Posted by admin on November 11, 2012 ,
By ROBERT TEMPLE | New Dawn Magazine
The ancient Greek Pythagoreans of the 5th century BC believed that
the sun was a gigantic crystal ball larger than the earth, which
gathered the ambient light of the surrounding cosmos and refracted it to
earth, acting as a giant lens.
A giant lens? In the 5th century BC? Perhaps it was because nobody
until now has been willing to recognise that lenses existed in
antiquity, and that the crystal sun idea was overlooked, and has never
been described in any books on the history of science or philosophy.
However, it appears in my book The Crystal Sun.
What, then, is all this about ancient lenses? Surely some mistake?!
The fact is that I have located more than 450 ancient lenses in
museums all round the world, and I even own a Greek crystal lens of the
6th century BC myself. Photos of many of these ancient lenses appear in
my book. Anyone interested in full details of the actual lenses
themselves should obtain the hardback edition of my book, because ten
appendices full of such detailed information have been omitted from the
paperback because the book was too thick.
Ancient lenses! Well, how far back do they go? The earliest
actual lenses which I have located are crystal ones dating from the 4th
Dynasty of Old Kingdom Egypt, circa 2500 BC. These are to be found in
the Cairo Museum and two are in the Louvre in Paris. But archaeological
evidence showing that they must have been around at least 700 years
earlier has recently been excavated at Abydos in Upper Egypt. A tomb of a
Pre-Dynastic king there has yielded an ivory knife handle bearing a
microscopic carving which could only have been done under considerable
magnification (and of course can only be seen with a strong magnifying
glass today). Thus, we know that magnification technology was in use in
Egypt in 3300 BC. I reproduce both photos and drawings of this crucial
But magnification technology was not of interest merely for making
and viewing small carvings. Its most important use was in telescopes. In
fact, on the jacket of my book the reader will encounter an ancient
image of someone looking through a telescope. This is a photo I took of a
fragment of a Greek pot excavated about twenty years ago at the
Acrocopolis in Athens, and dating to about the 6th century BC.
If there is all this evidence, why has no one ever talked about it
before? The answer seems to be that unique capacity for stupidity which
so distinguishes the human race, for obstinacy and the determination not
to see. I call it consensus blindness. Everybody agrees not to
look at things that make them uncomfortable, or which they think
shouldn’t exist. Therefore, the fact that more than 450 ancient lenses
have been sitting around in the world’s museums for all of these years
and have been invisible is explicable only by invoking the theory that people subconsciously conspire not to see what they don’t want to see.
It is not as if I have come up with a little bit of vague evidence
and want to use it to construct some wacky theory of my own. There are
plenty of people crying in the wilderness with theories based on a
little bit of disputed evidence. That is not the case with my book at
all. I am standing right in the centre of the town square surrounded by a
mountain of evidence which can only be ignored if people are so
determined to look the other way that they are prepared to walk around
with their necks crooked.
I attended the 8th International Congress of Egyptologists in Cairo
in the spring of 2000, and went prepared to deliver a paper on ancient
Egyptian optical technology. But I was not allowed to deliver it. I was
told there was ‘no appropriate category’. Alas, it is true that there
was no such category, as I was the only historian of science present at
the Congress of 1500 people, a fact which I found rather depressing.
It might be worthwhile to review just why my discoveries are so
important for Egyptology, and everyone interested in the pyramids needs
to know about them as well.
First of all, there is the famous question of the orientation of the
Great Pyramid. It is so perfectly oriented to the geographical points of
the compass that no one has ever been able to understand how this was
done, for the accuracy exceeds any hitherto known technology of ancient
Then there is the equally famous question of how the extreme accuracy
of the construction of the Great Pyramid was possible. In 1925, J. H.
Cole discovered in his survey that the great pavement, upon which the
Great Pyramid partially rests and which surrounds it, is flat to within
15 mm. Earlier scholars had commented that the accuracy of the surface
of the Great Pyramid was equivalent to the accuracy of the grinding of
an optical reflective mirror in a giant modern telescope. The original
(now largely destroyed) casing stone sides of the structure have been
compared in their precision to the mirror of the Mount Palomar
Telescope. How were such feats accomplished?
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the Argentine physicist Jose Alvarez
Lopez claimed that it was physically impossible for the Great Pyramid to
have been constructed without extremely accurate optical surveying
techniques such as are used in theodolites. I met Lopez in the 1970s and
he told me this himself, arousing my interest in this question for the
first time. But Lopez said to me sadly that he could not find any
evidence for any ancient optical technology, so it was all a mystery.
Well, it is a mystery no longer.
The Great Pyramid was clearly surveyed with early forms of optical
surveying instruments that we could call proto-theodolites. This is all
described at great length in my book, and I urge anyone interested in
the pyramids to read all about it.
I have proved from archaeological evidence that the technology for
surveying the Great Pyramid existed at least as far back as 3300 BC, and
doubtless earlier than that, since we can hardly presume that the ivory
knife handle was the first such object to exist, as it is already
highly sophisticated and suggests a long-standing tradition.
I was surprised as I strolled through the museums of the world and
saw ancient lenses on public display labelled as all kind of crazy
things – as anything but lenses! When I went to study ancient
Greek lenses in the Department of Classical Antiquities at the British
Museum, I met one member of the staff who insisted that there never were
any ancient Greek lenses. (This is despite the fact that Aristophanes
describes one in his play The Clouds, and there are countless
ancient references to optical technology in the ancient literature,
which I have combed exhaustively and described in my book.) I then
proceeded to photograph and measure some ancient Greek lenses in that
very room, which the person concerned refused to acknowledge, and I
thought more than a little ironic that there is a display cabinet
standing just outside the door to the room containing ancient Greek
lenses mis-labelled as ‘counters’, and which can be seen clearly
magnifying the strands of the cloth underneath them.
When I was in the Athens Archaeological Museum studying Mycenaean
lenses, which were clearly on display in the Mycenaean Room (where they
are mis-labelled), I could not help but be aware that a former Deputy
Director of the same museum had written an article about an apparent
crystal lens which he had himself excavated on Crete, but he neglected
to mention in his article that his own museum had many such lenses in
display cabinets which anyone could walk into the museum and see on any
day of the week.
Ancient lenses tended to be of rock crystal until Carthaginian and
Roman times, beginning about the 4th century BC, after which glass
lenses became more common (being much cheaper), and crystal lenses then
I discovered significant numbers of ancient British lenses,
mis-catalogued in mineral collections; they had been moved to geological
museums from their original archaeological collections and were thought
to be ‘crystal specimens’! Some of them were most ingenious, and had
what I called ‘resting-points’ protruding from their backs so that they
could rest on a surface and an artisan could reach his cutting tool
round the back and have both hands free for his work. In ancient Troy,
one crystal lens excavated by Schliemann had a hole in the centre. Some
people thought this was an argument for claiming that the lens in
question was ‘useless’ because it was perforated in the middle and thus
clearly no lens. However, the hole in the centre in no way interferes
with the magnification, and offers an extremely clever way for an
artisan to insert his cutting tool directly through the middle of the
magnifier, and have magnification of his work all around it in a circle!
Schliemann excavated about 48 crystal lenses at Troy, but these all
disappeared during the Second World War, and all that remained were
catalogue descriptions and a single photo of four of the lenses in a
group (reproduced in my book). I tried for many years to find these
missing lenses, and a friend who various times approached the museum in
East Berlin where the lenses were last known to have been stored was
repeatedly lied to and told that the lenses had ‘been destroyed by
Allied bombing in the War’. But of course all this was complete rubbish.
When the truth finally came out about the missing Trojan gold hoard
found by Schliemann, and that the Red Army had seized it and taken it
back to Russia, I suspected the lenses were probably with the gold. And
indeed they were. But I have never been granted access to them; the
Russians are afraid the Germans will claim them back, and so they won’t
let scholars have normal opportunities to study them.
To return to the subject of the ancient British lenses, I should
mention that they provide the missing physical evidence that the late
Professor Alexander Thom was looking for when he said the accuracy of
the astronomical observations of the ancient Britons exceeded the
capacities of the naked eye, and he wondered about their optical
technology. We now have the lenses that seem to fill Thom’s need.
Indeed, there are good reasons for suspecting that the real purpose of
the trilithon lintels at Stonehenge were to support a wooden observation
platform for telescopic observations of the moon. In other words,
Stonehenge would have been domed. I present the evidence for all of this
in my book at some length.
The only group of archaeologists who wholly and enthusiastically
welcomed my findings into early optics were the Scandinavian ones, in
particular the Swedish archaeologists. Far from being put out with my
findings, they were delighted by them. I made very extensive studies of
the Viking lenses, and recently one of my articles has been published in
Swedish translation in the Swedish archaeological annual,Gotlдndskt Arkiv (Vol.
72 for the year 2000). The Vikings were the last of the ancients, as
far as optical technology went, and they accomplished miracles of
crystal engineering. They actually produced crystal lenses as small as
water drops that could magnify three times. I call their achievements
Although my discoveries about ancient Chinese optical technology were
rather limited (extracts from ancient texts plus reports of six
excavated ancient lenses which I was unable to inspect personally, in
one case because of floods preventing me from getting to a provincial
museum), The Crystal Sun is being translated into Chinese and I
have been asked to lecture about it at China’s leading technical
university, Tsinghua University in Beijing, of which I am a Fellow.
My resources not being infinite, I never travelled to Mexico and Peru
to inspect the ancient crystal lenses which apparently are to be found
there, so the New World is not well represented in my account. I hope
others will remedy this deficiency one day. I do, however, have a
special account of the so-called ‘Skull of Doom’, a life-sized crystal
skull of Maya origin, in my book, since it was the first ancient crystal
object I ever studied, when I was 18 years old!
There is much weird lore in my book, so much so in fact that it
cannot all be absorbed as casual reading. I have written a long chapter
on the subject of ‘thunderstones’, and another on meditative
hallucinations, all of which are linked in wonderful ways to ancient
optical ideas. I give a lot of attention to the religious traditions
associated with light, from ancient Egypt down through the
‘light-theology’ of Christians like Robert Grosseteste in the Middle
But it is not only light that is considered in The Crystal Sun.
Shadows are equally important. In ancient Egypt, the science of shadows
was far advanced and highly precise. And in this connection I have made
a major discovery, which is shown in a photograph taken on 21 December.
For I found that there is a special winter solstice sunset shadow cast
upon the south face of the Great Pyramid, which nobody had ever noticed
before, despite the fact that it has been clearly visible once a year
for at least 3500 years. Just think, 3500 missed opportunities!
As the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas likes to say, ‘Those who have ears to
hear, let them hear.’ I would extend this to say: ‘Those who have eyes
to see, let them damned well start using them! It would make a change!’
What is this winter solstice shadow, then? It is a shadow
cast by the second pyramid, known as the Pyramid of Khafre (or Chephren,
which is the Greek form of the name), upon the Great Pyramid at sunset
on 21 December.
But the mere fact that one pyramid casts a shadow on another is not
the point. What is important is the nature of that shadow. And here is
where it all gets very interesting. Anyone who has made a study of the
interior of the Great Pyramid will be aware that both the ascending and
descending passages inside the structure have the same slope, a curious
angle of slightly more than 26 degrees. This in itself might seem a bit
odd. But bearing in mind how the ancient Egyptians loved a good tease,
it was wonderfully amusing and surprising for me to discover that at
sunset on the winter solstice they had chosen to project a giant shadow
on the exterior of the same structure having the same slope as the passages concealed on the inside!
It was a bit of a game, surely: what you see on the outside is what
you get on the inside, but you can only realise this if you already know
it in advance! In other words, it was for the initiated only. They
could have their little laugh to themselves, but nobody else knew what
the hell was going on.
I also managed to demonstrate that the ascending passage leading up
to the causeway from the Valley Temple beside the Sphinx also has this
same slope. Its slope had never been considered or measured before. And
yet the fact that its slope is the same as the ascending and descending
passages of the Great Pyramid surely indicates a common canon of design
for the two structures, at the very least.
If the Egyptians were really intending to cast a shadow on the
outside of the Great Pyramid which secretly indicated the nature of the
slopes to be found in the concealed interior, then there are important
consequences to be considered: it means that the Pyramid of Khafre
had to be the precise size it is, and in precisely the position it is,
for this shadow to be correctly cast.
That is rather a lot of stone to lug around, just to cast a shadow.
So isn’t there something more to this than just the common slope
angle? Well, yes, there is indeed. It just so happens that this odd
angle of slightly more than 26 degrees is the only acute angle possible
for a right triangle to be formed that is known as ‘the golden
triangle’, because it embodies the famous Golden Mean Proportion. And it
also just so happens that the Golden Mean Proportion is at the basis of
the entire canon of ancient Egyptian art and architecture, as I also
explain in my book at some length. And in fact, the shadow if truncated
by a vertical line running up the middle of the south face of the Great
Pyramid, does actually form a golden triangle, which once again is
mirrored on the inside, because it is a similar golden triangle which
determines the precise point of commencement of the Grand Gallery on the
interior of the pyramid, as I show in a drawing in my book. And as for
the vertical line running up the pyramid, that too is real, and has been
shown from an aerial photograph, although it is invisible to the naked
eye or by any perceptual means at ground level. There is actually a
purposeful slight indentation of a few inches in the construction of the
side of the pyramid, discovered in measurements made by Petrie. This
‘apothegm’, as geometers call such vertical lines, forms the right angle
to transform the solstice shadow into a perfect golden triangle.
So we see here the Egyptians were playfully carrying on with their
geometric obsessions in full view of the world, casting giant shadows in
golden mean proportion, but for at least 3500 years nobody noticed.
All this blindness! What more have we not noticed?
I hope that people will dip into, if not fully read, The Crystal Sun,
because all of these findings are important and need to be known. I was
disappointed not to be able to speak at the Cairo Conference and reveal
some of these findings to the Egyptologists. For instance, I was able
to demonstrate the existence and use of diamond-tip drills in Egypt, but
they are so small they can easily be overlooked, just as the much
larger lenses always have been. I wanted to warn the diggers that those
dirty little objects that might seem like tiny dark pebbles could be
diamond drill tips. But alas, they still don’t know.
One of the lessons from all of this is surely the need for
archaeologists not to close their eyes to scientific subjects. They have
always been reluctant to study the fundamentals of astronomy, so the
field of ‘archaeo-astronomy’ is one of struggle and travail, making
relatively little headway in the academic community, despite heroic
efforts on the part of a few scholars. But as for ‘archaeo-optics’, as
its sole investigator, I fear we have a long way to go before its
implications will get through to other scholars. And so, I ask you as
readers to help out, by calling these things to the attention of anyone
you know, and beating some friendly drums. Let’s get the news out!
ROBERT TEMPLE is the author of many books on ancient mysteries. Temple’s classic The Sirius Mystery,
containing detailed data on the star Sirius which modern astronomers
have only just discovered, was originally published in 1976 and
republished since to universal acclaim. Robert Temple’s web site is http://www.robert-temple.com.
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