The Symbolism of the Islamic Garden

Islamic gardens act as symbolic representation of the archetypal eternal heavenly garden, an attempt to provide a small peak into what could potentially wait for a person in the afterlife. Repetition of geometric shapes in Islamic gardens help to emphasize the link between the physical world and thereafter. Circular fountains represent Jannah, the Islamic representation of heaven, as the circle is symbolic of heaven. The square is always utilized as a symbol of the Earth, with circular fountains often found within square indentations to act as a metaphor for heaven and Earth meeting. The term “Jannat-al-Firdaws” which means “Garden of Paradise” in Arabic, is mentioned many times throughout the Quran, with Chapter 55 of Surat al-Rahman (pronounced “suu-rat al rack-man”), which means the “all merciful” in Arabic, holding the best and most descriptive accounts of what this garden truly would look like if experienced. Water plays a crucial role in these accounts, with multiple layers of symbolism for life present which is why water is the most important element within an Islamic garden as it is symbolic of the soul. Rain was and continues to be viewed as a merciful gift from heaven within Islamic culture as Islam stems from one of the hottest regions in the world. Water is essential to Islam and an Islamic paradise garden cannot exist without the incorporation of water to some degree. Islamic gardens are separated into 4 specific quadrants because of the “chahar bagh” (pronounced “cha-harr bahh”) which means “4 gardens” in the Persian language of Farsi, directly related to the 4 rivers of paradise, including a river of milk, honey, wine, and water, an order and harmony which underlies everything within an Islamic garden

The 12 Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greece

The Ancient Greeks believed in 12 gods and goddesses who were understood to reside upon Mount Olympus. These deities included Zeus (pronounced “zoose”) the king of the gods, Hera (pronounced “hare-ah”) the wife of Zeus and goddess of marriage and childbirth, Apollo (pronounced “ah-pol-oh”) the son of Zeus, sun god, and god of music and healing, Artemis (pronounced “art-em-is”) the daughter of Zeus, twin sister of Apollo, and the goddess of the moon and hunting, Aphrodite (pronounced “af-row-dye-tee”) the daughter of Zeus and goddess of love and sexual desire, Ares (pronounced “air-eez”) the son of Zeus, god of war and battle, and lover of Aphrodite, Poseidon (pronounced “po-sai-den”) the brother of Zeus and god of the sea, storms, and earthquakes, Demeter (pronounced “de-me-tur”) a lover of Zeus and the goddess of agriculture and fertility, Athena (pronounced “ah-tee-nah”) the daughter of Zeus and goddess of wisdom and war, Hephaestus (pronounced “heh-fai-sch-tus”) the son of Zeus and god of fire and art, Hermes (pronounced “hur-meez”) the son of Zeus, god of commerce and travel, as well as being a personal messenger for his father, and finally Hestia (pronounced “hess-tee-yah”) the sister of Zeus and goddess of the home and family

The First Use of Spaces In Writing

 

Ancient Greek writing did not observe spaces as modern day written language does so all words were connected, forming a continuous string of text. Aerated text with irregular spaced intervals did not develop until the late 7th century A.D. and standard modern day spacing after each term did not develop until the 11th century A.D. Ancient Greek writing also observed the practice of Boustrophedon (pronounced “boos-trah-fee-don”) which is when text is written and read right to left instead of left to right as modern day English and most other, however not all other, world languages do (e.g. Japanese, Arabic, Hebrew etc.)

Inventions Mesopotamia Gifted to the World Still Used During the Modern Day

The Mesopotamians invented large scale wheat production, the potters wheel which allows for the making of pottery bowls, cups, and plates, used for consumption and collection, boats which could sail all the way to India created from reeds, and the stylus which is effectively a pen created from reeds, which lead to the development of the world’s first writing system. These are just a few examples gifted to the world by the first great civilization; Mesopotamia. Every written word in the western world can trace its origins back to the cuneiform of Mesopotamia and the study of mathematics also derives directly from the Mesopotamian civilization. Reeds were used for measuring distances, based upon the size of the Pharaoh Djer (pronounced “jur”), with the first standard measurement derived from Djer’s elbow crease to the tip of his middle finger, and the second standard measuring a full arm span of both arms spread as wide as the body will allow them. The Mesopotamians invented the mathematics of time keeping by using the creases of their fingers with each finger containing 3 creases therefore 12 creases for each hand. This system included the thumb and when accounting for the back of the hand, a base system was invented which was used to count between 0 – 60. This system was primarily used to tell time, as there are 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour, which meant that the day would be divided into 2 periods each of 12 hours

The Agama Texts of Hinduism

Hinduism is not a religion of the book as there is no central source of authority like the Christian Bible or the Islamic Quran to refer to, however there is no shortage of scripture. The whole canon of Hindu philosophy thrives upon debate and spiritual inquiry, much of it contradictory. Collected all together, these texts would fill many, many volumes of text. The Agamas were created to be a set of rules to guide those who subscribe to Hinduism and its ideological principles. The Agamas are incredibly vast in their range of topics offering instructions upon temple construction, the intricacies of the guru and disciple relationship, and meditation practices, covering every moment of life from waking to sleeping, from birth to death. The agamas originated in Tamil Nadu and are written in the Tamil language. The agamas provided Hinduism a formal structure which are still considered cornerstones in the practice of Hinduism during the modern day

The Oldest Artwork in Human History

Near the Ardeche River (pronounced “arr-desh”) in southern France, less than 0.5 kilometers away, 3 explorers set out a few days before Christmas in 1994. While seeking drafts of air emanating from the ground which would point to the presence of caves, these explorers found a subtle airflow which was blockaded by rocks. The explorers found a narrow shaft which was cut into the cliffside, so narrow in fact that their bodies could just barely squeeze through it. Deep inside the cave the explorers stumbled upon the oldest known cave paintings in human history, twice as old as any other artistic depiction made by human hands. The cave itself had been perfectly sealed for tens of thousands of years which is why this 32,000 year old artwork was found in pristine condition. In honor of the lead discover Jean-Marie Chauvet (pronounced “zhan mah-ree sho-vee”), the cave was named “Chauvet Cave”. The French Ministry of Culture controls all access to the cave, an intervention which was rapidly implemented as this discovery was immediately understood as an enormous scientific find, perhaps one of the greatest anthropological and artistic discoveries ever made. Scientists and art historians are typically the only members of the public permitted access to Chauvet Cave, with archeologists, paleontologists, and geologists being the most common interdisciplinary teams provided entry

The Ancient Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt

The Lighthouse of Alexandria was one of the original 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. Standing more than 350’ tall, the Lighthouse of Alexandria and was clearly observable to passing ships sailing up to 50 kilometers away. Originally built in 280 B.C., after guiding ships into the port and city of Alexandria for 15 centuries, the Lighthouse of Alexandria collapsed in 1323 due to a series of earthquakes which leveled the structure and caused it to tumble into the Mediterranean Sea. The Citadel of Qaitbay (pronounced “kate-bay”), a 500 year old fortress, now sits at the site of the once standing lighthouse with many of the stones within this structure, pieces of the original Lighthouse of Alexandria, installed after being dredged up from the ocean floor. Although the Lighthouse of Alexandria was originally designed to safely bring ships into the port of Alexandria, the Citadel of Qaitbay acted in opposition as a repellent centuries later, designed to keep enemies (e.g. Ottoman Turks) out of Egypt. No ship was permitted the privilege of docking in the Alexandria harbor without forfeiting all books on board for a short period of time until they could be translated and/or copied outright by scribes

The Discovery of the Sunken S.S. Titanic

The S.S. Titanic’s shipwreck site was found by the U.S. Navy whilst embarking upon a clandestine military submarine sea voyage operation in 1982. The intent of the mission was to surpass the Russians on every front, including land, sea, air, and space. Geologist and Navy Captain Robert Ballard was the person who developed the mission idea by suggesting that the U.S. Navy scour the seafloor to gather intelligence and search for evidence of Soviet placed hardware. The original intention of the mission was to locate and recover 2 U.S. Navy submarines which were classified as top secret nuclear attack vessels and lost during the 1960’s. The first submarine was the U.S.S. Scorpion, lost in 1968 with 99 onboard, and the second was the U.S.S. Thresher, lost in 1963 with 129 onboard. Recovery of these vessels during the 1960’s was limited to the Sound Navigation and Ranging technology of the era, commonly abbreviated as “SONAR”. Ballard only had 12 days to locate the S.S. Titanic during the mission without exposing his cover story, a feat which was unable to be completed by the French and the Americans, despite having much longer time spans and multiple expeditions to achieve this goal. Ballard narrowed down the search area to 80 square kilometers and focused towards the south as he believed that ocean currents would have carried sunken debris in that direction. Ballard continued searching for a trail of scattered debris from the S.S. Titanic and on the 9th day of the expedition, with time quickly running out, the operators of the remotely operated vehicle ARGO, found wreckage from a modern iron ship which appeared to be from the early 20th century. It was confirmed shortly after on September 1, 1985 at 12:48 AM that these remains were 1 of the 29 boilers belonging to the S.S. Titanic. It had been 73 years since the S.S. Titanic was last seen, resting nearly 4 kilometers below sea level, with it’s 1500 onboard passengers and crew

The Ancient Mesopotamian Law Code of Hammurabi

Dating from 1770 B.C., the most complete of ancient Mesopotamian legal texts is the Code of Hammurabi, a compendium of 282 laws which dictated the rules of commercial interactions and set fines and punishments for those found in violation of these laws. Inscribed upon a phallic piece of black obsidian, Hammurabi’s Code is depicted as receiving these laws from Shamash, the god of the sun, justice, and order, with the primary role of protecting the weak from the strong. It is written and recognized within the Hammurabi Code the first appearance of the biblical punishment of an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. Considered by many scientists to be one of the foundational stones of world civilization, the Hammurabi Code is a mixed blessing for women, both protecting women and lowering their social rank as second class citizens. Upon the positive end, the Hammurabi Code recognized women’s basic right to own property, fundamental in its importance as it provided women legal protection in regard to the control of their dowries and inheritance. The Hammurabi Code also forbade arbitrary poor treatment and/or neglect, which meant wives who were ill or barren couldn’t be simply discarded. In divorce, women were permitted to keep their dowries, and in widowhood, women were permitted the opportunity to utilize their husbands estates as their own for the duration of their lives. The Hammurabi Code essentially recognizes Mesopotamian women as distinct persons in a legal sense, rather than property which is how most of the ancient world recognized women. Upon the negative side however, women’s economic and sexual freedoms became severely restricted, forbidden from performing any commercial activity outside of their home and supporting and legalizing the concept of the patriarchy by providing men immense autonomy over the bodies of women, meaning husbands and fathers now owned the sexual reproduction of their wives and daughters which lead to women being executed for adultery, virginity becoming a condition of marriage, and rape not viewed as a violent sexual offense against the female victim, but rather an economic offense against her father as it would cause the father to suffer a severe loss in respect to a daughters bride price as the daughter would be considered a damaged commodity. It’s unclear how these legal mandates and statutes worked at the local level as they are ideals of Mesopotamian culture, but the driving force of these laws and how they are setup and constituted is abundantly clear, allowing male authority and patriarchal notions of male honor, to become sacrosanct