Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Ancient Engineers

This week at work, I finished an excellent book that I started during my week in Cape May during the summer.

It's called "The Ancient Engineers" by L. Sprague de Camp & was surprisingly engaging. I absolutely love the subject, but the particular way the de Camp explored the major civilizations of the ancient world is effectively humanizing. It was able to mentally put me not just into those cultures, but also the individual circumstances that spurred their technological innovations.

I took a few semesters of engineering in college before I switched to design, and still truly enjoy studying the classical craftsmanship that brilliantly combined art & engineering. What de Camp does so skillfully is weaving man's sporadic instances of invention throughout history into a detailed timeline highlighting man's unique persistence of progress.

After wasting my mind on the useless drivel of Plato's Republic earlier in the summer, it was refreshing to read something that really inspired my imagination & sense of perspective.

It's funny, when my Dad recently asked me about my thoughts on the possibility of aliens, he also wanted to know what I thought about the idea that humans had help building the pyramids from alien intelligence. He knows I am familiar with all kinds of crazy theories... but I don't necessarily believe any of them. After studying the abilities of ancient craftsman, it's hard for me not to accept the ingenuity of the human intellect, which was as competent back then as it is now. These people on shows like "Ancient Aliens" who refuse to believe humans could have possibly created these wondrous things are jackasses. Is it possible that intelligent life from other places may exist & have contacted humans throughout history? Perhaps. Even if that were the case, it's no reason to dismiss man's ability to innovate & create amazing things.

Anyway, here is The Ancient Engineers on Google Books with excerpts:

Recently, I've also been noticing alot of related programming on TV...

There was recently a show on the History channel about the Roman emperors & their public works projects.

The first episode of NOVA this season was about the building of the Parthenon. It's amazing how much information we are pulling out of these ruined structures with modern investigative techniques. This show was very interesting & gave alot of insight into the methods of the Greek architects & stonemasons.

Also from NOVA was a jump in time forward to the medieval age in Euro
pe. They take a thorough look at the construction & purpose of the gothic cathedrals. Interestingly, despite our modern use of the word "gothic" to describe dark, vampire-like style, the term was originally a reference to the germanic tribe of Goths, who were considered to be 'barbarians' by Rome. The critics of these soaring cathedrals used the term to derisively describe the strange architecture.

"Building the Great Cathedrals"

Finally, the other night I was switching between watching the Phillies playoff game & an episode of one of my favorite series of all time: Engineering an Empire. The episode was about the monumental achievements of the Egyptian empire that lasted thousands of years & continues to instill wonder into people like myself.

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