The Infinite in the Finite

By Alistair Macintosh Wilson | Go to book overview

1
SYMPHONIES OF STONE

Around 10000 BC, the glaciers of the Great Ice Age began to retreat from off the face of the continent of Europe. As the land was freed from their grip, people started to move back northward. At first these were small tribes of hunters and gatherers, following the herds, coming together where the hunting was good, breaking apart to search for food where it was not. Slowly these tribes pressed further north and west, finally reaching the natural barriers of the continent: the coast of the North Sea and the Atlantic, and the islands of the sea--Britain and Ireland. There was no further to go. The wanderers settled, beginning to cultivate the land, and raise livestock. As further immigrants arrived, the population began to rise.

These people buried their dead in long stone passages covered by mounds of earth called barrows, usually sited along the east-west line of the rising and setting Sun. In their barrows are found beautifully made drinking vessels of intricate design. We know them as the Beaker People. Remains of the Beaker People have been found all over Europe and the British Isles. The earliest remains from north-west France date from 5500-5000 BC, an early passage grave at Beg an Dorehenn, Brittany, being dated 4600 BC.

In addition to their burial chambers the Beaker People left other proofs of their existence. They left stones, thousands of them; lines, circles, spirals, and ovals of stones covering the Atlantic coast of Brittany and most of Britain and Ireland (Fig. 1.1). Most of the stones are large, some gigantic ranging up to 300 tons or more. We call these stone monuments megalithic from the Greek megas (great) and lithos (stone). The megalith builders were not confined to Europe. Stone monuments of the same kind have been found in India, and as far east as Korea. Sometimes the stones have been brought hundreds of miles to their erection sites. Why?

The honest answer is that we do not know exactly what the Beaker People did with their megalithic monuments. We do know that they were astronomical observatories. They may also have been astronomical computers of some kind.

Like all pastoral people, the Beaker People looked to the stars to decide the times to plant and to fertilize their crops, and cull their herds. Just like their descendants, they felt that knowledge of the movement of the stars

-1-

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The Infinite in the Finite
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • 1 - Symphonies of Stone 1
  • 2 - The Pyramid Builders 19
  • 3 - The Theban Mysteries 42
  • 4 - Babylon 53
  • 5 - The Middle Kingdom 72
  • 6 - The Achaeans 105
  • 7 - A World Made of Numbers 112
  • 8 - The Thoughts of Zeus 132
  • 9 - The Philosopher's Criticism 163
  • 10 - The Elements of Euclid 206
  • 11 - An Island Interlude 239
  • 12 - Proportion 252
  • 13 - The Divine Archimedes 278
  • 14 - Apollonius the Great Geometer 324
  • 15 - The Science of Numbers 366
  • 16 - The School of Alexandria 388
  • 17 - The Dark Sub­ Continent of India 426
  • 18 - The Contribution of Islam 461
  • Bibliography 509
  • Index 515
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