Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Sculpture Diaries: Landscape

I just finished watching The Sculpture Diaries- "Landscape".

It was a very insightful look at several man-made earthworks & megalithic structures from around the world.

Here is a YouTube playlist with the episode in multiple parts.

Unfortunately there are translations on these videos, but it's still interesting to watch.

Most of the sites featured have cosmological significance.

They are aligned to the cycles of the sun & stars- such as the equinoxes and the solstices. Our ancestors were much more intimately connected to the cycles of nature. They also relied on the accurate tracking of seasons for agricultural & spiritual purposes.

Some of the most wondrous ancient large-scale constructions are examined, with refreshingly logical inferences as to their real purpose:

Stonehenge: This well-known megalithic structure in England is most likely the remnants of a sacred area that was used as an astronomical timekeeping device. It's ritual purpose might have been related to seasonal fertility rites between the Sun & Earth. For instance, during the midsummer sunrise, the shadow of the standing stone penetrates the round enclosure of stones.

Machu Picchu: The Inca city that was lost for centuries on a mountaintop peak in the Andes. There are many natural & man-made markers that refer to the surrounding mountains, and also the sacred sun.

Stone Walls of Cusco: Another example of Inca engineering, in their ancient capital. The masonry techniques used to create these perfectly-fitted walls of irregular giant stones is still mind-boggling.

Nazca Lines: Another Peruvian site covered with large geoglyphs that can only be seen by air. A very reasonable explanation was presented for these images etched in the Nazca plains. The lines and geometric forms were like signposts to show were water resources could be found in the dry landscape. I also wonder if the Inca perhaps had some sort of hot air balloon technology to float over the plain & see the images.

In addition to these ancient landmarks, the show also covered a few modern monumental works.

Roden Crater: I've never heard of this site, built inside an extinct volcano crater in Arizona. However, it is absolutely amazing & encodes the same cosmic knowledge as the ancient archaeo-astronomical sacred sites. It was conceived by artist James Turrell, & is a profound expression of man's connection with the cosmos. I would definitely recommend watching this segment to get the full impression of its intent.

Sun Tunnels: By artist Nancy Holt, these are simple concrete tubes laid at right angles in the desert. Their large openings are aligned to the solstice sunrises. Also, the holes bored into the sides allow the sun to create images of certain star constellations on the inside of the tunnels.

People have always strived to create art that outlasts themselves and their generations. Monumental earthworks or megalithic structures have the best chance to last for millenia- to be seen by other humans in the distant future. It's possible that thousands of years from now, people will look upon the sculptures in Mt. Rushmore, wondering who these men were & how they were carved into a mountain.

The best way to ensure that they can understand these enduring monumental works is to have them reflect a language that transcends any particular human culture or time. The best way to do this is to use the knowledge of the regular cycles of nature and the sky, which any civilization should eventually be able to re-discover.

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