I gave a lecture to my students before their myths, legends and folklore project began at the Horniman museum this year.Here are some of the images from the lecture. I had found this image on line and told the students it was a holiday snap that I had taken. We discussed how they knew the image was fake, what proof they had and why the medium of this image makes it so convincing that it could be real. In the end, it was my word against theirs, and also their knowledge gained from life experience, such as travel, internet and television programmes. But how could they be really certain?
So when was the flat earth myth dispelled? When was this ‘truth’ changed to a myth?
Is it a myth or a lack on understanding? Did people really believe in a flat earth?
I showed the students an image by Ed Miracle. He was a Navy veteran and self-taught artist who created this particular image in the 1970s. It was reproduced on to t-shirts and mugs and became one of the most reproduced images and a big copyright case of history. The image first began as a pen drawing titled “I Told You So”. The image was really popular, so Miracle then made an oil painting to be sold as a limited edition However, many copies were made with out Miracle’s permission.
It was interesting to research what people really thought of the flat earth myth. May be people first thought the earth as a dome or a pile of soil or like a flat disc? This image below was created in 1550 in an edition of: “De sphaera mundi” (On the Sphere of the World). The most influential astronomy textbook of the 13th century. It is clear at this point in history, people knew the Earth was round.
Here is a timeline of philosophers that used science to prove the earth was round.
Still there were disbelievers. In 1893, Orlando Ferguson, a real estate developer based in South Dakota, created this map of the Earth. The map became part of a lecture that Ferguson gave around America to prove the flat earth theory. in the 19th century, people started to dispute the Darwinian revolution. Region and science came into conflict, so the flat earth theory was introduced by sceptics of science.
The main text reads:
MAP OF THE SQUARE AND STATIONARY EARTH. BY PROF. ORLANDO FERGUSON, HOT SPRINGS, SOUTH DAKOTA.
Four Hundred Passages in the Bible that Condemns the Globe Theory, or the Flying Earth, and None Sustain It. This Map is the Bible Map of the World. Copyright by Orlando Ferguson, 1893
And his hands were steady until the going down of the sun—Ex. 17: 12. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed.—Joshua 10: 12–13.
The Flammarion engraving
Nicolas Camille Flammarion (26 February 1842—3 June 1925) was a French astronomer and author. This is a great image, found in his book by an unknown artist.
Flat Earth organizations still exist today. I found a website on line with images, theories and diagrams. Here are a couple of diagrams found on the website illustrating an example of a particular discussion.So some people believe the Earth is flat, even though science has proven that the earth is round. Is the flat earth theory still a myth, or now an opinion? Are people confused between stories from history, religious beliefs and science? Why would some people still want to believe the Earth was flat? Does it weaken the power of religion or can science and belief somehow find a happy medium?
How contemporary events can become myths or relate or even explain events from the past. Is this a gateway to hell? I researched images of sink holes. They are so awesome and unsettling. Here are a few found on the internet.
“In February 2007 a large sinkhole opened in a poor neighborhood in northeast Guatemala city, killing three people. The sinkhole was 100.5 m (330 ft) deep, and apparently was created by fluid from a sewer dissolving the rock underneath.”
“In the heart of the Karakum desert of Turkmenistan the Darvaza Gas Crater or The Burning Gates give off a glow that can be seen from miles away during the dark night. The large crater is a result of a Soviet gas exploration accident in the 1950’s. It was created when a Soviet drilling rig was drilling for natural gas fell into an underground cavern resulting in a crater which today measures roughly 60 meters in diameter and 20 meters deep. The huge crater was set alight shortly after being discovered and has been burning ever sinse. The smell of burning sulfur can be detected from a distance and becomes quite strong as you near the hot edge of the crater.”
Man’s manipulation of the Earth on a massive scale.
“The Kimberley Diamond Mine (also known as the Big Hole) holds the (disputed) title of being the largest hand-dug hole in the world. From 1866 to 1914 50,000 miners dug the hole with picks and shovels, yielding 2,722 kg of diamonds. The Big Hole has a surface of 17 hectares (42 acres) and is 463 metres wide. It was excavated to a depth of 240 m, but then partially infilled with debris reducing its depth to about 215 m; since then it has accumulated water to a depth of 40 m leaving 175 m visible. Beneath the surface, the Kimberly Mine underneath the Big Hole was mined to a depth of 1097 metres.”
Edmund Halley proposed the Earth looked like this, made of a hollow shell about 500 miles thick.
“…two inner concentric shells and an innermost core, about the diameters of the planets Venus, Mars, and Mercury. These sheels are separated by atmospheres, and each has its own magnetic poles. The spheres rotate at different speeds, thus accounting for long-term magnetic field variations. Halley did wonder whether clay and chalk beds of the outer crust are sufficient to prevent the oceans from leaking inside, but he was sure that “the Wisdom of the Creator has provided” some way to prevent this.” When the Royal Society asked Halley to explain the exceptional auroral display of 1692, Halley wrote that it was caused by light from inside the Earth. Newon’s demonstration of the oblateness of the Earth led Halley to suppose the Earth’s outer shell was thinner at the poles, allowing inner light to diffuse out, then scatter from the atmosphere, causing auroral displays.”
John Cleves Symmes (1780-1829) believed the Earth to have two hollow ends at the North and South Pole, where people and animals would be found living upon 5 internal shells.
The “COTTINGLEY FAIRY” photographs by Frances Way (Griffiths) and Elsie Hill (Wright), appeared in an article in Strand Magazine in 1919. Frances later said`My heart always sinks when I look at it. When I think of how it’s gone all round the world–I don’t see how people could believe they’re real fairies.”
CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS THAT USE MYTHOLOGIES
“Thom Smith is an artist from Brooklyn, New York currently residing and working in Tokyo, Japan. His work is primarily in the form of drawing with a graphic style favoring brush and ink, collage, and various forms of printmaking.
In the past couple years a new body of work has emerged in the form of printmaking. When the project began, it found great influence in medieval woodcuts and pre-renaissance stained glass. His interest lies mostly in the bold graphic quality of the images and the 2-D stacking of information. These mostly religious images were created in a time before the rules of perspective were understood yet strived to depict intricate stories to a mostly illiterate audience. This non-verbal telling of stories is central to his print series.”
“It was just sorting out for me what’s the real history and what’s the wrong history, getting really pissed off that my son would come home from school and have just learned about what a great guy Columbus was.”