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 "Important Discovery"

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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: "Important Discovery"   Mon 13 Nov 2017, 17:37

@Hatshepsut wrote:
I've found this link about at least one 3000 year old lens

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nimrud_lens


But this artifact from Nimrud is not totally unique in the ancient world. Another artifact that appears to be a lens dating from roughly the 5th century BC was found in a cave on Mount Ida on Crete. It is more powerful and of better quality than the Nimrud lens. Also, the Roman writers Pliny and Seneca both referred to a lens used by an engraver in Pompeii.

http://www.lcas-astronomy.org/articles/display.php?filename=oldest_optical_device_-_the_nimrud_lens&category=general

I'm off out to a lecture (Roman Sicily if you're interested) but this needs more research later.
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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Re: "Important Discovery"   Tue 14 Nov 2017, 04:37

Good points re the magnifying glass Hattie and Ferval, I wasn't aware of either of them.

The only people that I can think of who had short hair in this region were the Athenians, but of course that is later than this depiction. And yes the wrap around shield is intriguing, possibly there is a clue there?

Unfortunately I don't have time for research, I'll be going away for a couple of weeks on Friday and there is still too much to do and little time left in which to do it.
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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Re: "Important Discovery"   Tue 14 Nov 2017, 04:59

As an aside, from Ferval's link to Mary Beard's blog she mentions the blue monkey/boy gathering saffron. The only area that I was aware of that saffron grows in Greece is in Kozani in the northern mountainous region of Greece because it needs specific climatic conditions to grow, so presumed the crocus lilies were more of Evans' fancies. But I see that there are depictions of a girl gathering saffron at Akrotiri as well so clearly it was cultivated in wider regions and much farther south than today, but of course, climate today would be rather different I'd imagine.
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: "Important Discovery"   Tue 14 Nov 2017, 08:55

I don't think saffron needs very special conditions to grow. Most of the world's saffron these days comes from Kashmir, Afghanistan, Iran and Spain (where it often needs irrigation), and its cultivation these days is probably restricted as much by the availablility of cheap labour as climatic/soil conditions: harvesting and plucking the three delicate stamens from each flower is very labour intensive and requires a deft touch, hence the spice's high price and that the work has usually been seen as a job for women or children. In the past it was widely cultivated throughout Mediterranean region and even in medieval England, eg around Saffron Walden, although here it might have benefitted from the warmer period before the Little Ice Age. Nevertheless saffron is still grown commercially in Essex and Cheshire, although the businesses are very small. And I've got a small bed growing in my garden.

Commercial saffron, Crocus sativus, is a sterile cultivar thought to have developed, perhaps naturally, from the wild crocus Crocus cartwrightianus, which still grows wild in the karst regions of Greece and Crete, or possibly from Crocus pallasi, which is native to the Balkans, Greece and the Middle East. Either way Greece or the wider Eastern Mediterranean seems to have been where saffron cultivation originated.
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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Re: "Important Discovery"   Tue 14 Nov 2017, 09:58

Saffron grows in mountainous regions with hot dry summers and cold winters, it also prefers a clay soil which are all fairly specific requirements.

Anyway as I was referring to Greece, yes the kind of saffron that is being cultivated now, is named scientifically “Crocus Sativus Linneaus”.

A quick bit of research gives that it is known that the ancient Minoans cultivated saffron during Late Bronze Age in Crete, the cultivation afterwards disappeared from Greece. In the 17th C. Greek Macedonian traders brought the plant from Austria to the region of Kozáni, in Northern Greece. It is a unique area of about 3000 acres consisting of 40 small villages, called Krokohória (the crocus villages). The ideal climatic and soil conditions of this area  have allowed krokos-saffron to be exclusively cultivated there for the last 300 years. Nowadays more or less 1.2 to 2 ton of Red Saffron is produced per year.

In the past it was also grown on the islands of Crete, Thera, Anafi, Delos, Syros, Tenos, Aegina, Mykonos, Andros and Corfu but saffron has almost disappeared from these areas. I'm still wondering if it is due to climatic change.
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: "Important Discovery"   Tue 14 Nov 2017, 10:17

@Islanddawn wrote:
Saffron grows in mountainous regions with hot dry summers and cold winters, it also prefers a clay soil which are all fairly specific requirements.

Not that specific ... hot dry summers and cold winters is basically the standard Mediterranean climate.

@Islanddawn wrote:

.... yes the kind of saffron that is being cultivated now, is named scientifically “Crocus Sativus Linneaus”.

Indeed but Crocus sativus is a sterile cultivar that cannot reproduce in the wild, it must have originated from a wild species and genetic studies tend to suggest it developed (perhaps accidentally in the wild but probably with some human aid) from the Greek wild crocus Crocus cartwrightianus which still grows wild throughout Greece and on Crete. The point is that the depiction in Knossos of saffron being actually cultivated in Crete at that time is not at all implausible.

@Islanddawn wrote:

.... it is known that the ancient Minoans cultivated saffron during Late Bronze Age in Crete, the cultivation afterwards disappeared from Greece. In the 17th C. Greek Macedonian traders brought the plant from Austria to the region of Kozáni, in Northern Greece. It is a unique area of about 3000 acres consisting of 40 small villages, called Krokohória (the crocus villages). The ideal climatic and soil conditions of this area  have allowed krokos-saffron to be exclusively cultivated there for the last 300 years. Nowadays more or less 1.2 to 2 ton of Red Saffron is produced per year.

In the past it was also grown on the islands of Crete, Thera, Anafi, Delos, Syros, Tenos, Aegina, Mykonos, Andros and Corfu but saffron has almost disappeared from these areas. I'm still wondering if it is due to climatic change.

There may well be an aspect of climate change: saffron cultivation in most of Europe declined and largely died out with the end of the western Roman Empire; then was re-established throughout Europe following Arab advances into Spain and France and with the cultural exchanges of the Crusades; and then declined again in about 1400. And while that last decline might correlate with changing climate and the onset of the Little Ice Age, it might also reflect the increased availability of cheaper supplies coming from Persia and North India. Neverthless once saffron was transported outside of its Greek/Cretan homeland it was, and still is, very widely grown throughout Europe, from the muddy plains and cloudy skies of the English midlands and Northern France, to the burning semi-deserts of Central Spain and Iran, to the mountainous foothills of the Apennines, Alps, and Himalayas.


Last edited by Meles meles on Tue 14 Nov 2017, 14:36; edited 2 times in total
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: "Important Discovery"   Tue 14 Nov 2017, 11:01

Just some thoughts about lenses and the engraved seal stone ...

It seems to me that if you can carve a hard stone like agate - and the 2.4cm long Griffin seal stone is primarily a 3D bas-relief carving, rather than a simpler 2D engraving - then grinding a piece of glass to a lens should be almost child's play, providing one has a suitable material available and one realises the possibilities and principles of optics to guide what one is trying to achieve.

So-called rock crystal, ie pure, clear transparent quartz is reasonably rare but was certainly known of in antiquity, was sought as a gemstone in its own right, and was being ground to shape (using ordinary sand, or better still naturally-occurring corundum, which fortuitously can be found on the nearby island of Naxos) by jewellers such as the one who made the seal stone in question. An alternative raw material would be manufactured silica glass, and decorative beads and small ingots of at least semi-transparent glass were already being produced in Egypt, Syria and Mesopotamia at around this date (circa 1,500 BC). A suitable lens need not be like a large magnifying glass but could, if ground to have a short focal length, be only about the size of a coin, perhaps 3cm or so in diameter. So while to date there doesn't seem to be any direct archaeological evidence for the manufacture of small glass lenses before the classical Greek period, it doesn't seem technologically impossible. Were the physics of optics sufficiently understood? Who knows but even a drop of water on a leaf can clearly be seen to produce a magnifying effect ... and who better to be aware of this effect in hard transparent materials than someone already in the business of grinding and polishing gems? (And remember that medieval painted minatures and the tiny details on illuminated manuscripts were mostly accomplished using nothing more sophisticated than a smooth ground glass sphere or a blown glass hollow ball filled with water - although I admit the technology and technique of glass-blowing is too advanced for this period).

I'll also just add that I used to do a lot of detailed microscopy work and, possibly as a result, in my twenties developed moderate short-sightenness, which actually was an advantage as I could focus on tiny details (for example minute flaws in polished metal) at a very short distance from the eye without the need for a lens. I've now shifted to mild long-sightedness but in the past the details on the Griffon Warrior's seal stone would not have been impossibly small to see with the naked eye: on a polished background the human eye can usually distinguish details at least as small as 10 microns - ie ten-thousandths of a millimetre. I don't think producing this work, exquisite as it is, provided of course one was a master of the delicate grinding and engraving techniques required, would have been outside of the possibilities for a myopic craftsman.
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Triceratops
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PostSubject: Re: "Important Discovery"   Wed 15 Nov 2017, 09:51

The image on the agate contrasts with the full bronze armour of the Dendra Panoply of the Mycenaean period.

Dendra Panoply

reconstruction:



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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Re: "Important Discovery"   Thu 14 Dec 2017, 05:22

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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: "Important Discovery"   Thu 14 Dec 2017, 21:56

Thanks Islanddawn for this link. I read it all with interest.

Kind regards from Paul.
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