In our description and analysis of With Hidden Noise we have made assumptions about the relationship of formal qualities or other interpretive aspects of the sculpture to an array of things, ideas, functions, historical events, myths and legends, and persons both real and imaginary. That is to say, on the warp- threaded loom of our initially analytical, programmatic approach (by the numbers) we have sought to interweave references, analogies, and illustrations corresponding in certain ways to elements, features, or qualities of Marcel Duchamp's work of art. Plainly, to qualify for such consideration the element interwoven manifestly does not depend upon Monsieur Duchamp's personal intentions nor, in light of obvious editorial anachronisms, upon his awareness. For example, a recent issue of Science News features this legend beneath a computer-generated cover illustration:

Connecting Threads

And the note inside reads:

Unlike the knots that a sailor might tie, a mathematical knot forms a complete loop, as seen in this computer- generated image of a trefoil knot. Recent studies have revealed that important concepts in knot theory unexpectedly link areas of mathematics and physics in which knots had hitherto played no role.

[ Science News: The Weekly Newsmagazine of Science (Volume 141, No. 12, March 21, 1992). Illustration: Thomas F. Banchoff, Nicholas Thompson / Brown University. ]

Not only does this further string out our allusions to cordage tied to the original, cryptic, expressive use by Marcel Duchamp of the historically provocative and powerfully symbolic "ball of twine," but also it helps to bring our references to knot theory up-to-date. Many attempts to stay "up-to-date" in a printed publication, however, are admittedly frustrating or futile in these times, the last years in what the Hindus refer to as the Kali Yuga: a time profoundly characterized by ever-increasing speed, by the speeding-up of everything. A baseline definition for "up-to-date" would now appear to depend upon global satellite linkage with an electronic network as the primary vehicle of information/distribution, i.e. "publication." Nevertheless, we can aspire to stay "current," which more gently commits us to keeping in the flow of information. Of course we harbor no illusions that anything in this text might contribute to the mathematical theory of strings, or to any of the other specialized disciplines to which we have so freely and frequently referred. Our rationale, with few other pretensions, has been merely one of exploring and testing the fit of relationships. But in this, the connections--the nodes--are critical.

Dante's quintessential image, La forma universal di questo nodo, literally refers to the universal form of the "node" or "knot," although the line has been translated by Laurence Binyon as "The form that knits the whole world...." The knot proves to be (like canons) sometimes tight, and at other times loose. In his simple eloquent prayer toward the end of the Divine Comedy--effectively a dedication and quite moving in its sincerity about the ineffability of artistic communication--he anticipates the very quandary that so troubled Michelangelo, and which sentiment (shared by many artists and writers) the Renaissance sculptor so magnificently expressed in his sonnets.

In Dante's phrase the function of memory (which he places "high over our imagining"), seems to be addressing "the supreme Light":

[ Paradiso XXXIII, 70 f.; The Portable Dante, p. 541. ]


For most people born in the twentieth century, the word LIGHT involves some associations with electricity-- almost a wholly new concept in contrast with the set of mental and visual images the word might have elicited for poets, artists, and ordinary people of earlier times. With a little imagination, we can see similarities between the organic material in Duchamp's sculpture--the ball of twine--and a wound electromagnet, with its coiled field of potential energy. Actually, the torus shape of the "ball" is embodied in our physiology, since the structure of the alimentary canal renders each of our bodies a topological tube, able (indeed, at times, necessary) to be opened at both ends. The arrangement of our spinal column establishes for each of us the polarity of our local electromagnetic field, awareness of which has been heightened in our present century precisely by the technological innovations of electricity and electronics.

In 1902 the first radio telegram was sent, and the first photos transmitted by wire. Spherical consciousness was symbolically realized in 1909 when Peary reached (or came within an ace of reaching) the North Pole, and again in 1911 with the discovery of the South Pole. In fact, these events not only articulated the experience of the earth as a sphere, but the also indicated the other, topologically more sophisti-cated way in which to imagine Earth energy: as a torus, ideally a donut-shaped mathematical figure also describing a magnetic field. The gyrocompass was invented in 1906, and Sperry first demonstrated its use in 1911. Following Buckminster Fuller's summary in Critical Path we can track the rapidly-evolving network of global communications:

1915 Transcontinental phone service; Radiotelephone
Tuned radio frequency reception--Alexanderson
1916 Helicopter
1917 Aerial photography
1918 Sonar
1919 Two-way transatlantic radio telephone conversation
Transatlantic flights
1920 Commercial radio broadcast of voice

Highlights in what then followed would have to include the first regularly scheduled commercial airline in 1925, talking movies and Goddard's first liquid-fueled rocket in 1926 (although successful flights would not occur until 1929), and in 1927 inauguration of transatlantic telephone service and the first laboratory experiments with television (although commercial TV did not appear until forty years later, in 1947). Such a chronicle, by itself cannot (and does not) pretend to give a true flavor of the frequently fascinating circumstances surrounding the adoption of innovative technology. For example, New York City was the center for early television transmission, and it was in black and white. Some critics persuasively argue that color TV deserves to be treated as a substantially different medium, as does live TV in contrast with airing "canned" material. Therefore, the most culturally significant occasion for coast-to-coast, truly nation-wide, live color TV transmission would have been the Rose Parade on the morning of New Year's Day, January 1, 1954.

Today we have a genuine sphericity of instantaneous communication with satellite-linked systems capable of interaction through sound and image, keyed in by computers to a global marketplace (that in reality never closes) of international credits by electronic transfer. This is currently the major vector for international exchange, in comparison to which all of the coinage and paper currency in the world represent only anachronistic vestiges of a sentimental system that clutters and annoys more than it expedites. .

For students of the humanities and arts--and especially the fine arts--two particular technological innovations are symptomatic of the general process by which, in the short-term aion of 72 years since the appearance of With Hidden Noise, our vision has become truly global. The first of these is the rapid evolution of color photography, and of techniques for printing reasonably accurate full color illustrations in books. The other applied technology to have effected a similar virtual transcendence of space and time is magnetic recording tape.

The amazing popularity of the 35-mm camera has produced a new, huge, visual data bank, from which excellent illustrative material has become available for comparative studies, as archival material, and for publication. It is enough to compare the quality of art books from before the Second World War to discern the contrast; most such volumes had few if any color photos, and the black-and-whites by today's standards were of poor quality. It was not so long ago when a book publisher printed line drawings only in the text, with perhaps engraved, and sometimes hand-tinted, plates. In the classroom, 35-mm slides forever transformed the study of art history and related disciplines. While a full-color image, in focus and the right way up, projected onto a large screen, is still no match for the actual experience, it does admit the possibility of meaningful study which hitherto was limited only to those who could afford--or whose parents could afford to send them on--some sort of Grand Tour, visiting architectural sites and the collections of painting and sculpture in major museums. But now an increasingly detailed, accurate and plentiful record of works of art and architecture effectively enables students to transcend many limitations of space and time.

Magnetic tape was developed in the early years of the Second World War (1942); after 1948 its capacity to record sound of a quality sufficiently fine for music was married to the form of the long-playing record. In the same year, too, Carlson developed Xerography, Gabor invented holography, Bardeen, Brattain and Shockley invented the transistor and Edwin Land first marketed his Polaroid camera.

Then, for the first time ever, it became possible for human beings to hear something closely approximating the actual sound of another people's music. Music is ephemeral, like other forms of performance art, but Kudelski's development of a special head on the Nagra tape recorder permitted synchronizing sound with movie film. This opened the possiblity of recording, on location or in the field--with reasonably high quality--the dance and theater as well as the music of all surviving cultures and the different societies of the world. In turn, this led to an extraordinary development in the history of global culture, of staggering significance, largely overlooked by the popular chronicles as well as by art historians: because it had never before been possible to listen to music--or to watch and listen to theater, dance, and music together--without actually, physically traveling to witness a live performance. Just such performing modes of expression, according to the history of poetry and literature, are believed to have been central to humanity's original, wholistically integrated Urform of cultural expression. Yet, from the initial series of releases on Ethnic Folkways records, novel and exciting musical experiences were becoming newly available to a whole generation of people--music which before, they had virtually no idea even existed. Most of this technology, along with that of the movie camera and videocam, of course, depended upon electricity.


The sequence of events leading to the "discovery" of electricity or, better said, the circumstances of its correct identification and naming, began with a search for the vacuum. In 1652 Otto von Guericke, a recent graduate from the University of Leyden in mathematics and law, who had been elected Mayor of Magdeburg in Northern Germany, traveled to Regensburg to attend a meeting called by the German Emperor Ferdinand III. By adapting a contemporary fire extinguisher, von Geuricke assembled two brass hemispheres fitted with a valve enabling him to evacuate the air formerly contained therein. In a master stroke of showmanship, a team of eight horses was hitched to each of the respective hemispheres, but proved unable to pull them apart. When, however, the valve was tripped and air reentered the chamber, they fell apart by themselves.

With support from the Emperor, von Guericke went on to publish his experiments in several editions. One of his later investigations, stimulated by Gilbert's work on magnetism, involved a ball of sulphur mounted on a shaft and crank which, through a system of gears, could be rotated at high speed. When the the sulphur ball was in contact with the palm of one's hand it would glow in the dark, crackle, and attract pieces of paper, having built up an electrical charge. But nobody had, as yet, identified electricity.

In 1672 he published the results of his [later] work; in the book, Experimenta Nova Magdeburgica (The New Magdeburg Experiments), only one paragraph was dedicated to the sulphur globe. It was enough to set off a century of discovery.

In the history of the process of change there are certain crucial moments when the number of paths down which subsequent events can lead suddenly multiplies. Guericke's publication was one such moment. His work on the vacuum pump led to research into the composition of gas and in particular air. This led to the discovery of oxygen, which in turn led to work on combustion, respiratory diseases and the analysis of the elements. It also helped to solve the problems of mine drainage, and produced advances in metallurgy, notably steel production. The examination of gasses would one day lead to the investigation of light passing through the gasses, and that in turn to the discovery of cathode rays and the television set. His experiments with the sulphur ball did more. The force Guericke had seen at work, glowing and crackling, was electricity, and there is no need to detail the inventions and discoveries which resulted from that.

Perhaps the least obvious result of Guericke's work on the sulphur ball was to quicken interest in the weather. Men had for centuries speculated on the nature of thunder and lightning. In Saxon England the ecclesiastic Bede had speculated that lightning was due to the rubbing together of clouds, and thunder to the sound of the impact. In the Middle Ages it had been the custom to ring peals of bells in the church steeples to disperse the thunder, as a result of which a high number of bell-ringers had been electrocuted. Indeed as late as 1786 the Parlement of Paris enforced an edict forbidding the practice because over the previous thirty-three years and 386 recorded lightning strikes no fewer than 103 unfortunates had been killed on the ends of their wet bell- ropes. Within thirty years of Guericke's experiments, the connection had been made between static electricity and lightning.

[ Burke, Connections, pp. 32 ff., 34. ]

In 1769, a full century after Otto von Guericke's experiments with static electricity and the rotating ball of sulphur, an arsenal at Brescia in Northern Italy containing 175,000 pounds of gunpowder when struck by lightning went up in a huge explosion that left a crater almost a quarter of a mile across. Prompted by a sense of military and political urgency, the search for means by which to protect such explosive materials led to a request for advice from the British Royal Society, of which Benjamin Franklin was a member. This "hitherto obscure fifteenth child of a Boston soap boiler" in 1750 had expounded to the Society his theory of electricity based on positive and negative polarities (in which we, anyway, may note a decidedly Taoist flavor). At the time, the Society had not been interested, but Franklin persisted, performing his famous experiment flying the kite with the metal wire, and very luckily escaping any more disastrous consequences from that daringly literal quest for enlightenment.

In 1753 he published these particular results in Poor Richard's Almanack, but his reputation as a scientist had already been established by the publication in 1751 of a series of letters addressed to Peter Collison, a London merchant and naturalist, which appeared under the title Experiments and Observations, and which "remains the most important scientific book of eighteenth-century America." By 1769, when disaster struck at Brescia, five editions had appeared (although a translation into Italian did not appear until 1774). Nevertheless, his recommendation that a pointed lightning rod be installed to prevent future catastrophes was overridden by the committee of the Royal Society which recommended round ones, "on the grounds that Franklin was a revolutionary."

[ Benjamin Franklin, Experiments and Observations on Electricity made at Philadelphia in America, E. Cave, London (1751). See, Carter and Muir, Printing, No. 199, p. 119; also Burke, Connections, p. 34 f. ]


It is easy to forget that the world has shifted to a reliance on electrical energy largely in the last period of the "short aion," those seventy-two years representing effectively the period of time. With Hidden Noise has kept its particular secret. We have already discussed With Hidden Noise in the context of astounding developments in the history of modern art, the period of an "ideal" human lifespan, but a quick review might serve to highlight the importance for the arts of the decade in which Duchamp made the piece. In just the first half of of the 'teens in the twentieth century--prior to With Hidden Noise--Duchamp produced (or at least initiated production of) a series of revolutionary works: the mechano-morphic collage, Coffee Mill (1911), the famously infamous Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912), the earliest Ready-mades such as Bicycle Wheel (1913), and the stunning breakthrough of the enormously complex, yet precisely and poetically integrated magnum opus, centered on the multi-media work The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), (1915-23) with its own constellation of related works, such as 3 Standard Stoppages (1913-24), or The Box of 1914 (1913-14), and the subsequent documentation-as-art projects.

Frequent imaginative interpretations of "the Fourth Dimension," and similar ideas can be read into Duchamp's works and are documented by his notes from this period, which writers such as Linda Dalrymple Henderson (or, more recently and more generally, Leonard Schlain) maintain bear a meaningful relationship to contemporary theories at the leading edge of scientific thought. In fact, all of the works of art mentioned in the preceding paragraph involve concepts of kinesis, or motion either symbolically indicated, or literally and physically incorporated as a functional aspect of the opus. Art historians also concede Duchamp's later influence on other artists (and on other art forms): Alexander Calder and "mobiles," Man Ray's photography and movies, the redefinition of typography within the arts of visual expression (from advertising to Concrete Poetry), Dada and Surrealism, Performance, Environmental and Concept art, etc., and various radical approaches to language, music, or to art and criticism, generally.

As the term "influence" is understood by critics and historians of modern art, Duchamp increasingly has come to be ranked by many writers, in retrospect, as the most influential (and hence, the most important) artist of the age. Duchamp stimulated reconsideration of the term "artist," with respect to questions of originality, collaboration and cooperation, the uniqueness of the work of art, commercially produced components and found objects, humor, and so forth. Most fundamentally perhaps, Duchamp clearly and purposefully gave voice tothe potential for an ongoing, creative interaction of the artist (through the agency of the work of art) with the spectator, and with posterity; of this, we have attempted to provide a worked example.

Naturally, we find it easy to go along with the widespread enthusiastic estimations of Duchamp's historical importance, bearing in mind the artist's own warning about the fickleness of posterity. In order to sharpen our perspective, however, let us draw some general conclusions about the work of Duchamp--and specifically about With Hidden Noise--in a context rather larger than just that of art history during the last 72-odd years. At the end of the First World War, the United States of America appeared as one of (if not the) major global nation-state, in part a consequence of its vast "natural resources" and huge capacity for industrial production and manufacturing.

In the shortest of the three periods we are considering as anaion--the 72 years that has elapsed since the creation of the piece of sculpture (1916)--among the many innovations and changes in the world as commonly experienced (in addition to electricity) were those involving kinesis, movement and actual physical transportation. Thus, in real and immediate, material and physical ways, the world has become One, its order of wholeness and unity evermore unavoidable. Some magnetic quality of this energy and productive potential drew people like Duchamp to the Americas. The United States led the way in manufacturing consumer items: all manner of electrical products and appliances, and--of vast consequence--automobiles. Henry Ford founded his Motor Company in 1903, initiating mass-production techniques on the auto assembly line. Frank Lloyd Wright was among the few thinking people also blessed with the imagination to foresee consequences of automobiles for town (and country) planning and architecture. Duchamp may have foreseen our twentieth-century obsession with kinesis in 1913 with his iconic sculpture of the Bicycle Wheel; Cadillac, for example, did first make bicycles, and the Wright brothers were originally bicycle mechanics. Duchamp's comment to Constantin Brancusi at the Paris Air Show of 1912 (about the beauty of an airplane propeller) may have sensed the airplane's significance in the way Ezra Pound characterized artists as the "antennae" of society; it also catalyzed the Romanmian sculptor's inspiration to begin a life- long series, of some of his greatest work, on the theme of Bird in Flight.

Aircraft rapidly evolved in the aion of the last 72 years, the span of time since the end of the First World War, or (stretching it back a bit earlier) since Duchamp's 1911 perceptions at the Paris Air Show, or since Orville and Wilbur Wright's (even earlier) first flight at Kittyhawk. The adaptation of aircraft to warfare thereafter allowed the United States to surpass Great Britain as a commanding military power. Toward the more recent end of this same 72-year period appear rocketry, Sputnik, Telstar, trips to the moon, Space Shuttles, and even cosmonauts lost in space and recovered again. Yet--despite the high drama of astronautics--the innovations of jet aircraft and the automobile (for most ordinary people) have had the most obvious and immediate impact. It is instructive to compare relative efficiencies:

Our automobiles' reciprocating engines efficiency are only 15 percent efficient, whereas turbines are 30 percent, jet engines 60 percent, and fuel cells used by astronauts 80 percent.

Due to inefficiently designed technical equipment and building technology, the overall mechanical efficiency of the United States economy is in 1980 only 5 percent....This means that for every one hundred units of energy consumed, ninety-five units go unused--"down the drain."

[ Fuller, Critical Path, pp. xxiv, 208. ]

As important as the automobile may be for us in our everyday lives, we are incessantly reminded of the omnipresence of jets in the sky. Whenever we chance to wander in what is left of the world's wilderness in nature, sooner or later a jet flies overhead, its white vapor trails streaking whatever blue sky. In addition to jet aircraft contributing to atmospheric pollution (the major portion of them are military), the mere presence of planes in the sky affects everyone.

The jet aircraft has probably done more than any other modern product of science and technology to bring change to the global community. Whereas the telephone and the television have broadened the community's mental horizons by bringing its members in contact with cultures different from their own, aircraft have made possible physical contact. In this the aircraft is the direct descendant of the bicycle, which put villages in touch with each other more cheaply and more easily than any previous form of transport, and of the railway and the automobile which made contact possible between one country and another. The aircraft [and the much slower steamship have] made such contact possible between continents.

It has undoubtedly changed the concept of distance. When the modern airplane passenger takes off he leaves the reality of his surroundings...the reality of the terrain and the ocean that lies between his point of departure and destination is removed.

[ Burke, Connections, p. 185. ]

James Burke discusses the interrelationship of many innovations in Connections, and he makes a convincing case for the impact of the jet engine, which has radically altered the rate at which Western technology and culture have spread, especially since the introduction of widebody jets carrying up to 400 people at a time. One of the downsides to this is the accelerated consumption of a finite resource: part of the world's fixed petroleum supply, and a non-renewable fossil fuel energy source that also produces hazardous pollution.

In terms of the relationship between cargo carried (passengers and goods), distance covered per hour of flight, minimum time for reloading and refueling between flights, and number of crew needed, the widebody jet is probably the most efficient form of transport since the seventeenth century.

[ Burke, Connections, p. 187 f.]


At the beginning of the seventeenth century there appeared the Dutch fluyt--the widebodied merchant craft that proved to be the key to the global commercial success of the Netherlands. The first fluyt hull appears to have been laid in 1595, when all the other countries in Europe were designing warships, of little practical use for the efficient transport of commercial goods. After whole forests of European trees had been felled in order to build those warships, the Dutch monopoly of Baltic wood supplies dominated a classic scarcity-commodity market. With their capacious merchantmen for transportation and a large influx of immigrants from the southern Netherlands after its devastation in the war with Spain, the new Dutch, lacking other opportunities, became involved with commerce, and soon were able to capitalize a world-wide network of trade and enterprise.

The abhorrent institution of slavery was a major component of this commercial flowering. Together with the obscene exploitation and rampant despoliation of the natural ecosystem wherever colonial powers landed--and in addition to slavery, the vestiges of which are still very much a part of corporate philosophy--seventeenth-century commerce also provided wealth in terms of material goods that nourished the formation of the modern bourgeoisie, and a new rationale for the realpolitik of nation-state "foreign" policy based on the same dialectical principles as those instilled by Alexander of Macedon. The enslavement of human beings--as we know--was not invented by the Dutch; sadly, the practice was followed by Great Britain and by other nation- states with their programs of colonialist exploitation, involving the terrorizing, cruel, and brutal subjugation of native populations: cultural subversion under the self-deceiving guise of religious conversion and evangelism, with nefarious negotiation of duplicitous "treaties," or full-scale, shameless, frontal, military assaults on local societies.

At the same time, however, seventeenth-century kinetic intensity produced an enormous prosperity from trade and interaction which also helped to universalize art, liberating it from what had been the virtually exclusive domain of priests and kings. The ability of the Dutch first to take full advantage of global trade possibilities depended upon clear, objective, technical knowledge about the shape of the Earth, including the precise disposition of it land masses, and the skills to plot and collect information about its sea lanes, their currents, weather patterns, and so forth, i.e. a vital network of information, kept as up-to-date as possible.

The previous century of exploratory navigation by European nation-states (first by the Portuguese and then by the Spanish) was made possible by "hardware" advances in the art of shipbuilding. As nations, they squandered an early lead race to rip off the world by concentrating on the quest for gold and silver, ignoring much of the wealth-producing capacity of the land itself. In efforts to guard maritime transshipment of bullion, the design and construction of ships became dominated by the needs of a combat navy, rather than building widebodied commercial carriers. The "software" breakthrough came with updating data from the closely-guarded tradition of portolano charts, for centuries handed down within the families of ship pilots and coastal traders. Theoretically--with certain intermittent breaks in continuity--these charts could have mapped the coastlines of all continents. The key here seems to have been a vision of sphericity, in which new dimension the linear portolano charts, formerly based on locally-oriented wind-rose sightings, acquired a revolutionary coherence. This provided a pragmatic refutation of the "flat earth" concepts doctrinally imposed by the institutions of both Church and state since the closing of the School of Athens.

The art and craft (as well as the science and technology) of shipbuilding depended upon a very intricate, integrated network of trade--ages old and effectively world-wide--which allowed the use of specialized woods in the fabrication of various shipboard components (with different and proven preferences for keel, planking, rudder, mast, spar and oar). To supply these needs would eventually bring shipbuilding under the control of international banking, the politics of conquest and colonialism, and the military power of empire. Most successful in this, eventually, was Great Britain, perhaps in some measure because it started with a native understanding of wood qualities as illustrated by the "Battle of the Trees" theme which Robert Graves traced in The White Goddess, his study of Celtic (and therefore, a principal root of English) poetics.

Such indubitably practical knowledge, by the way, may have been preserved best along the Chao Phraya river in the boatyards of Bangkok. But in Great Britain, many centuries of designing and building ships, together with traditions of seamanship, figured importantly in that nation achieving naval superiority. Still, these were only factors--however efficacious--in establishing the eventual global empire of the British crown. The manufacture of canon for firepower and the design and fabrication of delicate, precise instruments of computation and measurement (for navigation, surveying, and time-reckoning) proved to be telling advantages of the mechanical refinements achieved in Great Britain since the Industrial Revolution.

We may recall that the initial enterprise of the Industrial Revolution, prefiguring the development of coal-, then coke-fired furnaces and the smelting of cast iron, was the design of copper and brass brewing equipment. Brass (the copper alloy, hardened with the addition of zinc), remains the metal of choice for use in breweries as it does for shipboard fittings. Just as crucial for the success of the British Empire was the use of brass in the development of fine instrumentation. The Astronomer Royal of Scotland, C. Piazzi Smyth, initiated the "first really systematic analysis of the [Great] Pyramid with modern measuring equipment" in the 1860s. Special tools included tandem verniers, a metal bar with built-in thermometers at each end to correct for temperature variations that might affect linear measurements (.01 degree Fahrenheit was enough to produce a sensible difference). To check for changes due to atmospheric variations they were calibrated daily "against a fine-grained clinkstone [a compact greyish-blue felspathic rock little subject to atmospheric changes] which could be measured with a magnifying glass to 1/100 inch."

For measuring the individual stones on the floors, walls and ceilings, Smyth had mahogany and teak rods tipped with brass, carefully painted or waxed to prevent variation from humidity or temperature. One special ruler, remarkable for its straight, fine grain, had been obtained from an antique musical organ dating from the reign of Queen Anne. To fashion these measuring instruments, Smyth had obtained the services of an expert optician.

[ Tompkins, Secrets, pp. 81 ff. ]

The long history of these traditions (both of wood and metallurgy, especially bronze and brass) extends back into another order of time --actually a couple of 2160-year aions--to the beginning of the Bronze Age (although leading scholars now reject ideas of a lineal sequence of "Ages"). Buckminster Fuller argues that, if the great multi-wood boat-building tradition didn't actually begin in the region of the Mekong, that region very soon became the center of boatbuilding technology after the development of non-rusting ship fittings made from bronze, apparently invented in ancient Thailand. We know that the two essential ingredients for bronze, tin and copper, which rarely occur together in nature, did so at the site of Ban Chiang, discovered only in 1964, and now recognized as quite probably the locus for the true beginning of the Bronze Age by people who shared common cultural elements (including rice growing, three-way basket weaving, nautical crafts, navigational skills, and mathematics with numerals above 100) with the early Polynesians--if, indeed, they were not the same people.

In Siam, the most recent finds have been revolutionary: domestication of plants before 9700 BCE, cord-marked pottery by 6800 BCE, and the earliest date for bronze of 3600 BCE found at Ban Chiang, in north-east Siam, preceding the Near East date of about 3000 BCE, the Mohenjodaro [Indian] date of 2000 BCE, and the Shang [Chi-nese] bronzes of the first millennium BCE....Since tin and copper are deposited on either side of the Mekong and the Chao Phraya, and since people in north-east Siam were capable of producing the kind of heat necessary for the Ban Chiang pottery, it is entirely logical that they were one of the first civilizations, if not the first, to have accidently melted copper and tin ore together.

[ Sumet Jumsai, Naga: Cultural Origins in Siam and the West Pacific, Oxford University Press (1988), p. 8 f. See also, Fuller, Critical Path, pp. 16 f., 21. ]


One of the most startling pieces of evidence pointing to a high level of ancient cartographic knowledge comes from a 1513 map that has acquired the name of the Turkish admiral who signed it: Piri Re'is. According to studies begun in 1956 at the U.S. Hydrographic Office, the southernmost part of the map showed a coastline very closely congruent with that of Queen Maude Land in Antarctica, for thousands of years concealed under the ice cap. The implications are clear that some original source map was made before the ice appeared. The most likely vehicle, to date, that could account for the transmission of such information are portolanos, or portolan charts used--primarily around the Mediterranean and the Black Sea--for sailing "from port to port." As known to Western history, they entered common but closely guarded use at the beginning of the fourteenth century, about the same time as the magnetic compass was imported from China. But the charts themselves had a different lineage: from studies of the standard scale which they all employed (although it had been nowhere common except among Catalan sailors, whose maritime heritage may have come from Carthage), A. E. Nordenskild concluded that all of the surviving charts may have derived from a single "normal portolano."

It is therefore possible that the measure used in the portolanos had its ultimate origin in the time when the Phoenecians or Carthaginians ruled over the navigation of the western Mediterranean, or at least from the time of Marinus of Tyre.... [the 2nd century AD predecessor of the Alexandrian geographer Claudius Ptolemy].

[ A. E. Nordenskild, Periplus: An Essay in the Early History of Charts and Sailing Directions, translated from the original Swedish by F. A. Bathev, Norstedt, Stockholm (1897), p. 24. Cited by Charles H. Hapgood, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings: Evidence of Advanced Civili-zation in the Ice Age, E. P. Dutton, New York (1979), p. 7. ]

Detailed analysis of this map seemed to establish that it had used the Tropic of Cancer and the meridian at Alexandria as bench marks, and that it been drawn by using trigonometry with reference to astronomical observation. But technical features of the projection used by the Piri Re'is map proved to be even more accurate than could be accounted for by the standard cartographic knowledge of Alexandria.

If Hipparchus did in fact develop both plane and spherical trigonometry [perhaps gleaned from the same Chaldean star records noting the precession of the equinox], the Piri Re'is Map...[is] evidence suggesting that he only rediscovered what had been known thousands of years earlier....It could only mean that the Greek geographers of Alexandria, when they prepared their world map using the circumference of Eratosthenes, had in front of them source maps that had been drawn without the Eratosthenian error, that is, apparently without any discernable error at all....

We have discovered that in most cases the errors on the Piri Re'is Map are due to mistakes in the compilation of the world map, presumably in Alexandrian times, since it appears...that Piri Re'is could not have put them together at all. The component maps, coming from a far greater antiquity, were more accurate. The Piri Re'is Map appears, therefore, to be evidence of a decline of science from remote antiquity to classical times.

The picture that seems to emerge, therefore, is one of a scientific achievement far beyond the capacities of the navigators and mapmakers of the Renaissance, of any period of the Middle Ages, of the Arab geographers, or of the known geographers of ancient times. It appears to demonstrate the survival of a cartographic tradition that could hardly have come to us except through some such people as the Phoenecians or the Minoans, the great sea peoples who long preceded the Greeks but passed down to them their maritime lore.

[ Hapgood, Maps, pp. 27, 28, 31, 34. ]

The early Sumerians, who long preceded the Babylonians, claim in their own legends the culture-bringer Oannes, half human, half sea-beast, came from out of the Persian Gulf. As some researches have suggested, the original model for Paradise might have been Dilmun, the Persian Gulf island now known as Bahrain. But even before that, earlier settlers may have come from further east, bringing knowledge of metallurgy from Ban Chiang, with the even older nautical knowledge of practical astronomy, abstracted and mathematically systematized.

"Trigonometry," as Buckminster Fuller reasons--if that is the word for it, in his annoyingly unorthodox but provocatively insightful associative discourse--"had to start with sea people." Maritime navigation may, indeed, have begun with early Austronesian sailors, or found its way from immemorial monsoon transits along the littoral of the Indian Ocean up into the Persian Gulf when the early cities were established by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia. We now know that much earlier settled communities, large and complex enough to be termed cities (hence appropriately qualifying as instances of "civilization") graced the Anatolian Plateau at atal Hyk and Hacilar, and that Jericho's walls--multi-storied, white-washed, with towers and internal staircases--also stood some seven thousand years ago. Complementing the technology of mud-brick architecture (which, by itself, implied a social organization of great sophistication) were the mathematics and astronomy underlying those religious architectural expressions and representing another order of inspired, intellectual achievement, perhaps linked to the (legendary? historical?) figure of Oannes and to the water god Ea, associated with the abyss of the southern sea and sky. None of the scholars pondering the issue has yet figured out who the Sumerians were, or where they came from. It does not appear that their earliest cuneiform script was invented for a Semitic language:

It consisted of so-called word bricks, mostly of one syllable, that were strung together without inflectional change and with the aid of attached particles. The grammatical structure of Sumerian resembles certain other agglutinative languages of the Turko-Mongolian family, but the vocabulary and syntax do not appear to be related to any known linguistic group.

[ Michanowsky, Once and Future Star, p. 26. ]

Soon after the time of Alexander's eastern conquests, a priest named Berossos, probably a Hellenized Mesopotamian, wrote--in Greek--a history of Babylon; his text has been lost, but the accounts survive second-hand in Classical references and citations. The Sumerians had long been extinct, but it transpired that his source material had come down through the millennia from original Sumerian cuneiform records.

The most widely remembered part of this chronicle was the tale of Oannes, a creature half man and half fish, described as having emerged from the Persian Gulf to teach the early inhabitants of Mesopotamia the arts of civilization, especially writing, mathematics, and the science of the stars. Before his final return to the ocean whence he came, Oannes is reported to have written a book, which he then presented to the inhabitants of Mesopotamia as a solemn gift. This book was said to contain "secret wisdom." The Berossus chronicle also featured a list of Mesopotamian rulers. Among these, mention was made of one Xisuthros [since identified with an Akkadian, Noah-type hero named Ut-Napishtim], who reigned "when the great flood came."

[ Michanowsky, Once and Future Star, p. 45. ]

Possibly foreshadowing the Tarot, what was contained in the book of "secret wisdom" (the symbolism of king lists and the numbers game) served--as did also both temple-brick construction and linguistic-brick agglutinative sentence-formation, in their own respective ways--the cause of an intellectual organization based on the same 60-cycle harmonics still pervading the electromagnetic atmosphere of American cities today: 432, 864, 2160, and the grand harmonic number 25,920.

The earliest appearance of this number in such an association, however, was in the writings of the Babylonian priest Berossos, c. 280 BCE, where it was declared that between the legendary date of the "descent of kingship" to the cities of Sumer and the date of the mythical deluge, ten kings reigned for 432,000 years.... [I]n Genesis, between the creation of Adam and the time of Noah's deluge, there were ten Patriarchs and a span of 1656 years. But in 1656 years there are 86,400 seven-day (i.e., Hellenistic-Hebrew) weeks, while if the Babylonian years be reckoned as days, 432,000 days constitute 86,400 five-day (i.e. Sumero- Babylonian) weeks. And, finally, 86,400 2 = 43,200: all of which points to a long-standing relationship of the number 432 to the idea of the renewal of the eon [the aion of 2160 years]; and such a renewal, from the pagan to the Christian eon is exactly what the date of Patrick's arrival in Ireland represents.

[ Campbell, Occidental Mythology, p. 459 f. ]