Dietrich provides a wide-ranging study of ancient astronomies.
In this densely packed study, Dietrich (Origin of Culture, 2005) tells his readers, “Many great scholars and astronomers have agreed that mathematics, geometry, and astronomy are the common language of humankind,” and in these pages, he attempts to lay out a grammar of that common language. In 10 fast-paced, well-illustrated chapters, the guide ranges across ancient and prehistoric human culture, from the designs of temples in Angkor Wat and Tikal to the commonalities of origin myths in ancient Greek, Hebrew and Egyptian literatures. Dietrich contends that astronomical concepts and applications formed the foundation of the ancient cultures he studies. It’s a thought-provoking thesis, made all the more provocative by some of the author’s claims, such as that “multiple underground water spirals and aquifers” gave impetus to the building of such disparate sacred places as Stonehenge, Karnak, Giza, the Temple Mount at Jerusalem and Tenochtitlan. More troubling for some readers will be Dietrich’s casual pronouncements: “The universe works because everything was set in motion at once, allowing everything to adjust, conform, coordinate with everything else.” He tells us at one point, “The universe is traveling toward perfect numbers and perfect harmony.” This is a bit overreaching; ancient cosmologies may talk about perfect harmony, but it plays little part in modern physics. That study is nevertheless expertly done, thanks to the author’s convincingly comprehensive view, which smoothly encompasses a great deal of fascinating information and presents ancient cosmological knowledge in accessible terms.
A generous, involving study of how ancient stargazing gave rise to many of the tenets of human civilization.