Sunday, September 2, 2012

Evidence that the Argo crossed the oceans in ancient times

If you are able to rise early (before the sun) over the next several days, you can see some beautiful constellations coming up over the eastern horizon as the earth turns in their direction, just before the plunging eastern horizon unveils the sun to start the day.

Above is a depiction of the sky at about 5:15 am for observers in the northern hemisphere, as it would look from latitude 35o North.  

Sirius, the brightest star in the sky (if you don't count the sun itself) is well above the horizon: you should have no difficulty in locating Sirius as it follows the familiar constellation of Orion (not shown in the above diagram but located above Sirius and unmistakeable in the predawn sky).  There is a label in the above diagram (at the top of the image) pointing to the constellation of Canis Major ("The Big Dog"), of which Sirius forms the shoulder (and hence is sometimes known as the "Dog Star").

Looking to the left side of the above image, you will see a label for Leo the Lion, his majestic maned head rising up out of the horizon (if it is not dark enough to see his entire mane and muzzle, you can make out the bright "sickle" shape formed by the back of his neck and top of his head, which is shown with thicker lines in the above diagram and also in this previous blog post). 

The third label in the above depiction of the pre-dawn eastern horizon points to the stern of the constellation of the great Ship, trailing below Sirius and Canis Major.  The constellation of the Ship was often referred to as Argo Navis, or "the ship Argo," upon which Jason and the Argonauts journeyed to find the Golden Fleece.  It is actually composed of four conjoined constellations: the Stern (Puppis), the Keel (Carina), the Sail (Vela), and the Ship's Compass (Pyxis).  

The further south you go on the globe, the more familiar you are likely to be with this large and beautiful constellation.  Further north, only the Stern of the ship breaks the southern horizon before the turning of the earth causes it to sink again below the ground.  As you can see from the above diagram, the Ship sails across the sky "stern-first," as its Stern can be seen following Sirius and Canis Major upwards from the horizon (it won't get very far before the sun crests the horizon and drowns everything out, but each night these stars are rising four minutes earlier due to the progress of the earth around its orbit, so you will be able to see them earlier and earlier and get a better and better view of them as the days and weeks go by).

The diagram below shows the entire Ship -- you can make out the Stern, the Keel-section, and the Sail quite easily, and the group of stars called the Compass is the group that is connected in a sort of bent line coming out of the Ship just aft of the Sail (curving over the Stern).

The important feature to point out in the above diagram of the entire Ship is the part marked "prow," at the opposite end from the Stern.  Notice how the stars there create a sort of "man-shaped figure" or "figurehead" at the front of the Ship.  This is important.

In Hamlet's Mill (1969), Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend point out a figure called the "god boat" on ancient Mesopotamian cylinder seals, which you can see in the diagram from their book here.  They point out that it is probably celestial in nature, as there is a Scorpion image nearby on one of the cylinder seals, and a Lion image nearby on both of them.  In each case, the Lion image has a pitcher above it, which they speculate may refer to Aquarius, but judging from the actual constellations that are above the Lion, I would venture to guess that this pitcher may somehow refer to the Big Dipper.  

Either way, it is quite likely that this "god boat" depicts the constellation of the Ship, as it features a manlike upper torso rising out of the front of a ship's body, and pointing towards the Lion.  The diagram immediately above (of the entire constellation of the Ship) makes it quite clear that the images in the Mesopotamian cylinder seals look very much like the constellation, with its human-shaped prow.  The diagram at the top of this post makes it clear that the prow (which is still below the horizon in that image) is not far from and pointed towards the constellation of the Lion, which is what we see in the cylinder seals as well.

What is most remarkable is the fact that the Maya Codex known as the Codex Tro-Cortesianus (and now more often known simply as the Madrid Codex) which the Spaniards brought back from Central America depicts a "god boat" that is almost identical to those found in the ancient Mesopotamian cylinder seals (see image below).  You can see the codex yourself by following this link; the "god boat" is depicted on page 96 of that pdf file (and will read page 18 of 34). 

The authors of Hamlet's Mill point out this remarkable similarity as one item of evidence for an ancient and advanced civilization with global influence (they point to many other pieces of evidence for the same thesis, including clear mythological parallels between "Old" and "New World" and other celestial imagery such as the depiction of fish around a square discussed in this previous post). 

The conventional paradigm of human history does not allow for contact between the ancient Mesopotamians and the Maya of Central America (or their predecessors).   Thus, they must explain these remarkable similarities as interpretations of the stars which just popped up in complete isolation from one another (hence the term "isolationist" for theories which deny the possibility of global diffusion of culture by some currently-unidentified ancient civilization or civilizations).  

It is certainly possible that isolated cultures around the globe looked up at the stars that we call the Ship and saw the same thing, with the same human features near the prow, and decided to depict them in remarkably similar "god boat" images in their art.  However, it is also possible that there was some kind of cultural contact that we currently do not know about or teach in our conventional histories.  Judging by the amazing similarities, this possibility should be considered and not rejected out of hand.

If this "god boat" similarity in the art of Mesopotamia and Central America were the only such similarity, we might be more justified in chalking it up to simple isolationist interpretation of the same star patterns.  However, as it turns out there are literally hundreds of other pieces of evidence which argue for some sort of serious ancient contact across the oceans and which argue against an isolationist interpretation of the "god boat" images.  Some of those have been listed in this previous blog post (with links to blog posts that discuss each one).  Another strong case for contact between the Maya (or their predecessors) and the ancient civilizations of the "Old World" (in this case both the Babylonians and the ancient Egyptians) is made in this previous post.

Note that the constellation you see rising up behind Sirius and Canis Major has -- since the time of the ancient Greeks -- been associated with the ship Argo, which carried the Argonauts.  That ship is usually depicted as having a great eye painted on the prow, and according to legend its prow contained a timber from a sacred oak from the grove at Dodona.  This sacred Dodona oak-beam could speak.  Thus, the Argo of myth also incorporates the "man-like" features of the front of the constellation, and indicates that it was the constellation that came first and not the myth (the importance of the distinction between which came first is discussed in this previous post, and in the older posts linked in the first line of that post).  Instead of the myths incorporating superstitious and unscientific explanations of natural phenomena (as we are usually taught), a body of tales which the ancients then projected into the celestial objects they saw in the sky, this view argues that the myths themselves were created to preserve scientific knowledge of the earth, stars, and planets -- an entirely different view of what was going on in the ancient myth-making process.

Thus, the constellation of the Ship (now visible just before sunrise) provides important evidence that ancient civilizations were more advanced than we are taught in school, and that they may well have crossed the oceans long before historians are willing to admit that they could or did.  If you can do it, try to get up early to see the pre-dawn constellations in the east, and contemplate that as you look for the stern of the great ship Argo.

PS -- the title of this post is only metaphorical: the voyages of the Argo most likely depict celestial events.  I am not suggesting that the Argo made actual voyages to the New World, rather that the civilization(s) that influenced the Argo myth (probably long before classical Greece) crossed the oceans regularly, and that the seeds of the legend of a boat with a supernatural human prow were spread far and wide across the globe.