What Did Ancient Civilizations Believe Lay at The Edges of the Earth?

What Did Ancient Civilizations Believe Lay at The Edges of the Earth?

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The first civilizations didn’t have satellites in the sky, mapping every inch of the world in real time. Everything beyond that, they had to imagine.

It made the world a stranger, more magical place. They saw their own homes at the center of a disc-like planet, surrounded by a threshold that would them into a world of magic that lay on the edges of the earth.

There are a handful of ancient world maps and encyclopedias that let us know how they saw that world. The Babylonians, the Greeks, and the Romans all left behind their own visions of our world and its furthest thresholds, each one giving a glimpse into how they saw the world and imagined the farthest reaches, or edges of the earth.

A Byzantine Greek world map according to Ptolemy's first (conic) projection. From Codex Vaticanus Urbinas Graecus 82, Constantinople c. 1300.

The Babylonians: The Seven Outer Regions

The oldest world map ever found was made in Babylon. It shows the world as a round disc surrounded by an ocean of bitter waters. On the edges of the earth, beyond the ocean, they believed, were seven strange lands full of magic and monsters.

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The map was made in the 7th or 6th century BC , but its ideas are even older. The notes left by the engraver say that it was copied from a tablet made 200 years earlier, but the idea’s probably even older than that. One of the outer worlds on that map shows up in the Epic of Gilgamesh , written in 2100 BC.

6th century BC map showing Assyria, Babylonia and Armenia.

The outer regions are shaped like triangles. This, the Babylonians believed, was how they would appear when approached from the sea: like great expanses of land that get narrower and narrower as they go, the edges of the land falling off into endless space.

Only a handful of their descriptions survive, but every one suggests they are mystical and unreachable places. One is labeled the place “where the winged bird ends not his flight”, meaning a place that no bird can reach. Another, the map warns, is home to a horned bull that attacks anyone who lands there.

One is labeled the place “where the winged bird ends not his flight.” ( CC0)

An island in the north, they believed, was enshrouded in complete darkness. Another, just a little to the west of it, was a place where the light was brighter than any star.

The Greeks: The Lands Of Monsters

The early Greeks, before Pythagoras first proposed that our world is round, had a very different idea about what our world looked like. They believed that the world was a disc; a series of concentric circles with Athens in the center.

Their own home, they believed, was a near-perfect circle, surrounded by a perfectly circular Mediterranean Sea. Africa, Europe, and Asia circled perfectly around that sea. And if one traveled far enough to reach the ends of one of the foreign continents, they would find nothing but an endless ocean.

‘The Ninth Wave’ (1850) by Ivan Aivazovsky. Many of the ancient Greeks believed if one traveled far enough to reach the ends of one of the foreign continents, they would find nothing but an endless ocean.

For them, Athens was more than just the geographical center of the world – it was the center of civilization, as well. The further one traveled toward the edges of the earth, the more savage the land and the people would become, and the more monsters they would find.

Even as the Greeks started to get a better grasp of the outside world, they still accepted the idea that it was a disc with monsters on the edges. When the Greek explorer Ctesias came back from India, he insisted he’d seen people with dog’s heads, tigers with humans faces, and people with gigantic feet they used as parasols.

Among the more absurd claims of Ctesias’ ‘Indica’ were the stories of a race of people with only one leg, or with feet so big they could be used as an umbrella. This is an example of such a creature in the Nuremberg Chronicle.

India, they believed, was one of the ends of the earth. Herodotus wrote that India was the furthest east anyone could travel and that Arabia was the furthest point in the south. But the north and the west, he believed, were a still an uncharted mystery:

“I have never found anyone who could give me firsthand information of the existence of a sea beyond Europe to the north and west.”

The Romans: The Low Countries

The Greek concept of the world didn’t totally go away. Even after Pythagoras and Aristotle suggested that the world might be a sphere, many still seem to have held on to the idea that there was an edge to the earth filled with savages.

Julius Caesar , himself, was convinced that Rome was the center of the world. The further out you traveled, he believed, the more savage the people would become.

Map of the world according to Strabo.

It wasn’t altogether different from how the Greeks saw the world, except that, for the Romans, the northern and western extremities of the world were no longer uncharted lands. They had marched their armies right into what they believed was the edge of the world.

The northern edges, they believe, were overrun with floods. Pliny the Elder , who had visited the Chauci people who lived in north-west Germany, reported back:

“There, twice in every twenty-four hours, the ocean's vast tide sweeps in a flood over a large stretch of land and hides … There these wretched peoples occupy high ground … when the tide has receded they are like shipwrecked victims.”

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The Romans soon became convinced that all the outskirts of the northern world were the same. They were full of wild forests and marshes where savage men lived, constantly bombarded by the crash of the rising tides.

It was a small hint of truth expanded into a lie. They’d seen one part of Germany that was below the sea level and told themselves that this was simply what the whole world looked like outside of their own domain.

Roman bronze figure, discovered in the National Library in Paris, France, in the late 19th century. The Germanis is wearing a typical suebian knot hairstyle and a characteristic cloak. Bibliothèque Nationale de France Paris, Cabinet des Bédailles Paris, Inventory No. 915. Dating to 2nd half 1st century to 1st half 2nd century AD. (Bullenwächter/ CC BY 3.0 )

Flat wrong: the misunderstood history of flat Earth theories

Chris Fleming does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


Western Sydney University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.

The Conversation UK receives funding from these organisations

For most people, being described as a “flat Earther” is an insult. The idea of the Earth being flat is considered not only wrong, but a model of wrongness, the gold standard of being incorrect about something.

This being so, oddly enough, most people described pejoratively as “flat Earthers” do not actually believe that the Earth is flat. “Flat Earther” is simply a scientifically seasoned variation of “idiot”.

For a recent example, US President Barack Obama recently expressed impatience with the persistent objections put forward by climate change deniers by saying: “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.”

In a subsequent move that one can read as either very fortunate or very unfortunate, the real Flat Earth Society issued a statement in support the hypothesis of anthropogenic climate change.

What do we do, then, when someone actually does believe that the Earth is flat, as the American rapper B.o.B expressed recently? The usual path seems to be blocked it’s difficult to insult someone with a term that they themselves happily adopt.

The Olmecs: One of the most advanced Ancient Civilizations on Earth

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The Olmec civilization developed in the period of the Lower and Middle Preclassic, spanning from 1500 BC to 100 A.D. The name Olmec is translated to “people of the rubber country” and was awarded to them in 1929. It refers to the culture developed in southern Veracruz and northern Tabasco, in the territory of modern-day Mexico. Regrettably we do not know their actual name nor do we know what language they spoke since the written records left behind by this influential civilization has not been deciphered.

Even though the Olmec civilization is surrounded by numerous mysteries, researchers believe that all the classical cultures of Mesoamerica originated from this mysterious civilization.

The ancient Olmecs achieved an incredible degree of development, totally incomprehensible if we consider that we know nothing of their origin nor their roots. The Ancient Olmecs knew about animal domestication, beekeeping, and extracted a substance with hallucinogenic properties from a frog native to the gulf of Mexico. This practice was also shared by shamans in the Yucatán peninsula and islands in the Caribbean.

Their stonemason skills were something noteworthy, achieving incredible constructions and monuments, like the giant Olmec heads, before the Aztecs, Mayas and other civilizations of the Americas. The question that has baffled archaeologists and other researchers is how? From where did the ancient Olmecs obtain their knowledge and where do they come form?

Many researchers today have tried explaining the Olmec civilization and their advanced knowledge in many fields. The inability to answer almost anything about the Olmecs has led numerous researchers to suggest that these ancient people have a very mysterious origin, one that points to an otherworldly connection.
The only “reasonable” explanation that would lead to the understanding of such complex advancements in cultural and technological development is that these ancient people had contact with civilizations more advanced than we can ever imagine. The Olmec culture was inherited by other great Mesoamerican civilization such as the Maya and Aztec.

At the most important ancient Olmec sites such as La Venta, San Lorenzo, Laguna de los Cerros and Tres Zapotes, researchers have found the most important discoveries that could lead to the understanding of this ancient civilization. Olmec art has numerous forms, the most important archaeological findings are the giant heads, but there are also altars, thrones and stele that are believed to narrate important historical events of the ancient Olmecs. The ancient Olmec religion revolved around supernatural deities, they worshiped the jaguar-gods, crocodile and snake gods.

The giant Olmec heads are one of the most important symbols of this ancient civilization. They were able to transport rocks weighing over 20 tons which points to incredibly technology that would allow them to move these giant blocks of stone across rivers, jungles and mountains. No one has been able to logically explain how they managed it.
Researchers believe that the ancient Olmecs had a very profound understanding in geology, which has allowed them to reuse materials for different purposes. It is believed that some of the Olmec heads were actually altars that were “reused” and redesigned.

Their knowledge in geology allowed this mysterious ancient civilization to literally “terraform” certain regions. The San Lorenzo plateau is one of those examples. It is considered one of the most important architectural projects in ancient times. The entire region was “modified” to the liking of the ancient Olmecs. This project involved the removal of tons of Earth and rock that allowed the construction of giant terraces, walls and monuments, literally transforming their surroundings into a sacred area for their inhabitants. The question that still remains is, how did ancient man achieve this… thousands of years ago?

The truth is that researchers have no idea of ​​their origin or their language or their religion. As a cultural manifestation, the ancient Olmecs spread our from the Gulf where they expanded to all Mesoamerica, reaching the Maya in the South, the Totonac culture in the North and even the Nahua in central Mexico.

By Olmec influence, all other cultures developed in Mesoamerica, but the origin of the Olmec is still a mystery that researchers cannot seem to explain.

This ancient civilization is noted for their sculptures of giant heads, which have become one of the most profound mysteries for researchers. Today, researchers have not been able to decipher the way on how these giant heads were built, and possibly reused.

History tells us that the ancient Olmecs did not have knowledge of the wheel, but a finding by American archaeologist Matthew Stirling in the 40s tells an entirely different story. At the archeological site Tres Zapotes, Stirling unearthed numerous children toys, one of those consisted of a dog that had wheels on it. Does this point to the fact that the ancient Olmecs did in fact have knowledge of the wheel? It would be hard to believe that “the wheel” would have been only used for the amusement of children.

If the ancient Olmecs did possess the knowledge of the wheel, is it possible that they had other technologies that were ahead of their time? If so, did this “lost technology” allow them to achieve incredible feats that are causing confusion among archaeologists and researchers today?

Other important enigmas about the ancient Olmec civilization is their origin. The Negroid features on some Olmec sculptures has caused great confusion among researchers. The giant Olmec heads seem to depict people who are not native to the Americas, but Africa. Does this point to the fact that the Olmecs cam from a different continent? If so, how did they do this?

Among other representations of the ancient Olmecs we find other strange features such as bearded faces, aquiline noses and thin lips, which do not correspond with any Mesoamerican racial type, something that mysteriously, can be also found in other ancient sites in south America, like Puma Punku.

What does this tell us about history? Is it possible that, as many researchers suggest, history as we know it is completely wrong?

The Earth Grid: Are Ancient Monuments The Result Of A Global Consciousness?

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In addition to the fact that Earth is so far the only planet capable of hosting life as we know it, many other mysteries engulf our homeworld.

Throughout millennia, ancient civilizations around the globe left their mark on history. Building supermassive structures that defy explanation, our ancestors made sure to remain ever-present in history books.

Today, we admire and research awestriking monuments built thousands of years ago, trying to answer some of the most important historical questions: How did civilization develop, how they managed to transport massive stones weighing up to one hundred tons, and why so many monuments are similar in design?

What if there was a higher purpose to these ancient structures?

But perhaps the most critical question we have failed to address is: Is it possible that ancient monuments were built with a higher purpose? And what if, these striking structures were constructed not randomly, but were strategically positioned around the globe?

Have you ever noticed that some ancient monuments appear to be connected? If you take a look at the world map and look at the position of ancient monuments, you’ll notice that some of them can easily be connected with straight lines, almost as if the ancient builders used advanced forms of geometry, and mathematical equations carved into stone, making already mind-boggling monuments ever more mysterious.

Many authors have asked, and failed to answer why the Pyramids of Egypt were built?

Furthermore, we have failed to answer how the Ancient Egyptians how these massive monuments were erected, and we have not managed to understand how the ancient Egyptians managed to place the Great Pyramid of Giza at the exact center of all landmass on Earth.

Did you know that the east/west parallel that crosses the most land and the north/south meridian that crosses the most land intersect in two places on the earth, one in the ocean and the other at the Great Pyramid?

Don’t you wonder how this was possible without the ability to fly?

How did the ancients manage this without the ability to know how the world’s landmass looked like at that time?

The Pyramids, specifically those found at Giza, are an amazing achievement of several sciences together: geometry, physics, and mathematics, all combined to form monuments that have stood the test of time.

For example, the weight of the Great Pyramid of Giza is estimated at 5,955,000 tons.

Multiplied by 10^8 gives a reasonable estimate of the earth’s mass.

If we were to recreate the Great Pyramid of Giza today, we would have difficulties doing so, despite our knowledge and machinery.

This fact alone makes the Pyramids of Giza a true ancient marvel.

We don’t want to take away credit to the ancient man who built incredible structures like the Pyramids, but did they really manage this with sticks and stones? Or did they, as some authors suggest, possess far more advanced technology than we are willing to accept?

I can’t help to wonder if there is a slight chance that somehow, ancient cultures all over the world were connected, either through a global consciousness, or another global phenomenon that helped point them in a single direction, which resulted in the construction of countless ancient sites that look alike as if it was a construction process on a global scale.

Almost as if every single culture on our planet felt the need to place monuments such as the pyramids, the Stonehenge, Teotihuacan and other incredible places in specific locations.

What these ancient civilizations did was create a pattern, a pattern that we today are identifying and connecting, forming a massive puzzle, piece by piece.

Many authors wonder if it is possible that many ancient monuments were not placed randomly.

Image Credit: Simon E. Davies.

Some authors are convinced that that embedded in these megalithic constructions, there lies a secret code that can explain how, why, and who built and organized these incredible monuments that are scattered across the planet.

The more we research ancient civilizations and their history, culture, and knowledge, the more surprised we are.

The more we find, the more we understand how little we know.

What if the ancient Egyptians did not place the Pyramids randomly? What if Pyramids, temples, and tombs we marked a specific geographic location? And what if other civilizations around the globe did the same? What if civilizations in the Americas and Asia did the same? What if all ancient sites were built with a plan?

Researchers have discovered connections between sacred structures and powerfully charged areas of the globe where the Earth’s electromagnetic energy accumulates.

These locations were important and held meaning to the ancients. But how did the ancients know of these geographic locations?

Ancient astronaut theorists point towards the so-called “world grid” or “The Earth Grid”. This theory maintains that ancient civilizations around the globe, purposely constructed their monuments on energy lines that when mapped and connected create a significant pattern, as if when connected they form a sort of energy web.

The whole idea of the “world grid” is that the Earth is like a huge crystal where the energy flows around through little nodules.

Energy paths intersect and move all over the world.

In fact, before the ancient astronaut theory came into existence, thousands of years ago, an ancient Greek philosopher took the first steps to identify specific locations on Earth.

Plato was one of the first to propose the basic structure of the Earth evolved from geometric shapes now known today as Platonic Solids.

What Plato did was extremely interesting because he described the Earth as being created from 12 pentagonal faces, and 20 vortexes on the surface.

When you take all of them, join them, and go on the map and mark them, you realize that there are geometrical formations that appear among them.

Everything becomes connected.

In fact, Plato wrote that there was a world soul which he described as a sphere that was composed of 120 equal identical triangles.

Some researchers and scientists today believe that this could be applied to the Earth.

Is it possible that hidden in these patterns is a secret energy source?

A form of technology that could have helped the ancient civilizations build their monuments?

A proof that the Earth Grid actually exists and that we can harness energy from it?

Thanks to our advanced science and technology today, we are aware of the electromagnetic field, and certain energies that reside in the earth.

But thousands of years ago, how could the ancients have known this? And if they did know about certain frequencies and energies, did they really build monuments to maybe ‘harness’ certain energies?

What we see today is evidence of a higher consciousness present in ancient civilizations.

It is as if ancient civilizations knew that if they placed their monuments in specific locations they could connect to the so-called energy grid. Many ancient cultures believed that everything would come into flow if they placed their monuments on specific, planned locations.

This was practiced by almost all ancient cultures we know of. From the Mayas, Ancient Egyptians to civilizations in Mesopotamia and Asia.

More on this topic in Ancient Aliens: Intergalactic Energy Grid (Season 12, Episode 4):

World 500 BCE

Some of the greatest thinkers in all world history are living at this time. Their teachings will have a lasting impact on the history of humanity, right up to the present day.

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World history in 500 BCE - the classical world takes shape

Great thinkers

At this time, many of the classical civilizations of the ancient world enter their period of greatness: Greek, Chinese, Indian and Israelite civilizations all experience a burst of creativity, each producing thinkers who will profoundly shape the future course of world history. The Buddha in India, Confucius in China, the Greek philosophers of the Ionian school, and the Jewish prophets of ancient Israel – all lay down modes of thought whose influence is still with us today.

Technology and culture

Over the past few centuries, Iron Age technology has been spreading far and wide in the Eastern Hemisphere. It has now reached South East Asia, and is rippling down into Africa. Wherever it arrives it replaces the Stone Age tools used by farmers for millennia. This allows agricultural productivity to rise, populations to expand, towns and cities to grow, and civilization to advance. It is one of the great turning points in global history.

At the same time, the use of alphabetic scripts has been becoming widespread. The Aramaean script is now used throughout the Middle East. Its employment is fostered by the rise of huge imperial states in the region, and the transfers of population that this has involved.

Beyond the Middle East, the closely-related Sanskrit script has evolved amongst the Aryans in India. To the west, Phoenician traders have carried the alphabet to the Greeks, Italians (including of course the Romans) and other peoples of the Mediterranean.

The Middle East

In the Middle East, the past few centuries have seen the rise and fall of a succession of great empires – the Assyrian, the Neo-Babylonian and the Median. Now the Persian empire rules, the largest empire so far.

Europe and Asia

The Celts are now coming to dominate France and other parts of western Europe, populating it with their hill forts and warlike chieftainships.

In the steppes of central Asia, the nomadic horsemen have become a major threat to the settled civilizations of Eurasia. In the East, these “barbarians” have already had an impact on Chinese history by helping break up the unified Zhou kingdom into numerous different states and in the West, deep raids by the Cimmerians have caused much destruction.

North of the Black Sea, the Cimmerians have been replaced as the dominant people by the Scythians, whose tribes are fanning out over a huge area from eastern Europe to central Asia. In the Easter steppes it was the Quanrong – probably related to the later Xiongnu (Huns) – who seem to predominate.


In Africa, Iron Age farming has taken root amongst the Bantu peoples of the West African rainforest. They have started expanding outwards from their homelands.

Civilization is penetrating inner Africa from the north via the kingdom of Nubia, becoming more “African” as it travels.

The Americas

In the Western Hemisphere, several centers of the Olmec civilization of Mexico have experienced a mysterious development, with the ritual burial of great sculptures accompanying the destruction of their communities. Nevertheless, by now the Olmec culture’s influence has spread over a large area of central America.

Far to the south, the Chavin civilization, the first of a long series of urban cultures in the Andean region of South America, has appeared.

Dig Deeper

For details of the different civilizations, click on the relevant timeline above.

More ‘Dig Deeper’ links may be found in the regional maps. To access, click on the markers in the world map.

Hereford Mappa Mundi

Back in Europe, maps told a spiritual story instead of a geographic one. Much like how Babylon's ancient map gave a glimpse into their worldview, the medieval mappa mundi, or world maps, show how Western Christendom perceived the world.

The Hereford Mappa Mundi, created around 1300 in England, is a fascinating peek into the medieval imagination. Drawn on a huge piece of animal hide, it is the largest and most famous surviving world map from the middle ages. The top depicts the Day of Judgment, one of many biblical scenes inked onto map, while images of wild beasts and fantastical monsters lurk on the edges of the world, representing the dangers of the unknown.

The Hereford Map represents the most common type of mappa mundi, the &ldquoT-O&rdquo map, so called because a &ldquoT&rdquo shape splits the world into three continents (Asia, Europe, and Africa) surrounded by an &ldquoO&rdquo-shaped ocean.

First described in the 7th century, T-O maps usually put Jerusalem at the center of the world and were oriented with east at the top, considered the holiest direction and the location of the Garden of Eden. In fact, the term &ldquoorientation&rdquo comes from the Latin root oriens meaning &ldquoeast.&rdquo To &ldquoorientate&rdquo a map meant placing east at the top, and it was the standard of European mapmaking for centuries. But that was about to change.

Navigation by compass

A History of Ancient Prehistoric Architecture

Dolní Věstonice is an open-air site located along a stream, in the south Czech Republic on the northern slopes of the Pavlovske Hills, close to the village of Pavlov. Its people hunted mammoths and other herd animals, saving mammoth and other bones that could be used to construct a fence-like boundary, separating the living space into a distinct inside and outside. In this way, the perimeter of the site would be easily distinguishable. At the center of the enclosure was a large bonfire and huts were grouped together within the barrier of the of the mammoth bones. The radiocarbon dates for the occupations at DVII are 27,070-25,570 years uncal BP, which calibrates to 31,500 years ago according to the INTCAL calibration curve (Reimer et al. 2009). The mammoth deposit (202 bones) is generally thought to be contemporary with one or more of these occupations and has been dated to 26100 uncal BP (Svoboda, 1991).

Venus of Dolní Věstonice 27 Thousand Years BC. Pavlov, Czech Republic

Dolní Věstonice is the location in which the famous Venus of Dolní Věstonice was found in a kiln near the settlement. It has a height of 111 millimetres (4.4 in), and a width of 43 millimetres (1.7 in) at its widest point and is made of a clay body fired at a relatively low temperature. This figurine, together with a few others from nearby locations, is the oldest known ceramic article in the world. In addition to the Venus figurine, figures of animals &ndash bear, lion, mammoth, horse, fox, rhino and owl &ndash and more than 2,000 balls of burnt clay have been found at Dolní Věstonice.

Shown above is a timeline of ice age art, illustrating sites that may be familiar to you along with their relative ages. By the way, the British Museum currently has an exhibition of Ice Age Art which I am planning to see and you may be interested as well.

Ice Age Shelter Composed of Mammoth Bones 13,000 BC. Mezhirich, Ukraine

Ice Age Shelter Composed of Mammoth Bones 13,000 BC. Mezhirich, Ukraine

At Mezhirich in 1965, a farmer dug up the lower jawbone of a mammoth while in the process of expanding his cellar. Further excavations revealed the presence of four huts, made up of a total of 149 mammoth bones. These dwellings, dating back some 15,000 years, were determined to have been some of the oldest shelters known to have been constructed by pre-historic man. Mezhirich or Mezhyrich or Межиріч, is a village in central Ukraine.

Lepenski Vir 8,000 Years Ago depicted by Giovanni Caselli

Lepenski Vir as it was 8 000 years ago, when it was a thriving community on a restricted area on the right bank of the Danube River, in the middle of the Djerdap, the Iron Gates Gorge. This superb image is displayed here by kind permission of the artist Giovanni Caselli, a master craftsman and artist with a very broad knowledge of archaeology. Note the fish trap, baskets of fish, the trapezoidal house under construction, the stone hearth, the aurochs and deer, the water birds which have been caught, the spears and bow and arrow, the dog/wolf, the making of a sculpture, and the clothes.

Fire Hearth 790,000 BC by Giovanni Caselli

When our ancient ancestors decided to settle down, instead of hunting and gathering, they needed homes to shut out the cold and rain. The earliest homes were built from mud brick or timber and most traces of them have disappeared. What has remained are shards of pottery, stone tools and fire hearths. The earliest hearths are at least 790,000 years old, and some researchers think cooking may reach back more than 1.5 million years. Control of fire provided a new tool with several uses including cooking, which led to a fundamental change in the early human diet. Cooking released nutrients in foods and made them easier to digest. It also rid some plants of poisons.

Fragments from a Large Ceramic Bowl 20,000 BC. Jiangxi Province, China (left) Pottery Jar 12,000 BC. Honshu, Japan (right)

It used to be thought that the beginning of pottery was associated with agriculture and sedentary lifestyle. But in the past 10 years, researchers have found instances of pottery pre-dating agriculture. The earliest farming societies in the Near East did not use pottery. Early Japanese societies used pottery before developing agriculture. At Lake Anenuma in Honshu, Japan 12,000 year old pottery has been found. Archaeologists have determined that fragments from a large bowl found in Xianrendong Cave, Jiangxi Province, are 20,000 years old, about 8,000 years older than the oldest Japanese pottery.

A Cow Shaped Megalith, Nabta, Egypt

Nabta Playa was once a large basin of water in the Nubian Desert, located approximately 800 kilometers south of modern day Cairo or about 100 kilometers west of Abu Simbel in southern Egypt. Archaeological findings indicate human occupation in the region dating to at least somewhere around the 10th and 8th millennia BC. Fred Wendorf and Christopher Ehret have suggested that the people who occupied this region at that time were early cattle pastoralists.

Skeleton of a Calf Found Under a Tumulus, Nabta, Egypt

Pottery from Nabta Playa 9800 BC

The people of that time consumed and stored wild sorghum, and used ceramics adorned by complicated painted patterns created perhaps by using combs made from fish bone and which belong to a general pottery tradition strongly associated with the southern parts of the sahara. The earliest pottery at Nabta Playa dates between 9,800 and 8,000 bp, at least 1500 years before the appearance of plant domestication or sedentism. By the 7th millennium BC, exceedingly large and organized settlements were found in the region, relying on deep wells for sources of water. Huts were constructed in straight rows. Sustenance included fruit, legumes, millets, sorghum and tubers. Also in the late 7th millennium BC, but a little later than the time referred to above, imported goats and sheep, apparently from Southwest Asia, appear. Many large hearths also appear. The local emphasis on cattle may have a connection to pre-dynastic Egypt.

Circular Megalith 5000 BC at Nabta, Egypt

By the 5th millennium BC these peoples had fashioned one of the world's earliest known astronomical device (roughly contemporary to the Goseck circle in Germany), about 1000 years older than but comparable to Stonehenge. Research suggests that it may have been a prehistoric calendar which accurately marks the summer solstice. Findings also indicate that the region was occupied only seasonally, most likely only in the summer period, when the local lake filled with water for grazing cattle.

Adam's Calendar 750 Thousand BC. Mpumalanga, South Africa

By far the oldest stone circle has been &ldquosuggested&rdquo in Mpumalanga, South Africa to be 750 thousand years old, the Adam's Calendar. Many ancient stone ruins have also been found in the vicinity. I don't want to be cynical but this has been the subject of a rather sensationalist book.

Dwelling foundations unearthed at Tell es-Sultan in Jericho, PPNA, 9-10 Thousand BCE

The beginning of the Neolithic culture is considered to be in the Levant (Jericho, modern-day West Bank) about 10,200&ndash8,800 BC. It developed directly from the Epipaleolithic Natufian culture in the region, whose people pioneered the use of wild cereals, which then evolved into true farming. The Natufian period was between 12,000 and 10,200 BC, and the so-called &ldquoproto-neolithic&rdquo is now included in the PPNA (Pre-Pottery Neolithic A) between 10,200 and 8,800 BC. As the Natufians had become dependent on wild cereals in their diet, and a sedentary way of life had begun among them, the climatic changes associated with the Younger Dryas are thought to have forced people to develop farming. By 10,200&ndash8,800 BC, farming communities arose in the Levant and spread to Asia Minor, North Africa and North Mesopotamia. Early Neolithic farming was limited to a narrow range of plants, both wild and domesticated, which included einkorn wheat, millet and spelt, and the keeping of dogs, sheep and goats. By about 6,900&ndash6,400 BC, it included domesticated cattle and pigs, the establishment of permanently or seasonally inhabited settlements, and the use of pottery. Several Levantine cities (Jericho, Byblos, Damascus, Sidon and Beirut) seem to hold the record for the first cities.

This Neolithic watch tower (above and below) was built and destroyed in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic era, in about 8000-7000 B.C. The 8m diameter tower stands 8m tall and was connected on the inside to a 4m thick wall.

The most striking aspect of the early Jericho was a massive stone wall over 3.6 meters high, and 1.8 meters wide at the base, making this the first walled town in history. Inside this wall was a tower over 3.6 meters high which contained an internal staircase with 22 stone steps. The wall and tower were unprecedented in human history, and would have taken a hundred men more than a hundred days to construct it.

Knap of Howar 3700 BC. Orkney, Scotland

The oldest Neolithic house in Northern Europe is at Knap of Howar on the island of Papa Westray in Orkney, Scotland. Radiocarbon dating shows that this farmstead was occupied from 3700 BC to 2800 BC, earlier than the similar houses in the settlement at Skara Brae on the Orkney Mainland.

Stonehenge 3000 BC. England

Stonehenge represents just one of a worldwide phenomena of stone circles and megaliths. Archaeologists believe it was built anywhere from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. Radiocarbon dating in 2008 suggested that the first stones were raised between 2400 and 2200 BC, while another theory suggests that bluestones may have been raised at the site as early as 3000 BC. Archaeologists have found four, or possibly five, large Mesolithic postholes (one may have been a natural tree throw), which date to around 8000 BC, beneath the nearby modern tourist car-park. These held pine posts around 0.75 metres (2 ft 6 in) in diameter which were erected and eventually rotted in situ. Stonehenge appears to have been both a cemetery and a celestial observation project.

People almost always want to know how the builders created these massive monuments. Current thinking is described in the figure above, the vertical stones are placed first, after which a hill of earth us created to lay the capstone. The earth can then be removed or added to, to create a tumulus or hill.

Poulnabrone Dolmen 4000 BC. Burren, County Clare, Ireland

Anta Grande do Zambujeiro (Great Dolmen of Zambujeiro) 4000 BC. Portugal

A dolmen, also known as a portal tomb, portal grave, or quoit, is a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb, usually consisting of three or more upright stones supporting a large flat horizontal capstone (table), although there are also more complex variants. Most date from the early Neolithic period (4000 to 3000 BC). Dolmens were usually covered with earth or smaller stones to form a barrow, though in many cases that covering has weathered away, leaving only the stone &ldquoskeleton&rdquo of the burial mound intact. The Anta Grande do Zambujeiro (Great Dolmen of Zambujeiro) dates from 4000-3500 BC. It is one of the largest dolmen in Europe. Dolmen can be found all over the world, surprisingly Korea has more dolmens than anywhere else.

Arial View of the Enormous Barnenez Tumulus 4500 BC. Brittany, France

Barnenez Tumulus 4500 BC. Brittany, France

Schematic Diagram of the Barnenez Tumulus 4500 BC. Brittany, France

Barnenez Tumulus, is a Neolithic monument located near Plouezoc'h, on the Kernéléhen peninsula in northern Finistère, Brittany (France). It dates to the early Neolithic, about 4500 BC it is considered one of the earliest and largest megalithic monuments in Europe. It is also remarkable for the presence of megalithic art. The cairn was first mapped in 1807, in the context of the Napoleonic cadaster. Its first scientific recognition took place in the context of an academic congress in Morlaix in 1850, when it was classified as a tumulus. Privately owned until the 1950s, the cairn was used as a quarry for paving stones. This activity, which threatened to destroy the monument, was only halted after the discovery of several of its chambers in the 1950s. The local community then took control of the site. Similar, possibly contemporary, monuments are known at 22 other locations in France and on Jersey. Breton examples are Larcuste-Colpo, Le Bono, Petit Mont, Ty-Floc´h, Gavrinis, Île Carn, Ploudalmézeau and Guennoc (I´ile Gaignoc &ndash sometimes spelt Guénioc) off the shore at Landéda.

Tumulus A, 4th Millennium BC. Bougon, France

Tumulus F, elongated, with stepped mound at each terminal, 4800 BC. Bougon, France

The Tumulus of Bougon or Necropolis of Bougon is a group of five Neolithic barrows located in Bougon near La-Mothe-Saint-Héray, between Exoudon and Pamproux in Poitou-Charentes, France. Their discovery in 1840 raised great scientific interest. To protect the monuments, the site was acquired by the department of Deux-Sèvres in 1873. Excavations resumed in the late 1960s. The oldest structures of this prehistoric monument date to 4800 BC. The F tumulus was built in the first half of the 5th millennium BC and reused in the 3rd millennium BC. It is one of the oldest examples of monumental architecture in Atlantic France. Excavation in 1977 revealed a steep hemispherical mound containing a circular structure of 2.5 m in diameter. It lies within a triple concentric drystone facade and is covered with a corbelled vault. The architecture is similar to the complex of Er-Mané near Carnac, Brittany. The tomb, which dates from about 4700 BC, contained the unarticulated remains of about ten individuals, half of them children. A layer of red clay had been placed atop the natural floor level. There were few artifacts, mainly two pots, six bone chisels and some flint tools.

La Hougue Bie 3500 BC. In the Jersey parish of Grouville

La Hougue Bie is a Neolithic ritual site which was in use around 3500 BC. In Western Europe, it is one of the largest and best preserved passage graves and the most impressive and best preserved monument of Armorican Passage Grave group. Although they are termed &ldquopassage graves&rdquo, they were ceremonial sites, whose function was more similar to churches or cathedrals, where burials were incidental. Since the excavations and restoration of the original entrance of the passage observations from inside the tomb at sunrise on the spring and autumn equinox have revealed that the orientation of the passage allows the sun's rays to shine through to the chamber entering the back recess of the terminal cell. The site consists of 18.6 meter long passage chamber covered by a 12.2 meter high earth mound. The site was first excavated in 1925 by the Société Jersiaise. Fragments of twenty vase supports were found along with the scattered remains of at least eight individuals. The Channel Islands (in contrast with mainland Brittany, where they are rare), have five passage graves with side chambers (La Hougue Bie, Faldouet and Grantez in Jersey, La Varde and Le Déhus in Guernsey).

Göbekli Tepe 11th Millennium. Sanliurfa, Turkey

Göbekli Tepe (Turkish for &ldquoHill with a potbelly&rdquo) is a hilltop sanctuary erected on the highest point of an elongated mountain ridge some 15 km northeast of the town of Sanliurfa (formerly Urfa / Edessa) in southeastern Turkey. The site was erected by hunter-gatherers in the 11th millennium BC before the advent of the Neolithic package of farming and tending domesticated animals. Mysteriously, the entire complex of stones, pillars and carvings was then deliberately buried in 8200 BC. Together with Nevalõ Cori, it has revolutionized understanding of the Eurasian Neolithic age, or at the very least it has posed a lot of unanswered questions.

Göbekli Tepe 11th Millennium. Sanliurfa, Turkey

Not only its large dimensions, but the side-by-side existence of multiple pillar shrines makes the location unique. There are no comparable monumental complexes from its time. Nevalı Çori, a well-known Neolithic settlement also excavated by the German Archaeological Institute and submerged by the Atatürk Dam since 1992, is 500 years later, its T-shaped pillars are considerably smaller, and its shrine was located inside a village the roughly contemporary architecture at Jericho is devoid of artistic merit or large-scale sculpture and Çatalhöyük, perhaps the most famous of all Anatolian Neolithic villages, is 2,000 years younger.

Göbekli Tepe 11th Millennium. Sanliurfa, Turkey

Göbekli Tepe was first examined&mdashand dismissed&mdashby University of Chicago and Istanbul University anthropologists in the 1960s. As part of a sweeping survey of the region, they visited the hill, saw some broken slabs of limestone and assumed the mound was nothing more than an abandoned medieval cemetery. In 1994, Klaus Schmidt was working on his own survey of prehistoric sites in the region. After reading a brief mention of the stone-littered hilltop in the University of Chicago researchers' report, he decided to go there himself. From the moment he first saw it, he knew the place was extraordinary.

T Shaped Limestone Pillars at Göbekli Tepe 11th Millennium BC. Sanliurfa, Turkey

Göbekli Tepe is the world's oldest known religious structure. The site contains 20 round structures which had been buried, four of which have been excavated. Each round structure has a diameter of between 10 and 30 meters (30 and 100 ft) and all are decorated with massive, mostly T-shaped, limestone pillars that are the most striking feature of the site. The pillars are big, the tallest are 18 feet in height and weigh 16 tons. Swarming over their surfaces was a menagerie of animal bas-reliefs, each in a different style, some roughly rendered, a few as refined and symbolic as Byzantine art. Two pillars are at the centre of each circle, possibly intended to help support a roof, and up to eight pillars are evenly positioned around the walls of the room. The spaces between the pillars are lined with unworked stone and there are stone benches between each set of pillars around the edges of the wall.

Flint Chopper with a Perfectly Round Hole (left) Animal Bones and Flint Tools (right)

Other parts of the hill were littered with the greatest store of ancient flint tools Schmidt had ever seen, a Neolithic warehouse of knives, choppers, and projectile points. Even though the stone had to be lugged from neighboring valleys, Schmidt says, &ldquothere were more flints in one little area here, a square meter or two, than many archaeologists find in entire sites.&rdquo There were also thousands of slaughtered animals, many of the ones depicted on the pillars. Puzzle piled upon puzzle as the excavation continued. For reasons yet unknown, the rings at Göbekli Tepe seem to have regularly lost their power, or at least their charm. Every few decades people buried the pillars and put up new stones, a second, smaller ring, inside the first. Sometimes, later, they installed a third. Then the whole assemblage would be filled in with debris, and an entirely new circle created nearby. The site may have been built, filled in, and built again for centuries.

People in Europe probably did believe that the earth was flat at one stage, but that was in the very early ancient period, possible before the 4th century BCE, the very early phases of European civilization. It was around this date that Greek thinkers began to not only realize the earth was a globe but calculated the precise dimensions of our planet.

There was much discussion about which competing size theory was correct, and whether people lived on the other side of the world. The transition from the ancient world to the medieval one is often blamed for a loss of knowledge, a “move backward”, but the belief that the world was a globe is evident in writers from across the period. The few examples of those who doubted it have been stressed instead of the thousands of examples of those who didn’t.

The history of the Hollow Earth theory

Many ancient civilizations conceived of a subterranean underworld beneath Earth’s surface that harbored human life, ranging from Agartha in Tibetan Buddhism to Hades in the imagination of the Greeks.

In Godzilla vs. Kong, the movie’s title sequence even displays an ancient Sumerian cuneiform script — likely a reference to the ancient Mesopotamians’ belief in a vast netherworld ruled by the goddess Ereshkigal. These beliefs also persist in modern-day Indigenous cultures.

“There are some Native American tribes in the southwest who believe that all human beings originally came from the inside the world,” Holly Folk, an associate professor in the Department of Global Humanities and religions at Western Washington University, tells Inverse.

But one of the first scientific proponents of Hollow Earth in the Western world was a distinguished astronomer, Edmond Halley — the namesake behind Halley’s comet.

Despite his astronomical prowess, Halley wasn’t an expert on geology: He theorized Earth’s surface was made of a hollow shell underneath which lay two more similar hollow shells surrounding a core.

According to a 1716 paper mentioned in the book, Hollow Earth: The Long and Curious History of Imagining Strange Lands, Halley devised the Hollow Earth theory as a way to explain strange disturbances in the magnetic field that were connected to the aurora borealis — Earth’s natural light show. Halley was right about the magnetic field, but not so much about Hollow Earth.

The History of Physics - Ptolemy and the Rise of the East

Medival ideal portrait of Ptolemy (Public Domain)

The last, and one of the most famous, of the Ancient physicists, was Ptolemy. This physicist and astronomer was one of the leading minds during the time of the Roman Empire. He wrote many treatises and books containing the work of earlier Greek minds, including Hipparchus, and also calculated some sophisticated calculations to plot the movement of the heavens.

His work in ancient physics spread around the known world and was the major conduit through which the knowledge of the Greeks passed on to the great Islamic scholars of the medieval period.

Certainly, the contribution of the Ancient Greeks directed the course of the history of physics, refining the mathematics underpinning the universe and starting the separation of theology and science. Their knowledge of ancient physics would soon be forgotten in Europe as the study of physics passed into the Islamic Houses of Wisdom and the great minds of China and India.