightenment, he extended the Copernican Revolution world-view thus:
  • "In this great Celestial Creation, the Catastrophy of a World, such as ours, or even the total Dissolution of a System of Worlds, may possibly be no more to the great Author of Nature, than the most common Accident in Life with us, and in all Probability such final and general Dooms Days may be as frequent there, as even Birth-Days or Mortality with us upon this Earth."

Thomas Wright (Enlightenment
Thomas Wright

English philosopher, astronomer, mathemetician, instrument maker, architect, designer of gardens (
Wikipedia; Thomas Wright's star systems: http://www.torinoscienza.it/galleria_multimediale/apri?obj_id=1589)

Wright published his An Original Theory or New Hypothesis of the Universe (1750): What appears to us as a Milky Way is "an optical effect due to our immersion in what locally approximates to a flat layer of stars."
In 1755 Kant proposed the 
"island universe" hypothesis of spiral nebulae as other Milky Way galaxies, in his work, here in full text: Universal Natural History and Theory of Heaven
(& in the original German: Allgemeine Naturgeschichte und Theorie des Himmels):

  • "Now, if the fixed stars make up a system whose extent is determined by the sphere of attraction of the body located at the centre, will not more solar systems and, so to speak, more Milky Ways have arisen, which were produced in the limitless field of space? With astonishment we have seen figures in the heavens which are nothing other than such systems of fixed stars restricted to a common plane, such Milky Ways, if I may express myself in this way, which present themselves to our eyes in different positions with a weakly glimmering elliptical shape appropriate to their infinite distance away. They are systems, so to speak, of infinitely more infinite diameter than the diameter of our solar system, but without doubt they arose in the same way, are organized and arranged by the same causes, and maintain themselves by the same dynamics as our system in its arrangement."Section Seven: Concerning Creation in the Total Extent of its Infinity Both in Space and Time.
  • It is fascinating to note that Immanuel Kant (and in implication, Thomas Wright) anticipated the extension of the Copernican Principle across time and space, such as was later framed as the so-called Perfect Cosmological Principle (mid 20th century).

Immanuel Kant
One of the most influential moderate philosophers of the Enlightenment (Aufklarung) in Germany, epistemologist, moral philosopher-ethicist, metaphysician, political-educational theorist, early thinker in anthropology, &c.

Although rather obsessed with circles and globes, Thomas Wright's expansive vision of the cosmos (See select plates).

Plate II. "A representation of a solar System." Note: Wright does not refer in his text to the οὐροβόρος or ouroboros, i.e., 'tail-eating' serpent encircling the then-known solar system beyond Saturn. While this may indicate an interest in esotericism, he could be referring to the οὐροβόρος as the originally-Egyptian symbol of chaos surrounding the ordered cosmos (cf. Hornung, 1982. Conceptions of God in Egypt: The One and the Many. Cornell University Press. pp. 163-64), a conception which Wright was bursting, pushing back the chaos, with his new theory of cosmos.

Plate IV. "A true Delineation of the Solar System, with the Trajectories of three of the principal Comets. The Scale being nearly five hundred and eighteen Millions of Miles to an Inch."

Plate IX. "An exact Scheme of the principal known Comets, in just Proportion, to the Globe of the Earth."

Plate V. "A true Projection of the System of the known Comets, all in just Proportion and Position to the Orbits of Saturn and Jupiter." Note: Perhaps including the comets of 1680, 1682, 1665, 1742, 1744.

Plate XI. "Geometrical Scale to all the primary Parts of the visible Creation, with regard to the Distance of Orbits of Mercury, Saturn and Syrius, compared with the Globe of the Sun." Note: The importance of the Dog star, Sirius (now known to be ~8 ly away) in the imagination of the ancients up to the modern era may be indicated here.

L-R: Plate XII. "[Hemisphere] where the true Tract of this most surprizing Zone of Light is distinguished amongst the principal Stars." Plate XIII. "[Hemisphere] where the true Tract of this most surprizing Zone of Light is distinguished amongst the principal Stars." Note: The reference is to La Via Lactea or the Milky Way. The other light band is the Sun's annual path or the ecliptic with its constellations.

In essence he argued that the our view of the Milky Way was, "an optical effect due to our immersion in what locally approximates to a flat layer of stars" (link). On the form of the Milky Way, La Via Lactea, he specifically wrote: "To a Spectator placed in an indefinite Space, all very remote Objects appear to be equally diftant from the Eye; and if we judge of the Via Lactea from Phenomena only, we muft of courfe conclude it a vaft Ring of Stars, fcattered promifcuoufly round the celeftial Regions in the Direction of a perfect Circle" (Ibid., p. 48).

Plate XVII. "A perspective View of the visible Creation, including the regions around our Sun, Syrius and Rigel. The rest is a promiscuous Disposition of all the Variety of other Systems within our finite Vision, as they are supposed to be posited behind one another, in the infinite Space, and round every visible Star." Note: This evocative image denotes "the theory of the plurality of world" famously linked with Bruno.

Plate XXIII. View from being within a cross  section of the "artificial Horizon of a Globe [of stars]" with "all the stars scattered promiscuously." Note: In the Wrightian model, the Milky Way is a horizontal view of a global star system.

Plate XXIV. "A Representation of the Convexity, if I may call it so, of the intire Creation [Milky Way system], as a universal Coalition of all the Stars consphered round one general Center, and as all governed by one and the same Law." Note: Again, the Wrightian model of systems of stars, what Kant later called 'island universes' and we today call galaxies.

Plate XXVI. "A Creation of a double Construction, where a superior Order of Bodies C, may be imagined to be circumscribed by the former one A, as possessing a more eminent Seat, and nearer the supream Presence, and consequently of a more perfect Nature." Note: A conception of worlds of stars within worlds of stars.

Plate XXVII. Entails a cross-sectional view of Wright's conception of "A Creation of a double Construction," such "as I hope will give you a perfect Idea of what I mean by such a Theory."

Plate XXIX. By analogy to Saturn's rings at the star system level, "not only the Phenomena of the Milky Way may be thus accounted for, but also all the cloudy Spots, and irregular Distribution of them."

Plate XXVIII. Using analogy of star systems "in the Manner of Saturn's Rings, nay, perhaps Ring within Ring, to a third or fourth Order."

Plate XXXII. "The Object of that incomprehensible Being, which alone and in himself comprehends and constitutes supreme Perfection."

Plate XXXI. "You may if you please, call a partial View of Immensity, or without much Impropriety perhaps, a finite View of Infinity." Note: Wright's vision in this engraving gives us the earliest known reach-exceeding the grasping of the Universe of galaxies and galaxy clusters stretching away into infinity.
Links: A searchable facsimile of Wright, 1750.

In Wright's discussion leading up to Plate XXXI, he says,
"And farther fince without any Impiety; fince as the Creation is, fo is the Creator alfo magnified, we may conclude in Confequence of an Infinity, and an infinite all-aCtive Power; that as the vifible Creation is fuppofed to be full of fiderial Syftems and planetary Worlds, fo on, in like fimilar Manner, the endlefs Immenfity is an unlimited Plenum of Creations not unlike the known Univerfe." In the following paragraph, he summarizes his vision to include the faint nebulae barely discernible with the eye or the telescopes of his day: "That this in all Probability may be the real Cafe, is in fome Degree made evident by the many cloudy Spots, juft perceivable by us, as far without our ftarry Regions, in which thofe vifibly luminous Spaces, no one Star or particular conftituent Body can pofiibly be diftinguifhed; thofe in all likelyhood may be external Creation, bordering upon the known one, too remote for even our Telefcopes to reach." (Ibid., pp. 83-84).

In 1756, James Ferguson (1710-1776) popularized the findings of Newtonian cosmology of the Enlightenment era in his Astronomy Explained On Sir Isaac Newton's Principles and Made Easy to Those Who Have not Studied Mathematics (1766; 1756), London, UK: Andrew Millar:

London, Andrew Millar: 1756.

James Ferguson (1710-1776); Scottish astronomer.
(link; https://archive.org/details/b28758948; link).


The Observational Astronomical Revolution of Charles Messier et al., and the family Herschel (1771 - 1789). After the advent of the telescope, before the advent of astrophotography, graphic representations of the telescopic views of celestial objects had to be produced by hand drawings and sketches. Pioneers in such visual astronomy, who advanced observational astronomy during the Enlightenment, included French astronomer and comet hunter Charles Messier and the German-English astronomer William Herschel and his astronomer son and daughter, the brother and sister team of John Herschel and Carolina Herschel, as well as other early visual astronomer pioneers.

Charles Messier

Astronomer and discoverer of comets, who together with his assistant colleague, astronomer and surveyor,

Pierre François André Méchain

Used telescopes to compile (with later additions from other astronomers even in the 20th century) a catalogue ultimately of 110 celestial objects consisting of what is now known to be 4 planetary nebulae, 7 other types (nebulae, dark nebulae, star clusters with nebulae), 26 open star clusters, 29 globular clusters, and 39 galaxies (citation):

Messier's drawing of the famous nebula in Orion (M42).

(from 1781 facsimile).

The 110 Messier objects:


For one of the most comprehensive books published on the Messier objects, please see Stoyan, R. et al. / Mirza, Umair (link). 2008. Atlas of The Messier Objects: Highlights Of The Deep Sky. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. https://archive.org/details/atlas-of-the-messier-objects-highlights-of-the-deep-sky.
Sky map of ...


And next we go to the extraordinary works of the family Herschel.


A natural origin (cosmogony) of the solar system

Modern cosmogony (the study of the natural origin of structure in the Universe), building on and clarifying the ideas of Emmanuel Swedenborg and Immanuel Kant, started in a quantitative sense with an Enlightenment era French monsieur:

Pierre Simon de Laplace
A purveyor of the Radical Enlightenment worldview, he wrote
  • Exposition du Systéme du Monde (1796): The Nebular Hypothesis of the origin of the solar system.
  • Traité de Mécanique Céleste (5 volumes over 26 years, 1799-1825): Showed that the eccentricities and inclinations of planetary orbits to each other always remain small, constant, and self-correcting. The solar system is stable, without the divine intervention about which Newton speculated.
  • Théorie Analytique Des Probabilités (1812): Established the foundation of probability theory.
  • Also contributed to differential equations, physics, and mathematics.
  • He published tidal equations and the equations of spherical harmonics.
  • Far ahead of his time, he even proposed that some stars may be so massive that light cannot escape their gravity, i.e., black holes (Laplace, 1799. Allgemeine geographische Ephemeriden herausgegeben von F. von Zach. IV. Band, I. Stuck, I. Abhandlung, Weimar; link).
The modern Nebular Hypothesis
                  nebular hypothesis
(The nebular hypothesis)

The early claim that it is a special 'providential' circumstance that all the planets orbit in the same direction and are in the same basic plane was explained naturally by the breaking off of bodies from the central condensing cloud of gas which became the Sun.
The modern Nebular Hypothesis is an elegant naturalistic cosmogony: Fundamental forces build a new stellar-planetary system:
  • (1) nuclear strong force in fusion builds the elements in the nebula from earlier star generations,
  • (2) gravity and
  • (3) angular moment cause condensing cloud into protostar and rotating planetary disk, cooling condensing into dust
  • (4) ignition of nuclear fusion & stellar winds blows the new stellar system clear of nebular gas and dust,
  • (5) while disk fragments collide into planets, some of which have active cores heated by radioactivity, in part a product of the nuclear weak force. 
                  solar system
Reportedly, when receiving a copy of Laplace's Traite, this exchange took place:

Napoleon: "M. Laplace, they tell me you have written this large book on the system of the universe, and have never even mentioned its Creator.'' 

de Laplace: "I have no need of that hypothesis [Je n'avais pas besoin de cette hypothese-la].''

Modern 'recipe' for stellar-planetary system formation in simplified steps (Webblink):

Ingredients and mechanisms for planetary birth and evolution (Image link).

Creation of the
        our solar system
The formation of a stellar system (panoramicuniverse.com).

However for many Enlightenment freethinkers, the idea that an orderly, causal Newtonian universe pointed to the existence of a Supreme Being, quite apart from any revelation, a viewpoint called Deism, which could be either of the providential or nonprovidential (radical) variety. This conception forwarded the emerging Enlightenment ideals of free inquiry, freedom of conscience, and individual liberties. There were some for whom 18th century freethought included modern naturalistic atheism. Charles Darwin's Origin of species (1859) with its exposition of life as the result of evolution and the struggle for existence was not far behind:

The image that became current was that of a lonely mechanical world and an absentee God was a stereotype of the position of the Enlightenment Deists. Actually most of them believed in providence and had a far more optimistic worldview. By the 19th century, for many freethought was becoming more pessimistic.


The late 19th century poet, Matthew Arnold captured the proto-existential angst of the late Victorian time:
"I am a wanderer between worlds, the one dead and the other powerless to be born."

As telescopic astronomy advanced through the 18th and 19th centuries, the cosmic realm of the 'fixed stars' continued to acquire vastly increasing depth. A beautiful example may be found in the case of the "Amas du Toucan" or 47 Toucanae (47 Tuc) located in the southern constellation Toucan (imagined by Petrus Plancius c1598, and memorialized in Bayer's Uranometria, 1603, 1661). It was the other great early cosmographer / uranographer and astronomer, Abbe Nicolas Louis de Lacaille (1713-1762), who published the ~10,000 southern star catalog, Coelum Australe Stelliferum (1762) including 14 new southern constellations, including the break up of Argo Navis, who first realized that 47 Toucanae is too misty and fuzzy to be a single star. 47 Toucanae also was included in the great work by another French astronomer, Charles Messier, Catalogue des Nebuleuses et des Amas d'Etoiles (Catalogue of Nebulae and Star Clusters) in 1771. It was the great telescopic German-English astronomer, Sir William Herschel, who along with his siblings Caroline Herschel and John Herschel, observed and documented stars, binaries (double stars), star clusters, and nebulae for many decades, who made this representation, transferred into an engraving. Today, we know that 47 Toucanae is a Milky Way galactic globular cluster 120 light-years wide, and 16,700 light-years distant from Earth, now designated as NGC 104.


The beautiful engraving behind this artistic image came from Amedee Guillemin (1865), Le Ciel: Notions d'Astronomie a l'Usage des Gens du Monde et de la Jeunesse (Librairie de L. Hachette and Company; see the Clark Digital Collections). What it reveals is the emerging profound profound perception of depth of the Universe (moving away from the impression of a dome of fixed stars which is such a temptation to the unaided and uniformed eye). This increase in depth accompanying the emergence of modern cosmology-making with and since the Scientific Revolution and the ensuing Enlightenment.

VIII. The (Aristarchan-)Copernican Revolution coming of age
(19th-early 20th centuries)

Although Kepler and Newton sought and began to deliver what we've called a 'physics of the sky,' cosmology only became a branch of physics in the 20th century (see discussion in Hermann Bondi's classic,
1950; 1959. Cosmology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press). However, there were two major yet simple 19th century observations and thought conceptions which paved the way for modern cosmology in the 20th century. One of these was by German astronomer Heinrich W. M. Olbers and the other German physicist Ernst Mach.

Olber's Paradox was an insight by German astronomer and physician, Heinrich Wilhelm Mathias Olbers: He asked the simple question, Why is the sky dark at night?

The dark sky at Night.

Along with others, he reasoned thus, if there were an infinite number of stars homogeneously placed at scale in a Universe infinite in space and in time, every line of sight would eventually land on some stellar surface and the sky should be as bright as the surface of the Sun, or even infinitely bright. Why is it not?


(link; animation of Olber's Paradox, link).

With great clarity in the mid-20th century, cosmologist Hermann Bondi stated the assumptions of Olber's Paradox (1950; 1959. Cosmology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press), chapter III:
  • "(i) The average density of stars and their average luminosity do not vary throughout space.
  • (ii) The same quantities do not vary with time.
  • (iii) There are no large systematic movements of the stars.
  • (iv) Space is Euclidean.
  • (v) The known laws of physics apply."
With these powerful assumptions, Olber's Paradox seems impregnable, even with absorption, scatter, and re-emission of light under thermal equilibrium, yet our observed night sky is dark. Bondi pointed out that cosmologists have struggled as of his time, debating which of Olber's assumptions are not sound, especially among postulates (i), (ii), (iii), and (v), leaving us with a dark night sky.

The standard resolution to the paradox, given that stars do not last for ever, and that (galaxies of) stars are not homogenously distributed through space (and Bondi does give mention of a nested, hierarchical Universe arrangement which could also resolve the paradox), are

  • I. The Universe is finite or young in age (e.g., HBBC, or similar) and / or, i.e., violations of postulates (ii) & (iii)
  • II. The Universe is expanding so that (galaxies of) stars recede beyond our sight by receding beyond the cosmic horizon of expansion of the Universe (e.g., HBBC, similar models, or the CSSC and similar models); i.e., violation of postulate (iii).
  • For both the HBBC and the CSSC in an expanding Universe, the question of baryon number or mass-energy conservation under postulate (v) is also under questions, at least without a generalization of the law of conservation of mass / energy.
It has been argued that the situation has potentially changed now again since the publication of a radical aether gravity theory proposal claim by Ranzan, C. 2016. Olbers' Paradox resolved for the infinite nonexpanding Universe. American Journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics 4 (1), 1-14. Doi:10.11648/j.ajaa.20160401.11. We may return to this subject again. It should be noted that the Ranzan (2016) proposal falls into the general category of a nested, hierarchical Universe.  

Heinrich Wilhelm Mathias Olbers
(1758-1840; link)
German physician, student of mathematics, and astronomer
  • Discovered the minor planets (asteroids) Pallas and Vesta, and proposed that the asteroid belt or ring is actually the remnants of a destroyed planet
  • Published Abhandlung uber die leichteste und bequemste Methode die Bahn eines Cometen zu berechnen (Treatise on the easiest and most convenient method of calculating the orbit of a comet), Weimar: Verlag des Industrie-Comptoirs. 1797.

  • Discovered periodic comet 13P/Olbers in 1815 which has an orbital period of 69 years.
  • Described and reformulated his famous Olber's Paradox (link), which essentially states how can the night sky be dark if an infinite number of stars are evenly distributed in an infinite Universe? (Figure below illustrates how postulate, I. 'young' or 'finite' cosmos is one possible resolution of the paradox; cit. Narlikar & Burbidge, 2008).
How in an infinite Universe the radiation influx could become infinite for an observer, in Olber's famous Paradox (Figs. 6.1 & 6.2 modified from Narlikar & Burbidge, 2008. Facts and Speculations in Cosmology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press).

The other simple observation and thought conception was introduced by German physicist and philosopher,
Ernst Mach, related to the unsolved question of the origin of the phenomenon of inertia? Along with other resources here, we follow the discussion of the problem of inertia and "Mach's Principle" in Hermann Bondi's (1950, 1959; 1960) classic, Cosmology. (With a new Introduction by Ian W. Roxburgh for the Dover edition, 2010, which is a full reprint of the 1960 second edition of the first edition published by Cambridge University Press in 1952. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications).

The principle of Inertia (link): What is it? Defined in the 1st of Newton's 3 laws of motion: "Law I. Every object perseveres in its state of rest, or [state] of uniform motion in a right line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed thereon," i.e., F = ma, where F is force, m is mass times a, the acceleration.
  • During China's Warring States period (475-221 BCE), the Mohist philosophers in the Mozi text gave a first description of inertia.
  • Greek Aristotle (384-322 BCE) observing mechanics of bodies with gravity, friction, and air resistance wrongly defined inertia as objects only moving so long as a force was applied to them, and projectile motion was (un)explained by surrounding medium still applying force to them. Aristotelian 'inertia' sadly bore sway for long in Christendom and in the Islamic world as a part of the intellectual decline and stagnation of 'the darkening age').
  • Epicurus (341-271 BCE), the Epicureans, via Lucretius (~99-55 BCE) in On the Nature of Things (London: Penguin, 1988; pp. 80-85) more correctly defined inertia as material bodies (atoms) which must move or remain in motion rather than in stasis.
  • John Philoponus (6th c CE), a Byzantine philologist, Aristotelian commentator, and Christian theologian and philosopher, argued Aristotle was wrong and that the media in the void would slow down the projectile, so the projectile must move from a property imparted to it at the time of launch. Although a minority position, a number of followers, furthered his thought.
  • In the Islamic world, Persian philosopher / genius Ibn Sīnā or Avicenna (11th c CE) held that a projectile in a vacuum of the void would continue unless acted upon by an outside force.
  • French philosopher Jean Buridan (14th c CE) rejected a spontaneous dissipation of the projectile's imparted moving property, which he called impetus, which could be both linear and circular (cf. modern conception of linear and angular momenta).
  • Buridan's student Albert of Saxony (1316-1390) & the 'Oxford Calculators' practically performed experiments on laws of motion with illustrative graphs.
  • Giambattista Benedetti (1530-1590), mathematician, physicist, and polymath anticipated Galileo's framing of inertia: "... any portion of corporeal matter which moves by itself when an impetus has been impressed on it by any external motive force has a natural tendency to move on a rectilinear, not a c