Ancient Zodiacs, Star Names, and Constellations: Essays and Critiques


Critics and Criticisms of Hamlet's Mill by Gary D. Thompson

Copyright © 2004-2018 Gary D. Thompson


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Critics and Criticisms of Hamlet's Mill

"A myth is like a mercenary, it can be made to fight for anyone." - Wendy Doniger

"I have seldom known anyone who deserted truth in trifles that could be trusted in matters of importance." - William Paley [The toleration of trivial untruths may lead to more substantial untruths being perpetuated. Being exacting/stringent is not a useless exercise.]

Part 1: The Book and the Authors: Context and Critique

On left, 1999 Italian-language edition of Hamlet's Mill , which was translated/edited by Alessandro Passi and comprised a new and expanded edition (630 pages). On right, previously the 1993 German-language edition of Hamlet's Mill, translated by Beate Ziegs and edited by Rolf Herken, comprised the definitive edition of the book. Both books are similar in content.

The authors of Hamlet's Mill: Giorgio de Santillana (30.5.1902-8.6.1974) and Hertha von Dechend (5.10.1915-23.4.2001) at MIT circa 1967/1968 - photographed in de Santillana's office. (Photographs used with the written permission of the copyright holder and cannot be used by third parties without the permission of the copyright holder. Use by any person - with or without source indicated - is a violation of copyright.)

Note: Some allowances need to be made for the progressive nature - and sometimes repetitive nature - of the content of this essay. I presently have little time to re-edit the progressive content. Also, due to the accumulation of information in 2013, parts of this essay need to be rewritten/brought up to date, when time allows.

Intention of essay

The aim of this essay is to provide critical guidance and comprehensive details to understanding the themes presented in Hamlet's Mill (and, necessarily, von Dechend's MIT seminar notes on which the book is selectively based). Hamlet’s Mill comprises a peculiar episode in the history of 20th-century scholarship. It sets out a hyperdiffusionist theory of encoded astronomical knowledge in antiquity. Its claims now only survive in popular culture as part of pseudohistory claims espoused by non-academic alternative historians. I have spent literally thousands of hours researching over 30 years. Information I don't have may simply no longer exist. The best critique of an idea lies in understanding its origins and history. The intent of anyone attempting to be a historian needs to be to hunt for facts in the attempt to close gaps in knowledge and limit the assumptions about a subject. I believe this to be important. Also, where possible, we need to understand the motives of people. This involves mustering facts (without bias) about people. This essay traces the development of Hamlet's Mill, inclusive of considerable details about the authors. I first obtained a copy of Hamlet's Mill in Boston whilst travelling through the USA in the late 1970s but was only able to give it attention circa 2000. (I still have that copy of the paperback edition even though it is now falling apart.) Also, it was only then I began acquiring a range of material to enable a detailed analysis of it. In mid September (15 September) 2006 - to clarify some issues - I telephoned and spoke with Jerry and Maggie Lettvin. In circa 2005 - at considerable personal expense (though reasonable for the circumstances) - I obtained from an American bookseller in Paris photocopies of the 1961, 1966, and 1979 MIT seminar notes compiled by von Dechend. Unfortunately the 1961 set of notes were slightly incomplete. (The 1961 and 1979 set of notes are indicated as complete.) Circa 2014 I obtained - courtesy of Abe Aronow - his original copies of the 1961 (incomplete) and 1966 (complete) MIT seminar notes compiled by von Dechend. It became obvious that understanding the book Hamlet's Mill (1969, and also later editions) properly involves understanding the more expansive versions of the participant notes compiled by von Dechend for the MIT seminars. This is because it is readily identifiable that the book Hamlet's Mill is compiled/assembled from selected parts of the differing versions of the MIT notes prepared for the seminars. The book Hamlet's Mill is not a revision of the MIT seminar notes on which it is based. It is obvious that nearly all - if not all - supporters of Hamlet's Mill have never seen any of the versions of the notes for the MIT seminars. This is a distinct disadvantage. To read the various versions of the notes for the MIT seminars reinforces and expands criticisms of the book. Hamlet's Mill is described in the original publisher's blurb "This is a truly seminal and original thesis ...." It is neither.

Note: If both authors are going to be promoted as experts for dealing with, and understanding, obscure mythological stories then we need to look at their credentials and their methodology. For a number of reasons any accusation of ad hominem is misplaced. The greater part of the essay deals with the critical analysis of their claims. It is not difficult to show the authors have mishandled philology, astronomy, archaeology, and history and have reached clearly false conclusions.

Introduction to Hamlet's Mill

Giorgio de Santillana was well-known but not famous - as one person maintains - for Hamlet’s Mill. Hamlet's Mill is a very curious book of mythological speculation - a hypothetical work of highly speculative scholarship. It is thought provoking but not convincing. Hamlet's Mill is more polemical and dogmatic than historically convincing. (It is deemed exploratory by its authors. Their case rests on their particular interpretation of myths. They believed they had broken part of an archaic code embedded in ancient mythology. Apparently the numerous polemical assertions are intended as hypotheses, provocations to others to conduct their own research.) There is no reason to presume the reliability of the conjectured detail in Hamlet's Mill. In fact, there is every reason to reject such. Hamlet's Mill has been described as: "An eclectic mess of fiction and nonfiction ...." (Chaotic in both structure and explanation. The authors defend the chaotic presentation of their argument because of what they term is the 'non-caternary' nature of the archaic structure of the ideas they seek to explain! Discussion of this alleged discovery has been overlooked. In Hamlet's Mill, Giorgio de Santillana and Herta von Dechend suggested that prehistoric humans may have thought and expressed themselves in "fugue," while modern humans; express themselves at least, in a "catenary" form. The lack of organization throughout the book is justified by the authors on the grounds that the archaic way of thought being discussed was not itself an organized system. (I would conclude that in reality de Santillana's task of trying to shape a usable manuscript from existing material proved too much for him. Also, he had not kept touch with von Dechend's material comprising the student notes.) Regardless, it would have been highly useful for the authors to present such claimed unsystematic material in a systematic manner.) One enthusiast has stated it is "one of the most influential books on mythology ever written." It is, of course no such thing. There is no truth to some enthusiastic claims that since the publication of Hamlet's Mill it has been recognised that ancient myths encode a large and complex body of astronomical information. There is a complete lack of organization to the book. The authors fail to present a clear integrated case. The book begins with discussions of medieval legends (starting with Hamlet) without any explanation of why this is being done. The first introduction of an astronomical discussion is placed in an "Intermezzo" (no chapter number) after Chapter 4. The first clear introduction of the astronomical thesis comprising the book is placed nearly halfway through the book. The authors seek to justify this on the grounds that the archaic way of thought being discussed was not itself an organized system. However, this simply ignores the duty of good authors to clearly present unsystematic material in a systematic way. The central premise is somewhat odd. Through adoption of a 'cherry-picking' approach the authors of Hamlet's Mill claim to present the key to decoding early man's mythological imagination - ancient myths can be interpreted as a code language expressing the astronomical knowledge of precession of the equinoxes among early cultures. More specifically, (1) world mythologies are based on celestial (planetary) events, and (2) precession forms the setting for astronomical mythologies. Though somewhat vague, the authors propose that initial knowledge of precession originated circa 5000 BCE during a 'Golden Age' in the Neolithic Near East, with the commencement of a major calendrical system. Both the authors are ultra-diffusionists. Nothing in the book provides conclusive evidence for its claims. However that does not prevent the misguided claim: "De Santillana and von Dechend have made a special study of ancient knowledge regarding the Precession of the Equinoxes. (The Shape of Ancient Thought by Thomas McEvilley (2002, Page 80.)" It has been stated that Hamlet's Mill is a multidisciplinary book. The issue is its form of dated arguments lie very much in the realm of 19th-century scholarship. Also, the book is lengthy, dense, and poorly constructed. Simply, it lacks a cogent argument. Only through speculation do the authors get from A to B. The knowledge of astronomy and philology exhibited by both the authors is inadequate for the task. It has been called a 'notorious New Age classic.' At one time it was used at the University of Melbourne as a text book for history of science studies. Its content proved impenetrable to students. Aharon Varady (Community Planner (M.C.P.) and Jewish Educator (M.A.J.Ed.)) writes at his website: "As an undergraduate [at the University of Cincinnati, 2002-2004], I studied what Georgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend called in their introduction to Hamlet's Mill (1968 (sic)): "Comparative Cosmography," an anthropological and historical study of mental maps and cosmologies." So, at the turn of the 21st-century Hamlet’s Mill was still being used a a university textbook. Varady makes no comment regarding understanding Hamlet's Mill. However, theories about astral myths continue to captivate people. This essay is a dispassionate examination - and critical review - of the authors and their book. The authors of the book have attained a somewhat mythical status as cutting edge (progressive) academics.

Hamlet's Mill is now simply a cultist book i.e., supported by a particular kind of people. Some people find the astronomical mythology claims of Hamlet's Mill an attractive and intriguing idea. The shortcomings of Hamlet's Mill are easily identified but ignored by devotees. Hamlet's Mill enthusiasts show no deep understanding of the important astronomical and philological issues. For devotees of the book, Hamlet's Mill finalises the explanation of mythology and folklore. Any further investigation needs to begin with the tenets set out in the book.

Note: The term "cherry picking" is a colloquialism usually used in informal speech but also used in writing. It denotes the act of selectively choosing from available information that which seems to confirm a particular position while ignoring significant information that does or may contradict that position. Because its use has the intent of obtaining an advantage in establishing a case by presenting an argument in the best possible light, and in doing so subverting the normal goal of accurate assessment, cherry picking always has a negative connotation. It is biased evidence ("evidence" hunting). There is no attempt to work critically with the best available body of (historical) evidence. The intention is to only seek "affirming" evidence. It manipulates the reader/listener through presentation of selective evidence, to convince them to accept the same view. Another technique/strategy is "framing;" the attempt at influencing by the way information is presented.

Persons still see Hamlet's Mill as an "immensely learned volume" and an "important book." However, some 45 years on nobody has produced a convincing argument supporting the mythological speculation in Hamlet's Mill. Those people who describe the book as "important" fail to demonstrate exactly why this description is accurate. It is an odd theory and has remained an odd theory over the passage of time. In the words of the archaeologist Rebecca Bradley it is a "bizarre academic curiosity." Hamlet's Mill is undoubtedly one of the most peculiar works of pseudo-history ever to come out of academe. It is a thesis that is ultimately dubious. It has also been described by the archaeologist Rebecca Bradley (28 July 2013) as a "wild gallop through comparative mythology, based on the insistence that everybody except the book's authors (and especially all anthropologists and archaeologists) are interpreting everything from antiquity all wrong." Some 45 years on, Hamlet's Mill supports a "cottage industry" of amateur enthusiasts. It is claimed that only the book's 2 authors (in 1960s North America) have been able to determine the truth. The book is also described by the archaeologist Rebecca Bradley (28 July 2013) as "chaotic, totally disconnected from archaeological evidence, shamelessly speculative, and generally batty."

Hamlet's Mill purports to be a study of the great antiquity of astronomical knowledge. Ancient myths is viewed as a repository of astronomical knowledge. The authors begin by dismissing all opposing points of view! This approach originated in the MIT seminar notes - the earliest of which was jointly authored by de Santillana and von Dechend. The authors think that everyone is wrong but themselves. Enthusiasts for the theme of the book simply accept that hundreds of supposedly prehistoric myths have proved that most ancient peoples around the planet had a far greater knowledge of astronomy than conventional academics are willing to acknowledge. One enthusiast describes it as "a comprehensive book about myths associated with precession." This is, of course, untrue. The Origins of the World's Mythologies by E. J. Michael Witzel (2012/2013), the most recent comprehensive study on the origins of mythology, rejects the idea of "mnemotechnical mechanics of myth formation as storage device of Stone Age 'scientific' knowledge" as the be-all-end-all explanation of myth. It seems unnecessary to invoke Hamlet's Mill as a basis for making astronomical interpretations of early Chinese literature. On a number of occasions an astronomical basis is claimed internally within early period Chinese literature. The use of material from the literary period of China (by David Pankenier and Deborah Porter) as examples for verifying Hamlet's Mill remain late examples of astronomy being placed into myth (by only a few persons), and also culturally limited examples.

Hamlet's Mill is an attempt to salvage Panbabylonism. Astral mythology dominated much of the German Panbabylonism school. Hamlet's Mill, like its predecessor Astralmythen, is dense with arcane analyses that demand dedication from the reader to persevere. The reader has to believe that the premises behind either book have a real validity and are important enough to be worth following to some conclusions. The claim that Babylonian astral myths spread by diffusion throughout the ancient Near East and also to all peoples throughout the world, including rudimentary societies, influencing religions and mythologies, originates with the Panbabylonism of Eduard Stucken. It is also the basic tenet of Hamlet's Mill.

To simply state - as some supporters of the book currently do - that the authors of Hamlet's Mill "did not get everything right" is irrelevant to understanding the slipshod but influential 'heritage of ideas' that comprise the claims made within the book. After a period of some 50 years Hertha von Dechend failed to make any real progress in explaining and clarifying her ideas. Von Dechend has clearly demonstrated in a number of ways that she had not been energetic regarding the theme of Hamlet's Mill. She literally published almost nothing!

Hamlet's Mill is no stumbling block to orthodox historians of astronomy. Hamlet's Mill is unreliable. Also, it is a mythological mess that becomes lost in its own complexity. The book is essentially unreadable. The manuscript for it was not in a publishable form. Oddly, the authors did not establish a structure and methods. The authors are constantly involved in unrelated digressions. At times the authors of Hamlet’s Mill venture into hubris. Much of Hamlet's Mill is badly flawed by its deliberate reliance on out-of-date sources. There is no close engagement with recent theories. The peculiarity of this procedure is defended by the authors. The book is an ill-informed scold of modern scholarship. Its authors intentionally have ignored (indeed berated) up-to-date scholarship because they have not deemed it correct, and have chosen to rely on dubious earlier work dating to the 19th-century. In over 40 years Hamlet's Mill has not transformed how mythology is studied.

Excursus: Another author who believed she could trace ideas back to the Neolithic/Bronze-age period was the independent scholar, medievalist, and folklorist Jesse Weston (1850-1928) who worked mainly on mediaeval Arthurian texts. In her best-known book, From Ritual to Romance (1920), with the aid of specious scholarship (she brought to bear an analysis harking back to James George Frazer), she traces the Arthurian Grail legend back to ancient vegetation/fertility cults and their rituals. Weston's work on the Grail legend has been criticised as fanciful speculation, She has also been dismissed as a theosophist. Her long time supporter Roger Loomis (1887-1966) - an American scholar and one of the foremost authorities on medieval and Arthurian literature- eventually abandoned her hypothesis. Weston was a Wagnerite (a lover of Richard Wagner's classical music and plays/dramas) and her book is focused on Parsifal, the Grail hero whom Richard Wagner had made the central figure of his final musical drama.

As far as I am aware there has been no comprehensive study of Hamlet's Mill and its authors, and an attempt to understand how the book came into existence. This essay can be taken as a contribution. Some recent interest is indicated. From a personal communication in early October 2015 I understand that Marco Sensi at the University of Perugia is a PhD candidate and his thesis topic is connected with Hamlet's Mill. Currently (2018), details for Marco Sensi are Università degli Studi di Perugia (UNIPG), Faculty of Literature and Philosophy. I am not aware of the title of his PhD thesis. Also from a personal communication in late 2017 I understand that Eleonora Loiodice at the University of Bari Aldo Moro is a PhD candidate and her thesis topic is Giorgio de Santillana. Currently (2018), details for Eleonora Loiodice are: Currently works at the Centro Interdipartimentale Seminario di Storia della Scienza, Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro (Università di Bari, Italy). She does does research in Cosmology, Philosophy of Science and Epistemology. Her PhD project is on the figure of Giorgio Diaz De Santillana. I am not aware of the title of her PhD thesis.

Excursus: Myth as Source of Knowledge in Early Western Thought: The Quest for Historiography, Science and Philosophy in Greek Antiquity by Harald Haarmann (2015). This book share some similarities with Hamlet's Mill (but there are no precessional/astronomical arguments). Harald Haarmann, Ph.D. (1946- ) is a German linguist and cultural scientist currently (2016) an independent scholar who has been labelled the world's leading expert on ancient scripts and languages. He earned his doctorate in linguistics at Bonn University in 1970 and his Habilitation at Trier University in 1979 with a two-volume study on the linguistics of Balkan languages. He has taught at universities in Germany and Japan, and is currently (2016) doing research in the fields of language and culture studies, archaeomythology, and archaeolinguistics. See the highly critical (English-language) book review by William Wians (Merrimack College) in Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2016.01.14. William Wians is Professor of Philosophy at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts. The book is criticised for lacking coherence in dealing with Greek myths and associated themes.

The myth of invariance

On the first page (page v and the theme is continued on page vi) of the Preface of Hamlet's Mill Mill (a succinct essay on Pythagoreanism), de Santillana writes: "Over many years I have searched for the point where myth and science join. It was clear to me for a long time that the origins of science had their deep roots roots in a particular myth, that of invariance." On page vi he writes: "I was at this point, lost between science and myth, when, on the occasion of a meeting in Frankfurt in 1959 I met Dr. von Dechend ...." The myth of invariance is introduced/mentioned somewhat indistinctly but the connection of invariance and astronomy are broached in the Pythagorean concept of the Music of the Spheres - which involved joining (1) the invariant solar year with (2) the invariant harmonic intervals. For the authors of Hamlet's Mill the precessional year appears to be another example in nature of invariance. However, no link between myth and precessional astronomy and/or zodiacal world ages is shown.

Indications of lack of planning of the content of Hamlet's Mill

It is indicated several times that the text was written/assembled sequentially 'on-the-run' without the overall plan and content being fully developed. As example (Hamlet's Mill, Page 123, Comment in Footnote 16): "Whether we shall find the time to deal in the appropriate form with the tripartite Universe in this essay remains doubtful."

According to Jerome Lettvin (telephone conversation, 15/9/2006), de Santillana, because of his fluency with the English-language, helped put [edit] Hamlet's Mill together from von Dechend's notes.

Note: According to von Dechend in her Preface to the 'revised' 1993 German-language edition, de Santillana's involvement in producing a manuscript for publication was actually due to her procrastination in producing a manuscript for publication. Basically, de Santillana put his name as co-author to von Dechend's book. However, he largely functioned as editor (and carried out this activity when he was ill).

Book reviews

The book did not have a favourable reception by academics due to its lack of suitable method and standards of proof. At the time of publication the only favourable book reviews were written by their academic friends at MIT, namely Philip Morrison and Harald Reiche. There seems to have been a "buddy system" in place. However, some of de Santillana's supporters at MIT were extremely talented astronomers/physicists (i.e., Philip Morrison) and classicists (i.e., Harald Reiche). Philip Morrison's professional expertise is basically irrelevant to the content of Hamlet's Mill.

In his supportive book review of Hamlet's Mill (The Classical Journal, Volume 69, Number 1, October-November, 1973, Pages 81-83) Harald Reiche mentions "Martiny's proof that the angular values of the corrections periodically introduced into the axial alignments of many Near Eastern sanctuaries equalled and thus offset those of precessional shift for the same period." It is fair to say that Martiny's ideas remain controversial and are largely viewed as unsupported. Martiny concluded that Mesopotamian temples were oriented with respect to the north celestial pole. The circular path traced by this this point in the sky due to the precession of the equinoxes determined the orientation of Mesopotamian temples and the orientation thus testified to the date. Serious flaws have been identified with Martiny's methods.

The astronomical orientation, but not precessional re-alignment, of Mesopotamian temples was considered by some 19th-century excavators and briefly considered in Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered by Norman Lockyer (1906, Chapter XXIX A Short History of Astronomy). The thesis of Martiny is based on figures from Warka that were later seriously questioned. (Babylonian and Assyrian 'temple sites' included in his study were Uruk (Southern Iraq), Tell El-'Obēd (Tell el-'Ubaid) ) (Southern Iraq), Tepe Gawra (Northwest Iraq), and Assur (on the upper Tigris River in Iraq). One of the methodological issues with the figures produced by Martiny is that he charted the orientation of the Gimilsin Temple and the Palace Chapel according to True Magnetic North rather than True North and he made adjustments accordingly. Also, he gave no explanatory information regarding the data on the orientation of the other temples included in his orientation chart. Further, the "orientation chart," whilst showing the eastward movement of the Assur temples and β Andromedae, is somewhat vague. (There is no persuasive evidence that Mesopotamian temples, of any period, were systematically aligned to any directions.) Circa 1986 Asger Aaboe advised that Martiny's claims were purely hypothetical and that still today nothing is known about if and how the ancient Mesopotamians used astronomy to orient their temples. (See: Revue d'assyriologie et d'archéologie oriental, Tomes 80-81, 1986, Page 39.) The topic of temple orientation has never gained popularity in Assyriology. Martiny's ideas on temple orientation are briefly noted by the assyriologist William Hallo in his book Origins: The Ancient Near Eastern Background of Some Modern Western Institutions (1996, Page 84).

Precession

As a simple explanation: The phenomenon of precession is caused by a slow wobble of the Earth's axis that takes approximately 26,000 years to complete a cycle. (The wobble is caused by the Sun and the Moon. Because the Earth’s axis is tilted to its orbital plane the gravitational pull of the Sun and the Moon on the Earth's equatorial bulge tend to pull it back towards the plane of the ecliptic. Because the Earth is spinning, its axis precesses. Planetary precession means the gravitational pull of the planets that perturbs the Earth's orbit and slowly changes the plane of the ecliptic. General precession means the combination of luni-solar and planetary precessions.) The north celestial pole moves in a precessional circle around the pole of the ecliptic resulting in the equinoxes precessing westward around the ecliptic. Because of general precession, the framework of right ascension and declination (ecliptical longitude) is constantly changing. On the other hand, the latitudes of all stars remain unchanged. The effect of general precession on the ecliptical longitude position of stars (right ascension and declination) varies both with the star and with time and the effect is not that easily calculated (but somewhat dependent on method). The calculation of general precession is simple in ecliptic coordinates – a yearly 50 seconds of arc (approximately) increase in longitude and no change in latitude. It gets more difficult to calculate when expressed in terms of right ascension and declination. (There was an apparent lack of precessional movement by Sirius as viewed at the latitude of ancient Egypt. Sirius was long used by the ancient Egyptians as the foundation for 2 of their calendar systems. The calendar year based on the heliacal rising of Sirius did not vary as the position of Sirius showed no apparent variation. Sirius is affected by precession and does move. The reason there was little apparent variation is Sirius happens to move in such a way that the distance between it and the equinoxes appears to remain approximately constant.) As a basis for calculating the effects of general precession it is necessary to state the equator and equinox of the coordinate system to which any position is referred. (See: Miscellaneous Papers of the University Observatory, Oxford, Issue 385 (1928).)

Stephen McCluskey wrote (Hastro-L, 3-July-2016): "Precession is a slower process than I had suggested. Digging into the Explanatory Supplement to the Astronomical Almanac, I found an approximate formula for precession in declination (which is what influences your azimuth values): d = do + N cos a, where do is the original declination of the star, a is its right ascension, and N is the precession in declination of the pole. N is approximately 0°.5567t, where t is measured in Julian centuries. Since in tropical regions (like Hawaii), the change in azimuth does not differ much from the change in declination, the maximum change in azimuth is about 0.5567 degrees per century. There are further complexities. Nearer the poles, the change in azimuth can be much more than the change in declination. On the other hand, for stars with right ascension near 6 and 18 hours, cos a is near zero and the change in declination and azimuth is negligible. Considering your example of Aldeberan, a ? 4h 36m, so the current rate of change in declination is about 0.203 degrees per century."

That flood stories are really about the precession of the equinoxes - and not catastrophic floods - is a dubious explanation. It is difficult to believe that the extremely slow precessional change, the perception of which requires thousands of years, has originated a world-wide belief in the cataclysmic end of world ages - with flood and fire and the shaking of the terrestrial globe itself. Simply, when one pole star is deemed to be displaced by another, no disaster ensues, either on Earth or in the skies. It is not that easy to decide when some cultures considered a star to be a pole star; especially if there are no known 'rules' or 'traditions' from the corresponding culture that are given.

The collaboration between Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend

Giorgio de Santillana spent the last 10 years of his life collaborating with Hertha von Dechend. (In his 1970 protest letter to the New York Review of Books de Santillana stated that writing Hamlet's Mill "involved ten years of specific studies in technical astronomy, ancient and archaeological history and myth." However, there is little technical astronomy and archaeological history in the book. Its contents are basically myth and philology. A point to be noted is philology/linguistics has undergone dynamic development since the publication of Hamlet's Mill (and needles to say the late 19th-century).) Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend received supportive funding for much of their research in the nature of a grant from the Twentieth Century Fund. (However, a number of other persons, both MIT students and academics, were also involved in the research for the book.) What the Twentieth Century Fund actually funded, or believed it was funding, would be nice to know. Hamlet's Mill is basically and attempt to re-introduce some of the basic ideas of Panbabylonism. The two key ideas of Panbabylonism that the authors attempt to revive are (1) Mesopotamian establishment of an equally divided, 12-constellation zodiac by circa 4000 BCE, and (2) Mesopotamian knowledge of the effects (at least) of precession (and the incorporation of such into ancient mythological themes), by circa 4000 BCE. Abe Aronow, a student at MIT from 1958 to 1962 (and a Platonist in his youth), knew Giorgio de Santillana, Hertha von Dechend, and Harald Reiche. (He also participated in some of the research for Hamlet's Mill. In her 1961 seminar notes Hertha von Dechend openly invites interested listeners to help in the research.) Abe Aronow recollects that Anacalypsis by Godfrey Higgins (2 Volumes; 1833-1836, Reprinted 1965) was a favourite book of Hertha von Dechend.

According to her co-worker Yas Maeyama (UniReport 5, 2001) in his obituary for von Dechend, her insights developed through close cooperation with Leo Frobenius (1873-1938), Willy Hartner (1905-1981), and Giorgio de Santillana (1902-1974). I believe this is very much a misunderstanding and an attempt at establishing a pedigree for her ideas. There is no doubt she was influenced by Leo Frobenius. (Frobenius was a proponent of the astro-mythological approach and a diffusionist.) There is no doubt she influenced both Willy Hartner and Giorgio de Santillana. It was von Dechend who decided how myths should be astronomically interpreted. The pan-solar explanation of world mythology proposed by Frobenius was altered/replaced by von Dechend with her version of the pan-precession mythology of Panbabylonism (likely after Alfred Jeremias). In his article "Willy Hartner" in Encyclopaedia Iranica, Antonio Painano writes: "At the Völkerkundeinstitut of Frankfurt University, directed by the ethnologist Leo Frobenius, Hartner also became acquainted with new methodological trends which inspired his future research." ("Willy Hartner" by Antonio Painano, Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol. XII, Fascicle 1, Pages 16-17.) Both von Dechend and Hartner were familiar with the ideas of Frobenius.

A (English-language) book review, "The Thousands of Abū Ma'shar." by Willy Hartner (in which he endorses Hamlet's Mill), is published in The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, (New Series), Volume 104, Issue 1, January, Pages 63-65.

The term astral mythology means occurrences in the heavens are given the form of a narrative, with personifications of heavenly bodies and constellations. Von Dechend was obsessed with reading/reconstructing so-called mythical texts as 'Klartext' i.e., uncoded text, clear text, in understandable form. Critics are deemed incapable of understanding the (astronomical) language of the mythos.

Devotees of Hamlet's Mill make statements such as "Both Santillana and Dechend were at the top of their game in the 1960s." and "Von Dechend was a mainstream/establishment historian." No justification for either of these statements is given. Neither were experts in ancient (pre-classical) history or mythology (or any period). Neither author of Hamlet's Mill concedes they are outside their field of expertise with the study and its claims (as the German assyriologist Peter Jensen did decades earlier with his monumental studies of the Gilgamesh epic and its use for his particular Panbabylonist claims). De Santillana's introduction of the name "the crazy cosmology club" (see below) identifies that he understood the methodology was not rigorous. The name typified the average outsider's attitude towards the seeming lack of rigour in investigative techniques. The misuse and abuse of myth and etymology clearly demonstrates this. Von Dechend was not a mainstream/establishment historian. Basically, she was not an historian. Basically she published almost nothing. She was a Panbabylonist.

Whilst de Santillana is identified as the senior author the book is basically by von Dechend. De Santillana credits the appendices to von Dechend. (De Santillana, Hamlet's Mill, Page viii) writes of von Dechend's "scornful indignation" in the appendices.) However, a mere cursory examination of the MIT seminar notes by von Dechend demonstrates the contents of Hamlet's Mill is based upon them. There is nothing to indicate - indeed the known facts suggest - there existed no close cooperation between von Dechend and de Santillana for the production of the manuscript that was published as Hamlet's Mill. De Santillana was involved in a 'rescue effort' that worked from MIT student seminar notes and von Dechend force fitted numerous dated appendices that she had mostly written years before for other purposes. There is nothing to suggest she made any effort in finalising the main body of text. Nothing suggests that de Santillana prevented her from doing so. It is suggested that von Dechend was simply uninvolved to any great degree by her own choice. It is indicated she had problems bringing projects to completion.

Note: There is little doubt that de Santillana also acted as editor for von Dechend's appendices included in Hamlet's Mill.

Note: It is still common for the misspelling Georgio to be used instead of correctly, Giorgio.

Von Dechend's Preface to the 1993 German edition of Hamlet's Mill

In her Preface to the 1993 German-language edition of Hamlet's Mill von Dechend writes that of more than 22 years of intensive work since the 1st appearance of Hamlet's Mill in 1969. However, instead of a renovated and expanded text that she acknowledges would be appropriate she states she was basically limited to additional footnotes and appendices. The appendices of Hamlet's Mill were largely comprised of the chapter end notes accompanying the text of her seminar notes.

Both she and de Santillana had a deep-seated discomfort with the prevailing interpretation and evaluation of traditions prior to the Hellenistic period.

She and de Santillana became acquainted at the occasion of the 1958 Willy Hartner symposium organised by the Frankfurt Institute for History of Natural Sciences. After completing her Habilitation in 1959 she sent de Santillana a short treatise on common ideas in ancient India, China, and America associated with the constellation Sagittarius, and her historical conclusions. In response de Santillana successfully arranged, through the Sloan Foundation, a graduate scholarship for her at MIT. Later he successfully arranged other funding for her. (There is no evidence that von Dechend taught any courses at MIT. It is now not known whether she ever had official status for teaching or grading. Von Dechend likely mostly lived on 'soft money' during her time at MIT (after the graduate scholarship funding ended). That is, a project was funded from grants rather than von Dechend herself being funded directly.)

Beginning in the Fall of 1960 she spent a few months for several years at MIT. She and de Santillana shared the topic of archaic cosmology and held seminars. Note: The first mention of Hertha von Dechend at MIT that I am aware of is the mention in Technology Review, Volume 62, 1960, Page 76: "Herta von Dechend, Germany, protohistoric material of myths and legends; …." It appears it was mentioned as a talk given by von Dechend. The term "protohistoric material of myths and legends" appeared in Giorgio de Santillana's forthcoming book, The Origins of Scientific Thought (1961, Page 13). The expression embodies the theme that hero myths and associated myths can be deciphered as the technical language of yet unknown archaic astronomers who are responsible for the naming of the constellations.

Interestingly, von Dechend admitted she is a procrastinator regarding publishing. (Her draft manuscript Archeoastronomy (completed 1997) remained unfinished and unpublished.) She states that when de Santillana understood she would not proceed to publication with her astronomical interpretation of mythology (with her work he had encouraged at MIT) he suggested joint publication. (Her procrastination also appears to be the basis for her failure to suitably assist de Santillana to edit her notes into a suitable book and include more expansive materials.) De Santillana wrote the text and she wrote the appendices and footnotes. (It is evident that de Santillana used her seminar notes to write the text of the book. Many of the illustrations used are from her seminar notes. The appendices originate from her seminar notes. This meant she really was involved in very little labour with her contribution to the book.)

Note: Von Dechend's procrastination is not a minor issue. In the 1960s, to procrastinate for her own contentment, regardless of funding given and use made of MIT students as researchers, and to procrastinate for another 2 decades leaving the book effectively unrevised, yet remain assertive regarding her work, methods, and conclusions is simply astonishing. Her scholarly publications were absolutely minimal. In the 1960s, Hamlet's Mill was to have been her book. However, she simply let de Santillana put her notes into shape for the book chapters. It is unknown how closely de Santilana had been following the supposed production of the book by her. There is little doubt she accumulated a large amount of material. How well she assimilated it is not is not really known. She simply interpreted it according to her predilections. Planned works were never completed by her. She was dismissive of scholars who held views opposing her own. She remained assertive with her views and conclusions. Basically, she believed that everybody else was wrong and that she had the correct answers.

Von Dechend states she wanted to have nothing to do with the history of astronomy until the subject of her post-doctoral work on complex myths. (Her PhD was completed during WWII.) Her astronomical approach originated with her attempt to understand Polynesian mythology (particularly the creator god Kane). The 10,000 pages of Polynesian mythology she states in Hamlet's Mill (1969) she read means she merely read more than 10,000 pages of books (i.e., secondary sources) on Polynesian mythology. (It is worth commenting that Hamlet's Mill hardly comprises a 'chapter' in the history of astronomy.)

She believed that there was a source for the knowledge of the Polynesian master navigators. When, in late 1956, she read Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel by Franz Kugler she decided that Babylonian astronomical knowledge was the initial impetus for Polynesian astronomical knowledge. Though Babylonian astronomy from the 7th-century BCE is stated in a scientific manner, the preceding astronomy is saturated with mythological ideas. (Hence her conclusion that our myths are the remnants of a preliterate astronomy.) The 3 sky bands or sky zones (divisions of the sky) of Polynesian astronomical tradition derive ultimately from Mesopotamian astronomy. (As far a I am aware the Polynesian 3 sections of the celestial hemisphere comprised a triple heaven consisting of 3 hemispherical zones.)

Provisional (rough) draft translation of most of the Preface to the 1993 German edition of Hamlet's Mill

"Preface to the German edition (Vorwort zur deutschen Ausgabe).

Between the first appearance of Hamlet's Mill (1969) and this German translation edition (1993) there have been more than 22 years of continued intensive work. Thus, it would actually be most appropriate to submit a rewritten and significantly expanded text that incorporates the results of this work. Be that as it may there were compelling reasons why I was mainly limited to only to additional footnotes and appendices, amending several passages and expanding others, and replacing the Preface and concluding remarks of the original book with new ones. Giorgio de Santillana and I first met and got to know each other on the occasion of a 1958 symposium organized by Willy Hartner in Frankfurt at the Institute for History of Science, where I was at that time an assistant. After completing my Habilitation in 1959 I sent de Santillana a short treatise on the my ideas concerning the constellation Sagittarius in ancient times in India, China and Ancient America and the conclusions that could be drawn concerning ideas in ancient times that were relevant to the history of astronomy. In response, de Santillana applied to the Sloan Foundation at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for funding for graduate scholarship for me and this was granted. Later, he applied successfully for other funding.

It seems that de Santillana and other academics were well versed in obtaining funding. The National Science Foundation awarded a travel grant to de Santillana (as well as 13 other American academics) to enable them to attend the 8th International Congress for the History of Science, and the 4th general assembly of the International Union for the History of Science, held at Florence and Milan, 3-10 September 1956.

Beginning with the autumn of 1960, I spent several years - in each case a few months - in Cambridge (Massachusetts), where de Santillana and I shared the presentation of History of Cosmology Seminars at MIT. During the course of holding the seminars I worked on an as yet unnamed Opus. Over time de Santillana concluded that I would simply continue to work with the material in an unhurried manner and without aiming for a completion date for the publication of the study, and he suggested a joint publication. With this agreed upon he exercised some some pressure to ensure a completion date and publication. De Santillana rewrote the manuscript as it existed. He also gave the book greater focus by working on ensuring the frequent deviations away from the main discussion points were straightened out. He brought his own ideas on archaic history to bear and he also brought his high stylistic skill to writing the book to ensure that it should not just be read by professional academics alone.

"Free reign" remained with me in the content of the appendices and the footnotes. In 1967, 2 years before the appearance of Hamlet's Mill, de Santillana wrote in the preface to Reflections on Men and Ideas [1968, xi], a collection of 26 of his shorter works: "My latest productions are a definite move into a field that had long attracted me, far from ordinary research and the usual tools, remote from the usual documentary material. The few samples that I present („Riflessioni sul Fato”, „Les Grandes Doctrines Cosmologiques”) stand for a new approach and a new method which may yet be deemed uninsurable by our more cautious contemporaries but that it has a point I have no doubt. It is the greatness of the subject that has called me, the prodigious wealth of mythical material gathered over the centuries, immense vistas of lost milleniums, of submerged cultures for which we may have found a key. Judgement must wait for our forthcoming book written in collaboration with Dr. von Dechend, „An Introduction to Archaic Cosmology”. But whatever fate awaits this last enterprise of my latter years, and be it that of Odysseus' last voyage, I feel comforted by the awareness that it shall still be the right conclusion of a life dedicated to the search for truth."

De Santillana's background training was physics and he was able to employ his thorough knowledge of ancient natural philosophy and the history of the exact sciences to his interest in the history of ideas. My background was in cultural-historical ethnology - more precisely: the school of ideas developed by Leo Frobenius. Together. de Santillana and I had a deep-seated unease with the prevailing interpretation and evaluation of traditions, and the origins of scientific thought. To an extent there has been a problem created with misunderstanding the ancient use of words. Also a problem is the simple faith in steady cultural progress in terms of evolutionary development. There is also the issue of writing versus verbal tradition in conveying knowledge. In the transmission of knowledge we need to remain vigilant and give attention to the emergence of new conceivable alternatives. Suspicions regarding the viability of orthodox anthropological explanations of cultural development occurred to me after a few semesters of anthropological studies before WWII. After WWII the work of Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen with the Dogon and Bambara in western Sudan became accessible. Particularly, Griaule’ Dieu d'Eau (1948)), in which simple African farmers, through their traditions, are guardians of ancient oriental “High Culture." Later I had the honor and the pleasure to collaborate with Hermann Baumann whose Opus was Das doppelte Geschlecht: Ethnologische Studien zur Bisexualität in Ritus und Mythus (1955). [Also important: "The division of work according to sex in African hoe culture." (Africa, Volume 1, Number 3, July, 1928, Pages 289-319).] His work describing the complexity of the so-called "primitive agriculturalist" helped prove them as descendants of Near Eastern civilization. This was a decisive breach in the beaten fabric of vulgar evolutionist Kulturhistoriographie. I hope to add further to this in later publications.

Since I originally had no intention of wanting to focus on the history of astronomy I chose for the subject of the habilitation thesis the myths around the complex Deus Faber - Enki / Ea in Mesopotamia, Ptah in Egypt, Tvashtri in India, Tane / Kane in Polynesia, Hephaestus, Wieland, Goibniu etc. The first chapter was Enki / Ea and contained not a word about the stars, let alone the planets. The second, dedicated to the Polynesian Tane / Kane, was already finished and typed, as the discomfort I felt turned into despair, because I had not understood a word I had read from the more than ten thousand pages of Polynesian myths. Could it be assumed that the first-born "initiates" among the best navigators on the globe had to memorize a conglomerate of purely entertaining stories? There was a felt obligation to ask about the meaning of these traditions.

In the off chance of any enlightenment I read the available publications on the archaeology of the Oceanic island kingdom and came across one on Necker Island belonging to the Hawaiian group, but 500 km away from the nearest island. Necker Island is fishhook shaped, about one kilometer long, no trees grow there, only sparse grass and a few bushes. Since freshwater is extremely scarce, the island is uninhabited by people but is, instead, inhabited by thousands of birds. Nevertheless, the island has 33 megalithic places of worship in addition to several terraces and stone human figures. This startling finding raises the question of who probably built the facility and whether there are other outlying islands similar to Necker Island. Necker Iceland lies almost exactly on the Tropic of Cancer. This circumstance caused me to consider the islands at the Tropic of Capricorn for similar cult centres. The closest islands are Tubuai [located south of the Tropic of Capricorn] and Raivavae [located just south of the Tropic of Capricorn]. Both islands have numerous remarkable stone ruins. Moreover Tubuai plays a major, enigmatic role in the Tahitian cosmogony. There are no islands precisely on the Equator, but the nearest (Fanning [Tabuaeran, just north of the Equator], Maiden [south of the Equator], Christmas [Kiritimati, north of the Equator]) have numerous stone ruins. It appears as if the Polynesians marked out the Ecliptic as neatly as the geographical circumstances allowed.

There was no longer any intent for me to shirk astronomy - and Chapter II, Deus Faber-work had a second part under the title "Retrial" to be discussed. Sun myths could be relatively easy to identify, but the adventures of "gods" and "cultural heroes" still made little sense.

The Polynesian master navigators, within their techniques and framework of celestial motions "tell" about the division of the sky into "3-ways" and I came to the ancient Near East "source" for all the "high culture belt" ideas: i.e., I obtained (Christmas Eve 1956) Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel by Franz Xaver Kugler. The author, inter alia, notes (II, 10f), changes from the 7th-century BCE. In the context of Babylonian "scientific astronomy," i.e., Positional Astronomy, the texts from the 7th-century BCE showed "not the slightest astrological or mythological colouring." Before the 7th-century BCE almost the entire astronomy of Babylonia was imbued with mythological ideas. In other words: before the 7th-century BCE astronomers agreed "in mythical." This appears to be somewhat the extent of her reading about the early history of astronomy in the Near East.

The way forward was found almost by itself, especially since the identification of Plato as a source of knowledge - the earlier source was Mesopotamian astronomy.

That the views outlined here would encounter manifold rejection was to be expected. De Santillana and I were committed to the task of restoring the battered reputation of our early intellectual ancestors. It was hoped that critics would be considerate. (Reproaches, included that Hipparchus and knowledge of precession was "skipped" and the authors had simply moved past the core of the problems.)

And now we go as far as possible on the journey into the interior of the giant clock that forms the archaic cosmos and as understood in ancient times as a mill - more precisely defined - not as a modern continuously rotating "Mill" but as involving an alternating movement such as a hand held Drill.

Friends of mine to be thanked for their vigorous support and frequent encouragement: Emma Duchane and Jayant Shah, Jerome Lettvin and Philip Morrison, and especially Harald A. T. Reiche with his profound knowledge of the ancient world, with salutary skepticism and rigorous criticism tirelessly available. Furthermore I'm greatly indebted to Beate Ziegs for her dedication and competence with the translation.

Kronberg / Taunus [Kronberg im Taunus], in August 1992 by Hertha Dechend"

Obviously von Dechend held Hermann Baumann in high esteem. Baumann related his ideas to Leo Frobenius and Bernhard Ankemann. All 3 were specialists in African ethnology. All 3 were diffusionists. Nobody today teaches the ideas of Hermann Baumann.

Excursus: Visual story telling

The earliest narratives in Mesopotamia prior to the development of cuneiform writing were visual. Two examples of visual story telling are the Uruk Vases and Cylinder Seals. The arrangement of visual information on cylinder seals in several registers - one above the other - has been proposed as the basic principle of all 3rd-millennium BCE Mesopotamian narratives. The multi-register representations enable the widening of temporal sequences. The reading direction of the temporal sequence of events always starts with the bottom register, reaching its end point at the top. The Uruk Vases provide good examples for such an arrangement. Read from the bottom to the top, the sequence of pictures (through a series of registers in low relief) tell a coherent complex, visual story (i.e., a series of events). One example is the "Presentation of offerings to Inanna." It has been suggested that the sequence of pictures on the Uruk Vases also indicate a cosmological context. The narration of a structured story through stand-alone visual storytelling (i.e., independent of any verbal or written aid) is evident as early as the 4th-millennium BCE with the Warka vase. (Dated circa 3200-3000 BCE.) Written historical narratives are not attested before the Fara-Period (towards the end of the Early Dynastic Period), circa 2600–2500 BCE. The Fara period is when syllabic writing began. The few extant specimens of an early Mesopotamian literature are still not successfully understood. ("Considerations on Narration in Early Mesopotamia." by Gebhard Selz In: Studies in Sumerian Language and Literature: Festschrift für Joachim Kreche edited by L. Kogan, N. Koslova, S. Loesov, and S. Tishchenko (2014, Pages 438-454).)

Provisional (rough) draft translation of most of the Afterword by the Editor to the 1993 German edition of Hamlet's Mill

Afterword by the Editor (Nachwort des Herausgebers)

"The appearance of the German edition of the book Hamlet's Mill: An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend in a completely revamped and expanded form has been a successful 5-year process. My thanks go to Hertha Dechend and all for making a consistent, authorised translation possible and also the opportunity to considerably revise the book. There has been considerable reshaping and revision of the book, taking into account further recent research findings since the publication of the first edition in 1969, and also to expand the book as well as write a new Preface and Afterward. The realization of this edition of the book and the fulfillment of high standards would probably not have succeeded if not Beate Ziegs, in the task of translation of the first edition, worked in continuous close collaboration with Hertha von Dechend over more than 3 years. In the course of this work, where necessary, the German equivalents of all source texts and the American edition of further quotes were identified in consultation with the author and placed in the text. The bibliography was amended accordingly and revised throughout. Involved in the development of the final version were the 2 proofreaders, Lisa Steinhauser and Sabine Süss, who have also contributed to the extraordinarily extensive bibliography and the compilation of the index. Their work in the completion of the first printed German version has taken more than a year. The additions and improvements continued until the master copy was considered finally completed in September 1993. The contents of the book speculate at the border regions of science. Astronomy is held to be the principal basis of myth. This view results in backdating the beginnings of science and the re-evaluation of culture. This has caused considerable defensive reactions amongst German intellectuals with an interest in the history of culture. But hardly any of them have read the book. This easily accessible and readable edition of Hamlet's Mill should enable further discussions and controversies. Berlin, September 1993, Rolf Herken"

List of Figures (Abbildungsverzeichnis) "For the procurement of templates for most pictures we are greatly indebted to Katharina Lommel, formerly at the National Museum of Ethnology in Munich."

It is obvious that in the 22 years since the first publication, von Dechend had basically done nothing to improve the contents of the book. The original chapter material still remains.

Hermann Baumann

Hermann Baumann (1902-1972) was a German anthropologist and Africanist who was a representative of Kulturhistorie and diffusionism and who opposed the ideas of Kulturkreislehre. He emphasized the importance of single case studies on ethnic groups as well as the research on cultural exchange among several groups in a broader historical context. He believed an Asiatic (Near Eastern) High-Culture swept from the East across Sudan superimposing its ideas on native culture.

From 1931 Hermann Baumann was the head of the Eurasian Department of the Berlin Ethnological Museum (now the Berlin Museum of Ethnology  and editor of the Journal of Ethnology. He was appointed a Professor at the University of Vienna (1939-1945 ). He also joined the Nazi party. Baumann was allowed to teach again soon after the end of WWII. After WWII he taught at the Institute of Ethnology in Munich and at the Institute of Ethnology and African Studies at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University (1955-1972 ). He conducted several field trips to Angola between 1930 and 1972. His material (slides, notebooks and other documents and manuscripts) concerning his research in Angola in 1954 (and concerning the history and ethnography of Angola) is with the Archives at the Frobenius-Institut (which is affiliated with the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main). See: "Hermann Baumann and his early concept of African cultures." In: Culture history and African anthropology: a century of research in Germany and Austria by Jürgen Zwernemann (1983, Pages 86-88). Baumann adhered to the moderate culture-historical approach represented by Bernhard Ankermann (1859-1943, a specialist in African ethnology). At its core was the idea of the spread of archaic civilisation with its centre in the Ancient Orient. The culture-historical approach held that culture radiated out from the first high civilisations to primitive peoples through diffusion. Bernard Ankermann argued that Asian culture "... brought new impulses to a stagnating Negro culture... ." The concept of "culture circles" was originally proposed by Leo Frobenius in 1898 but it was Fritz Gräbner (Friedrich Graebner) and Bernhard Ankermann who made the concept of "culture circles" (Kulturkreise) acceptable to their academic colleagues. It is evident that both Graebner and Ankermann were influenced by Frobenius when he was researching in the Berlin Museum of Ethnology where they were employed as curators at the time.

The Culture-Circle School (the German and Austrian diffusionists) argued for a number of High-Culture centres. Diffusion was held to proceed, not through the adoption of isolated elements, rather through the transmission (mainly through migration) of a whole culture complex, "a group of elements in organic unity" according to Fritz Gräbner (Friedrich Graebner).

During the Hitler era in Germany, Baumann was a strong proponent of the Nazi ideology. He was a member of the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, NSDAP) and after World War II was required to obtain an Allied Forces denazification certificate. The last defence of "culture history" before its ultimate demise was the posthumously published Die Völker Afrikas und ihre traditionellen Kulturen. Teil i. Attgemeiner Teil und südliches Afrika edited by Hermann Baumann (1975).

Extract of book review by Edwin Loeb in the American Anthropologist, Volume 58, 1956, Page 1162.

Source: "Racist Fantasies. Africa in Austrian and German African Studies." by Arno Sonderegger. In: Racisms Made in Germany edited by Wulf Hund, Christian Koller, and Moshe Zimmermann (2011, Pages 123-144).

Source: Dictionary of Concepts in Cultural Anthropology by Robert Winthrop (1991, Page 84).

It is interesting that von Dechend held to the outmoded concept of the migration (or at least the migration of the ideas) of a Near Eastern High-Culture. As an ethnologist by training, von Dechend obviously held onto the outmoded theory of "culture circles" past the time of its final demise in the 1970s. In Introduction to Ancient Cosmology (1966, Page 24) she states that Hermann Baumann is the "greatest ethnologist of our time."

Also interesting is von Dechend's concept of what constitutes a High-Culture. "Thus, I play with the idea to circumscribe the coming-into-being of High Culture by the term "Explosion of mathematics" because, what appears to have happened some time at the end of the Upper Palaeolithic was the discovery of number. Whence we have to direct our attention to the 'idea' of number, and of 'symmetry'." (Introduction to Ancient Cosmology by Hertha von Dechend (1979), Page 27.)

Von Dechend's selective use of Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel by Franz Kugler

Von Dechend identifies that she wrote the footnotes and appendices for Hamlet's Mill. She also identifies that she consulted Franz Kugler's Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel. She acknowledges that Kugler identifies Babylonian scientific astronomy existed only from the 7th-century BCE. Within the volumes of SSB, Kugler set out a critique of Panababylonism, and also the evidence for a late (1st-millenium BCE) origin of the zodiac. However, von Dechend prefers to 'cherry pick' what she will use from SSB and basically ignores the volumes. (It is indicated that she only referred to it once.) In Hamlet's Mill she writes page 144, note 12: "Here, we leave out of consideration the much discussed question of exactly when signs of equal length were first introduced; allegedly it was very late (see below, p. 431, n. 1). The actual constellations differ widely in length--the huge Scorpion, e.g., covers many more degrees than 30, whereas the Ram is of modest dimensions. One would think that this lack of uniformity would have so hampered the ancient astronomers in making their calculations that they would have worked out a more convenient frame of coordinates in sheer self-defense." This simply ignores informed discussion of the origin of the zodiac and proceeds with preferred assumptions. The preferred assumptions are drawn from Panbabylonism.

Entirely ignored are Kugler's decisive arguments against an early scientific astronomy in Mesopotamia. Entirely ignored also are Kugler's decisive arguments against the astral claims of Panbabylonism. The authors of Hamlet's Mill simply avoid Panbabylonism, even though they are proponents of such. Kugler's penetrating technical analysis of Babylonian mathematical methods in (late) astronomical cuneiform texts was not something that the Panbabylonists could match.

Von Dechend does not seem to have made any real effort to understand the history of Mesopotamian astronomy.

In her Preface to the 1993 German edition of Hamlet's Mill, von Dechend wrote that she obtained on Christmas Eve 1956, Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel by Franz Xaver Kugler. Von Dechend then sets out that Kugler in "B. Der astronomische Gehalt der älteren (insbesondere assyrischen) Texte (die spätestens dem 7. Jahihundert v. Chr. angehören)." (Volume 2, Part 1, Pages 10-12) [Draft translation = B. The astronomical content of the earlier (in particular Assyrian) texts (belonging to no later than the 7th Jahihundert v. Chr.).] states that texts from the 7th-century BCE onward show changes in language. There is a move towards a more rigorous positional (i.e., "scientific") astronomy in which the texts are without any astrological or mythological content. Von Dechend then states that before the 7th-century BCE almost the entire astronomy of Babylonia was imbued with mythological ideas. In other words: before the 7th-century BCE astronomers agreed "in mythical." It seems to have escaped von Dechend that what Kugler was actually saying and what she took his words to mean are entirely different. Kugler is setting out that there was an absence of scientific astronomy, i.e., exactness, before the 7th-century BCE. Also, the 'primitive astronomy' that existed was mingled with omenology and astral worship (mythology). It gave precedence to astral divination. (This lack of exactness extended to calendar systems.) The astronomical texts were non-mathematical and closely related to the Enuma Anu Enlil divination series. According to Kugler, by circa 700 BCE of the Assyrian period the astronomy texts show a clear distinction between astronomical and astrological activity. Also, astronomical texts of the last 4 centuries BCE are without astrological or mythological content. Before the 7th-century BCE it was a different matter; almost the whole of astronomy was steeped in mythological ideas. However, Kugler is not proposing myth as a technical language. Von Dechend - for whatever reason - has substitute myth for divination - and changed the sense of what Kugler is discussing. Kugler is stating there is a lack of anything exact or scientific. Inexact astronomy is mingled with omenology/divination and myth, not supplanted by them. Elsewhere Kugler makes it clear that he believes the texts indicate that Babylonian astronomy originated from astral worship and astrology. According to Hamlet's Mill, Mesopotamia was deemed to be the prime High-Culture location. There is no support for this idea in Kugler's volumes on Babylonian astronomy. We perhaps have here an example of how von Dechend filtered information.

Kugler's view was that scientific astronomy in Babylonia went back to the 8th-century BCE. It developed out of earlier astrology. Also, the astral elements of Babylonian religion was connected with the early astrological beliefs. (The valuable ephemerides tablet Strassmaier Kambyses 400, dated 523 BCE, was regarded by Kugler as the (then) oldest known document of the scientific astronomy of the Babylonians.) Kugler held that the early history of astral omens is closely interrelated to astronomy. (See: SSB Ergan., 1913, Pages 10-17.) Kugler believed that astral beliefs and astral omens originating during the Old Babylonian period eventually led to an increasing level of formalised sky observations that eventually resulted in scientific astronomy. Perhaps the only point on which Kugler agreed with the Panbabylonists was that the origin of 'astrology,' as an expression of religious sentiment, historically preceded astronomy. This viewpoint by Kugler was the product of research results of the early 20th-century. In his SSB Kugler viewed astral religion as the most noble (highest) form of polytheism. (Kugler did not view astral religion as a primitive aspect of religious behaviour and belief. He viewed it as the highest expression of polytheism.) According to Kugler 'astrology' was also the mother of astronomy. 'Astrology' was found upstream of a process which necessarily leads to astronomy. Kugler believed that without absolute conviction that the stars were messengers for the destiny of humankind the Babylonians would probably have never concerned themselves - apart from the Sun and Moon as regulators of time – with the scientific study of the stars. See also Kugler's remarks in his Vorwort to SSB1, 1907 regarding the above. Interestingly, Morris Jastrow pointed out (1911, Page 256): "In Babylonia and Assyria we have first 'astrology' and astronomy afterwards, in Greece we have the sequence reversed: astronomy first and astrology afterwards." Mathematical astrology did not come into existence until circa the commencement of the Christian era.

Primitive forms of celestial divination or astrology did not stimulate the growth of scientific astronomy. The American assyriologist Erica Reiner (1924-2005) believed that omen astronomy and mathematical astronomy were separate disciplines of scholarship; especially from the 5th-century BCE onwards. Omens had importance in the Neo-Assyrian empire. The pinnacle of Babylonian astrological influence was reached during the Hellenistic period. Astrology, based on an ancient Babylonian and Egyptian astral beliefs, took shape in the 3rd-century BCE. Extispicy (divination using entrails of sacrificed animals) was astrology's closest rival. Also, "The computational systems of Babylonian mathematical astronomy, which emerged at about the same time as did horoscopic astrology, cannot be accounted for by reason of their serving astrological purposes." (Rochberg, Francesca. "Babylonian Horoscopy: the Texts and their Relations." In: Swerdlow, Noel. (Editor). Ancient Astronomy and Celestial Divination. (1999, Pages 39-59; Page 55).

The last joint publication by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend

The last joint publication by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend was a conference paper that appeared in 1970. I am not aware of who presented the paper. (See: "Sirius as a permanent center in the archaic universe." by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend. In: Enrico Castelli (Editor). Eternità e storia (1970). (Pages 235-263). The publication in which the paper appears is a collection of 1968 conference papers presented in Rome. Other details: I Valori Permanenti nel Divenire Storico. Atti del Convegno Internationale promosso delT Istituto Accademico di Roma, Roma 3.-6.10.1968.)

Work on the manuscript of Hamlet's Mill

Hamlet's Mill has been described as a dialectical account. This approach would have been de Santillana's choice.

Work on the manuscript of Hamlet's Mill had begun in 1967. Peter Tompkins wrote that Hertha von Dechend was beginning to write her book, Hamlet's Mill, circa 1961. (In his book Secrets of the Great Pyramid (1971) Peter Tompkins write: "About ten years ago I exchanged manuscripts with Hertha von Dechend, who was then beginning to write her book Hamlet's Mill.") I am disinclined to believe she had any kind of working manuscript circa 1961 (but it is indicated there was one - perhaps a few years later). The Amrican academic Livio Stecchini wrote in 1961: "Studies now being pursued by Hertha von Dechend indicate that advanced astronomical information had been gathered before the origin of writing; written documents indicate that the observations were initiated in the fourth millenium B.C. At the same time, she is showing that very early myths have much more precise and meaningful structure than it has been believed." ("The Origin of the Alphabet." by Livio Stecchini (The American Behavioural Scientist, February 1, 1961, Volume 4, Issue 6, Pages 3-7, Page 4).) It is more likely the von Dechend only had seminar notes for that year (i.e., 1961, unless her Habilitation is included). According to a 1977 article in Technology Review (published by MIT) "for the past twenty years Professor von Dechend has been comparing and assembling the pieces of an immense puzzle ...." This would place her idea back to 1957 at least. Giorgio de Santillana first met Hertha von Dechend when he participated in a symposium organised by Willy Hartner at the Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, in Frankfurt, in 1958. She was developing her ideas by that time. It would seem, however, that the ideas of Hamlet's Mill were first publicly put forward by de Santillana in an address given at a 1961 symposium in England. (See his presentation: "On Forgotten Sources in the History of Science" In: Crombie, A. (Editor). Scientific Change (1963), Pages 813-828, with participant commentary in succeeding pages. The book comprises the Symposium on the History of Science at the University of Oxford, 9-15 July, 1961. In the content of the book he acknowledges his great debt to Hertha von Dechend (who declined to be acknowledged as a joint author) and considers it a joint paper. Incredibly, he considered Charles Dupuis a reliable authority on ancient astronomy. Later, in Hamlet's Mill, he claimed only a fleeting familiarity with Charles Dupuis.) Interestingly, Hertha von Dechend is listed as a member of the 1961 Symposium - but Giorgio de Santillana is not. (Amongst the listed papers of Joseph Needham held at Cambridge (England) the following record appears: Title: Joseph Needham's notes from a talk on 'astral myths' by Herta (sic) von Dechend at a Symposium in Oxford; Reference: SCC2/69/1/28; Covering Dates: 13 July 1961; Extent and Medium: 1 document; Paper.) Hertha von Dechend (An Introduction to Archaic Cosmology (1979)) also endorsed Charles Dupuis as properly understanding ancient religion per "Mythology is the work of science; only science will explain mythology."

Though Alistair Crombie (1915-1996, an Australian historian of science who began his career as a zoologist) was a close academic friend of Giorgio de Santillana it appears that he was too reality and data oriented to be involved in Hamlet's Mill speculations.

The committee of the Associazione Culturale Italiana invited de Santillana to give a lecture in Turin in March, 1963, entitled "Fato antico e fato moderno" ("Ancient and Modern Ideas of Fate" or "Ancient and Modern Fate"). One of the major points of the lecture was the idea that "the great cosmological myths both preceded and had been the equivalent of modern science." Fato Antico e Fato Moderno by Giorgio de Santillana was published in 1963. ("When lecturing in Italy in 1963 Giorgio de Santillana restated the theory that a scientific hypothesis precedes the formulation of a myth." (Understanding Italo Calvino by Beno Weiss (1993, Page 95).)) In the Preface to his book Reflections on Men and Ideas (1968, Page xi) Giorgio de Santillana mentions a forthcoming book by himself in collaboration with Hertha von Dechend with the (working) title An Introduction to Archaic Cosmology. De Santillana presented similar ideas at an international colloquium organised by UNESCO (Science and Synthesis (Published 1971)). He presented on modern cosmologies within the historical perspective of the ancient cosmological doctrines: "The Great Cosmological Doctrines."

Note: Regarding Italo Calvino. It is known from his essays and letters that Giorgio de Santillana had considerable impact on Italo Calvino (1923-1985, an Italian journalist and brilliant writer of short stories and novels) since their first encounter in Boston in 1959.

In the latter pages of her, Introduction to Ancient Cosmology (Hertha von Dechend's lecture notes for the Autumn 1966 seminar(s)) von Dechend several times writes of the 'Essay' by de Santillana and her that is being prepared for publication.

A copy of a heavily edited older manuscript of Hamlet’s Mill - that was in the possession of Abe Aronow - has perhaps been lost during a house move to San Francisco. This mimeographed manuscript is recollected as having been distributed sometime between 1961 and 1963. (It would have remained in manuscript form had not de Santillana offered to co-author the book.) I am inclined to think that the earliest so-called manuscript was perhaps little more than her first seminar notes.

Franz Krojer states that in conversation with von Dechend she stated she had immense difficulties with the book; some of it to do with the preparation of the appendices. (See: "Der Riss zwischen den beiden Kulturen" ["The rift between the two cultures"] In: Franz Krojer (with a contribution by Thomas Schmidt): Die Präzision der Präzession, Illigs mittelalterliche Phantomzeit aus astronomischer Sicht. [The precision of precession, Illig's medieval phantom time from an astronomical point of view.] (2003).)

The 'assembling' of Hamlet's Mill

It is usually stated that the book was basically written by Giorgio de Santillana. However, Hertha von Dechend states that she worked on the manuscript of the book during the 1960s. (This is supported by comments by Harald Reiche in his essay included in the book Astronomy of the Ancients (1979) edited by Kenneth Brecher and Michael Feirtag.) Whilst deemed a collaborative work the greater content and framework of ideas are those of Hertha von Dechend. There is little doubt that the numerous lengthy appendices were exclusively written by Hertha von Dechend. (This is stated by Santillana within the Preface of the book, see page viii.) It is also easy to discern that the greater contents of the book are von Dechend's work and owes much to her early MIT seminars. (It is a mistake to think the first two-thirds of the book is the work of de Santillana and the last one-third (the appendices) is the work of von Dechend. Almost the entire book is closely based on von Dechend's MIT lecture/seminar notes.) The book is largely a collection of material grouped into various categories and lacking a clear focus. During 1961, 1966, and 1979 Hertha von Dechend (when a research associate at MIT) delivered (or help to deliver) seminars on ancient cosmology at MIT. (It is likely that the 1979 seminar was organised by Harald Reiche.) It appears that for all of these occasions she was hosted i.e., stayed as a house guest with a MIT faculty member. (Abe Aronow, an ex-student of de Santillana, who was a student at MIT from 1962 to early 1966, states that a least during most of the first half of the 1960s von Dechend was a frequent (though largely unidentified) presence in de Santillana's office. Richard Flavin advises that she most often stayed with Harald Reiche and his wife. She also stayed with Jayant Shah and his wife over many years - certainly in late 1991.) (Her lecture notes for these seminars were available for a time and they are full of errors regarding both spelling and sense.) It appears she was never a house guest with the de Santillana's. (The date of the marriage break-up between Giorgio and Dorothy de Santillana would likely help explain this. How much time and attention Giorgio gave Dorothy is unknown.)

The basic role of Giorgio de Santillana as "co-author" was evidently that of editing her English-language material. The problem of the book being poorly organised, and lacking unity and coherence, undoubtedly largely originates from the combination of von Dechend's MIT lecture notes being poorly organised and also the fact that de Santillana was seriously ill at the time of his involvement in the preparation of the manuscript of the book. However, there appear to be fictions here as well. It is common to read statements like: "Santillana was dying at the time, leaving the book chaotic and unedited." In his book The Media Symplex (2001, Page 68) Frank Zingrone writes: "I had the good fortune to be a junior colleague of de Santillana's at MIT, where he was furiously working to finish the book before he died. He just barely managed to do that; it was a heroic battle won with the energetic help of his collaborator, Hertha von Dechend." It would be interesting to identify the earliest mention of de Santillana being seriously ill in the late 1960s. One close MIT academic colleague of de Santillana in the 1960s informs me (August, 2013) that he has no knowledge of the type of illness (and also did not actually confirm that de Santillana was actually suffering at this time from a serious illness. De Santillana died in 1974, some 5 years after the book was completed and published. (Frank Zingrone PhD (1933-2009) was an information scientist who taught at MIT for a number of years.) However, de Santillana's collaborative connection with von Dechend probably had its roots in their 1958 meeting. Undoubtedly, he was probably interested in the theme of an astronomical basis for mythology prior to their 1958 meeting. His somewhat independent thoughts on the issue appeared briefly in his book The Origins of Scientific Thought (1961). De Santillana attempted to marshal the material that is available on the prehistoric origins of science. In this book he attempts to sift out and collect the material available on the prehistoric origins of science. He begins with mythology and attempts to show its astronomical significance. In the book de Santillana holds the origin of Greek science (especially astronomy) can be traced to the Neolithic period. Aspects of  the book present a radical and unconventional view of the origins of Greek science. (Edward Madden, Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, wrote a book review of The Origins of Scientific Thought.) See also: "Greek Astronomy." by George de Santillana in Scientific American, (Volume 180?), April, 1949, Pages 44-47. Overlooked, but of some importance is "Fato Antico e Fato Moderno." by Giorgio de Santillana. It is a short essay (first published in 1968?) - originally a lecture (given in 1963). (There appears to be some confusion whether it is a short essay or an uncommon book.) It deals with the history of science and mythologies and mimics themes in Hamlet's Mill. It views ancient myths as the first attempts at scientific thinking and practice and the ancient practice of measuring and numbering physical reality as an effort to create meaning and make the world/universe accessible. According to de Santillana the ancient concept of fate implied a precise comprehension of physical reality and how we are influenced by it. Myth has a cosmological dimension and humankind's oldest myths derive from celestial observations. See also: "Riflessioni sul Fato : Fato Antico." In: Reflections on Men and Ideas by Giorgio de Santillana (1967; Pages 324-345). See also the essay book review in la Republica, 10 July, 1985. It appears reasonable to assume that during the early 1960s the (flawed) work of the British astronomer Joseph Lockyer (The Dawn of Astronomy (1894)) on the astronomical alignments of Egyptian temples also influenced de Santillana's ideas. Giorgio de Santillana wrote a new and extensive Preface for the 1964 reprint issued by MIT Press. In this Preface de Santillana sketched some of his ideas on archaic astronomy and the astronomical content of mythology. In the Preface de Santillana also expressed his belief that Egyptian temple re-alignment was due to their exact knowledge of the rate of precession. (It appears that Giorgio de Santillana also believed the alphabet originated from astronomy and games.)

Phil Norfleet, at his website(s) containing his recollections of Giorgio de Santillana (which seems to take information and leads from my website material, - nowhere acknowledged - certainly use of a copyright photograph of de Santillana without permission or credit) writes (http://waite2051.tripod.com/): "I first became aware of the Mithraic Mysteries in the early 1960s, when I took two seminars given by the well-known MIT professor of the history of science, Giorgio de Santillana (1902-1974). At that time I was a very young college undergraduate who had been fortunate enough to convince Professor de Santillana that I should be permitted to take his seminars, which were usually reserved for graduate students only. At that time, Professor de Santillana was at the peak of his intellectual powers; in 1961 he had published what I believe was his finest book: The Origins of Scientific Thought from Anaximander to Proclus, 600 B.C. to 500 A.D. He was a good lecturer and was even better in the give and take discussions of the seminar room. A great deal of reading and essay writing was required, but it was very interesting to me and I enjoyed making the necessary extra effort. The main focus of the course was on the early Greek philosophers, who flourished from about 600 to 300 B.C. Professor de Santillana took the position that they had been extremely important in laying the intellectual foundation for the European scientific revolution of the 17th century. We only spent a day or two in discussing the Mithras cult and its significance to the philosophical and astronomical thinking of the Roman Empire. Even so, I do recall at least some of his ideas regarding the connection between the main Mithraic myths and the astronomical knowledge of the time. Many years later, in 1970, I acquired a copy of his last book, which he had co-authored with Dr. Hertha von Dechend (1915-2001) entitled: Hamlet's Mill, An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time. Unfortunately, I was more than a little disappointed in the lack of clarity and poor organization of the book. His main thesis was one which he had also expressed during his seminar; unfortunately, this published work lacked both focus and clarity. I later found out that Professor de Santillana was in failing health at the time and that most of the chapters in the book had really been written by his younger but less well organized colleague.* One area of almost total omission was a discussion of the Mithras belief system, even though this belief system was almost overflowing with astronomical/astrological ideas. Indeed, there was only one reference to Mithra (Mithras) which appeared on pages 263 and 264 of the book (see quotation cited in the Introduction Section). I have recently renewed my interest in the Mithraic belief system after reading the online, current edition of the Rosicrucian Digest; the entire issue is devoted to Mithras. The purpose of this website is to discuss my ideas concerning this rather strange mystery school and also record the ideas of Professor de Santillana on this subject, to the extent that I am able to recall them. It is to the memory of Giorgio Diaz de Santillana that I dedicate this website. By my reckoning, only six of the 23 chapters were written or mostly written by Giorgio!"

John Major Jenkins writes (http://edj.net/mc2012/mill1.htm): "Giorgio de Santillana published a book of his own the previous year and was still lecturing at M.I.T., so his work load during the late 1960s must have been intense."

Hertha von Dechend explained to Franz Krojer that she experienced great difficulties with the book. (See: Die Präzision der Präzession by Franz Krojer (2003, Page 229).

Note: No clear account exists for how the manuscript of Hamlet's Mill came into existence. In fact accounts are contradictory. It seems doubtful that a purposeful progressive independent manuscript for Hamlet's Mill was developed during at least the early 1960s. It is indicated that the only manuscripts were the MIT seminar notes. The earliest cogent manuscript comprised the 1961 MIT course notes with the title, Introduction to Cosmology: A Preliminary Reconnaissance by H. von Dechend [and] G. de Santillana, comprising 152 pages, originally issued in 1961 for the topic "Ancient Cosmology" within the regular Humanities course (XXI-B). Introduction to Ancient Cosmology. Hertha von Dechend's lecture notes for the 1966 seminars were new and expanded course notes with a different approach to presenting the material. In the latter pages von Dechend several times writes of the 'Essay' by de Santillana and her that is being prepared for publication. It is indicated that very little was actually being accomplished. Von Dechend had no useable book manuscript. Circa 1967 de Santillana began drawing from the 1961 and especially the 1966 MIT seminar notes to put together a manuscript for publication. This is the earliest indicated existence of an independent manuscript being prepared for commercial publication. Undoubtedly feedback comments and contributions were sought for the 1961 and 1966 MIT seminar notes and were drawn on for the manuscript in preparation for Hamlet's Mill. Ensuring the material from the 1966 MIT seminar notes were made useful/useable would have presented some difficulties. These were editing difficulties; also the 1966 MIT seminar notes have innumerable typing errors, erratic page numbering, and almost complete of lack section headings. The actual manuscript for Hamlet's Mill is a late creation - a salvage effort - largely accomplished by de Santillana, and closely identifiable with the 1961 and 1966 MIT participant notes.

Development of the commercial manuscript of Hamlet's Mill
Author Text
(1) Hertha von Dechend 1960 - Habilitation completed in 1960. The topic of her thesis was archaic science:  Der Mythos von gebauten Welt als Ausdrucksform archaischer Naturwissenschaft. [The myth of the built world as an expression of archaic science.]
(2) Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend 1961 - Introduction to Cosmology: A Preliminary Reconnaissance. No date, but 1961. It is indicated that supplementary pages were regularly issued (at least for 1961-1962). This was written as MIT course notes for the topic "Ancient Cosmology" within the regular Humanities course (XXI-B). The identification of a Hamlet's Mill manuscript existing in 1961 is most likely the 1961 MIT course notes and add-ons (supplements).
(3) Hertha von Dechend 1966 (but perhaps 1964) - Introduction to Ancient Cosmology. Hertha von Dechend's MIT lecture notes for the 1966 seminar, "Introduction to Ancient Cosmology." If de Santillana and von Dechend had been jointly working on a progressive independent manuscript for Hamlet's Mill then the 1966 MIT course notes would not have had innumerable typing errors, erratic page numbering, and almost complete lack of section headings.
(4) Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend Circa 1967 - Independent manuscript for commercial publication of Hamlet's Mill is begun by de Santillana. Basic method is editing of 1961 and (mostly) 1966 MIT seminar notes. Von Dechend contributes appendices (mostly) based on 1966 course notes. Hamlet's Mill exists as a salvage effort by de Santillana. The book was supposed to have been written by von Dechend.
It is indicated that at some point after 1961 de Santillana was not constantly involved in what von Dechend was doing at MIT. De Santillana was expecting that von Dechend was preparing a book length manuscript for publication. When he realised that she was not he knew the task would need to be undertaken by him. Von Dechend provided the appendices - largely comprised of the chapter end notes accompanying the text of her seminar notes, so minimal work - but it is not known if they were provided during de Santillana's editing efforts with the 1966 course notes or 'matched' afterwards with the text. Note: Hurriedly editing the abysmally written 1966 lecture notes by von Dechend explains why the result was a clumsy and badly argued book. Interestingly, von Dechend let it remain a clumsy and badly argued book. In her Preface to the 1993 German-language edition of Hamlet's Mill von Dechend writes that of more than 22 years of intensive work since the 1st appearance of Hamlet's Mill in 1969. However, instead of a renovated and expanded text that she acknowledges would be appropriate she states she was basically limited to additional footnotes and appendices. Why this is so is never explained. We are uncertain whether it was her decision or that of the publisher. Also, it is simply amazing that she has failed to update and publish her studies in peer-reviewed journals. A 2nd volume to the first edition would have been more appropriate.

Publication of Hamlet's Mill

The book was not published academically, but commercially. It appears that Hamlet's Mill was rejected by academic publishers. As the book certainly falls below acceptable standards of scholarship this is not surprising. Prior to publication the manuscript was in dire need of some sort of either peer review, or proof treading, or copy editing. This was more because of the book's muddled and disjointed structure and continual habit of moving from the main discussion into side issues. It is not known why this was not done. If it was eventually done then it was not stringent. Since its publication it has been effectively criticised from many perspectives, and it is not a serious scholarly study of mythology. Simply, Hamlet's Mill is unreliable. The publication of the book was only accepted by a small and somewhat obscure/little-known commercial publisher in the Boston area, Gambit Incorporated. It is not known how this was arranged.

"Professor de Santillana worked on editing von Dechend when he was sick and near death, and so this book is not the best expression of their theories. Encyclopedic, but rambling, it is often as chaotic as it is cranky. This weakness, however, should not mislead the reader. The work is very important in seeking to recover the astronomical and cosmological dimensions of mythic narratives." (William Thompson The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light (1981, Pages 268-269).) At the time of completing a manuscript of Hamlet's Mill for publication de Santillana was also completing another book (published in 1968) and he was still lecturing at MIT. His work load during the late 1960s must have been intense. Added to this was the fact that he was ill. This perhaps helps to explain the variations in the narrative, the ebb and flow of the sequence in which the book was ordered, and the generally chaotic character of the book's organization. However, the muddled nature of von Dechend's seminar notes is likely the greater contributor. The use of an informal and loquacious prose style prevailing throughout the book becomes a hindrance. Apart from contributing the appendices it is now impossible to determine exactly what Hertha von Dechend actually contributed anew to the main text. Lost is any careful use and interpretation of linguistics, archaeology, comparative mythology, and astronomy.

Apart from Giorgio de Santillana being seriously ill when he put the manuscript of the book together (his health had began failing quite rapidly) the process of publication itself was apparently a nightmare with material and notes to the publisher becoming lost. In his book The Media Symplex (2004, Page 68) Frank Zingrone states: "Professor de Santillana worked on editing von Dechend when he was sick and near death .... de Santillana ... was furiously working to finish the book before he died. He just barely managed to do that; it was an heroic battle won with the energetic help of his collaborator, Hertha von Dechend." (This simply repeats the information - with a bit added on - given by William Thompson in his book The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light (1996 (1981), Page 268). Also see pages 268-270.) It is also a somewhat fictional account. De Santillana may have been ill but he was not near death - he lived for another 5 years after the book was published. He took on the main task of writing the book because von Dechend was not making any effort to do so. Von Dechend is credited with the preparation of the numerous Appendices but these were likely already existing in some form in her research and seminar notes. After looking through several years of Hertha von Dechend's MIT seminar notes it is painfully obvious there is nothing there in the way of an organised, clear, and connected argument. No clearly defined trail is being blazed by von Dechend.) It is likely that de Santillana died of a tobacco/smoking related disease. (He was a smoker all of his life. The portrait photograph accompanying the obituary by his friend Nathan Sivin in the journal Isis, 1976, shows him holding a cigarette between fingers in his right hand. Other photographs also show him smoking.)

In the Winter-semester 1954-1955 Hertha von Dechend was involved in compiling and editing notes - with Ralph Marcus (University of Chicago) - regarding the Frankfurt-Chicago-Seminar "Östliches und Westliches Denken in der Spät-antike und im Mittelalter." held at the Universität Frankfurt. It would be interesting to see the state of these notes. (It appears these notes were published in 1955.)

Note: There is an erroneous claim (repeated as recently as April 2013 by Susan Rennison) that the more than 10 years of study by de Santillana that led to the publication of Hamlet's Mill held academic risk (due to his unconventional interpretation of ancient mythology) and led to his expulsion from MIT. This is completely fictional - the claimed expulsion from MIT never occurred. (But this illustrates a problem with many commentators on Hamlet's Mill in that they do little effective research, if indeed they do any research at all.)

Publishing history of Hamlet's Mill

Hamlet's Mill: An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time by Giorgio de Santillana (1902-1974) and Hertha von Dechend (1915-2001) was first published in 1969. (The Library of Congress (Copyright Office) Catalog of Copyright Entries has 3 November, 1969, as the copyright date.) The authors presented the book as an exploratory effort in which they present pieces of a puzzle. Hamlet's Mill is a work of speculative scholarship. Much of the text can be described as cryptic/densely obscure. The authors even hint at being intentionally obscure! Certainly the analysis and interpretation by Hertha von Dechend is inventive. Hertha von Dechend spent her life interpreting ancient and medieval myths as a scientific code/shorthand for astronomical events. No university press would publish Hamlet's Mill. According to Colin Wilson the manuscript of Hamlet's Mill was rejected by academic publishers. But where did he apparently obtain this information? He simply doesn't inform us. According to Mark Stahlman the MIT Genius Project was fraught with stories of publishing sabotage of its materials. The idea of publishing sabotage also seems to have become connected with Hamlet's Mill. However, the preparation of it for publication was simply a shambles. (It is mistakenly believed by some persons that there was also a German-language edition published in 1969. Once again, some commentator has not done effective research.) Though the English-language edition has been reprinted four times (i.e., 1970, 1977, 1983, and 1998) the authors never revised or corrected the book. Also, they did not publish any other book on the theme outlined in Hamlet's Mill. Hertha von Dechend incorporated some changes and additions to the German-language edition (Die Mühle des Hamlet) first published in 1993. (This was an authorized translation from the English by Beate Ziegs.) The German edition was 17 pages longer (x, 522 pages (but also indicated as comprising 578 pages)) than the original English edition (x, 505 pages). The German edition of 1993 contains a Preface (v-x) by Hertha von Dechend, Concluding remarks to the German edition (Pages 318-331), and Afterword by the editor (Pages 497-500). This edition contains important information for understanding the process leading to publication of Hamlet's Mill. It would appear that the errata list that was enclosed in this German-language edition was left out of the 1994 reprint of such. (It would appear that this German-language edition was basically a translation of the English-language edition. For a review of the 1993 German-language edition see the (German-language) book review by P[?]. Richter in Sterne und Weltraum, Band 34, 1995, Pages 4-10.) (In Die Mühle des Hamlet (1994) reference is made to a forthcoming book An Introduction to Archaic Cosmology.) An Italian-language edition appeared in 1983. See the (Italian-language) book review of Il Mulino di Amleto (1983) in Il Mulino [published by Società editrice il Mulino], Issues 291-293, 1984, Pages (approx.) 499-512. The Italian-language edition (Il Mulino di Amleto) published in 1983 was apparently simply a translation of the 1969 English-language book. It was reprinted in 1984, and 1998. However, the 1999 Italian-language edition, which was translated/edited by Alessandro Passi, comprised a new and expanded edition (630 pages). This particular edition was reprinted in 2000 and 2003. (The preface to this expanded edition was also written by Hertha von Dechend.) Also, a Hungarian translation (Hamlet malma, translated by Dr Végvári József) was published in 1995. A French-language edition/translation, titled Le Moulin d'Hamlet : la connaissance, origine et transmission par les mythes, was published in 2011 or 2012 (515 pages). It was translated into French by Claude Gaudriault (since 2006 the President of le Groupe Ile de France de Mythologie Française (GIFMF).

I have yet to check the details regarding El Molino de Hamlet.

Comparison of English, German, and Italian editions

Basic content English-language edition (1969), Hamlet's Mill Italian-language edition (1983), Il Mulino di Amleto German-language edition (1993), Die Mühle des Hamlet
Preface Preface by de Santillana (approx. 7 pages) Preface by de Santillana (approx. 6 pages) Revised - de Santillana's Preface replaced with von Dechend's Preface (approx. 8 pages)
Chapters 23 + Intermezzo + Introduction + Epilogue + Conclusion 23 + Intermezzo + Introduction + Epilogue + Conclusion 23 + Intermezzo + Introduction + Epilogue + Concluding remarks to the German edition
Quotes at head of chapters + Intermezzo + Introduction + Epilogue + Conclusion 29 29 - erroneous quotes are uncorrected 25 - some quotes in English-language edition replaced with new quotes (and some quotes uncorrected)
Footnotes 462 in chapters + 180 in appendices Indicated same as English-language edition Revisions and expansions made
Illustrations 42 41 56 - some new illustrations included
Appendices 39 39 Additional appendices included - 45
Bibliography 30 pages (no spacing) 24 pages (no spacing) Reworked bibliography - some updates and additions made (69.5 pages, with spacing)
Errata Not included Not included Included (excepting reprint)

The German-language edition of 1993 can be considered the 'definitive' Hamlet's Mill thesis. (According to Richard Flavin, at the time of von Dechend's death in 2001 an English-language translation was still being considered. However, it has never appeared.) the German-language (2nd) edition is not a substantively different volume from the 1969 (1st) edition. No improved research scope is indicated. The contents of the book chapters remain the same as the 1969 English-language edition. Von Dechend considers it a complex book made more difficult by the reader who does not want to understand. (We see here von Dechend's belief that the problem is with everybody else. Some proponents have mimiced this somewhat silly statement as an answer to critics of Hamlet's Mill.) Basically the muddled and confusing text has been allowed to remain despite the need for greater clarity in presentation. The Italian-language edition of 1999 is obviously taken from the 1993 German-language edition.

It is simply incredible that with the 1993 German-language no attempt was made to produce a new text with revised and new arguments and evidence. The 1993 German-language "revision" of the original Hamlet's Mill is substantially the same text as the original 1969 English-language edition! It would seem to indicate that von Dechend - for over 20 years - was not really involved with (or bothered with) substantive improvements to the material developed during the late 1950s and the first half of the 1960s. Von Dechend has not been able to - or bothered with - attempting to advance her arguments. A lot of her material and ideas in the MIT seminar notes were still not utilised. Possibly because to do so would simply weaken her attempt to present a case for her precession-in-myth ideas.

Critical book reviews of Hamlet's Mill

It appears that - at least initially - Hamlet's Mill lacked wide distribution amongst scholars (and the general public). Present-day claims by particular devotees that its publication started a firestorm of controversy are over-exaggeration.

Some of the critical (English-language) book reviews of Hamlet's Mill are by Edmund Leach in The New York Review (of Books), February 12, 1970, Page 36, (Giorgio's De Santillana's protest letter regarding this review appeared in "Letters," The New York Review, May 7, 1970); by Jaan Puhvel in The American Historical Review, Volume LXXV, Number 6, October, 1970, Pages 2009-2010; by Lynn White Junior in Isis, Volume 61, 1970, Pages 540-541; by Geoffrey Kirk in The Spectator , Number 7434, 19 December, 1970, Page 809; by Gerald Gresseth in Journal of American Folklore, Volume 84, Number 332, April/June, 1971, Pages 246-247; by Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin in Journal for the History of Astronomy, Volume 3, 1972, Pages 206-211; by Albert Friedman in Journal of the History of Philosophy, Volume X, 1972, Page 479; by Hilda Davidson in Folklore, Volume CXXXV, 1974, Pages 282-283; by David Leeming in Parabola, Volume III, Issue 1, 1978, Pages 113-115; and the (German-language) book review by Thomas Barthel in Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, Band 99, Heft 1 und 2, 1974, Pages 284-287). (I have not yet seen the French-language book review of Hamlet's Mill in Revue de l'histoire des religions, Volume 180, 1971, Page 216.)

Rhetorical style of Hamlet's Mill

Hamlet's Mill is highly reliant on rhetoric (= persuasive discourse).

In his book, Ideas of Ascension and Translation: A Study of the Literary and Cultural Mythological Tradition of the West (2004), Peter Sorensen recognizes the rhetorical style of Hamlet’s Mill and writes (page 225): "The New Age rhetorical style is markedly different from the very concrete rhetoric of the literalists [that deal with a material or tangible object or phenomenon], such as Velikovsky [Oedipus and Akhnaton], Sitchin [The Wars of Gods and Men], and de Santillana [Hamlet’s Mill]."

The rhetorical style shows in von Dechend's MIT seminar notes for participants.

Despite the rhetoric of evidence their claims are not plausible. Expert advice should have been sought in the areas for which they were not competent.

Use of sources

It has been pointed out that the authors often do not distinguish between between primary and secondary sources. Also they often do not differentiate between attested early traditions and later ones. A lot of the book actually deals with medieval material (i.e., the Scandanavian, Persian and Indian material). But there is an archaization frenzy in their intent. Neither de Santillana or von Dechend were medievalists and this obviously shows with the difficulties they get into.

The authors do not explicitly connect the myths to a chronological scheme but rather the myths (or at least the themes) are deemed archaic and constructed as an astronomical technical language. The contents of the book do not prove these claims.

In Hamlet's Mill the authors initially (first 7 chapters) seek to establish the framework of their claims by using predominantly medieval works. According to the authors of Hamlet's Mill (Page 51): "The last forms - or rehearsals - of a true myth took place in medieval culture: the Romance of Alexander, and the Arthurian myth as it is found in Malory."

Document Region Date Comments
Gesta Danorum (Deeds [Story] of the Danes) Denmark (Scandinavia) 12th-century The 9 books of the Gesta Danorum by the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus are an essential source for the nation's early history. However, there are important critical issues. The best known are Books 3 and 4 containing the story of (the Scandinavian) Amleth (Old Icelandic form Amlóði/Amlodi). Amleth or Amlóði (Norse for "mad," "not sane"). The Gesta Danorum is comprised of narratives about kings, maidens, and trolls in a manner similar to a folk-tale - it is not history. The material comprising the Gesta Danorum has to be handled with caution/care when extracting the mythological material.
Kalevala Finland (Scandinavia) 19th-century The Kalevala (or The Kalewala) is a 19th-century work of epic poetry compiled by the Finnish philologist Elias Lönnrot from Karelian and Finnish oral folklore, songs, and mythology. The Kalevala recounts the adventures of Väinämöinen (WÄinÄmöinen), the bard/sorcerer; Ilmarenan the magical blacksmith/craftsman; Lemminkäinen (or Lemminki) the rogue; and a number of other characters. The Sampo is a pivotal element of the plot of The Kalevala. (In mythology, the great king of Kainuu in Finnish, Karelian and Estonian mythology. Also, Kaleva is an obscure giant in Finnish mythology.) Particularly popular for many readers was the hero character, WÄinÄmöinen a powerful sorcerer who was able to transform the treeless land into a vast paradise, as well as warming the Sun, clearing pestilence, and performing a variety of magical acts.
Edda Iceland 13th-century Edda is an Old Norse term given by modern scholars to the collective of 2 medieval Icelandic literary works now known as the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda. The 2 13th-century books are commonly distinguished as the Prose, or Younger, Edda and the Poetic, or Elder, Edda. Edda is the fullest and most detailed source for modern knowledge of Germanic mythology. The Prose Edda was written by the Icelandic chieftain, poet, and historian Snorri Sturluson, probably in 1222–1223 CE. It is a textbook on poetics intended to instruct young poets in the difficult metres of the early Icelandic skalds (court poets) and to provide for a Christian age an understanding of the mythological subjects treated or alluded to in early poetry. The Poetic Edda comprises the oral literature of Iceland, which was finally written down from 1000 CE to 1300 CE. The Poetic Edda is a later manuscript finally dating from the second half of the 13th century, but containing older materials (hence its alternative title, the Elder Edda). It is a collection of mythological and heroic poems of unknown authorship, composed over a long period (perhaps 800–1100 CE). Some scholars believe that the poems in the Poetic Edda possibly only date to circa the 10th-century CE (pre-Christian Scandinavia). There is no suitable means to date the poems in the Poetic Edda.
Skaldskaparmal Iceland 13th-century The 2nd part of Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda the Skáldskaparmál is effectively a dialogue between Ægir, the Norse god of the sea, and Bragi, the Norse god of poetry, in which both Norse mythology and discourse on the nature of poetry are intertwined. Past discussion of the sources of Skáldskaparmál has mainly been concerned with 2 related issues. Firstly, the accuracy with which Snorri reproduces pre-Christian tradition in his work, and thus his reliability as a writer on that tradition. Secondly the extent to which his work is influenced by the Christian, Latin thought of the Middle Ages. With regard to the first issue: There has been speculation about the possibility that Snorri or people of his circle may actually have invented myths as well as altering or modifying those they inherited from the past. With regard to the second issue: The only material that seems to have its origin in foreign (and originally Latin) writing is the references to the Troy story in the so-called Epilogus.
Vaftbrudnismal (Vafþrúðnir's sayings) Iceland 11th to 13th-century Old Norse Vafþrúðnismál = "the lay of Vafþrúðnir" (Vafþrúðnir's sayings) is the 3rd poem (book) in the Poetic Edda. It is a conversation in verse form conducted initially between the Æsir Odin and Frigg, and subsequently between Odin and the giant Vafþrúðnir. Odin journeys to the home of the giant Vafþrúðnir and plays a question-and-answer game there that reveals details about the creation of the Norse cosmos.
Lokasenna (Loki's flyting) Iceland 11th to 13th-century Lokasenna ("Loki's flyting," "Loki's wrangling," "Loki's quarrel") is one of the poems of the Poetic Edda. The poem presents flyting (a contest consisting of the exchange of insults, often conducted in verse, between two parties) between the gods and Loki.
Gylfaginning (Tricking of Gylfi) Iceland 11th to 13th-century Gylfaginning is the first part of Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda after Prologue. The Gylfaginning deals with the creation and destruction of the world of the Norse gods, and many other aspects of Norse mythology. The Gylfaginning contains a question-and-answer game in which Gylfi's questions reveal the nature of the Norse cosmos. Gylfaginning reflects Christian motifs, especially from the Old Testament.
Shahnama (Book of Kings) Persia Late 10th- and early 11th-century The Shahnama (Shahnameh) is a long epic poem written over several decades by the Persian poet Ferdowsi of Tus, (near the city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran) (Abul-Qasim Firdawsi/Abu'l Qasim Firdausi) between circa 977 CE and 1010 CE and is the national epic of Greater Iran. The Shahnama is a celebration of Iran's pre-Islamic past. (Very little is known about the poet Abul-Qasim Firdawsi, not even his real name. Since Firdawsi means "paradisal," this must have been his poetic or pen name.)
Mahabharata (Great Epic of the Bharata Dynasty) India Late 4th-century BCE to early 4th-century CE The Mahabharata (Mahābhārata) (composed between 300 BCE and 300 CE) is one of the 2 major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana. The Mahabharata is an epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pandava princes (2 sets of paternal first cousins).
Conversations with Ogotemmêli Sudan (Africa) Mid 20th-century Now discredited book by the late French anthropologist Marcel Griaule. Originally published in 1948 as Dieu d'Eau, it supposedly offered a unique and first-hand account of the myth, religion, and philosophy of the Dogon, a Sudanese people.

It is not shown that these late sources (in the table above) were intended to contain traces of an astronomical system dating from the Neolithic period. The Mahabharata (Mahābhārata), the single early epic poem, contains descriptive astronomical material. However, it is worth noting that attempting to date the Mahabharata based on the precession of the equinoxes provides no definitive date and has the problem of needing to accept an early established zodiacal system. Some Indians claim that the war described in the Mahabharata took place in 3139 BCE. This is based on the length of the Four Ages given in the Puranas, a type of mythohistorical literature dating from the 1st-millennium CE. The doctrine of Four Ages is somewhat more ancient, appearing also in earlier Greek and Germanic mythology, but their quantification/measurement is apparently linked/mixed with the precession of the equinoxes, Precession was discovered by Hipparchus circa 150 BCE and introduced in India only in subsequent centuries. The zodiac of 12 equal divisions was established by the Babylonians circa 450 BCE (but more likely circa 425 BCE). There are no pre-Hellenistic mentions of the fourth age starting in the 32nd-century BCE, 37 years after the Mahabharata war, as Hindus traditionally (i.e. based on the Puranas) believe. The astronomical evidence of the Mahabharata itself, however, points to well after 2300 BCE.

Both Snorri and Saxo attempted to preserve and systematise the myths and narratives of Old Norse religions. They differ in their approaches. (Interestingly, Saxo, working from material in Danish libraries, was also influenced by French sources regarding the history of kings. Literature/story themes, were also shared (migrated) between countries/nations during the medieval period.) Their efforts were carried out at a time when the Old Norse religions were becoming forgotten. Denmark and Sweden converted to Christianity circa 1000 CE Norway converted to Christianity circa 1200 CE. Snorri Sturluson mixed Christian theology with narratives about the origin of the Old Norse gods/goddesses. Snorri also mixed Norse myths with certain Christian motifs. Some scholars as early as the early 19th-century suggested that most of the stories in the Edda were Snorri's own inventions. That is, some scholars have suggested that some poems could be literary, written products from the 11th-century CE (circa the same period as the manuscript was produced). However, this view is no longer held by the majority of scholars. It is now recognised (dominating opinion) that the most detailed sources for pre-Christian Scandinavian mythology are the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda, the latter being an anonymous collection of Icelandic mythological poems. That is, it is largely agreed the poems are originally oral and a versified version of Old Norse myth. Apart from Runic inscriptions there is a paucity of written evidence for early Scandinavian and medieval history. The oldest surviving historical text in Old Norse is Íslendingabók by an Icelandic priest, Ari Þorgilsson, working in the early 12th-century. (Íslendingabók is a historical work dealing with early Icelandic history.) The earliest histories began to be completed in the 12th-century CE. Interestingly, Christian Etheridge (2012) writes: "By the thirteenth century astronomical works from Europe had completely superceded (sic) indigenous Scandinavian astronomical traditions."

Regarding Icelandic medieval sagas. The adventures of Grettir (an Icelandic outlaw) - told in The Saga of Grettir, one of the last great medieval Icelandic sagas - would be difficult to relate to the planets. The authors of Hamlet's Mill ignore it. Interestingly, the Grettis saga is teeming with allusions to mythological figures.

Mrs Jean Whitnack

The footnote mention - Hamlet's Mill, 1st edition, Page 139 - of Mrs. Jean Whitnack likely refers to the editor of the Columbia University catalogues of information.

Hamlet's Mill as a 'package' for the different motives of its authors

Von Dechend and de Santillana were not reasoning machines or purely cerebral academics. The were products of their time and cultures and with agendas.

Some persons mistakenly offer that Hamlet's Mill jointly expresses the independent discoveries of astronomical mythology by the authors. It is clear that both Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend had different motives for their approach and claims. The wider vision was held by Giorgio de Santillana who wanted to establish the earliest possible date for the origins of science and human genius/intelligence. (He most likely believed the book was an exploration of archaic consciousness.) It seems Hertha von Dechend merely wanted to reassert and expand the ideas of Leo Frobenius (and Panbabylonism). (She was very much a disciple of Frobenius.) De Santillana was susceptible to, and reliant on, the enormous work done by von Dechend - who proved herself capable of only working obscurely. Ultimately, Hamlet's Mill is a testament to their willingness to use incomprehensible speculation as a method to reach their respective aims.

Ernest McClain (1918-2014) posted to Bibal (Bibal Study Group) (December 6, 2006): "The problem with von Dechend is NOT with her general thesis, but rather with her own lack of ANY interest in the quantitative science that deSantillano (sic) outlines brilliantly in his introduction to what is really "her" book. She possessed none of the skills with the Pythagorean "quadrivium" (music, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy) that you demonstrate so well. But she was right in feeling that things had to be interconnected better than our fractured disciplines illustrate, and she undoubtedly influenced many young readers. She and I found each other totally impossible. I had done most of my work on Greek science and mythology before reading her book, but there was no way of explaining to her the meaning of her own "hour glass" Holy Mountain. Our confrontation at an M.I.T. seminar and again later in Boston was fruitless. Very few people are able to "read me" with your kind of total insight. I can almost count them on one hand (as Marius Schneider warned me would happen before I published my first book [The Myth of Invariance (1978)]), having glanced at my first graphics for M.O.I. Not many people are ready to think "in this mode," although it has much in common with many branches of science …."

In his talk "Time in Literature." Enrico Palandri (University College London) stated: "The scholar Giorgio De Santillana is a solitary modern thinker to have felt a great fascination for the epoch before the word. Unlike our common, rather self content perception of the pre-historic time as a barbaric and undeveloped age, he thought of that original age as an epoch of mysterious greatness. In his opinion, these ancestors of ours must have had some formidable ability in mathematical calculus: we inherit from them the observation of the movement of stars, the Zodiac [de Santillana wrongly believed the zodiac was developed during the Neolithic period], and in his opinion also a network of common features which is a substratum of several mythologies of the Historic period. In his book Hamlet’s mill (Il mulino di Amleto) he suggests that there may have been a link between several cultural similarities in worlds that our conception of the prehistoric age as "undeveloped" epoch would not explain. The idea of Indo-European language is related to this pre-written epoch. We imagine our language to have developed from a previous substratum of a language no longer existing." De Santillana - for reasons he never adequately explained/defended - ignored the cuneiform evidence for a late invention of the zodiac. Of course, the whole edifice of Hamlet's Mill rests on the supposition of a very early zodiac.

Both Hertha von Dechend and Giorgio de Santillana were too easily seduced by the illusionary scholarship of the Panbabylonists. Unfortunately Hamlet's Mill still remains a book to mislead incautious readers for decades to come. Some readers are eager to be misled. One enthusiastic supporter of the book writes in his review (2008): "A simultaneously wonderful, annoying, fascinating and baffling book. Cited by many … as a flawed … condemned by many more as a woefully muddled throwback to late 19th century "Panbabylonism", its very nature as a bold, disputed, unclassifiable mess endears it to me." My only comment on this type of uninformed nonsense is the Panbabylonian ideas Hamlet's Mill is based on originated in the early 20th-century - not the late 19th century. But supporters of Hamlet's Mill seem unaffected by matters of accuracy, or the need to do some genuine research.

After the death of Giorgio de Santillana a staff member of Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Professor Dr Walter Saltzer, became a colleague of Hertha von Dechend. In 1979 at IGN Walter Saltzer was Professor of Arabic Science. Walter Saltzer's key area of interest is the genesis and development of scientific ideas. He believes the period of the Pre-Socratic's and the period comprising the 17th-century happens to be the periods of decisive scientific progress. Saltzer is the deputy-director of the Institute for the History of Science. (He is perhaps also a member of the History of Science Society an international group which was established in the early 1970's.) See his slim book Theorien und Ansatze in der Griechischen Astronomie - im Kontext benachbarter Wissenschaften betrachtet [Theories and Approaches in Greek Astronomy - in the Context of Neighboring Sciences] (1976, Pages viii, 162, Figures 38). Also, the book reviews in Journal for the History of Astronomy, Volume 9, 1978, Pages 149-150; and Erasmus, Volume 31, 1979, Pages 374-377.

Extract from: "Teaching the History of Science and Technology." by Christoph Meinel (Annals of Science, Volume 36, 1979, Pages 279-289.

Excursus: William Thompson noted that during his time at MIT there was great attention being given to the development of computer science. MIT academics were involved with computer development and innovation. As example: In 1963 MIT PhD student Ivan Sutherland developed a graphical user interface computer screen. In 1965 MIT Lincoln Laboratory researchers helped to create minicomputers. In 1967 Richard Greenblatt at MIT built a knowledge-based chess-playing computer. Walter McCulloch, Walter Pitts, both close friends of de Santillana, and Oliver Selfridge at MIT made pioneering contributions to computer science and artificial intelligence. McCulloch, Pitts, and Wiener (sometimes misspelled Weiner) all influenced ideas of computer intelligence. The influence of artificial intelligence on de Santillana's ideas has not been explored. It is unknown whether de Santillana's interest in the nature of genius and discovery was influenced by Norbert Wiener's investigations circa 1955 onwards. Note: Copies of letters by Norbert Wiener to Giorgio de Santillana are in the Norbert Wiener Papers archive (at least Box 4), Institute Archives and Special Collections, MIT Libraries.

Norbert Wiener, after being forced out of the field of Cybernetics (which was term that Wiener had coined in 1946) when he started to raise uncomfortable questions about the social/cultural implications of digital computing, subsequently organised what he termed his "Genius Project." Norbert Wiener and his closest associates, including Giorgio de Santillana and Karl Deutsch, withdrew from Cybernetics and established at MIT what Wiener called his "Genius Project": in the hopes of recording the influences of historic geniuses on human history. (Note: Karl Deutsch (1912-1992) was born in Prague and immigrated to the USA in the late 1930s. He taught at the MIT, Yale, and Harvard. Deutsch was a social and political scientist whose work focused on the study of war and peace, nationalism, co-operation and communication. He was considered a master of cross disciplinary research.)

Assessing Hamlet's Mill

For the authors of Hamlet's Mill  astral mythology is the universal cipher to unlock all myths.

Hamlet's Mill has received, and continues to receive, an enormous amount of uncritical support despite the fact that it presents an obscure and confusingly argued case. It is flawed speculative scholarship. It has been described as "tortuous and occasionally baffling." It is highly speculative, its arguments are based on little evidence, and there is little substantiation of its arguments. The contents of the book are poorly organised and presented. The book contains an immense amount of loosely related information but there is no persuasive evidence presented for the connections being made. The case being made is attempted with dis-jointed and piece-meal arguments. There is no reason to believe that much of the evidence cited in the book has actual relevance to the claims being made. (As the fruit of a long collaboration between the authors the book is an academic mess.) A glaringly obvious defect is that both authors lack an expert knowledge of the history of Babylonian astronomy. (They chose to use early and unreliable sources from the pioneering stage of recovery of Babylonian astral sciences.) Indeed, their combined lack of knowledge of astronomy, philology, history, and mythology have resulted in fantastical conclusions. Remarkably, though the central theme relies on the establishment of a very early zodiac any attempt to establish evidence for such is ignored by the authors. A troublesome feature of the book is that its authors have neglected the obvious precaution of learning some elementary astronomy. The authors should have asked when the zodiac was first devised. The answer would have conclusively pointed to a maximum antiquity in the 1st-millennium BCE. However, the authors did not ask and answer the question and have cheerfully wandered many thousands of years beyond this period. The authors simply write their book on the assumption that an early zodiac and precessional mythology both existed.

Efforts to ensure consistency and clarity with the exposition of its ideas needed to be implemented. A chronological overview from the beginning of the historic period to the medieval period (with primary sources) would have been helpful for clarity. An overview of mythic themes and inclusion of sources would also have been helpful for clarity.

Mythical origins of Hamlet's Mill

According to the version by de Santillana in the Preface to the 1st edition of Hamlet's Mill there are 2 key points for von Dechend's development of her ideas. See Page vii (Preface) where de Santillana briefly describes von Dechend's acceptance of the ethnographic work with the Dogon that was being reported by Marcel Griaule [and later to be discredited]; and then her Polynesian "epiphany."

The origins of the theme and ideas in Hamlet's Mill have never been clearly explained by either author. According to Hertha von Dechend the astronomical interpretation of mythology was made clear during her work on Polynesian mythology. However, apart from a slight mention of this in Hamlet's Mill no further discussion ever occurred. Stranger still, because it was also stated to be a turning point for de Santillana. In Hamlet’s Mill (Page vii) Hertha von Dechend claimed her understanding of the astronomical content of Polynesian myth was established "when, on looking (on a map) at two little islands, mere flyspecks on the waters of the Pacific, she found that a strange accumulation of maraes or cult places could be explained only one way: they, and only they, were exactly sited on two neat celestial coordinates: the Tropics of Cancer and of Capricorn." Any attempt at alternative explanation is not discussed - it appears that her astronomical conclusion comprises the evidence. There is no evidence drawn from ethnographic fieldwork conducted by herself. Even after WWII no "on-the-spot" fieldwork/research in the Pacific region was conducted by von Dechend. (Though the "epiphany account" is written by de Santillana he is wholly reliant on von Dechend for the story.) The epiphany episode is not dated by von Dechend but it can, at earliest, only date to the 1940s or 1950s. (It is indicated as related to her Habilitation which was undertaken in the late 1950s.) Why the date is not given is never explained. The date would establish when von Dechend began her astronomical interpretation of mythology. There is enough literature for wider possibilities to be considered. Also, de Santillana is not being accurate when he writes that the 2 islands, meaning Necker and Tubuai, are exactly sited on the Tropics of Cancer and of Capricorn, respectively. The position of the Tropic of Cancer is not fixed, but varies in a complex manner (connected with precession) over time. Presently, Necker Island lies almost exactly on the Tropic of Cancer. Some 1000 years ago the island was precisely on the Tropic. Necker is presently 8 miles (7 nautical miles; 13 kilometres) from the Tropic of Cancer. Its traditional name in Hawaiian is Moku-manamana, which has been taken by some to mean "the island with a great deal of sacred power." However, more than one translation is possible and the name may simply have meant "branching island." Likewise, Tubai Island lies close to the Tropic of Capricorn.

Note: Von Dechend sent de Santillana a summary of her ideas on precessional mythology in 1959. This indicates that she was working on her ideas in the 1950s at least. A likely starting point is indicated as being the work on her Habilitation (completed 1960 but not known when started). The subject of the Habilitation thesis included Tane / Kane in Polynesia. Tane (the Hawaiian counterpart of Tane was Kane, the supreme god) was a sky/nature/sun god (god of creation and god of light) in Polynesia (especially eastern Polynesia. Tane was one of the most popular and widely worshipped gods. According to von Dechend the 2nd chapter dealing with the Polynesian Tane / Kane created discomfort. Von Dechend felt she had not understood a word she had read from the more than 10,000 pages of Polynesian myths. The puzzle her for von Dechend was: Could it be assumed that the first-born "initiates" among the best navigators on the globe had to memorize a conglomerate of purely entertaining stories? Her Habilitation (completed in 1960) was Der Mythos von gebauten Welt als Ausdrucksform archaischer Naturwissenschaft. ("The myth of the built world as an expression of archaic science.") Her "epiphany" is indicated as being prior to her to her Habilitation being completed and prior meeting with de Santillana in 1959 (a starting point for her astronomical interpretations beginning between 1956 and 1958 is indicated). Her work at MIT was obviously an extension/expansion of her Habilitation. Her work on Hamlet's Mill seems only to have begun in 1960 (with the completion of her Habilitation that year), prior to her first visit to MIT in 1961 as a research associate. She needed suitable and sufficient material for the student seminars to be held at MIT (in conjunction with de Santillana). Also indicated is her main interpretations of myths was concluded by 1961 latest; beginning earliest between 1956 and 1958.

There are various types of maraes. Basically a marae is an open-air sacred place comprising a paved court, (sometimes) a low-walled enclosure, and a raised platform (ahu) across one end, which served both religious and social purposes in pre-Christian Polynesian societies. The most comprehensive archaeological research on Nihoa(/Nihua) Island and Necker Island was conducted in 1923-1924 by Kenneth Emory of the Bishop Museum. In 1928 he published Archaeology of Nihoa and Necker Islands. It remains the baseline of our present-day knowledge regarding the archaeology and technology of Nihoa(/Nihua) and Necker. (Emory is considered to have perhaps overstated marae similarities to those in the Society Islands.) Robert Aitken, Research Associate in Ethnology, spent 2 years in the Austral Islands, principally on Tubuai, as a member of the Bayard Dominick Expedition of the Bishop Museum, 1920-1922. His preliminary report appeared in the Annual Report for 1922 of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum. His full report, Ethnology of Tubuai, appeared in 1930. Some persons see von Dechend's described 'event' as the impetus for her 'intellectual journey.' The description is devoid of suitable context i.e., the discussion of work previously done by others. The story is not believable as the impetus for her 'intellectual journey.' It is, however, believable for illustrating her methods - or lack of such. (This model is one that others seem bent on imitating.) Hertha von Dechend's teacher Leo Frobenius had, from the early 1900s, published Panbabylonian ideas and claimed correspondence between mythological themes and celestial phenomena, world-wide. Essentially, von Dechend carried on the work of her teacher Leo Frobenius. At Frankfurt she was certainly carrying on the work of Frobenius.

Note: in the 1993 German-language edition of Hamlet's Mill Hertha von Dechend revisits the 'epiphany episode' in considerable detail. She states she consulted archaeological reports, including the 1928 report by Kenneth Emory. What is strikingly peculiar is there is no further mention of these 2 obviously important sites in the book. Von Dechend did not have the benefit of several later publications. At best only the early work of Emory (Archaeology of Nihoa and Necker Islands (1928)), but this particular work in not cited. A later (1947) publication by Emory appears in the bibliography of the original edition of Hamlet's Mill.

Crescent-shaped Necker Island (Mokumanamana) is a narrow ridge of volcanic rock rising only a few hundred feet (approximately 65 metres) above sea level. The island's rugged volcanic terrain is described as a dangerous place to walk around because the 15 million-year-old volcanic rock crumbles easily with the weight of feet or hands.

Few signs of long-term human habitation have been found. The work of the esteemed archaeologist Patrick Kirch (1897-1992) suggested the likelihood that Necker Island was occupied for a single generation; perhaps by canoe castaways with the survivors trapped. See Feather Gods and Fishhooks by Patrick Kirch (1985, Pages 89-98); and "Polynesian Mystery Islands." by Patrick Kirch (Archaeology, Volume 44, 1988, Pages 26-31). However, the island contains 33 stone shrines and stone artifacts much like those found in the main Hawaiian Islands. Because of this, many anthropologists believe that the island was a ceremonial and religious site. More recently, in 2015, at the Hawaiian Historical Society's October membership meeting, Hawaiian studies professor Kekuewa Kikiloi presented a talk on his research into the 2 remote islands of Nihoa and Necker. (Presentation, title "Islands of My Ancestors: Unravelling the Mystery of Nihoa and Necker Islands.") Kikiloi, assistant professor in the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, challenged the notion that these island settlements were cultural anomalies and presented a case that both played an important and central function in traditional Hawaiian Society. Kikiloi’s research covers Hawaiian resource management, indigenous knowledge, traditional society, genealogies, cultural revitalization, and community empowerment and spans the main Hawaiian Islands, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and greater Polynesia. In 2012 Kikiloi received his Ph.D. in anthropology at Mānoa. His doctoral dissertation consisted of an ethno-historical and archaeological study of Mokumanamana and Nihoa Islands. These 2 barren islands (mostly Nihoa) contain more than 140 archaeological sites, including residential features, agricultural terraces, ceremonial structures, shelters, cairns, and burials. From his research, Kikiloi concluded that for more than 400 years, from about 1400 to 1815, chiefly elites established Necker Island as a ritual center of power for the Hawaiian system of heiau (temples). (Also, aspects of Hawaiian mythology originated with physical and astronomical aspects of this region.) These efforts had implications that led to the centralization of chiefly management, integration of chiefs and priests into a single social class, and ultimately a state-sponsored religion that became widely established throughout the main Hawaiian Islands.

Kikiloi, Kekuewa. (2012). Kūkulu Manamana: Ritual Power and Religious Expansion in Hawai'i. [Note: 2012 doctoral dissertation, downloadable from: https://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/bitstream/10125/101211/1/Kikiloi_Scott_r.pdf]

Mokumanamana (Necker Island) is known for its numerous wahi pana (religious places) and mea makamae (cultural objects). Fifty-five cultural places are known, of which 33 are religious, 17 are shelter caves, and 2 sites are of unknown function. These cultural sites are thought to date primarily before the habitation sites on Nihoa Island were abandoned in the 18th-century. Because the island is small, dry, and has little soil suitable for agriculture, Hawaiians probably traveled to Mokumanamana from Nihoa and other Hawaiian Islands primarily for religious purposes. In 1786, Compte de La Pérouse, a French explorer, visited Mokumanamana and named it "Necker Island" after Jacques Necker, the finance minister under Louis XVI. Since then its Hawaiian name has been restored. In 1857, the Hawaiian king Kamehameha IV sent Captain John Paty to claim Mokumanamana for the Kingdom of Hawai'i. His claim was contested by France until 1894, when the island was annexed by Hawai'i's Provisional Government.

It is not known who the inhabitants of Necker Island were. The Bishop Museum expedition in the 1920's estimated that Nihoa Island could hold about 100 people there, but resources like fresh water must have been really limited. Both Necker Island and Nihoa Island were full of relatively undisturbed sites, encampments, and temples. Kekuewa Kikiloi has posited the view that the islanders on Necker and Nihoa were very much part of the rest of Hawaiian society. Kikiloi believes they traveled frequently to Kauai and the main islands as a means for survival.

A considerable number of her basic claims are borrowed from the Panbabylonian 'classic' Das Alte Testament im Lichte des Alten Orients (2 volumes) by Alfred Jeremias. The 3rd revised edition appeared in 1916. Hertha von Dechend merely wanted to reassert and expand the ideas of Leo Frobenius (and Panbabylonism). (Von Dechend studied Cultural and Historical Anthropology at the Frobenius Institute and Museum of Ethnology.) The story told by von Dechend in Hamlet's Mill does illustrate the shallowness and limitations of her research methods. She never engaged in a critical discussion/assessment of all the evidentiary issues but was simply persuaded by her initial 'snap' decision. She never revisited this decision, or introduced the ideas of other researchers. Though Hertha von Dechend does not name the two islands they are identifiable as Necker and Tubuai. The Tropic of Cancer presently passes just south of Necker. Tubuai presently lies just inside the Tropic of Capricorn (i.e., the Tropic of Capricorn currently lies just south of Tubuai). The Tropic of Cancer is a line of latitude approximately 23 degrees to the north of the equator. The Tropic of Capricorn is a line of latitude approximately 23 degrees to the south of the equator.

Excursus: The astronomical explanation of Polynesian mythology remains controversial and uncertain

The astronomical explanation of Polynesian mythology remains controversial and uncertain. The astronomical explanation to account for the high numbers of temple platforms on Necker and Tubuai is also controversial. It involves the suggestion that the Polynesians had a keen interest in the passage of the sun through the zenith. The Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn establish the limits for the sun passing through the zenith (at noon). At any location inside the tropical points the sun passes through the zenith on two different days in the year. The actual dates are dependent upon the latitude. The Tropic of Cancer marks the most northerly latitude at which the sun can appear directly overhead (the zenith) at noon. The Tropic of Capricorn marks the most southerly latitude at which the sun can appear directly overhead (the zenith) at noon. At a location on the Tropic of Cancer, or the Tropic of Capricorn the sun passes directly overhead on only one day a year. This is the June solstice only for the Tropic of Cancer and the December solstice only for the Tropic of Capricorn. Necker, a small (estimated 26 hectare = 46 acre = 1/6 square kilometre, in size) barren northwestern Hawaiian island, was once inhabited. It was the furthermost island within easy reach of the main Hawaiian group. Necker and Nihoa(/Nihua) are the two main islands closest to the main Hawaiian Islands. The dense grouping of maraes on Necker Island is not found in Hawaii but is found in the Society Islands. The large number of maraes (33), constructed at different times, suggest that the occupation of the island was not a one time stop over by a fleet of voyaging canoes. The uniformity of the archaeological remains on Necker Island suggest that the island was inhabited for only a limited number of years. It is possible that drought was involved in their abandonment. However, maraes were used as ceremonial sites not dwelling sites. With no trees, 8 or 9 rock shelters, and limited water, it may have been a temporary occupation site, which was repeatedly visited. These northwestern islands were the base for hunting excursions for turtles and seabirds. Nihoa(/Nihua) is home to a tremendous amount of birds and lots of marine life, including seals and turtles. Necker had 33(/34) temple platforms almost identical to those found in Polynesian islands to the southeast. The temple platforms were erected by inhabitants who lived on the island in the 14th-century CE, or perhaps earlier (circa 1000 CE). Oral traditions and archaeological data attest to Native Hawaiian voyaging and colonizing of Nihoa(/Nihua) and Necker. Nihoa(/Nihua) also has Necker-style manaes. They may also have been part of a migratory movement towards the Hawaiian Islands. (See: Sacred Places North America by Brad Olsen (2008) for succinct information.) In his book Isles of Refuge (2001, Page 49) Mark Rauzon writes: "We could see the shrines along the crest of Necker. To the crew, they symbolized pushing the limits and proving one's sailing ability. Perhaps the rigid structure of the ancient class society in the main islands may have forced independent-spirited people to set off on their own and seek new lands. Each voyage might have required a shrine and could account for the thirty-three marae on Necker." Nihoa(/Nihua) it is a dry place covered with brush and grasses. The only tree growing there is an endemic palm. Nihoa(/Nihua) is home to a tremendous amount of birds and lots of marine life, including seals and turtles. The numerous ruins include cultivation terraces, house sites, and ceremonial structures. It is estimated that the island could have sustained a small population of perhaps 100 to 150 people.

Closer to the main Hawaiian islands is Kahoolawe, a low and unfertile island. It is the smallest island of the Hawaiian island chain, comprising 8 major volcanic islands. It is located 10 kilometres southwest of Maui Island. It has had transient inhabitants but has not retained a permanent population. It is considered a sacred island and has more than 600 archaeological and culturally significant sites. Tubuai is part of the present-day Austral Island Group (Tubuai Islands), one of a number of islands east of the Cook Islands. The Tubuai Islands are a long chain of remote islands located in the far South Pacific. There are seven main islands of which five are inhabited. The largest island is Tubuai. Tubuai is one of several islands close to the Tropic of Capricorn that has an unusually large number of temple platforms. There are hundreds of ceremonial sites located throughout Polynesia. There is little evidence for any intentional astronomical alignments. The astronomer William Liller, who investigated the temple platforms first-hand, has not established any clear evidence for astronomical alignment of temple platforms on Necker. (Liller, William. (2000). "Necker Islands, Hawai`i: Astronomical Implications of an island located on the Tropic of Cancer." (Rapa Nui Journal, Volume 14, Number 4, December, Pages ?-?).) Polynesian ethnographic literature makes no mention of a solar cult. According to the archaeoastronomer Clive Ruggles there is no evidence that the early Polynesian voyagers "were interested in determining the zenith passage of the sun very precisely." An astronomical explanation for the high number of temple platforms may not be relevant. The archaeoastronomer Clive Ruggles suggests the sacredness of Necker may simply originate "from its extreme location - an end place beyond which there were no more habitable islands." (See: Ancient Astronomy: An Encyclopedia of Cosmologies and Myth by Clive Ruggles (2005).) It is also possible that Necker served as some sort of pilgrimage site. Perhaps because of the combination of the occurrence of a single zenith and its extreme location as an 'end place.'

The Magellan fallacy in Hamlet's Mill

This is an example of how carefully their "facts" need to be checked.

On page xiii of the original edition of Hamlet's Mill it is stated that Magellan had confided the steering of his ships (more than once) to Polynesian navigators. This part of an attempt to show how good the Polynesians were as navigators. However, it is false to claim that Magellan used Polynesian navigators. In 1521 a Spanish expedition of 3(5?) ships led by the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan was the first known complete crossing of the Pacific Ocean. Magellan had the misfortune to sail all the way across the Pacific Ocean from the tip of South America, right along Polynesia and Micronesia and did not make a landfall until he reached the Mariana Islands. This long trek across the Pacific Ocean resulted in the death of a lot of his crew, and those that survived came down with scurvy, so it obviously wasn't planned that way. The food supply became very low. His surviving men were semi-starved when they reached landfall in the Mariana Islands (in Micronesia). (To stay alive the crew ate the leather rigging from the ship.) In the Mariana Islands he fought with the occupants (he called the place "Island of Thieves") so he obviously wasn't taking any navigators on board there. His next landfall was the Philippine Islands where he was killed during a tribal skirmish on Mactan Island, known as the Battle of Mactan. He became involved in local politics and aggressively attacked the occupants of Mactan Island. Magellan never even saw a Polynesian. Any person who had even superficially studied the European exploration of the Pacific Ocean and/or the European exploration of Polynesia would know this.

An example of a random grab and squeeze fit

This is an example of forced meanings.

Selecting something rather obscure: On page 272 (footnote 20) there is a strange reference to Aeschylus' Agamemnon (the 1st play of the Oresteia). The authors of Hamlet's Mill state that the beacon announcing the fall of Troy at the beginning of the Oresteia was really something to do with Saturn, and had nothing to do with communicating the Greek victory back to Argos. However, reading a good translation of Agamemnon it is clear that Clytemnestra (the wife of Agamemnon) has arranged for a series of signal beacons to carry the news to her so she can prepare a fitting homecoming welcome for Agamemnon when he returns. (She murders him.) That is the entire point of the opening scenes. Exactly from where or how the authors of Hamlet's Mill got their particular notion that the "beacon" is strange and to be excluded as a signalling device and is connected with Saturn as a "living" plumb line is left unexplained.

An example of the use of an outdated translation and an outdated discussion

The initial use (1969) and continued use (1993) of Ephraim Speiser's 1966 outdated translation of Enuma Elish in the 'Appendix: Excursus on Gilgamesh' is not redeemed by use of an outdated footnote discussion of whether Lumashi-stars mean the zodiacal constellations/zodiacal signs, or other constellations/stars. As contrast: The lengthy article "Mesopotamian Accounts of Creation" by W. H. in Encyclopedia of Cosmology edited by Norriss Hetherington (1993). In the translation of passages of Enuma Elish included, the 3rd passage of Tablet 5 (see page 396) of Enuma Elish is translated without mention of the zodiac. This reflects the knowledge that an epic originating from the Assyrian period (latest date of composition circa 1100 BCE, but likely composed earlier - circa mid 2nd-millennium BCE) would be unable to to include a reference to the zodiac as the zodiac did not exist at that time. The modern translation used is likely that by Stephanie Dalley (Myths from Mesopotamia (1989)). It can be concluded that selectivity is being used here. A properly revised text of Hamlet's Mill would have excluded continued use of Ephraim Speiser's 1966 outdated translation of Enuma Elish. However, this would eliminate what had been viewed as an important piece of literary evidence. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion of shoddy/misleading scholarship.

An example of a biased conclusion

"This brief sketch of archaic theory indicates - to repeat = that geography in our sense was never meant, but a cosmography of the kind needed even now by navigators. Ptolemy, the great geographer of antiquity, had been thinking of nothing else. His Geography is a set of coordinates drawn from the skies, and transferred onto an uncouth outline map of our globe, with a catalogue of earthly distances added on by sailors and travelers to pinpoint, or confirm, the positions of countries around the Mediterranean world. It was an uncouth outline map, for it covered only a few countries known around the Mediterranean region. Nothing was shown beyond the latitude 16° south of the equator and 63° north, corresponding to Iceland. Nothing west beyond the Canary Islands or east of the easternmost city of China, an arc of longitude fixed for simplicity at 180°, twelve equinoctial hours from end to end, the breadth over the whole latitudes being nine equinoctial hours. A large part of the space is blank and the limits are assigned, as they should be, astronomically. This is what the ancients knew after a thousand years of exploration, and they handed it down to the Renaissance. They called it the oikoumene, the inhabited earth." (Hamlet's Mill, Pages 63-64.)

Source: The History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy by James Evans (1998, Page 102).The interpretation/conclusion by the authors of Hamlet's Mill is not really warranted.

An example of lack of specialist knowledge

The authors assert (pages 437-443) that nothing is known of the (symbolic meaning of) the pukku and the mekku i.e., what they are. The assyriologist/sumerologist Bendt Alster points out that this is not quite true. We have cuneiform texts that provide information. It is indicated that they may symbolize Gilgamesh' power to oppose death. Also, as long as Gilgamesh possesses these tools he is able to function as the divine ruler. The pukku definitely symbolizes the supernatural power of Gilgamesh. Also both are symbols of a divine charisma which Gilgamesh has misused and lost. When Gilgamesh loses his pukku and mekku he has lost his divine charisma.

An example of no point really being made

Within the latter part of Hamlet's Mill there is an illustration (facing page 435) tagged "The zodiacal Pisces, as drawn by the Toba Batak of Sumatra." No specific discussion is given for this illustration or similar. However, the inference is the zodiac has travelled a long distance from the Near East in antiquity. But simply, the Toba Batak "Pisces" is likely derived from centuries of trade contacts with Arabic and Indian cultures, beginning as early as circa 200 CE. These trade contacts expanded during the medieval period. There is no evidence for ancient astronomical code here.

Regarding the Central American scorpion goddess/constellation

Scorpions are found on all major land masses except Antarctica. Some were likely unintentionally introduced into the islands in Oceania. Small non-vernomous scorpions inhabit the islands of Polynesia. The scorpion is a significant animal culturally in a number of cultures/civilisations world-wide. The authors of Hamlet's Mill believed they had found connections between the scorpion myths in such widely divergent locations as the ancient Near East (the goddess Išhara), Egypt (the goddess Selket-Serqet), Central America (the "old goddess with the scorpion's tail"), and Polynesia (no scorpion goddess; in Polynesia the stars of Scorpius are often seen as a fishhook).

The existence of a Maya scorpion goddess and constellation (and others in the geographic region of Central America), mentioned in Hamlet's Mill, is hardly evidence for assuming an Old World connection for any reason (including being a single remnant of a Neolithic astronomical monomyth originating in the Near East. The star grouping comprising the Maya scorpion constellation is thought to be slightly different. Regardless, the star pattern for the Scorpion constellation has the shape of a scorpion - it is one of the few constellation figures that actually looks like what it is named (i.e., supposed to be). An independent invention is suggested simply by the visual pattern readily suggesting the figure of a scorpion. The stars even suggest the hook of the scorpion's tail. (The diffusion of the constellation iconography would/should also be facilitated.) The Aztecs of Central Mexico also had a scorpion constellation. The North American Indians had scorpion beliefs but did not have a scorpion constellation. The stars there usually denoted other figures. The Maya scorpion constellation is the only Maya constellation which is the same figure as in the Western zodiac. The scorpion is one of the constellations in the Paris Codex (where it is connected with a solar eclipse), which has been tentatively dated to circa 1450, in the Late Postclassic period (1200 CE–1525 CE). However, a far earlier date for Maya astronomers recognising the scorpion constellation has been proposed. The Lowland Maya scorpion constellation may go back to circa 900 BCE and be associated with the planet Venus. See: Star gods of the Maya: astronomy in art, folklore, and calendars by Susan Milbrath (1999, Page 211). The Maya existed from circa 1800 BCE (the beginning of the Preclassic period) to circa 900 CE (when there was a widespread political collapse in the central Maya region). The Postclassic period (which saw the rise of Chichen Itza in the north, and the expansion of the aggressive K'iche' kingdom in the Guatemalan Highlands) is dated from circa 950 CE to 1539 CE (the period of the Spanish conquest). There is no evidence that the Central American scorpion constellation corresponded with/derived from the Western zodiacal scorpion constellation. Also, there is no evidence that a Central American scorpion goddess is connected with a Western scorpion goddess.

Possibly the earliest Western (i.e., Near Eastern) mention of a scorpion constellation is in the Ura = hubulla star listing. Part of the particular entry reads: "Scorpion"; ziqit GÍR.TAB "The Sting of the Scorpion." The Ura[Urra]=hubullu (ur5-ra=ḫubullu) is a major (and also oldest known) Babylonian glossary/dictionary (or "encyclopedia") consisting of Sumerian and Akkadian lexical lists ordered by topic. The series of tablets comprise bilingual word lists in Sumerian and Akkadian. The late (circa 1000 BCE) canonical version extends to 24 tablets. Tablet 22 of the series includes a list of 61 star names. "... [A]fter the sublist e = iku, is a list of stars that begin with ul = kakkabu and mul = kakkabu at Ura XXII: 266'-267'. Immediately after this are entries for mul.mul, "The Stars" (The Pleiades), and then sixty more stars which brings us down to Ura XXII: 327'. This star list occupies most of the fifth column of a number of manuscripts." (Block, Yigal. and Horowitz, Wayne. (2015). "Ura = hubulla XXII: The Standard Recension." (Journal of Cuneiform Studies, Volume 67, Pages 71-125).) The text of Ura XXII is currently (2015) based on 12 main sources and 20 school tablets. The majority of tablets come from Babylonia: Babylon, Kish, Uruk, and Ur; and possibly Borsippa, Dilbat, and Sippar. A small number of tablets come from Assyria: Huzirina, and Assur. One bilingual version excavated from Ugarit [RS2.(23)+] is Sumerian/Hurrian rather than Sumerian/Akkadian. It was excavated at Ebla in modern Syria and dates from the early 2nd millennium BCE. The bulk of the series was compiled in the Old Babylonian period (early 2nd millennium BCE), with pre-canonical forerunner documents extending back to the late 3rd millennium BCE. The extant sources for Ura XXII are written in 1st millennium script and dated to circa 1000 BCE.

Another early mention is in the tablet VAT 7445 which lists "GÍR.TAB [The Scorpion]." The tablet VAT 7445 (published in KUB, Volume 4, Number 47) recovered from Boghazköy (the capital of the Hittite empire) in the early 19th-century, preserves a Hittite prayer/haruspicy ritual (based on the Old Babylonian Period Prayer to the Gods of the Night) that enumerates 17 stars/constellations (belonging to the path of Ea). VAT 7445 is dated to circa 1300/1200 BCE. It is possible that the Boghazköy  prayer/haruspicy ritual and star-list was earlier than the "astrolabe texts."

The next earliest mention is in Hilprecht's Nippur Text (HS 229 now HS 245) which lists: "star GIR.TAB [gír.tab] (Scorpio)." Based on the discussion of tablet HS 245 in Science Awakening II: The Birth of Astronomy by Bartel van der Waerden. This tablet (setting out an illustrative example for a school mathematical problem-solving text) dates to the Kassite Period (1530-1160 BCE) and the tablet is specifically dated between 1300-1000 BCE. Though purporting to measure distances in the sky The Hilprecht Text preserves preserves part of a mathematical exercise text concerning astronomical distances rather than a serious attempt to investigate distances between stars.

Regarding the scorpion goddess Išhara. The scorpion is the symbol of the (ancient Near Eastern) goddess Išhara (who dates at least to the 3rd-millennium BCE). In the 3rd-millennium BCE she was an important goddess at Ebla. The association between the scorpion and Išhara occurred during the Kassite period. (The earlier evidence is indefinite.) On a kudurru the scorpion is the symbol of the goddess Išhara (and may also be interpreted as meaning the scorpion constellation). But perhaps there is some connection with the male figure of the scorpion in Babylonian demonology. There may be another explanation. The goddess Išhara is identified with 'The Scorpion' in the Astrolabe 'star catalogues.' See: The Three Stars Each by Wayne Horowitz (2014, Page 149) for the identification of mulGIR.TAB ('The Scorpion') as the Goddess of Heaven and Earth per Išhara as bēlet dadmē ('Lady of the World'), in Mul.Apin I ii 29.

Hans Ludendorff and Maya astronomy

The authors of Hamlet's Mill write (1st edition, page 61): "No professional historian of culture is likely to understand better the intellectual frame of mind of the Maya than the astronomer Hans Ludendorff has done." No justification is given for this statement. However, this confidence is misplaced. Friedrich Wilhelm Hans Ludendorff (1873-1941) was a German astronomer and astrophysicist. Ludendorff was interested in the astronomical knowledge of the older American civilizations, especially of the Mayans. He passionately investigated various Mayan inscriptions, relating them to conspicuous constellations antedating the Christian era. He also authored a number of pamphlet studies on the astronomy of Pre-Columbian civilizations, especially that of the Mayas. See: Ludendorff, Hans. (1930-1943). Untersuchungen zur Astronomie der Maya, 1-15. Since 1930, Ludnedorff devoted himself mainly to the astronomy of the Maya Indians. Much of his work has been discredited. He noted that the calendar data given in the Dresden Mayan Code and in numerous inscriptions in stone monuments coincided with certain celestial phenomena that are visible to the naked eye, such as conjunctions, ascents, sunsets, and eclipses. These coincidences only accumulated when he used Spinden's assumption for the relation of the Mayan calendar to today's calendar. On the other hand, assuming Thompson's relation, which is preferred by the prehistorians, there were only a few such coincidences. "The famed Mayanist J. Eric S. Thompson (the villain in Michael Coe's Breaking the Maya Code) confronted this situation in 1935 when reviewing the work of Hans Ludendorff for his early consideration of the calendar correlation question. Ludendorff pooled together a set of dates from Classic period hieroglyphic inscriptions, and then found a number of astronomical periods within them. Thompson, however, checked his math and found that many of Ludendorff's dates were reconstructed incorrectly. Thompson's further analysis showed that there were more "relevant" astronomical patterns among the incorrectly reconstructed dates, than among those that were accurately reconstructed. The point being that Ludendorff generated a large data set that was essentially random, relative to the patterns he found interesting. The constraints were sufficiently few (looking for celestial events) that patterns were generated simply resulting from Ramsey Theory, not because Mayan scribes did intentionally build them into these hieroglyphic inscriptions." Behind Astronomical Patterns by Gerardo Aldana (June 21, 2011; http://www.berfrois.com/2011/06/gerardo-aldana-behind-astronomical-patterns/) See also the critique of Ludendorff's work in "Introduction: Towards an archaeoastronomy 2.0?" by Gerardo Aldana y Villalobos in Archaeoastronomy and the Maya edited by Gerardo Aldana y Villalobos and Edwin L. Barnhart (2014, Pages 3-4).

A biography is P. Guthnik, "Hans Ludendorff," in Viertel/ahrschrift der Astronomisclren Gesellschaft, Band 77, 1942.

Succinct critique of Ludendorff's claims for Maya astronomy. Source: Archaeoastronomy and the Maya edited by Gerardo Aldana y Villalobos and Edwin L. Barnhart (2014, Pages 3-4).

Some identified 'pivot points' for Hamlet's Mill

Hertha von Dechend identifies: (1) her astronomical explanation (the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn) to account for the high numbers of temple platforms on Necker and Tubuai, (2) her reading Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel by Franz Kugler and deciding that Babylonian prescientific astronomy is saturated with mythological ideas, and (3) Marcel Griaule's account of the beliefs of the Dogon people of West Africa and their placement of terrestrial events in the sky. Note: Babylonian prescientific astronomy is closely connected with omenology rather than mythological ideas.

According to von Dechend, Plato's Timaeus is the very nucleus of archaic cosmological traditions. (Introduction to Ancient Cosmology (1966, Page 1).) "Plato could still speak the language of archaic myth. ... He made myth consonant with his thought, as he built the first modern philosophy. He could speak it, because he was a Pythagorean, and myth was their technical language." (Introduction to Ancient Cosmology (1966, Page 37).)

"A central feature of archaic cosmology is the association of the seven planets [including the Sun and Moon] with the seven stars of the Big Dipper. To every planet belongs one star of Ursa Major. You find this system in ancient Mesopotamia, in Egypt, in Ancient China; it is extremely popular in India right from the beginning." Vice versa the stars of Ursa Major are counted among the planets. (Introduction to Ancient Cosmology (1966, Page 15).)

Ancient texts are translated by philologists who never expect technical language and are unfamiliar with scientific facts and data generally. Hence the proper context has been overlooked. (Introduction to Ancient Cosmology (1966, Page 3).) However, von Dechend, who is not a philologist, does not seem to have encountered any problems developing her ideas of ancient cosmology from variously translated texts.

Leo Frobenius

Leo Frobenius (born 1873, Berlin, Germany-died 1938, Biganzolo, Italy) was a charismatic German explorer, ethnologist/ethnographer and archaeologist (and cultural philosopher = theoretician). He was a private scholar (i.e., independent scholar) for most of his career. Frobenius was a self-taught student of African culture. During the 1890s he began publishing books on travel literature and museum collections. Leo Frobenius was accredited as the originator of the concepts of the Kulturkreise ('culture circles') and of the Paideuma (or "soul" of a culture that is considered to act more or less independently to the people comprising the culture). The book Paideuma (which went through a 2nd edition) was meant to introduce readers to the "soul-like qualities" of cultures. Later, after expanding the concepts of the Kulturkreise, Frobenius proposed what he called the Paideuma. The term is Greek for 'education' (roughly translated), but in Frobenius’ usage it took on a meaning akin to the classic romantic idea of the Volksgeist. This is the 'soul' of a culture, a basic 'psychic' principle which determined any given configuration of culture traits. Furthermore, through his search for African culture configurations, he helped develop the notion of ‘worldview’ (German, Weltanschauung) which was to especially dominate American anthropology for a considerable period. Note: The concept of 'psychic' = similar mentality of human beings to react and think similarly with like environmental situation.

The "culture circle" concept was inspired by Friedrich Ratzel and his idea expanded by Leo Frobenius in his Vienna based Kulturkreise or "Culture Circle" approach. Due to his Kulturkreise proposal not being supported by sufficient evidence Frobenius was not formally credited with the idea. Leo Frobenius had no formal university education, he was involved in extensive research in Africa, and during these expeditions he collected an enormous number of cultural items. (The geographer Frederick Ratzell (1844-1904) was the founder of the Culture History Approach and the key influence for Leo Frobenius.) Paideuma (1921) by Leo Frobenius was a major influence on the Jungian mythologist Joseph Campbell. It is an irrational idea and is now discarded by modern research. The concept of paideuma was developed by Frobenius on his own African expeditions. Frobenius was an amateur scholar of myth. Early in his life he worked as a business apprentice for an export firm in Bremen, Germany, and studied Greek, anthropology, and mythology at night. He lacked formal academic qualifications and was criticized by scientists for his non-systematic and rather romantic approach to anthropology. Frobenius was involved in extensive research in Africa, which was made possible by donors and by his own income from books and lectures. Without having gained a senior university degree (he never completed the requirements for his PhD), Frobenius had to rely on journalism and his expedition sponsors. Much of his support comprised laypersons rather than scholars. Leo Frobenius received funding from at least three major German museums to work in French and British territories in North and West Africa as late as the first decade of the 20th-century. The purpose of Frobenius's field expeditions was to find evidence of the Weltanschauungen (Worldviews) of the Kulturkreise concept that he adhered to. Frobenius left school without gaining any formal qualifications because his family moved constantly (due to his father's occupation as a fortification architect/builder – his father, Lieutenant-Colonel Herman Frobenius, was a Prussian military officer), and Frobenius did not attend school regularly. For this reason he could not satisfactorily take up his studies at a university but became an autodidact. His PhD thesis was rejected. The title Dr is either honourary or mistaken. (Frobenius was bestowed an honourary professorship at Frankfurt University in 1932, and therefore gained the right to teach there.)  Frobenius became director of Frankfurt's ethnographic museum in 1934. Leo Frobenius, a student (pupil) and colleague of the Austrian anthropologist Friedrich Ratzel, expanded on the "culture circle" concept. See: Frobenius, Leo (1898) Die Weltanschauung der Naturvolker. A revival of the "sun-myth" theory was attempted by Leo Frobenius. Stucken, Frobenius, and Ehrenreich all assumed that sun myths are primarily representations of celestial phenomena. (The pioneering English anthropologist, Edward Tylor (1832-1917) also attempted to revive the "sun-myth" theory. For Tylor, sun myths describe sun gods and not merely the sun as a natural phenomenon.) Edward Tylor was a Quaker, with no formal university training. Early in life he travelled to Mexico (from 1855-56) and began publishing his theories of cultural evolutionism in 1871. In 1896 became the first professor of new field of anthropology at Oxford University.

Frobenius was a diffusionist who spent a lot of time in Africa. He was also a "museum ethnologist" who looked for parallels in cultural development worldwide. He spent considerable time as an independent researcher in the Berlin Museum of Ethnology. In ethnology/anthropology, diffusion has been taken to be the process by which material and immaterial cultural and social forms spread in space i.e., between one culture and another. Frobenius was an early and influential proponent of the diffusionist cultural migration theory. He believed that parallel mythic themes were diffused from a few myth-producing cultural centres. For example, he believed there was a central myth-producing region that stretched from West Africa to India, and from there through Indonesia and Oceania to the Americas. He is credited with being the first radical diffusionist. (Leo Frobenius and Friedrich Ratzel were advocating diffusionist theories for decades before Graebner and Ankermann did.) Frobenius believed that parallel myths were the result of cultural exchanges between ancient peoples on a scale not considered possible by most scholars. His book Das Zeitalter des Sonnengottes (1904) was described as concerning itself with the "Darwinian diffusion of solar myths." Ugo Bianchi states that for Frobenius the mythology of 'primitive' people was to be understood as cosmological (i.e., as a mythical interpretation and vision of the real world). Leo Frobenius first conceptualized his views on cultural diffusion in his 1897/1898 publication Der westafrikanische Kulturkreis. In his 1897/1898 book Frobenius defined several "culture areas" (Kulturkreise), cultures showing similar traits that have been spread by diffusion or invasion. The Pansolarism of Frobenius is not given a Babylonian origin. According to Frobenius myths originated in and were completely developed in several individual geographical provinces and then migrated in fragmented form to other regions.

The diffusionism of Frobenius became extremely radical. He came close to denying the existence of any unique cultural traits.

During his lifetime Frobenius (or at least in the early part of the 20th-century) was regarded as one of the world's foremost authorities on the art of preliterate people (prehistoric art). Thor Heyerdahl's epic 1947 balsa-wood boat journey from Peru to Polynesia was influenced by the theories of Frobenius. After an appointment lasting several years at the Bremen Ubersee-Museum [ethnological museum] and also apparently at the ethnological museums of Leipzig and Basle, Frobenius eventually he went on to found in 1920 (and be director of) the Institute for the Study of Morphology of Civilization in Munich. This was a private research institute based on his own collection of material. It also appears he used his own funds to establish it. (It is sometimes stated it was established in Frankfort am Main.) It was destroyed by Allied bombing in World War II. (Also during WWII the African Institute and Ethnological Museum in Frankfort was destroyed with many of its treasures.) Circa 1925, Frankfurt acquired Frobenius' holding of approximately 4,700 pre-historic rock paintings from Africa. These paintings survived Allied bombing during WWII and are part of Frankfurt University's Institute of Ethnology, which was rechristened Frobenius Institut in 1946 to honour the explorer. Cultural morphology conceives of cultures as living organisms that are "born," "progress," and finally "die," and are dominate by paideuma. Cultural morphology is an irrational idea and is now discarded by modern research. In 1935, Frobenius was Director of Frankfurt's Municipal Ethnographic Museum.

Frobenius believed that sunrise, sunset, and the moon were the important catalysts of mythmaking.

It is stated that Frobenius remained an eagerly expected guest of Kaiser Wilhelm II. However, it appears he only briefly met Kaiser Wilhelm II once. In 1912 Frobenius had been invited to meet with the Kaiser and to report on his work. Wilhelm II apparently gave considerable sums from his private funds to finance Frobenius' further North African journeys between 1912 and 1914. After WWI Wilhelm was no longer the German emperor and was living in exile in the Netherlands. It appears that in this circumstance he was visited by Frobenius. D. H. Lawrence's interest in primitive cultures was indebted to the research of Leo Frobenius, especially The Voice of Africa (1913), which Lawrence read in the spring of 1918.

His work is now regarded as outdated and flawed. He created dozens of speculative/foolish theories. In 1911 Leo Frobenius claimed to have discovered the 'lost continent of Atlantis' in Africa. The eccentric Leo Frobenius stated that Atlantis was part of Nigeria (western side) in the Yoruba country and the African Atlantis was the fragment that survived. The African Atlantis is a discredited theory. Frobenius was not willing to credit Africans as the innovators of traditional African art. He instead held that these arts originated from ancient Greco-Roman influence. Frobenius believed the people and culture of Nigeria descended from Atlantis (Plato's imaginary continent). This belief was the reason for his 1910-1912 collecting expedition Nigeria. This was funded by the German ethnological museums of Berlin, Hamburg, and Leipzig. Frobenius made 6 German government funded expeditions to Africa in the 10 years from 1904 to 1914. Between 1904 and 1933 Frobenius conducted 12 African expeditions. He collected ethnographic data, oral traditions, material objects, and folklore. Frobenius was confident of his ability to judge the non-Africanness of certain (art) objects - needless to say, a highly subjective and unempirical process. He was also convinced he could trace the early migrations of humankind by the comparison of their artistic symbolism. See: "Leo Frobenius and the Revolt Against the Western World." by Suzanne Marchand in Journal of Contemporary History, Volume 32, Number 2, April, 1997, Pages 153-170. See also: "Anthropologists and Other Frauds." by Graham Huggan (Comparative Literature, Volume 46, Issue 2, Spring, 1994, Pages 113-128). Accuses Leo Frobenius of "anthropological fraudulence." About the author (2008): Graham Huggan is chair of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Literatures in the School of English at the University of Leeds, and co-director of the Leeds Institute for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies. He previously taught at Harvard University and is the author of numerous volumes, including The Postcolonial Exotic (1994). Further, The intersection of modern art, anthropology, and politics in colonial Nigeria, 1910-1914. by Olubukola Gbadegesin (Master of Arts thesis, Emory University, 2006), and also the (French-language) article: "Critiques d'epoque sur Leo Frobenius." by Arlette Roth (Litt. Or. Ara-Berb., Volume 26, 1998, Pages 339-350). See also the obituary for Leo Frobenius in Nature, Volume 142, 1938, Page 562. It is well recognised that Frobenius was a master of hype. Doubts have been expressed about the authenticity of myths that Frobenius published in 1921 concerning the Berber-speaking region of Kabylia in northern Algeria. See: Le Conte Kabyle by Camille Lacoste-Dujardin (1970), a book on Kabyle folktales. See also: Leo Frobenius and the Reorientation of German Ethnology, 1890-1930 by DeWitt Clinton Durham (1985).

"Frobenius never completed the requirements for an earned doctorate. Much of his following consisted of laypeople rather than scholars. Until he established himself at the new University of Frankfort in the 1920s, he was very much an outsider." (Politics and the Sciences of Culture in Germany, 1840-1920 by Woodruff Smith (1991, Page 266).) In 1932 he became honorary professor at the University of Frankfurt, and in 1935 director of the municipal ethnographic museum.

"He [Frobenius] conducted his field expeditions across Africa as hunting trips in search of signs of  the Weltanschauungen of the Kulturkreise he was investigating and paid relatively little attention to the ways in which the people he visited actually lived." (Politics and the Sciences of Culture in Germany, 1840-1920 by Woodruff Smith (1991, Page 158).)

Frobenius was a maverick who through a series of successful expeditions through equatorial Africa to obtain cultural material slowly gained the acceptance of professional German ethnologists/anthropologists. Until he established himself at the University of Frankfurt he was an outsider in academic/scholarly circles. A key method of German ethnology in the later 19th-century and early 20th-century was the accumulation and comparison of material culture that had been obtained overseas. Frobenius conducted research in the Berlin Museum of Ethnology as an independent scholar.

Source: Pound in Purgatory by Leon Surette (1999), Page 259. Jahn refers to the German 'Frobenian' anthropologist Janheinz Jahn.

First page of book review by Franz Boas in American Anthropologist, New Series, Volume 1, Number 4, October, 1899, Pages 775-777.

Source for Bernhard Streck's article, "Kulturmorphologie und Neopaganismus Der Glaube des Leo Frobenius." Dada [DADA] Rivista di Antropologia post-globale, Anno V, Numero 2,-Speciale 2015, Antropologia e Religione, Pages 241-250, Page 241. Frobenius believed that there were universal mythological themes ("mythologems") that were connected with an archaic cosmology. He published 2 books cataloging these mythological themes: (1) Die Weltanschauung der Naturvölker [= The worldview of primitive peoples] (1898), and (2) Das Zeitalter des Sonnengottes [= In the era of the Sun God] (1904). It is evident that this was the basis for von Dechend's own development of world-wide mythic themes. A mythologem is a basic core element, motif or theme of a myth that is recurrent world-wide at diverse times. Examples include: universal flood, fire bringer, revenge, self-sacrifice, and betrayal. Early examples of cataloging mythogems include: Astralmythen by Stucken and Das Zeitalter des Sonnengottes by Frobenius.

See also: Leo Frobenius and the Reorientation of German Ethnology, 1890-1930 by DeWitt Clinton Durham (1985).

Frobenius's legacy of odd ideas

Frobenius held a number of bizarre beliefs and theories.

Example 1: Leo Frobenius believed there was an ancient Atlantean culture and thought that it was located on the West Coast of southern Africa in the territory between the Niger and the Atlantic Ocean. Frobenius held that Yoruba culture had been introduced by Etruscans who reached West Africa by way of the “lost continent” of Atlantis.

Example 2: Leo Frobenius argued for a Persian origin for African shamanism.

Example 3: Leo Frobenius was unable to accept the Zimbabwe ruins were Bantu in origin. In 1930 Frobenius announced that he had identified the source of the Zimbabwe civilization (which he dated between 4000 BCE and 1000 BCE) - and many other ruins in Rhodesia, Portuguese East Africa, and Bechuanaland, as Sumerians from near the Caspian Sea.

The influence of Leo Frobenius on Hertha von Dechend (and Giorgio de Santillana)

In his book The Origin of Scientific Thought (1961) Giorgio de Santillana had set out his belief in an astronomical origin of myth and fairytale.(The first (and only) volume of a planned series of 5 volumes dealing with the history of scientific thought. The books were envisaged as anthologies.) However, the book Hamlet's Mill also clearly shows the influence of Hertha von Dechend's teacher Leo Frobenius (who had written several books mirroring some Panbabylonian ideas, and the correspondence between mythological themes and celestial phenomena). The major influential book by Leo Frobenius influencing von Dechend was Das Zeitalter des Sonnengottes (1904). During and after her PhD studies at Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität von Dechend was a co-worker at the Frobenius-Institut and the Museum für Völkerkunde. (According to one short obituary notice: "Hertha von Dechend studied ethnology, philosophy, history and archeology (Frankfurt). Ph.D. in 1939. During and after her studies she was a co-worker at the Frobenius-Institut and the Museum für Völkerkunde. She has been at the IGN since November 1943. Habilitation 1960, apl. Prof. 1966, Emeritus since 1980. 1960-1969 regular research and teaching visits to the M.I.T., Cambridge, MA.") The Frobenius Institut lists her as an Associate Researcher (wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin) from 1939-1945. Hertha von Dechend was very much a disciple of Leo Frobenius. Another disciple of the German anthropologist and cultural philosopher Leo Frobenius was his oldest and most outstanding student, Adolf Ellegard Jensen (1899-1965).

The key ideas of Frobenius included monogenesis and diffusion. In 1897/1898 Frobenius defined several "culture areas" (Kulturkreise), cultures showing similar traits that have been spread by diffusion or invasion. Frobenius believed that migration/invasion was the more important factor for explaining cultural similarities. Kulturkreislehre shaped ethnological work in Central Europe during the first half of the 20th-century. According to the culture area theory, the more widespread an element is, the older and more valid it is.

Some key ideas of Leo Frobenius and the Kulturhistorische/Kulturkreise Methode" (Leo Frobenius in West Africa: Some Remarks on the History of Anthropology by Hans Peter Hahn. In: R. Kuba and M. Hambolu (Editors). Nigeria 100 years ago: Through the eyes of Leo Frobenius and his expedition team. (Pages 27-32).) Some key ideas in Hamlet's Mill
"Diffusionist anthropology soon developed as an alternative model to evolutionism and, particularly in the German-speaking countries, it was further elaborated, crystallising into the so-called cultural-historical method ("kulturhistorische Methode"). One of the merits of this particular approach was that it drew attention to the relationship between space and culture. The spatial distance of identical or highly similar cultural phenomena was no longer regarded as the result of pure chance, but rather as evidence of ancient historical connections and a shared cultural complex. As a result, the uniqueness of specific formal characteristics (in particular, production and artisan techniques) in places distant from one another became the focus of attention." (Pages 28-29.) An underlying theme of Hamlet's Mill, and MIT seminar notes, Introduction to Ancient Cosmology.
"A good example of this method is what the leading representative of cultural-historical anthropology, Leo Frobenius, referred to as the "Malayo-Nigritic culture", which was localised both on the Indonesian archipelago as well as on the West African coast (Frobenius 1897). [Frobenius, Leo. (1897). Der westafrikanische Kulturkreis. (Pages 43–44, 225–71)] The fact that these areas are in no way connected and that between these regions there were hundreds of other societies not showing any traces of this culture complex did not constitute a problem for Frobenius. The great distance and the difficulties in reconstructing a route that linked the owners of these cultural phenomena were secondary problems. Clearly, Frobenius was a disciple of the zeitgeist of his time; he strongly believed in the unity of humankind, and he could see only one purpose in anthropology, namely, to explain this unity despite the observable differences." (Page 29.) See the illustrations between pages 290-291; and pages 434-435. Throughout Hamlet's Mill the great distance and the difficulties in reconstructing a route that linked the owners of these cultural phenomena were secondary problems. These issues were left untouched in Hamlet's Mill but were touched upon in the MIT seminar notes, Introduction to Ancient Cosmology.
"The resonance of the cultural-historical method with contemporary thinking was based on the assumption that the mobility of cultural forms and of their carriers was self-evident in any culture. Processes of cultural exchange, migration and the transfer of ideas and techniques across continents are today regarded as consequences of globalisation. From the cultural-historical perspective, however, such links between cultures were considered to be the constants of human existence (Amselle 2001)." [Amselle, Jean-Loup. (2001). Branchements. Anthropologie de l‘universalité des cultures.] (Page 30.) An underlying theme of Hamlet's Mill, and MIT seminar notes, Introduction to Ancient Cosmology.

Leo Frobenius was a sun myth advocate (Das Zeitalter des Sonnengottes (1904) = The Age of the Sun-God) who owed his ideas to the Panbabylonism of Hugo Winckler and Alfred Jeremias. Frobenius maintained that held that all myths had an original allegorical reference to the sun: its rising, setting, and supernatural influence. The figures who appeared in the myths were disguises of the sun in its various aspects. In his extensive travels in Africa and the South Seas Leo Frobenius gathered tales that supported his belief that myths have nearly always been inspired by the sun. The solar myth pattern schematized by Leo Frobenius was used extensively by Carl Jung in his psychological writings ("psychologized by Jung into an intrapsychic, archetypal pattern which applies to every individual on the ontogenetic level"). Both Hüsing (the myth of Cyrus the Great) and Siecke (birth myths of heroes) were moon myth advocates (panlunarism).

Hertha von Dechend was well thought of by Siegfried Seyfarth (2011 interview). He also stated in the interview that she attended annual meetings in honour of Leo Frobenius.

In his Preface to Hamlet's Mill (1969), Giorgio de Santillana writes (Page vii): "... the great Frobenius, whom I had known ...." It is suggested that the ideas of Leo Frobenius were mutually supported by both von Dechend and de Santllana - it was something they had in common.

Frobenius has not been taken seriously by specialists for decades. Frobenius was a highly idiosyncratic writer.

The character of Frobenius's efforts was satirized in the novel Le Devour de violence by Yambo Ouloguem (1968). Frobenius was summed up by J. D. Fage in his 1981 article "The Development of African Historiography." In: General History of Africa. Volume I: Methodology and African Prehistory edited by J. Ki-Zerbo (Pages 37-38): "Frobenius was an ethnologist, a cultural anthropologist and an archaeologist as much as he was a historian, but in his period of activity, corresponding to the first four decades of the twentieth century, he was almost certainly the most productive historian of Africa. He undertook an enormous amount of fieldwork in almost every part of the continent, and presented his results in a steady stream of publications. But these are little read today. He wrote in German, a language which has since become of decreasing relevance to Africa and Africanists. Relatively few of his works have been translated, and their meaning is often difficult to translate because they are encumbered by mystic theories relating to Atlantis, to an Etruscan influence on African culture, and so on. To the highly professional historians, archaeologists and anthropologists of today, Frobenius seems a self-taught eccentric whose work is flawed not only by his outlandish interpretations but also by his rapid, crude and often destructive methods of fieldwork. But he did get results, some of which clearly anticipate those of later, more scientific investigators, and others which may now be difficult or impossible to reproduce in modern conditions. It would seem that he had an instinctive flair for winning the confidence of informants and for establishing historical data. Modern historians might be well advised to rescue this data from his works, and to re-evaluate it in the light of modern knowledge and free from the more fanciful interpretations he placed upon it."

De Santillana and Frobenius

On Page vii (Preface) of Hamlet's Mill de Santillana writes of "... the great Frobenius whom I had known ...his favourite saying "What the hell should I care for my silly notions of yesterday."" No other details seem obtainable as yet. However, it seems indicated that de Santillana had great respect for (the ideas of) Frobenius.

Cultural diffusion

Diffusionism is the spread of ideas, customs, material objects, or practices from one culture to another. (Diffusion is defined as "the spread of certain ideas, customs, or practices from one culture to another." (Anthropology: The Human Challenge by William Haviland, Harald Prins, Bunny McBride, and Dana Walrath (2011 (also given as 2010), 13th edition, Page 579).) Diffusionism within anthropology is/was an attempt to understand the nature of culture in terms of the origin of culture traits and their spread from one society to another. Diffusionism as an anthropological school of thought started growing in the late 19th and the early 20th centuries. Diffusionism originated in the middle of the 19th-century as a means of understanding the nature of the distribution of human culture across the world. Among the major concepts was whether human culture had evolved in a manner similar to biological evolution or whether culture spread from innovation centres by diffusion. Two schools of thought developed in the attempt to answer the concepts. There are different versions of diffusionist thought. Basically there is the theory that all cultures originated from one culture centre (heliocentric diffusion); and the less extreme theory that cultures originated from a limited number of culture centres (culture circles). The most extreme view was that there were a very limited number of locations, possibly only one, from which the most important culture traits diffused to the rest of the world. There is also the theory that each culture is influenced by others and that the process of diffusion is both contingent and arbitrary. Evolutionism, on the other hand, proposed the that all human beings share psychological traits that make them equally likely to innovate. According to the evolutionists, innovation in a culture is either continuous or triggered by variables that exist within a culture.

There have been 3 major theories of cultural diffusionism and multiple variations of these. At the turn of the 20th-century and shortly afterwards there was: (1) The German/Austrian-German tradition of  diffusionism known as Kulturgeschichte/Kulturkreise. (2) The American tradition of diffusionism in the form of historical particularism. The American diffusionist school was led by Clark Wissler and Alfred Kroeber. Kroeber believed that diffusion always creates some change in the receiving culture. (3) The British tradition of diffusionism/hyperdiffusionism. The British school of hyperdiffusionism can be dated from 1911 with the publication of Elliot Smith's, Ancient Egyptians.The diffusionists, German, British, and American, believe that people are inherently uninventive and invariably prefer to borrow the inventions of another culture rather than develop ideas for themselves.

An antecedent of diffusionism is the philological studies of Max Müller. The concept of diffusionism originated in 18th-century philological tradition which speculated there were historical connections between all the languages of the Indo-European language group. Breakthrough studies were made in 1787 when William Jones, an English Orientalist and barrister serving as a judge in India, discovered similarities between Sanskrit, Greek, and Latin. In the early 19th-century, Wilhelm von Humboldt, a Prussian diplomat and brother of the explorer Alexander Baron von Humboldt, focused his philological investigations on the Basque language - a European but non-Indo-European language. Similarly to the earlier ideas of Johann Gottfried von Herder, Humboldt made a case for a close interrelation between language and culture. Circa the same time, Jacob Grimm (of the 'brother Grimm,' collectors of European fairy tales), established the sound shifts which distinguish Germanic from other Indo-European languages. Also Franz Bopp took up the comparative study of Indo-European grammar. All these persons dealt with ideas which were later introduced into ethnology/anthropology as diffusionism. The development of theoretical ideas in linguistics has throughout the history of the discipline sooner or later influenced the development of related ideas in social and cultural anthropology. See also: "The social and political origins of German diffusionist ethnology." by Woodruff Smith in Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Volume 14, Issue 2, April 1978, Pages 103–112. Part of abstract: "Diffusionism, an ethnological theory particularly dominant in Germany in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, can be shown to have had roots in the politics and major trends of social development of nineteenth-century Germany as well as in a variety of intellectual tendencies. ...."

19th-century and early 20th-century German anthropologists/ethnologists were considered to be extreme diffusionists. The British school of hyperdiffusionism eventually became the climax of the diffusionist movement. The German diffusionists did not believe that there is only one origin of culture (like the hyperdiffusionism of Smith and Perry regarding Egypt) but believed there used to be several cultural centers and cultural diffusion occurred from these different cultural circles (also known as Kulturkreise). The German school of thought on anthropology/ethnology was dominated by the Catholic clergy, who attempted to reconcile anthropological prehistory and cultural evolution with the Book of Genesis. One of the best known leaders in this attempt was Father Wilhelm Schmidt, Schmidt became a follower of Fritz Graebner, who was also working on a world-wide scale with the theory of "culture-circles." Father Wilhelm Schmidt was one of the most prominent scholars of German diffusionism. Just like the British diffusionists, the German diffusionists also believed that people are in general uninventive and try to borrow from other cultures. Schmidt was a member of a missionary society and specialised in training missionaries for ethnological work. He took part in all the standard activities of an academic scholar and eventually gained a professorship at the University of Vienna. It has been pointed out that Schmidt's ethnology was built on theological assumptions. It assimilated world cultural history into theology and served as a defence of Catholicism within controversies in Europe. Its concepts did not go further to what theology provided.

The diffusionists faced numerous criticisms. The diffusionists could not give any convincing explanation of the fact why some cultures do not show any sign of the culture origins (like Egypt) of ideas, customs, material objects, or practices. (In their effort to clarify the fact that why some cultures do not possess any sign of the Egyptian culture, Smith and Perry maintained that some cultures have simply become degenerate.) Though the diffusionists take diffusion as an inevitable process, anthropologists found that societies can adjoin one another without exchanging cultural traits. (See: Anthropology: A Global Perspective by Raymond Scupin and Christopher DeCorse (2012, 7th Edition, Page 284.) During the period between the end of WWI and the start of WWII diffusionism declined outside of Germany and Italy.

It is not reasonable to maintain that minor resemblances indicate counterparts (cultural borrowing ) in 2 or more cultures. As example: The coastal defense tables of Pylos are unlikely to have originated from a contemporary naval tablet of Ugarit; the similar situations adequately explain the likenesses. Similar situations/experiences are adequate to explain points of likeness. Resemblances in story themes can be more complex: The wanderings of Odysseus may have been adapted from the Gilgamesh epic. His triumph with the bow over rivals may have been borrowed from a Hittite story.

To prove a common source one must first prove similarity of purpose. This has not been addressed by the authors of Hamlet's Mill.

Perhaps a reasonable starting point for understanding modern knowledge of human migration is: First Migrants by Peter Bellwood (2013).

The influence of Panbabylonism on Hertha von Dechend

The central tenet of Panbabylonism is that all mythology is astral mythology and the starting point of this whole system is Babylon, where it is found fully developed as early as 3000 BCE. Another central tenet is early Babylonian knowledge of precession. Myth similarities result from monogenesis (single origin) with subsequent diffusion through space and time by presumably cultural elites.

Aside from Leo Frobenius, another strong influential source for Hamlet's Mill would have been two Panbabylonian books by Alfred Jeremias listed in the Bibliography of Hamlet's Mill; Das Alte Testament im Lichte des Alten Orients (3rd Revised Edition 1916 (2 Volumes)); and Handbuch der Altorientalischen Geisteskultur (2nd Revised Edition, 1929). The authors of Hamlet's Mill claim the celestial locations are described by mundane referents. Symbolically the Earth is a Mill rotating on its axel/axis, which is displaced (= precession) and traces a circle in the sky. Its '4 corners' were never a terrestrial square, but the solstices and equinoxes (= the ecliptic) and these "corners" comprising the solstitial and equinoctial points move slowly through the zodiac (of 12 30-degree sectors). In his Das Alte Testament im Lichte des Alten Orients, Alfred Jeremias sets out such ideas as: (1) zodiacal world ages due to precession, (2) the change in world ages represented in myths, and (3) the celestial earth in the zodiac (ecliptic). Following the Panbabylonism of Alfred Jeremias the authors of Hamlet’s Mill identify ancient references to a 'quadrangular Earth' with four corners or pillars as a coded picture of "the ideal plane [= the ecliptic] going through the four points of the year, the equinoxes and the solstices." Lack of attribution of this idea to Alfred Jeremias is unsurprising as it makes a definite connection with an extreme and uncritical proponent of Panbabylonism. In the first edition of his Handbuch der altorientalischen Geisteskultur Alfred Jeremias proposed that not only Old World cultures relied on Babylonian astronomical science but also cultures in the New World.

The clearest and most forceful statement of zodiacal world ages/astrological world ages was propounded by the Panbabylonists; especially Alfred Jeremias.

It has been remarked that von Dechend also seems to have been influenced by Jungian ideas but this does not appear to be correct. However, there are several points of correspondence. The Swiss mystic, psychiatrist, and psychotherapist Carl Jung (1875-1961). was a modern proponent of ancient knowledge of precession and/or a system of zodiacal world ages. (Another was the French occultist René Adolphe Schwaller de Lubicz (1887–1961). In his Sacred Science: The King of Pharaonic Theocracy (1961), René Adolphe Schwaller de Lubicz claimed knowledge of precession in ancient Egypt.) In his Aion (1951, also in Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Volume 9, Part 2) Carl Jung popularised the concept of astrological ages. The original 2 Swiss editions had different subtitles: "Researches into the History of Symbols" and then "Contributions to the Symbolism of the Self." In 1958 Jung wrote (Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies (also see Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Volume 10, Pages 311-312.): I am fully aware of the risk I am taking in proposing to communicate my views concerning certain contemporary events, which seem to me important, to those patient enough to hear me. ... It is not presumption that drives me, but my conscience as a psychiatrist that bids me fulfill my duty and prepare those few who will hear me for coming events which are in accord with the end of an era. As we know from ancient Egyptian history, there are symptoms of psychic changes that always appear at the end of one Platonic month and at the beginning of another. They are, it seems, changes in the constellation of the psychic dominants, of the archetypes or "Gods" as they used to be called, which bring about, or accompany, long-lasting transformations of the collective psyche. This transformation started within the historical tradition and left traces behind within it, first in the transition of the Age of Taurus to that of Aries, and then from Aries to Pisces, whose beginning coincides with the rise of Christianity. We are now nearing that great change which may be expected when the spring-point enters Aquarius. ... I am, to be quite frank, concerned for all those that are unprepared by the events in question and disconcerted by their incomprehensible nature. ... I undertake this thankless task in the expectation that my chisel will make no impression on the hard stone it meets." The "month" referred to here is the misinterpretation of the "Platonic month" for a "zodiacal age." In his manuscript folio Liber Novus (Page 306, Note 236) begun circa 1910/1915 Jung asked himself, "How can I fathom what will happen during the next eight hundred years, up to the time when the One begins his rule? I am speaking only of what is to come." It has been noted that the "eight hundred year" period is associated with the coniunctiones maximae of Saturn and Jupiter, which recur in an 800-year cycle. (See: cf. Aion, Collected Works of C. G. Jung, 9ii, 82, 96ff). A Saturn–Jupiter conjunction is imaged occurring in Gemini on the initial folio page of Jung's manuscript Liber Novus. It is also suggested in the Aion.) Carl Jung proposed a speculative theory of mythology with his universal archetypes of the collective unconscious. Jung's theories have long been derided in scholarship on mythology, and the research data have been shown not to support his claims of universals. Indeed, the resounding refutation of universals has invalidated Jung's theories of mythology.

Though von Dechend realised the Panbabylonians had not approached the subject of the zodiac, the solstices and equinoxes, and precession, in a rigorous historic manner - knowledge of all concepts did not exist in the 3rd-millennium BCE - that did not prevent her from repeating the same. There is of course a connection between astronomy, and religion, and mythology, in ancient Mesopotamia, but not as proposed by the Panbabylonists and the extreme Panbabylonism of Hertha von Dechend.

For the construct of an ancient quadrilateral "ideal plane" of earth as a modern concept see the critical discussion of the claim (made in Hamlet's Mill) by John Didier in his In and Outside the Square, Volume III, Sino-Platonic Papers, Number 192, 2009. John Didier also points out there is no evidence that the proto-Chinese conceived of "mythical earth" at all. (See the (English-language) book review of Didier's In and Outside the Square, by Michael Saso in China Review International, Volume 16, Number 4, 2009, Pages 491-493. John Didier has lectured on East Asia at Princeton University (1996) and Rutgers University-New Brunswick (1997). His 1998 PhD dissertation was, Way of Transformation: Universal Unity in Warring States through Sung China.)

Hertha von Dechend published very little material. Her PhD dissertation Die kultishe und mythische Bedeutung des Schweins in Indonesien und Ozeanien (= The significance of pigs in myth and culture in Indonesia and Oceania) (Frankfurt: Goethe Universitat, 1939 (but I have seen the date given as 1943)) remains unpublished. It appears that it was during her PhD work that she first concluded that only if Oceanic mythology was given an astronomical interpretation could it be understood. Her Habilitation (completed in 1960) was Der Mythos von gebauten Welt als Ausdrucksform archaischer Naturwissenschaft. In 1973 and 1977 she published 2 short articles on the subject of ancient cosmology. (On of these was "Bemerkungen zum Donnerkeil [Comments on the Thunderbolt]." in: Prismata (Festschrift für Willy Hartner), 1977; Pages 95ff.) Another, little-known, article by Hertha von Dechend is "Il concetto di simmetria nelle culture arcaiche." in: La Simmetria, edited by Evandro Agnazzi [sometimes given as Agazzi] (1973, Pages 361-397(399?)). The publication in which the paper appears is a collection of 1973 conference papers presented in Venice. Giorgio de Santillana published substantial material on the history of science. Yet another little-known article by von Dechend is "Erinnerungen an die Friihzeit des Instituts." In: Ad Radices edited by Anton von Gotstedter (1994, Pages 3-11).

According to Hamlet's Mill and Panbabylonism the core of myth is to be sought in an intellectual interpretation of mythology. Myth is astronomical allegory and its allegories contain intellectual information. Falling back on this generalisation is inadequate to fill the gaps in the lack of clear proofs. Hamlet's Mill, like Panbabylonism, is weighed down in speculation and improbabilities. The themes of Panbabylonism are continued – once again in an uncritical manner. The hypothetical character of many interpretations is not identified. Unlike the Panbabylonists, von Dechend never answered her critics.

Astrology

Interestingly, the authors of Hamlet's Mill put an emphasis on astrology. "The greatest gap between archaic thinking and modern thinking is in the use of astrology [but an astrology whose form was completely unrelated to the common astrology practiced today]. ... It gave the lingua franca of the past. Its knowledge was cosmic correspondences ...." (Hamlet's Mill, Page 74.) "It is now known that astrology has provided man with his continuing lingua franca through the centuries." (Hamlet's Mill, Page 345.) This too is traceable to Panbabylonism.

The 2nd volume of Franz Kugler's Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel (1909/1910) and its demolition of an early Babylonian scientific astronomy forced the Panbabylonists to adopt new tactics. In 1909 some key Panbabylonists (including Alfred Jeremias) stated their intention to now only examine whether the astrological foundations of Panbabylonism were better assured than its astronomical ones. However, in his Im Bannkreis Babels (1910) Franz Kugler showed that Panbabylonism is just as unsound in its astrological as in its astronomical foundations.

The influence of the German-Austrian diffusionism on Hertha von Dechend

Several different groups of diffusionists and Kulturkreise schools emerged in Germany, each with their own characteristics. The German diffusionists held a low opinion of human inventiveness. This was shared by von Dechend. Von Dechend failed to understand the issues of common inventions rather than distinctive inventions (i.e., distinctive stylistic differences). Von Dechend presumed there are distinctively different ethnic 'minds' and that this had implications for inventiveness.

Diffusionism was mostly a Germanic specialisation with centres in the great museum cities of Berlin and Vienna. In the 1920s, 1930s and 1950s the Vienna culture-historical school was the dominant school of thought in Austrian academic ethnology. It was centred around Wilhelm Schmidt (1868-1954). Schmidt was a strict opponent of cultural evolutionism inspired by Darwinism and hypothesized a primordial culture characterized by monotheism, monogamy, and private property. In his endeavour to prove his theory of primordial monotheism (Urmonotheismus), he engaged other members of his religious (Societas Verbi Divini) to conduct fieldwork to gather ethnological evidence for his hypotheses. Peoples believed to be contemporary representatives of this Urkultur - those of short stature living in marginal areas, such as the Central African pygmy populations - became the central focus of research. Father Paul Schebesta (1887-1967) was one of the missionaries who conducted intensive anthropological field research, first with the Malaysian Semang and then, in 1920-1930 and 1934-35, the pygmies of the Ituri region.

Diffusionist research was quite sophisticated. Its ideas and the Kulturkreise (cultural areas) program remained vigorous in Germany and Austria until the 1950s.

The German (German-Austrian) school of diffusionism was founded by Fritz Ratzel (1844-1904). Ratzel explained similarities in human societies as a result of historical contact and cultural borrowing. He justified this position by arguing that humankind had limited capacities for invention and was inclined to attachment to traditions. (That humankind had limited capacities for invention was a theme picked up and constantly reiterated by von Dechend in her MIT seminar notes. This was a key reason for von Dechend supporting the hyper-diffusionism of Elliot Smith. Elliot Smith held the view that any type of invention could only happen once. Hence the spread of an invention from a single location.) Other prominent proponents were Leo Frobenius (1873-1938), Fritz Graebner (1877-1934), and Wilhelm Schmidt (1868-1954). (The German kultukreise school is ultimately traced to Friedrich Ratzel, not to Leo Frobenius, as von Dechend would have it. Frobenius had been a student of Ratzel. Frobenius's early proposals were made without suitable evidence.)

Ratzel was probably the first investigator to divide the world into what is termed 'culture areas.' Leo Frobenius greatly extended his method and theory. Frobenius, a self-trained African explorer and eventually a museum ethnologist, focused on looking for parallels in cultural development worldwide. His idea of 'culture circles' (Kulturkreise), involved great culture areas which in some cases spread across the globe and overlapped those which had existed before. The concept of culture circles dominated German and Austrian anthropology from the 1890s to the 1930s.

Wilhelm Schmidt was a strict opponent of cultural evolutionism inspired by Darwinism and instead hypothesized a primordial culture characterised by monotheism, monogamy, and private property. In his endeavour to prove his theory of primordial monotheism (Urmonotheismus), he engaged other members of his religious (Societas Verbi Divini) to conduct fieldwork to gather ethnological evidence for his hypotheses. Peoples believed to be contemporary representatives of this Urkultur--those of short stature living in marginal areas, such as the Central African pygmy populations--became the central focus of research. Paul Schebesta (1887-1967) was one of the missionaries who conducted intensive anthropological field research. He was the first to study the Malaysian Semang and then, in 1920-1930 and 1934-1935, the pygmies of the Ituri region. (Out of this came Schmidt's, Der Ursprungder Gottesidea (The Origin of the Idea of God) which was published in 12 volumes between 1926 and 1955.) The German-Austrian school (known as the cultural historical school, or the culture-circle school) proposed that culture complexes diffused in totality through actual movement or migration of people. The German-Austrian diffusionists assumed that similarities between cultures (even when separated by vast distances) was achieved by diffusion/migration (i.e., historical contact). This belief was maintained until the feasibility of any historical contact was firmly disproven. The German-Austrian diffusionists did not take separatedness by vast distances between cultures into account. Diffusion was believed to have occurred between cultures that displayed similarity. This explains the silence of Hamlet's Mill on the issue of diffusion/migration. (Wilhelm Schmidt and Wilhelm Koppers were the founders of the Austrian school of diffusion. The Roman Catholic priest Wilhelm Schmidt (1868-1954) was a philologist turned ethnologist. Wilhelm Koppers (1886-1961, a Roman Catholic priest and cultural anthropologist) was Professor of Ethnology (Völkerkunde) and President of the Institute of Ethnology at the University of Vienna. See his (English-language) essay: "Diffusion: Transmission and Acceptance." (Yearbook of Anthropology, 1955, Pages 169-181).) Schmidt was a priest in the Catholic missionary order Societas Verbi Divini (Society of the Divine Word) (SVD). Schmidt's research was rooted in in Catholicism. Koppers was a close collaborator of Schmidt and a member of the same Catholic order.

According to Eduard Stucken and Hugo Winckler (apparent) similarities in myths are to be explained by diffusion/migration however far apart geographically. Eduard Stucken does not deal at all with the difficulties of transmission to remote geographic regions. Also, the issue of pre-astronomical mythology is not addressed.

Von Dechend does discuss the Evolutionist School of Anthropology and the Diffusionist School of Anthropology in "Einführung in die Archaische Kosmologie." (Pages 7-31; and "Kulturhistorische Ethnologie und vergleichende Mythologie." (Pages 31-47). In: Einführung in die Archaische Kosmologie, Vorlesungen im Wintersemester 1976/77, Hertha von Dechend. (The publication is available from Differenz-Verlang\Franz Krojer, München.) Von Dechend unsurprisingly favours diffusionism.

From Hamlet’s Mill (1969, Page 71): "Mistaking cultural history for a process of gradual evolution, we have deprived ourselves of every reasonable insight into the nature of culture. It goes without saying that the still more modern habit of replacing "culture" by "society" has blocked the last narrow path to understanding history. Our ignorance not only remained vast, but became pretentious as well." It appears here that Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend have given support to Germanic ethnology. Diffusionists believed that cultural development was not unilineal (i.e., all aspects of a culture moved in a 'single line' from the most primitive to the most sophisticated). Diffusionists held that a culture with a simple technology might have a highly sophisticated religious system (or astronomical system).

The weaknesses of the kulturkreise school

While diffusion is an acknowledged mechanism for change, but not the sole mechanism. As the sole mechanism it denies independent invention and local adaptation to the environment. Simply, it denies human inventiveness. Similar natural environments in different parts of the world are inevitably inhabited by people with divergent cultures. The "cause" of each cultural assemblage is wholly capricious. Importantly it is the natural environment areas that are decisive by way of the "techno-environmental" interaction.

Von Dechend held that independent invention was an insignificant and rare event. It has never been established that independent invention was an insignificant and rare event. The archaeology of the New World has shown that independent invention has occurred on a large scale.

Not dealt with by kulturkreise ideas is centre and boundary change with the passage of time. Also, the greatest weakness of the kulturkreise scheme was its supporters could never explain why diffusion and migration take place. The final blow to the kulturkreise theory came from archaeology. Excavations failed to produce evidence for it. As example: "To put it negatively, there were not Kulturkreis-like movements across Bering Strait of specific traditions, physical types, or linguistic stocks from Asia that then spread out along specific routes in the New World." ("Men Out of Asia; as Seen From the Northwest Yukon." by Richard McBeath (Anthropological Papers of the University of Alaska, Volume 7, Number 2, May 1959, Pages 41-70, Page 53).)

Kulturkreise, though it involved fieldwork, was basically a museum methodology - based on the classification of collected cultural items. Typologized artifacts, detached from their cultural ands social context, were studied in museums. The kulturkreise school is now effectively defunct, even in Europe. In attempting to establish its correctness it has worked mainly to prove itself wrong.

Historical background to German-Austrian diffusionism

The German School of diffusion is also known as the Vienna School of diffusion. However, the Austrian was a variant of German diffusionism.

In Germany diffusionism was known as the "culture historical method" (Kulturhistorische Methode or Kulturkreislehre). The 1904 meeting of the Berliner Gesellschaft (Berlin Society for anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory) consolidated diffusionist ethnology as the dominant force in German anthropology. At this meeting Fritz Graebner and Bernhard Ankermann issued the original declarations of the so-called "difusionist revolt." Their presented papers were on the Kulturkreise (cultural areas) and Kulturschichten (cultural layers) of Oceania and Africa. (See the papers published by Graebner and Ankermann in 1905 in the Berliner Gesellschaft journal, the Zeitschrift für Ethnologie. They came from junior anthropologists/curators at the Berlin Völkerkunde museum to prominence.) The correct framework for analysis in ethnology and prehistory was believed to be Kulturkreise. Because of his poor treatment of evidence, Graebner and Ankermann rejected conclusions by Frobenius. During the following period to WWI German ethnology was reshaped by the emergence of several different groups of diffusionists, each with its own particular ideas. The trend by German ethnologists towards diffusionist models became pronounced in the decades following WWI.

The explanation by "original community," first applied by Theodor Benfey to the widely distributed parallel forms of folklore and fairy tales. Originating in a favourable locality (India), these tales were first accepted by the primarily related (Indo-Germanic) peoples, then continued to grow while retaining the common primary traits, and ultimately radiated over the entire earth. This mode of explanation was first adapted to the wide distribution of the hero myths by Rudolf Schubert. Theodor Benfey (born 1809, Nörten, near Göttingen, Germany - died 1881, Göttingen), was a German scholar of Sanskrit and comparative linguistics (philologist) who made important contributions to Sanskrit studies. He was the son of a Jewish trader/merchant from Nörten in Lower Saxony, and 1 of 7 children. He was involved initially with research in classical languages. After brilliant studies at Göttingen he spent a year at Munich and afterwards became a teacher at Frankfurt am Main (1829?/1830–1832), and in 1834 he became a Privatdozent at the University of Göttingen where he began teaching classical-language studies (and only later Sanskrit and Comparative Grammar). (Benfey received his preliminary training at the gymnasium in Göttingen, which he left at the age of 16 to attend the University of Göttingen. As a university student he devoted himself to classical philology, and remained in Göttingen - with the exception of the year 1827, spent at Munich - until 1830. On October 24, 1828, he received the degree of Ph.D., and the year following (1829) became Privatdozent.) In 1848 he became an assistant professor (without salary) and was appointed professor in 1862. Benfey's teaching covered a wide range within his chosen limits. In addition to his regular work he lectured on Indian antiquities, on the Avesta, and also gave courses in ethnography from the linguistic point of view (1843), and in Bengali and Hindustani (1863-64). His several attempts to gain a more profitable position elsewhere were in vain. He established a periodical, "Orient und Occident," in 1862, and it was discontinued in 1866. He left the Jewish faith in 1848, and with his family joined the Evangelical Church. He died in 1881 after a short illness.

The diffusion theory of migration, or borrowing, sets out that individual myths originate from definite peoples (especially the Babylonians) and are accepted by other peoples through oral tradition (commerce and traffic) or through literary influences. The diffusion theory of migration and borrowing can be readily shown to be merely a modification of Theodor Benfey's theory. India competed with Babylonia for identification as the original home of myths. The competing view that tales did not radiate from a single point, but travelled over and across the entire inhabited globe was the idea of the interdependence of mythological structures, an idea which was generalized by Julius Braun as the basic law of the nature of the human mind: The concept being: Nothing new is ever discovered as long as it is possible to copy. The theory of elemental ideas, was strenuously advocated by Adolf Bauer in the 1880s, and was unconditionally declined by Winckler and Stucken, who maintained the migration theory.

Naturgeschichte der Sage [Natural History of Legends] by Julius Braun (2 Volumes, 1864-1865) attempted to be a "key to all mythologies," tracing all religious ideas, legends, and systems back to their (believed) common family tree and primary root. Julius Braun (born 1825, Karlsruhe - died 1869, Munich) was a German historian (and philologist?) with an interest in art, culture and religion. He was born and received his early education in Karlsruhe. He then studied at the universities of Heidelberg and Berlin, at first theology, but later philology and art history. He finished his formal studies in 1848, and passed the test for teachers in Karlsruhe that same year. From 1850 to 1858, he undertook an extensive study tour which brought him to Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor, Rome, Paris and London. At first a Privatdozent in the University of Heidelberg, he afterwards became a professor at the University of Tübingen for a short time. Wanting to reach a wider audience and find a more stimulating academic environment he then went to Munich, where he lectured in the Academy of Arts. There he gained a circle of close friends among the educated, but not the academic position he hoped for. He was kept busy with his writings, and travelled to Rome again briefly. He died of a fever. In his books and lectures he maintained the view that the really fundamental principles of art and religion were derived from the Egyptians, and were transmitted, through the Semites, Greeks, and Romans, to the Germanic and other northern peoples.

"[Wilhelm] Schmidt was born in Westphalia, he was the founder of the SVD’s (Societas Verbi Divini) mission school in St. Gabriel near Mödling and elsewhere. – By 1928/29, two new institutes thereby emerged at Vienna University: the Institute of Ethnology (Institut für Völkerkunde) and the Institute of (physical) Anthropology (Institut für Anthropologie). The first institute’s director for ethnology was F. Wilhelm Koppers (1886 - 1961), F. Wilhelm Schmidt's associate and close academic colleague. Together Schmidt and Koppers had devised the so-called Vienna School of "culture circle theory” which—with the exception of the Nazi period—characterised this Vienna institute’s academic orientation until the early 1950s. This theologically informed research approach assumed the basic notion that the "most primitive" peoples stood closest to divine creation, thus providing evidence for "primeval monotheism". So-called "culture circles” were reconstructed based on questions regarding the origins and diffusion of material objects. Nevertheless, several empirical works by Schmidt and Koppers as well as by many of their disciples (e.g. Gusinde, Schebesta, Haekel, Henninger) contained some useful and relevant insights." (ksa.univie.ac.at/en/department/history/) The immediate post WWII era was the final stage of the so-called Vienna School. It had reached a theoretical methodical dead-end and could no longer be supported. In 1956 the "Vienna School" approach was finally declared obsolete and abandoned. Leading players in this were Josef Haekel and Robert Heine-Geldern.

Von Dechend and diffusionism

Diffusion/migration is dealt with in a cavalier manner by von Dechend/Hamlet's Mill. The structure of diffusion/migratory patterns (a process or event) is not discussed, or even considered. Was there planning? How was the astronomical monomyth transmitted from the Bronze Age Near East to the rest of the world? And who transmitted the astronomical monomyth? What preconditions made this type of cultural exchange possible? (What did people know and care about other societies?) Did diffusion/migration proceed along well-defined routes to specific locations? Is diffusion of the monomyth a part of people movement or is its transference a part of exploration? Was it a world of constant mutual contact and exchange of ideas?

Von Dechend believed that a particular (but unidentified) Neolithic High Culture in the ancient Near East influenced all other cultures around the globe. Von Dechend was not at all innovative in her approach to cultural history or mythology. She followed the work of others, mostly German investigators. Some of her key ideas on diffusionism were derived from Leo Frobenius, Arthur Kroeber, and the Manchester 'School.' Basically, she held that numerous large-scale migrations and also stimulus diffusion had taken place (1961, Page 2).

(1) Leo Frobenius

Leo Frobenius coined the term "culture-circles" (kulturkreise). The first presentations of this ideas were: Der Ursprung der afrikanischen Kulteren (1898), and "The West African Culture Circle." his first theoretically oriented article (Von Dechend has 1902 but 1898 is the correct date). Frobenius believed that culture was independent from its individual bearers. He did not believe that African people invented their own culture. He believed that it had originally spread with migrations from Asia. (It has been commented that Frobenius felt contempt for black Africans.)

(2) Arthur Kroeber

The American ethnologist Arthur Kroeber (1876-1960) coined the term "stimulus diffusion" [or transcultural diffusion] in a paper published in the American Anthropologist in 1940. It proposes that it is the idea that travels. (See: "Stimulus Diffusion." by Arthur Kroeber (American Anthropologist, New Series, Volume 42, Number 1, January-March, 1940, Pages 1-20.) "Stimulus Diffusion" proved to be a very influential concept. Von Dechend endorsed this idea. Kroeber distinguished between invention by (1) stimulus diffusion, (2) reduction-segregation, and (3) displacement.

(3) Grafton Elliot Smith, William. James Perry, and Rendell Harris

 "... [T]he scholars who first worked out the true sequence of cultures, and realized the far reaching, overpowerful (sic) influence of the Ancient Near East have been British: Grafton Elliot Smith, W. James Perry, and W. H. R. Rivers." (See: Introduction to Ancient Cosmology (1966, Page 28).)

In the 1920s a British group of diffusionists, led by Grafton Elliot Smith (1871-1937), William James Perry (1887(1868?)-1949), and James Rendel Harris (1852-1941, a Biblical scholar and curator) argued that only one civilization was responsible for all cultural development. Grafton Elliot Smith was a distinguished anatomist who became professor of anatomy in 1919 at University College London. Perry became reader in cultural anthropology in 1924 (actual appointment, August 1923) at University College London. They were amateur archaeologists/anthropologists. They believed that the civilization fitting their theory was ancient Egypt and that ideas were spread throughout the world from ancient Egypt, by voyagers who were seeking precious jewels. This Pan-Egyptian theory was most usually called the Manchester (the city where Smith held an institutional position before moving to University College London), or heliocentric (sun-centred) school of thought. The metaphor of the sun suggested that all cultures radiated from only a single source. They held that civilization only arose once - and this was in Egypt - and then spread across the globe. These two English "diffusionist" writers replaced Panbabylonism with an equally all-embracing Pan-Egyptionism. The 'heliocentric' school flourished during the years between 1911 and 1934. It promoted the view that all higher forms of culture spread from Egypt along with solar religion. William Perry (British geographer and anthropologist, 1868-1949) was noted for his diffusionist theory of cultural development. According to him Megalithic culture was transmitted to the rest of the world from Egypt. He frequently collaborated with Grafton Elliot Smith. He was also a convinced Heliocentrist. His books include: The Megalithic Culture of Indonesia (1918), The Children of the Sun: a Study in the Early History of Civilization (1923), The Origin of Magic and Religion (1923), and The Growth of Civilization (1924). Elliot Smith was combative in print. The term diffusionism originates with the 'heliocentric' school. Samuel Hooke (1874-1968) seems to have been a prominent supporter of the 'heliocentric school.' As it favoured Egypt as the cultural centre it was a rival to Panbabylonism.

In England at least, diffusionist works were treated respectfully and diffusionists were taken seriously through to the mid 1920s. Unlike the Panbabylonists their adherents were very few.

Changes in funding support by the Rockefeller foundation contributed to the decline of this diffusionist school. Ultimately, scientific progress in archaeology in the 1940s proved beyond doubt that the Egypt of circa 4000 BCE could not have been the source of all human culture, and gave the coup de grâce to British hyper-diffusionism

The German anthropologist and Africanist, Hermann Baumann (1902-1972) was a diffusionist who believed an Asiatic (Near Eastern) High-Culture swept from the East across Sudan superimposing its ideas on native culture. Von Dechend appears to have believed in this idea. "... [F]or the ancient founders of [African] states we have to look  ... in deeper strata (the so-called moon-kings in the East." (Introduction to Cosmology: A Preliminary Reconnaissance by Hertha von Dechend and Giorgio de Santillana, (1961, Page 4.) By the descriptor, "moon-kings in the East" I presume she means 'moon-god kings' of Sumer and Akkad.

Like other diffusionists, von Dechend adopted the belief that the main function was to discover patterns, and gave little attention to formulating clear statements of the general principles of cultural diffusion.

Diffusionist and kulturkreise issues

Also obviously influential with von Dechend were the kulturkreise (cultural areas) ideas. Ratzel's Formengedanke ('criteria of forms') and Frobenius' addition to it (called Geographical Statistics) were combined within the investigative strategy of the Kultukreise School. The German museum curator, geographer, and ethnologist Fritz Graebner (1877-1934) became the principal leader of the Kulturkreise School. In his influential book, Methode der Ethnology (1911) he set out its methodological principles. It was the most complete methodological statement of Kulturkreise, which Graebner considered the method of ethnology. Graebner set out the technique of recovering older cultural configurations through analysis of patterned distribution of cultural elements. The 2 basic rules set out by Graebner (Methode der Ethnology) (also mistakenly cited as Die Methode der Ethnologie) were:

(1) Criterion of Form. Similarities between 2 culture elements which do not automatically arise out of nature, material purpose of traits or objects, are to be interpreted as resulting from diffusion, regardless of the distance separating the 2 similarities.

(2) Criterion of Quality. The likelihood of a historical relationship between 2 culture elements increases as the number of additional culture elements showing similarities increases i.e., several similarities prove more than a single one.

Note: Handbuch der Methode der kulturhistorischen Ethnologie by Wilhelm Schmidt (with contributions by Wilhelm Koppers) (1937) purports to bring Graebner's Methode der Ethnologie (1911) up to date and to dispel misunderstandings with his exposition.

A reason why von Dechend avoided mention of Panbabylonism

The resumption of Panbabylonism (also known as the Leipzig School, and its approach to the complexity of Babylonian symbolism and its astral approach to mythology) occurred in the 1960s due to Hertha von Dechend ( a disciple of Frobenius), and the historian of science Giorgio de Santillana. They aimed to trace the common foundation of myths and fables of all people.

Franz Krojer states that in conversation von Dechend denied she wanted to revive Panbabylonism in Hamlet's Mill. This is rather amazing as the basic thesis of the book is the global diffusion of Babylonian astromythology, specifically. Von Dechend stated she fully realised the result of Panbabylonism was an academic suspicion of any claim for an astronomical interpretation in ancient myths and religions. Also, that this is a reason for 20th-century scholars rejecting the astral significance of Mithraic iconography. (See: "Der Riss zwischen den beiden Kulturen" ["The rift between the two cultures"] In: Franz Krojer (with a contribution by Thomas Schmidt): Die Präzision der Präzession, Illigs mittelalterliche Phantomzeit aus astronomischer Sicht. [The precision of precession, Illig's medieval phantom time from an astronomical point of view.] (2003).) It is worth noting that Phyllis Ackerman, an expert on Iranian art and a proponent of an astral interpretation of mythology, also related a similar story in her essay "Stars and Stories." In: Anon. (Editor). Myth and Mythmaking. (Pages 90-102). Due to the excessive and erroneous claims of Panbabylonism, especially the extravagant Panbabylonism of Alfred Jeremias, there was a continuing academic suspicion of any claim for an astronomical interpretation in ancient myths and religions.

In a seminar in the early 1960s de Santillana and von Dechend stated their argument is developed from a re-examination of the findings of Nineteenth Century scholars. However, Hamlet's Mill is mostly a collection of Panbabylonist theories without the scholarship. The roots of the German Star-Myth School and Panbabylonism lie in the late 19th-century. However, though their material is used the actual 'schools' are not specifically mentioned. Perhaps this is in part due to the heavy reliance of Hamlet's Mill on (dated) philological arguments

There was a strong tendency of 19th- and early 20th-century mythologists to look for a single 'key' or method that would reveal what myth is all about.

Both the Star-Myth School and Panbabylonism argued that the mythology of the whole world originated as a system of sun, moon, star, and skylore that was developed by the Babylonians circa 3000 BCE. This is a broad star-myth concept. Von Dechend perhaps felt that these 2 schools could be left unmentioned because within her scheme mythology was a world-wide code language for precession. While the Star-Myth School and Panbabylonism believed that precession was known to early humankind, it did not form a central explanation of mythology. Keeping the inheritance of Frobenius, von Dechend has utilised elements of the Star-Myth school and Panbabylonism with her own precessional interpretation of mythology. (Without this inheritance von Dechend would had lacked the 'building blocks' for her ideas.) It is not indicated that de Santillana was involved in any 'discovery' of precessional mythology. However, he was sympathetic to an astronomical interpretation of mythology. De Santillana, in Hamlet's Mill, credits von Dechend's 'discovery' of an astronomical explanation (the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn) to account for the high numbers of temple platforms on Necker and Tubuai as being persuasive for him in accepting an astronomical interpretation of cultural history. With von Dechend, precession is substituted for the 19th-century and early 20th-century star-myth explanations of the content of mythology. This explanation has been overlooked by previous commentators.

See the recently published book: Der Panbabylonismus: Die Faszination des himmlischen Buches im Zeialter der Zivilisation by Michael Weichenhan (2016). It is a short (144 pages) academic study (well referenced). Michael Weichenhan is (2016) at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin. Background details: "Michael Weichenhan (*1965) studierte u.a. evangelische Theologie, Philosophie und Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften. Er ist wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Sonderforschungsbereich „Transformationen der Antike“ der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin und lehrt in Berlin und Frankfurt/M. Seine Forschungsschwerpunkte sind Wissenschafts- und Philosophiegeschichte des Mittelalters und der Frühen Neuzeit sowie Geschichte der orientalischen Philologien und der Astrologie."

Godfrey Higgins' Anacalypsis

"A certain Mr. Higgins, about whom I am otherwise ignorant but who has written, around 1837, as (sic) fascinating book of two volumes, entitled "Ahacalypsis" (sic) wrote (Reprint 1927, I 55): "We shall never have an ancient history worthy of the perusal of man (sic) [men] of commonsense, till we cease treating poems as history, and send back such personages  as Hercules, Theseus, Bacchus etc., to the heavens, whence their history is taken, and whence they never descended to the earth." (Introduction to Ancient Cosmology by Hertha von Dechend (1979).)

Godfrey Higgins (1772-1833), was a British archaeologist, Freemason and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, humanist, social reformer, and author. He was remembered by his parish as a "political radical, reforming county magistrate and idiosyncratic historian of religions." His 2-volume book Anacalypsis (1833-1836) was particularly influential. It was one of the earliest (detailed) comparisons of Christian and pagan parallels. Godfrey Higgins believed that a high civilization had flourished prior to all historical records. Higgins sets out that an ancient advanced civilisation once ruled over the entire world. The dominance of the school of solar mythology is evident in Anacalypsis. Also, Robert Taylor's influence has been identified. In 1829 Robert Taylor published a book on comparative religion titled, The Diegesis; Being a Discovery of the Origin, Evidences, and Early History of Christianity, Never Yet Before or Elsewhere So Fully and Faithfully Set Forth. In 1830-1831 Robert Taylor published, The Devil's Pulpit: Or Astro-Theological Sermons (2 volumes).

In 1964(1965?) Abe Aronow purchased the 2 volumes of Anacalypsis at a book sale at the Dartmouth Library. He left them on Giorgio de Santillana's office desk at MIT. Both Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend knew about Higgins' Anacalypsis prior to receiving Aronow's copy but had not reviewed the actual text. Aronow recalls a telephone conversation with de Santillana regarding the Higgins' volumes De Santillana called Aronow in Hanover (New Hampshire) after the volumes were left on his desk. De Santillana said he knew of the books and that there was an 1833 copy at the Houghton Library at Harvard, but he had never looked into it. Aronow believes that de Santillana (and von Hechend) did not believe appreciate the nature and scope of Higgins' volumes until he perused the volumes procured for him. Some years later Harald Reiche sent the volumes back to Aronow. In a letter to Abe Aronow dated July 22, 1991, Hertha von Dechend writes: " ... Very many thanks for your letter, the articles, and for the offer to let me have your copy of Anacalypsis; but Reiche has, indeed, found a copy for me several years ago."

The author of Anacalypsis identifies and discusses similar (religious) beliefs held world-wide. Godfrey Higgins was convinced by his 20/30 years of research that a high culture had existed prior to all historical records. He believed that a prehistoric universal religion existed and all later creeds and doctrines sprang from it. He also believed this religion possessed accurate knowledge of astronomical phenomena. (Godfrey Higgins used precession as a method of investigation. He placed the beginning of the 'Age of Taurus' at 4400 BCE.) Higgins proposed ancient knowledge of:  (1) precession of the equinoxes (causing displacement of festivals), (2) an equally divided 12-part zodiac, (3) determination of precessional rate (the rate of the precessional cycle), (4) knowledge of a precessional great year, and (5) astronomical mythology/allegory with cyclic content (i.e., occurrences of cyclic cataclysms and upheavals). Higgins addressed the theme of cycles in some detail. A basic theme of the book is that there is a universal basis to all languages and religions and Godfrey Higgins sought to identify the common thread. Godfrey Higgins hypothesized that all religions had sprung from one common origin, which he sought to trace, and he further suggested the existence of a secret religious order, that he termed Pandeism, that once held sway across much of the globe. (Hertha von Dechend mentioned Godfrey Higgins and his book Anacalypsis in her 1979 seminar. The authors also use it, at least once, in Hamlet's Mill (Page 256): Finally in Higgins' Anacalypsis there is a quote, without the ancient source but reasonably reliable: "Ganges which is also called Po." The book is listed on page 466 of the bibliography.) The influence of Higgins' concept of an ancient world-wide secret religious order sharing knowledge, on the similar idea expressed in Hamlet's Mill that a secret world-wide net of scholars existed and shared coded astronomical information should not be overlooked. Also, in Anacalypsis Higgins touches on the theme of zodiacal world ages

(http://somerationalism.blogspot.com.au/2012/11/quality-of-sources-godfrey-higgins-pt-1.html): "Godfrey Higgins' main written work is titled Anacalypsis; An Attempt to Draw Aside the Veil of the Saitic Isis; or an Inquiry into the Origin of Languages, Nations and Religions. It was published in two volumes, each available at archive.org nowadays: Vol I, Vol II. It is an illogical, outdated work based on faulty evidence, flawed reasoning, naive misunderstandings and wishful thinking. It seems clear Higgins considered Anacalypsis his main work, but he wrote an earlier work which it seems he considered a preparatory work, and he refers to it a fair bit in Anacalypsis as well. This work goes by the name The Celtic Druids. … In the first pages of The Celtic Druids - duly note, not Anacalypsis, we find a staggering example of just how much of an ignorant man he was."

In his essay: "Godfrey Higgins' Anacalypsis: A Critique," JPH writes, "The work of Godfrey Higgins, Anacalypsis, is quite nearly as hard to find as a two-headed chicken -- and it is nearly as normal as one. … It cites few sources for its claims, but those it does cite are the sort of things you won't find easily -- anyone wishing to back-check all of Higgins' comments will be in for a real lifetime chore …. There is no telling whether the bulk of Higgins' sources are credible or not (though we do have some hints). Anacalypsis is full of assertions that are either undocumented or come from sources whose credibility is completely unknown in this time …. It is also, furthermore, that Higgins is so outdated that any arguments he makes based on dating, language, and so on, require at this time a full re-argument before they can be accepted. … Higgins' editor admits that Higgins was criticized by scholars who "felt that amateurs had no place in their special fields" [459], so even in his day he was obviously considered unreliable. How much more so today in light of what we know now? Anyone using Higgins as a source had best explain themselves as well as Higgins."

Higgins believed in a universal secret religious order. De Santillana had ideas about "the perpetual brotherhood of scientists." Just how far this extended, and extended back in time for de Santillana, is not established.

Beginning of Giorgio de Santillana's belief in astronomical mythology

In his book The Origin of Scientific Thought (1961) Giorgio de Santillana had set out his belief in an astronomical origin of myth and fairytale. In the Prologue to this book "Of High and Far-off Times" he traces back the roots of scientific thought to its origins in Neolithic Period astronomers. He also wrote of myths providing an astronomical code that had been previously overlooked by modern scholars. On page 11 he wrote: "The technical language of science can hardly be understood if it is not even recognized." The Prologue was also published in the quarterly magazine Midway, Volume XI, Number 1, Summer, 1970. It has been claimed by some the Hamlet's Mill is a sequel or elaboration of The Origin of Scientific Thought. However, this is a rather loose connection. The 1961 book merely sets out some ideas that de Santillana was pursuing about the origins of intelligence.

Source: Against Method by Paul Feyerband (3rd edition, 1993) Footnote 7, Pages 35-36.

In her book The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (Volume 1, 1980, Page 279, Note 349) Elizabeth Eisenstein writes: "de Santillana, book review [of Yate's work on Giordano Bruno], American Historical Review,  ... contains hints of de Santillana's later collaborative book with Hertha von Dechend: Hamlet's Mill." In his review of Yate's work on Giordano Bruno, he pointed to certain problems presented by the "churning turbid flood" of Hermetic, Cabalistic and other esoteric literature. (See: American Historical Review, Volume LXX, January, 1965, Pages 455-457.) De Santillana, in Hamlet's Mill, credits von Dechend's 'discovery' of an astronomical explanation (the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn) to account for the high numbers of temple platforms on Necker and Tubuai as being persuasive for him in accepting an astronomical interpretation of cultural history.

Assessment of the authors of Hamlet's Mill

Von Dechend and de Santillana were not reasoning machines or purely cerebral academics. They were products of their time and cultures, with agendas.

Neither Giorgio de Santillana or Hertha von Dechend can be accurately described as polymaths. Hertha von Dechend especially falls below that description. Richard Flavin, who has a prodigious intellect and is somewhat sympathetic, also engages in a critique of certain ideas in Hamlet's Mill with his obituary of Hertha von Dechend. See further than the summary: "Epigraphic Society Occasional Papers, Table of Contents, Volume 24, 2004, In Memoriam: Dr. Hertha von Dechend (2 pp) Richard D. Flavin 24-p 296. A controversial scholar, Hertha von Dechend is most often remembered for her co-authorship with Giorgio de Santillana of Hamlet’s Mill: An essay on myth and the frame of time (Boston, Gambit Inc., 1969). Although she majored in archaeology and ethnology, Dechend concentrated most of her efforts in the study and teaching of science. Her major publications were few, but her intellect and influence were profound."

Some of von Dechend's ethnological ideas (embedded in Hamlet's Mill) are naive and uncritical, and characteristic of the period circa the turn of the 20th-century to the period of WWII.

The view of Professor Earl Milton

Extract of letter from Earl Milton (a professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, at Lethbridge University, Alberta, Canada) to Alfred de Grazia, February 15, 1980 (http://archive.today/Aw8tC): "On a few occasions, the heretics would solicit funds from individuals in small amounts to disseminate a publication about Velikovsky, but efforts at larger funding failed. The Foundation for Studies of Modern Science initiated a series a approaches, of which I have already spoken; still, I shall add one more instance. Murray Rossant, Director of the Twentieth Century Fund, was reported by someone to be attracted to V.'s work. Because Deg and his brother, Sebastian, were already known and had been working with the Fund in very different fields, FOSMOS sent two fresh and handsome faces to meet with Rossant and his colleague Schwartz, Bruce Mainwaring and Coleman Morton, both enlightened businessmen. A friendly encounter ensued, the upshot of which was that, although the Fund had never gone into this area, the two officers were interested personally in seeking other sources of funding, and when all was said and done, nothing happened. Nothing, that is, except that the Fund itself gave money to Giorgio di Santillana and Hertha von Dechend for research that they were doing on ancient and primitive myth and legend which, it was believed beforehand, would show that mankind was clever and scientific long before it was credited with being so, but also that there was no need to invoke catastrophism to explain the nature of mankind's early preoccupations. This was recounted to Deg and the others by Stechini, who was well acquainted with Santillana and von Dechend. The product of the research, Hamlet's Mill, was welcomed by the heretics, nevertheless, for its intimations of ancient quantavolutions, but, if the reader wishes to understand the rampant confusion of the book, he may simply apply the hypothesis: here are two great scatomatized experts trying to avoid mention of catastrophism. Though they be liberal or conservative, foundations are unlikely to be creative. They think they are able to judge creativity, of course, and especially if large, "creativity" and the "independent sector" of society are often included in their slogans. Their size and their bureaucracy correlate well."

Sources of biographical information for Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha [Herta] von Dechend

For information on the authors see the sympathetic (English-language) obituary of Giorgio de Santillana (1902-1974) by Nathan Sivin (a former student of de Santillana at MIT), Professor of Chinese Culture and the History of Science, University of Pennsylvania, in Isis, Volume 67, 1976, Pages 439-493; and the (English-language) obituary of Hertha von Dechend (1915-2001) by Uta Lindgren, Professor of the History of Science, University of Bayreuth in Isis, Volume 94, 2003, Pages 112-113). Brief biographical information for both de Santillana and von Dechend appears in The World of Physics (1987) edited by Jefferson Weaver. For brief biographical details of de Santillana see the entry in, Directory of American Scholars: A Biographical Directory, Volume 1, published 1969 by the American Council of Learned Societies. For other obituaries of Giorgio de Santillana see: America, History and Life, Volume 15, 1979, Page 4 (Page 105 and Page 189 for obituaries). (Professor Uta Lindgren mistakenly credits Hertha von Dechend with being was the first person to analyse myths for their astronomical content. (Uta Lindgren was a good friend of Hertha von Dechend.) In his book, Mysteries and Discoveries of Archaeoastronomy (2009), Giulio Magli also mistakenly asserts that: "The first scholars to systematically investigate the idea that mythology contains a code for the transmission of ancient astronomical knowledge were Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha Von Dechend in their study Hamlet's Mill (1983) (sic)." (Perhaps the source for the mistaken views on priority was: Kelley, David. and Milone, Eugene (Gene). (2005; 2nd edition 2011). In, Exploring Ancient Skies: An Encyclopedic Survey of Archaeoastronomy the authors state that to their knowledge the only attempt to treat myths as astronomical systems on a world-wide basis is Hamlet's Mill (1969) by de Santillana and von Dechend. This demonstrates their lack of understanding of the basis for the book, which the contents and bibliography clearly show is the German star myth school and its derivative Panbabylonism.) This sort of analysis was a common 19th-century pastime for some writers such as George St Clair and Gerald Massey. A 20th-century precursor to Hamlet's Mill was contained in (the unpublished?) Mystery of the Zodiac (dated circa 1948) by (the somewhat obscure Polish writer) Witold Balcer.) Each obituary contains a photograph of the respective author. Both authors were experienced, though not major, historians of science. Giorgio de Santillana described himself as a scientific rationalist but, on the basis of Hamlet's Mill, he could also be described as an eccentric historian. It is undoubtedly correct to describe him as a polyhistor. See also "Ein Vulkan ist erloschen: Hertha von Dechend in memoriam." by Uta Lindgren in Nachrichtenblatt der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Medizin, Naturwissenschaft und Technik, Jahrgang 51, Heft 2, Sommer, 2001, Pages 148-151; "The Foundations of Archaic Cosmology: Hertha von Dechend (1915-2001)." by Lindgren Uta in XXII International Congress of History of Science, Book of Abstracts, 2005, Pages 338; and the (German-language) obituary for Hertha von Dechend by Yas Maeyama in UniReport 5, 13. Juni 2001, Jahrgang 34, Page 14. (This is a publication of Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main.) Further, see "In Memorium: Hertha von Dechend." in The Epigraphic Society Occasional Papers, Volume 24, 2006, Pages 296-297.

Biographical information for Giorgio de Santillana

De Santillana was an Italian born and trained historian of science (physicist and philosopher) who made his career at MIT. Giorgio de Santillana was born in Rome, Italy, and was of Jewish descent. His parents were David de Santillana and Emilia (Emily) de Santillana Maggiorani. Hamlet's Mill (1969) carries the dedication, "To the memory of my parents David de Santillana Emilia de Santillana Maggiorani." Il mulino di Amleto: Saggio sul mito e sulla struttura del tempo (1983) carries the dedication, "Alla memoria dei miei genitori David de Santillana Emilia de Santillana Maggiorani." (Several sources give 1901 as the year of Giorgio de Santillana's birth - not 1902. It appears, however, that 1902 is correct. (One early source even gives 1906 as year of birth.) He died in 1974 (aged 72 years).) One source states he was an Italian marquis but this is likely confusion with the Medieval Spanish writer, the Marques de Santillana (1398-1458). Exact life dates: Born May 30, 1902, Rome; died June 8, 1974, Beverly, USA,

In 1925 de Santillana gained his PhD from the Sapienza University of Rome. (The Sapienza University of Rome (Italian: Sapienza – Università di Roma), also called simply Sapienza or the "University of Rome," is a collegiate research university located in Rome, Italy. It was formally known as Università degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza.")

Isaiah Berlin (Enlightening Letters 1946-1960 (2012) describes him as clever and interesting.

De Santillana had a cosmopolitan background. He had lived and taught in different countries (Italy, France, and the USA) and was fluent in English, French, and Italian. He spoke and wrote in these languages. In his academic work he was a person who challenged pedantic academic discourse.

Appointments held at MIT: Assistant Professor of the History of Science, 1942-1948; Associate Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science, 1948-1954; Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science, 1954-1967; Professor Emeritus in Humanities, 1967-1974. From 1943 to 1945 he was a correspondent for the US army.

De Santillana was familiar with (could at least read) several ancient languages, including Greek and Latin. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He also attended AAAS meeting as a MIT representative. For 1961 at least, de Santillana was an officer (appointed to the Executive Board) of The Renaissance Society of America.

De Santillana was a boyhood friend of Lauro de Bosis (1901-1931), the gifted Italian poet and aviator. Harvard University offers a Lauro de Bosis Postdoctoral Fellowship. Alexandre Koyré (1892-1964), a French philosopher of Russian origin who wrote on the history and philosophy of science, was also a close friend of de Santillana

Giorgio de Santillana was quite socially active across continents. Susan Sontag recorded in her journal that Giorgio de Santillana was an invitee to a cocktail party held on 19 February 1959 by Jean Wahl at his Paris home. Jean Wahl (1888 in Marseille – 1974 in Paris) was a French poet and philosopher and Professor of Philosophy at the Sorbonne. The cocktail party was held after his late afternoon lecture on the conservative French (philosophical) poet and diplomat Paul Claudel (1868-1955), the younger brother of the sculptor Camille Claudel.

Giorgio de Santillana's had occasional asperity (harshness of tone or manner). He did not always suffer fools politely. At some stage at MIT, de Santillana had the habit of (late) night campus walks.

It is indicated that Hamlet's Mill was the outcome of his research focus for the previous 15 years. De Santillana was convinced that myth was the first scientific discourse.

A little known publication (some 200 pages) by Giorgio de Santillana is Lights and Shadows in the Philosophy of Science (1954); Issue 9 of Publications in the Humanities (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Humanities). Also, an early article is: "Greek Astronomy." by George de Santillana (Scientific American, Volume 180, Issue 4, 1949, Pages 44-47). At this time he was associate professor of history at MIT.

 Year of newspaper clip not yet known.

In the USA at MIT de Santillana was identified as a bon-vivant.

Excursus: Biographical information for David de Santillana

David de Santillana (commonly David Santillana) was an Islamist and authority on Moslem law, born in Tunis, North Africa, 1855; and died in Rome, 12 March 1931. He was a distinguished Orientalist and one of the foremost Islamists in Italy. (The origin of the de Santillana family is Spain - the name originating from the famous Spanish town Santillana del Mar.) For most of his career David de Santillana was Professor of the History of the Political and Religious Institutions of Islam, at the University Of Rome. See the short biographical entry: SANTILLANA, DAVID, in The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, Volume 9, 1943, Page 365. Some sources (mistakenly) state that David de Santillana was a Professor of Law (but he was a jurist). He was a specialist in Islamic law; and considered an expert in both Islamic and European law. He is generally described as a Orientalist. David de Santillana was a Tunisian Jew of Spanish descent. (Note: However, one source states "The jurist and Arabist David Santillana (1855-1931) was a "Portuguese" Jew of Ottoman Tunisia.") He was born in Tunis and studied in Rome where acquired a PhD in law. David de Santillana (born Tunis, 1855(sometimes mistakenly 1845) - died Rome, 1931) was a distinguished Orientalist (Arabist and expert of Islam) at the University of Rome; where he was Professor of Muslim history (Professor of the History of the Political and Religious Institutions of Islam). He also lectured on Arabic and Islamic topics in Arabic at Cairo University. He was described as having a "pleasant Tunisian accent." David de Santillana was naturalised British and then Italian. In 1899 he compiled a draft code of civil and commercial law for Tunisia which was partially enacted in 1906. (At the end of the 19th-century, the protectorate authorities established a commission for the codification of the laws of Tunisia and appointed Professor David Santillana, an expert in both Islamic and European civil law, to draft the document. He prepared (1889) the scheme of a code of civil law and commercial law to be adopted in Tunisia; it was praised as a work of exceptional judicial value and ingenuity, in view of the difficulty of conforming Islamic law in Tunisia to a heterogeneous Arab-European population.) His books/publications include: On Comparison between Islamic Law and European Laws: Civil and Commercial Laws, published in 1928, and his translation and comments on the book Mukhtasar Khalil (Khalil’s Treatise), published in 1919. Also, he wrote the chapter, "Law and Society," In: The Legacy of Islam, edited by Thomas Arnold and Alfred Guillaume (1931). A classic study is his, Istituzioni di diritto musulmano malichita, con riguardo anche al sistema sciafiita (2 volumes, 1925-38).

Note: The use of "de" and "von" in the names of Santillana and Dechend are Spanish and German nobiliary particles respectively. Their usage identities that they are originally aristocratic names denoting place of origin, usually an appanage (a royal grant of land) or fief, usually the result of a royal appointment, and are not surnames in the strict sense. A nobiliary particle is used in a family name or surname in many Western cultures to signal the nobility of a family. The particle used varies depending on the country, language and period of time.

Excursus: Biographical information for Emilia de Santillana

Emilia de Santillana (born Maggiorani) (Signora Emilia de Santillana Maggiorani) was active in social movements (women's rights movements). (Also perhaps one or more of the following: agricultural settlements, congregations of charity, orphanages, committees, charitable organizations for orphans of war.) Not a lot seems to be known about her. It is generally stated she flourished circa 1922. She was (at least in 1923) Secretary of the National Council of Women (using the name Emilia Santillana-Maggiorani). She was part of the movement of liberal, democratic, and radical women who before WWII were in the forefront of feminist agitation. This broad movement of women was not at all cooperative with the Fascist government, which actively sought to suppress the moment. In 1881 she received payment of a large amount of funds (but as yet I do not know further details). In 1923 the address for Emilia Santillana-Maggiorani is given as: Via Firenze 48, Rome. (It was once the home of an Aristocratic family; now the small Seiler Hotel. The location is in the (historical) centre of Rome.) See: Women of 1923, International, and Women and Social Movements, International - 1840 to Present. (An archive co-published by the Center for the Historical Study of Women and Gender at SUNY, Binghamton, and Alexander Street Press. Finalised 2012.)

Via Firenze 48, Rome. The residence of the de Santillana family (presumably an apartment within the building).

Record of amount of yearly retirement/pension payments to Emilia Maggiorani.

The Italian nationality de Santillana's were originally Spanish

David de Santillana (Giorgio's father) was a Tunisian Jew of Spanish descent. See the 1936 Passenger Manifest below where Giorgio de Santillana has, for 'Race,' crossed out 'Italian' and written 'Spanish.' Giorgio de Santillana is somehow related to the de Santillana's from Spain. Perhaps the Spanish ancestors of the de Santillana family were expelled from Spain circa the end of the 15th-century, or were exiles from the activities of the Inquisition. It appears that the inclusion of 'Diaz' (i.e., Giorgio Diaz de Santillana was not a leftover from the Spanish rule of Naples or Genoa.

Giorgio de Santillana's student studies

De Santillana was mostly educated in Rome.

De Santillana's student studies were conducted at the University of Rome. He received a Ph.D. (graduated) in physics from the University of Rome in 1925. (His doctoral dissertation was on The theorem of least action in relativist dynamics.) He then did 2 years of graduate work in philosophy (at the Sorbonne?) in Paris and then he also did 2 years of graduate work at the University of Milan (Physics Department) - he was assistant to Aldo Pontremoli in the University of Milan 1926-1927. As a student Giorgio de Santillana was one of a number of people involved in the project by Federigo Enriques (also a Roman of Jewish descent) to present classical period mathematical texts in forms accessible to both students and teachers in secondary schools.

Giorgio de Santillana's early academic career and publications

Circa 1930 (1927?) he was asked by Federigo Enriques, Professor of Higher Geometry at the University of Rome, to help organise a department for the History of Science. The Monthly Supplement, 1955, Page 1742, for the International Who's Who states: "Instructor, Rome University, 1929-1932." As an assistant of Federigo Enriques (in the Institute of the History of Science attached to the University of Rome) he taught the history and philosophy of science at Rome University. (He was an Instructor at the University for 2 years; working in the same university as his father.) He also collaborated with Federigo Enriques on a history of scientific thought that gave particular attention to antiquity. At this later date Federigo Enriques and Giorgio de Santillana worked together on a joint project to produce a comprehensive history of science. However they were only able to complete/publish a part in 1932 (Storia del pensiero scientifico) and then in 1937 (Platon et Aristotle). A publication (shortly after he arrived in the USA) included Mathématiques et astronomie de la période hellénique (1939, 78 pages) co-authored with Federigo Enriques. (Santillana's approach to history in some ways mimics Enriques.) In 1935 he gave a series of lectures at the Sorbonne, and he also conducted colloquia (seminars) in Brussels (Belgium) and Pontigny (France).

Giorgio de Santillana's immigration to the USA

There seems to be three versions of how he came to the USA. One version implies Giorgio de Santillana left Mussolini's Italy in 1938 when the race laws (discriminating against Jews) were introduced in November, 1938, and sought shelter in the USA (as a displaced foreign scholar). The race laws, amongst other things, excluded Jews from State controlled employment. (See: Italian Mathematics Between the Two World Wars by Angelo Guerraggio and Pietro Nastasi (2005, Page 141).) According to a second version Giorgio de Santillana left Mussolini's Italy in 1936 (some say 1935) (as discriminatory measures against Jews there were increasing) and came to the USA, assisted by a committee in the USA, as a displaced foreign scholar. (He was sponsored by The New School for Social Research.) Perhaps the dates mean he left Italy in 1935 and left Europe in 1936. (Either way, he sought shelter in the USA at that general time. I have also seen a third version which states he came to the USA from Paris in 1936 and soon after joined the faculty of MIT. This seems to be the correct version.) According to The Atlantic (Volume 176, 1945) Santillana's opposition to Mussolini drove him into exile. De Santillana was a fervent antifascist. The Monthly Supplement, 1955, Page 1742, for the International Who's Who states: "Came to the US in 1936." Although the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini initially distrusted the racism of Hitler’s National Socialism, he later accepted anti-Semitism. In 1938 Mussolini's government passed legislation which forbade marriage between Jews and non-Jews, and banned Jewish teachers from schools.

1936 passenger ship list recording Giorgio de Santillana.

Naturalization record for Giorgio de Santillana.

Jean Kelly in the United Kingdom has kindly brought my attention to information about Giorgio de Santillana she has uncovered on Ancestry (September, 2010). New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 records that in 1936 he departed from Cherbourg in France (by the passenger ship SS Aquitania, on 6th April) and on 14th April, 1936 he arrived at New York, New York State. Interestingly, for 'Race' he crossed out Italian and wrote 'Spanish.' This low resolution scan, though difficult to read, seems to state that Giorgio de Santillana was married. (A later high resolution scan confirms it.) It also gives his occupation as lecturer. The List also records that in 1946 a Giorgio Santillana departed Orly Airport, Paris and on 21st October, 1946 he arrived at New York, New York State. If this is Giorgio de Santillana then this would have involved one of his first post-war trips overseas. (A Giorgio di Santillana departed Rome, Italy in 1955 and arrived on 13th August, 1955 at Boston, Massachusetts. This is undoubtedly Giorgio de Santillana.) U.S. Naturalization Records Indexes Records, 1794-1995 records that on 26th March, 1945 he became a naturalised citizen of the USA. (Some record details are: Record number: 6551091; Name: Giorgio Diaz deSantillana; Residing at: 383 Harvard Street, Cambridge 38; Age: 42 years (May 30, 1902); Petition number: 282628; Alien registration number: 3178854. 383 Harvard Street is the address of Ware Hall. Ware Hall was built in 1893 and was added to the National Historic Register in 1983. It was primarily a residence comprised of apartments.) The Social Security Death Index records that in 1974 Giorgio Desantillana died in Essex, Massachusetts. (This is undoubtedly Giorgio de Santillana.) (The Florida Death Index, 1877-1998 records that in 1974 Giorgio Diaz Desantillana died in Dade, Florida.) In November 2010 Jean Kelly kindly sent me a high resolution copy of a 1939 page from the U.S. Department of Labor, List or Manifest of Passengers for the United States of America, also uncovered on Ancestry. The information given on this page (unfortunately still sometimes difficult to read) includes: Sailed: Cherbourg, 26th August on the Empress of Australia [A 21,560-ton ocean liner that stayed in service until 1952. The partially completed hull was launched on 20 December 1913 and her first trip was 1 December 1919.]

The ship was built by Vulcan AG shipyard in Stettin (now Szczecin, Poland) for the Hamburg America Line as SS Tirpitz. She was taken as a war reparation in 1919 and sold to Canadian Pacific Steamships and was renamed firstly Empress of China in 1921 and then Empress of Australia in 1922]; Name: George de Santillana; Age 37 years; Married or single: M[arried]; Calling or occupation: Lecturer; Immigration Visa Number: N. Q. 71; Issued at: Paris; Date: 26th [?] August, 1939; Last permanent residence: Rome, Italy. This means he left Italy in 1935, left Europe in 1936 (for the USA), and he returned to Europe again only to leave again in 1939 (and return to the USA). By convention the date generally given by historians for the start of World War II is 1 September 1939, when Germany invaded Poland.

By the end of WWII Italy's Jewish communities had scattered widely. De Santillana was one of scores of Italian exiles who remained in their new country (Palestine, Britain, or USA).

According to Mark Stahlman, de Santillana was a member of the Italian Communist Party. This was not mentioned by de Santillana in any of his immigration or other official documents. However, de Santillana made it known to his friend Norbert Wiener, who was protective of the knowledge. There was the possibility of de Santillana becoming a target of political zealots during the Cold War hysteria. Post WWII was the 'Cold War' period. Wiener was concerned that de Santillana's past communist membership might be exposed and, at that at the very least he might be required to face the HUAC, and as a consequence be deported, or even jailed for falsifying his immigration papers. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was created in 1938 to investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens, public employees, and those organizations suspected of having Communist ties.

Giorgio de Santillana's early academic career in the USA

From 1937 to 1938 de Santillana was an instructor at the New School for Social Research, in New York City. The Monthly Supplement, 1955, Page 1742, for the International Who's Who states: "Lecturer, New School for Social Research, 1936-1937." This was originally founded in New York City in 1919 as a private coeducational institution of higher learning for adults. (In 1997 its name was changed to New School University.) (He was actually connected with the University in Exile. This was founded in 1933 as a graduate division of the New School for Social Research as a haven for scholars who had been dismissed from teaching positions by totalitarian regimes in Europe. See: Intellectuals and Exile: Refuge Scholars and the New School for Social Research by Claus-Dieter Krohn (1993; Page 209). Between 1933 and 1945, Alvin Johnson and the New School sponsored 183 refugee scholars, more than any other American institution.) (His association with the New School of Social Research may help explain his attention to political and social issues extending at least through the end of the 1950s.)

Source: (on left) The Tiger (Official Colorado College Student Newspaper) Friday, March 4, 1938, Page 2; (on right) The Tiger, Friday, March 11, 1938, Volume XXXX, Number 21, Frontpage. De Santillana was an excellent speaker/lecturer.

In 1938 he gave an illustrated lecture on French literature, in French (The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sunday, November 27, 1938, Page 34). "Le sentiment tragique et la litterature en France, 1938."

De Santillana then became a visiting lecturer at Harvard University (1941). (According to The Monthly Supplement, 1955, Page 1742, for the International Who's Who he was a: "Visiting lecturer, Harvard University, 1937-1939.") The Report of the President of Harvard College and Reports of Departments, Volume 38, Issue 20, states: "Dr De Santillana - History of Leading Scientific Ideas from the Earliest Times to the Close of the Nineteenth Century." The Harvard Crimson, Friday, January 28, 1938, states: "Three graduates of foreign Universities are among the appointments to the faculty announced yesterday, to take office next September 1. George de Santillana a graduate of the University of Rome, now at the New School for Social Research in New York City, has been appointed lecturer on the History of Science for one year." The Official Register of Harvard University for 1939, 1940, and 1941 each list George de Santillana of the New School for Social Research, New York City. It is frequently stated he joined MIT in 1941 as Professor of English and History. (One source states he joined MIT in 1942 as Assistant Professor, in 1948 he was made Associate Professor (he was certainly Associate Professor of History at MIT in 1949), and in 1954 he was made Professor of the History of Science [Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science].) The Monthly Supplement, 1955, Page 1742, for the International Who's Who states: "Member, faculty, MIT, 1941." According to The Technology Review, Volume 44, 1942, Page 325, in 1942 de Santillana was promoted to the grade of Assistant Professor, Department of English and History. As late as circa 1950 he was referred to as George de Santillana. (In 1948 his office was 24-222, i.e., Building 24, Room 222. Building 24 was an 8-storey structure constructed in 1941. I do not know whether his office changed location. During the 1960s he had a secretary and also, hanging on one of the office walls, a large portrait of Galileo.) According to one source he became a naturalised citizen of the USA in 1945. However, I believe the date for this is correctly 1947. (According to the magazine Scientific American (1949) George de Santillana was (then) associate professor of history at MIT.)

Excursus: Interestingly, Henry Guerlac and Bernard Cohen. had come to know one another in the late 1930s through taking classes on the history of science in the Renaissance with the then Italian émigré scholar Giorgio de Santillana, then a visiting lecturer at Harvard. Henry Guerlac (1910-1985) was an American historian of science earned his PhD in European history from Harvard in 1941. He taught at Cornell University for 29 years where he was the Goldwin Smith Professor of History. (He introduced the history of science to Cornell Univesity.) Ierome Bernard Cohen (1914-2003) was an American historian of physical science. Cohen was the first American to receive a PhD in history of science, was a Harvard undergraduate (1937) and then a PhD student and protégé of George Sarton. He joined the Harvard faculty as an instructor in physics in 1942 and retired in 1984 as the Victor S. Thomas professor emeritus of the history of science.

Aronow remembers that de Santillana's office in the Humanities Building (Course XXI) was very small. He had several bookshelves but nothing unusual for an office that size. Books were generally strewn around as were papers. Aronow never saw de Santillana's library during his single visit to his home in Beverly.

For Department of Humanities issues see: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Bulletin, Volume 95, Number 2, November, 1959.

Giorgio de Santillana's retirement from MIT

Giorgio de Santillana retired from MIT in 1967. His title became Professor Emeritus in Humanities. He was recognised as an outstanding contributor to the academic reputation of MIT. (See: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Bulletin, Report of the President, 1967, Pages 12 & 220.) Immediately before his retirement he was focused on teaching Greek and Renaissance scientific thought.

A (3-hour) colloquium to honour Giorgio de Santillana on his retirement was held in the Hayden Library Lounge (in May, 1967) which comfortably seated 200 attendees. At the time of his death in 1974 Giorgio de Santillana was (apparently) Professor Emeritus, History and Philosophy of Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Excursus: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

MIT is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1861, it adopted the European polytechnic university model. In 1916 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) moved its campus from the Back Bay of Boston across the Charles River to Cambridge.

Aerial view of MIT campus in the 1960s.

According to Jerome Lettvin (telephone conversation, 15/9/2006) up until the end of the 1960s at least, at MIT everything was sporadic [patchy] - without tight management [by senior level of campus management]. Teaching staff self-organised a lot of activities as a way to get things done..

Giorgio de Santillana's efforts in establishing academic recognition for the history of science

At the time de Santillana secured his employment at MIT the recognition of the history of science as a scholarly discipline had not yet been established. (De Santillana was a second-generation historian of science as his father had been one of the most distinguished practitioners of that discipline at the turn of the 19th-century.) In the 1930s few universities in the USA had a graduate program in the history of science. Due to George Sarton's efforts at Harvard University the Ph.D. degree in the history of science was established. "Only recently has the history of science, thanks to the unflagging efforts of Dr. George Sarton and others, begun to achieve the recognition it deserves as a scholarly discipline in its own right." ("Science." by Francis Johnson and Sanford Larkey (Modern Language Quarterly, 1941, Volume 2, Number 3, Pages 363-401).) Both Willy Hartner and Giorgio de Santillana joined the Harvard group of history of science instructors in and shortly after 1935, and they both, in turn, formed new centres of work and instruction in the history of science. After World War II the principal persons who established the history of science as a recognised discipline within American universities are George Sarton, I. Bernard Cohen, Henry Guerlac, and Marshall Clagett.

Marshall Clagett was one of the first professional historians of science emerging from university studies in the USA after WWII.

Giorgio de Santillana's war time service

From 1943 to 1945 de Santillana was on the staff of the United States Army newspaper Stars and Stripes as a 'war correspondent.' One source states he returned to MIT in 1945. In 1945 de Santillana spent 8 months in Europe reporting on Italy. (It is unclear whether he was still in the US Army or with MIT at this time.) During the summer of 1946 he spent 4 months touring Italy and France. (See: "Europe Analyzed By De Santillana" in The Tech, Volume LXVI, Number 28, December 6, 1946, Pages 1 & 2.) In 1946 at least he was still with the English and History Department, MIT. I have no other knowledge/details of his war time service (The Monthly Supplement, 1955, Page 1742, for the International Who's Who). It was possibly because of his military service that his naturalisation as a USA citizen was facilitated.

The spelling George di Santillana

The spelling George di Santillana also appears. As example: For authorship of the articles "The Private and Public Life of Socrates." in The Commonweal, Volume 31, 1940; and "Galileo, the Ancient" in Science, Volume 96, 1942 (containing papers of Galileo symposium by the American Association for the Advancement of Science). (The spelling George di Santillana was used into the 1950s.) The American Association for the Advancement of Science Symposium in 1942 was in commemoration of the 300th anniversary of Galileo's death. In addition to Giorgio de Santillana, on "Galileo, the Ancient"; the participants were Henry Crew, on "Galileo, Pioneer in Physics"; and Chauncey Leake, on "Contributions of Science to the Concept of Freedom."

Excursus: Giorgio de Santillana's abiding interest in political and social issues

De Santillana retained an interest in political and social issues. As well as being a historian of science he was also a cultural historian.

Swarthmore Phoenix (Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA), Volume LVI, Number 24, April 27, 1937.

See: Norbert Wiener, Karl Deutsch, Giorgio de Santillana, "How U.S. Cities Can Prepare for Atomic War." (Life, 18 December, 1950, Pages 76-86). Though the decentralized defence plan was originated, planned and calculated by the cybernetician Norbert Wiener; both Karl Deutsch and Giorgio de Santillana, members of M.I.T.'s history department, were ask to assist in its writing (and some fact-checking).

Carl Aldrich (https://carljaldrich.wordpress.com/tag/giorgio-de-santillana/): "Professors Norbert Wiener, a mathematician, Karl Deutsch, a political scientist, and Giorgio de Santillana, a historian, used the platform of LIFE magazine (Dec. 18, 1950) to outline their idea for "Life Belts" around major cities. These circular highways would be located approximately ten miles from the city center, with roads leading to them as spokes on a wheel. The three men designated the perimeter of the Life Belts as evacuation points for city dwellers. There would be tent cities, hospitals, rail services, food stocks, gasoline, and, of course, shopping malls. While awaiting the attack, the road could serve as a way to ease congestion in the metropolitan areas. Although they submitted the full manuscript of their "Civil Defense Plan" to academic journals, LIFE remains the only place that any part of it has been published. It seems to have stopped with that. Their creating a "Life Belt" plan was divergent from their normal projects, which they returned to without actively pursuing other avenues.

"The City as Communications Net: Norbert Wiener, the Atomic Bomb, and Urban Dispersal." by Robert Kargon and Arthur Molella (Technology and Culture, Volume 45, Number 4, October 2004, Pages. 764-777).: "In 1950, soon after finishing his cybernetics manifesto The Human Use of Human Beings, Wiener drafted an impromptu article on a subject ostensibly far removed from his primary interests in feedback control and information theory. It was a radical plan to redesign American cities in an attempt to solve problems of industrial concentration and urban congestion that he believed made them vulnerable to atomic attack. After completing the draft, he enlisted as collaborators two MIT colleagues and friends, the political scientist Karl W[olfgang]. Deutsch and the historian of science Giorgio de Santillana, who fleshed out Wiener's prose with some of their own. The trio also consulted with members of the MIT urban planning department and others concerned with civilian defense. The manuscript apparently never made it into print, despite the collaborators' efforts. Its only public trace was a December 1950 feature in Life magazine, in which the three authors were interviewed about their "preparedness plan." Life's interest had been triggered by the unforeseen entrance of Communist China into the Korean War, which suddenly raised the prospect of nuclear Armageddon. The plan referred to in that interview does not appear in Wiener's bibliography as one of his publications, but we were able to track down the manuscript among his papers in the MIT archives. The undated document, almost certainly composed in the months leading up to the Life interview, appears in several drafts, the final version of which bears the title "Cities that Survive the Bomb." Although Deutsch and de Santillana are named as coauthors, Wiener was the principal writer and originator of the plan."

Giorgio de Santillana's historical perspective

De Santillana specialised in parallels between historical issues in science and present conflicts (for example, Oppenheimer / Galileo). (This comparison did not always meet with agreement and was viewed by some as forced.) He also specialised in Galileo. "Historian Giorgio de Santillana was directly inspired by the Oppenheimer case in writing The Crime of Galileo, published in 1958 (sic). In both cases, he argued, the free "scientific mind" was at odds with "Reasons of State." (Oppenheimer: The Tragic Intellect by Charles Thorpe (2006)

Giorgio de Santillana's early occult and pseudo-scientific leanings

His MIT courses showed flexibility. In the early 1950s Giorgio de Santillana, taught/conducted a one-year course on the inner meaning of Dante's Divine Comedy for Seyyed Hossein Nasr and his friends. De Santillana also introduced Nasr to the writings of René Guénon (sometimes spelled Guéron), who is considered by followers/disciples to be one of the 20th-century luminaries. De Santillana conducted an evening seminar at MIT that studied Hinduism through the works of René Guénon. (In Search of the Sacred by Seyyed Nasr with Ramin Jahanbegloo (2010, Page 42).) Guénon's writings have played a decisive role in laying the intellectual foundation of Nasr's traditionalist perspective. He was later decisively influenced by Frithjof Schuon, a leading exponent of the Advaita Vedanta school of philosophy.

Giorgio de Santillana wrote the Preface for Science and civilization in Islam by Seyyed Hossein Nasr (1968).

What is interesting is that de Santillana was Associate Professor of History at MIT in 1949, and in 1954 he was made Professor of the History of Science [Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science]. However, he seems to have made considerable effort to give attention to esoteric topics.

Seyyed Nasr was born (1933) into an Iranian family who were part of the Westernized Iranian elite. His father, Seyyed Valiallah, was a physician to the Iranian royal family, and also a political and intellectual figure. He was one of the founders of modern education in Iran (apparently the Iranian minister of education and dean of the Faculty of Humanities at Tehran University). At age 12(13?) years Seyyed Nasr was sent to a school in the USA. Though Seyyed Nasr completed his degree in science at MIT he felt that natural science was limited as a means of explanation of reality. (This early conviction was never to be reviewed. It seems to have been easily accepted without any further need for exploration. It might well have led to the conclusion that science is concerned with making factual statements. Also, the conclusion might have been reached that it is impossible to transcend the human reference point. Subjective preference/inclination seems indicated.) Seyyed Nasr turned his attention to philosophy and adopted intellectual principles of the Traditionalist School of metaphysics. During his MIT studies Nasr became acquainted with the works of the perennialist philosopher Frithjof Schuon and this school of thought has shaped Nasr's life and thinking ever since. Nasr has been a disciple of Frithjof Schuon for over 50 years and his works are based on the doctrine and the viewpoints of the perennial philosophy. Frithjof Schuon,(1907-1998) was a philosopher/metaphysicist/occultist inspired by the Hindu philosophy of Advaita Vedanta He was considered the foremost spokesman of the "Traditionalist" or "Perennialist" school and as a philosopher in the metaphysical current of Adi Shankara, also known as Shankaracharya (8th-century CE Hindu philosopher and theologian, leading exponent of the Advaita Vedanta school of philosophy), and Plato. Seyyed Nasr is essentially an Islamic philosopher and metaphysician/mystic/occultist. Seyyed Nasr is certain that there is such a thing as the Truth and that it can be attained through knowledge by means of the intellect that is guided and illuminated by divine revelation.

René Guénon (1886-1951), also known as Shaykh 'Abd al-Wahid Yahya, was a French neo-Gnostic author, Sufi, and intellectual who still remains an influential figure in metaphysic studies, having written on topics ranging from metaphysics, "sacred science," and traditional studies, to symbolism and initiation. Basically, René Guénon was an occultist who was opposed to the rational traditions of the western sciences. Likely, the interest for de Santillana was Guénon incorporated ideas and speculations about astronomical mythology. The precessional "Great Year" played a part in his esoteric/metaphysical system. See: Fundamental Symbols: The Universal Language of the Sacred by René Guénon (French language 1962; English translation 1995). Interestingly, René Guénon believed in the existence of ancient Thule (from an occult perspective), a Nordic equivalent of the vanished civilization of Atlantis. Guénon "wrote apocalyptic diatribes against rationalism and western ideas of progress." In his book, The Crisis of the Modern World (1978), he "identified a sacred tradition as the controlling force in the universe" and "argued that the sterility and degradation in the modern world was the direct result of the substitution of economic growth for metaphysics and the abandonment of the rigid tradition of medieval Christianity." (See: The Devil and James McAuley (1999, Pages 92-93) by Cassandra Pybus.) See also the critique of René Guénon in Essai su le mystère de l'histoire by Jean Daniélou (1953, Pages 120-126). Robin Waterfield notes that Guénon followers/disciples tend to see The Crisis of the Modern World "as an infallible textbook giving the correct attitude to be adopted when confronted with a problem or situation." The Primordial Tradition concept supported by René Guénon is a school of religious philosophy that holds its origins in the philosophia perennis (perennial philosophy), which is in turn a development of the prisca theologia of the Middle Ages. The Primordial Tradition seeks to establish a fundamental substrata of religious belief in all authentic religious teachings, adhering to the principle that universal truths are a cross cultural phenomenon and transcendent of their respective Traditions, mythologies, and religious beliefs. The process utilized is similar to the study of the history of religions and comparative mythology as is found in the works of authors such as Mircea Eliade. It can also be found in the school of archetypal psychology and in the ideas of Carl Jung. The metaphysical/esoteric philosopher Frithjof Schuon (1907-1998) wrote: "More than once, one has the impression that Guénon reads into documents what he wishes to find in them." See also: Against the Modern World by Mark Sedgwick (2004). A biography of René Guénon.

Mircea Eliade (1907-1986) Romanian historian of religion, and professor at the University of Chicago. Eliade argued that the Panbabylonian school was correct in comparing religious phenomena which were "historically related and structurally analogous." Eliade drew on a number of Panbabylonian ideas. "Wheatley's arguments concerning the axis mundi was based on the work of Eliade. Eliade in turn based his arguments on the Pan-Babylonian scholars - with the crucial difference that the Pan-Babylonian scholars saw notions of the sacred center as diffused from the Near East, whereas Eliade saw them as a universal aspect of what he called primitive cultures. In other words the entire notion of an axis mundi came originally from the Pan-Babylonian scholars' reading of Near Eastern materials, and Eliade, and later Wheatley, then universalized the notion. However, the existence of the notion of an axis mundi in the Near Eastern materials has been called into question as well. As Jonathan Z. Smith (To Take Place, p. 16) has argued: "There is no pattern of the 'Center' in the sense that the Pan-Babylonians and Eliade described it in the Near Eastern materials." (To Become a God: Cosmology, Sacrifice, and Self-Divinization in Early China by Michael Pratt (2002, Page 42, Note 37.) Mircea Eliade has been described as "notoriously reluctant" to elaborate on the origins of mythological motifs. However, what few statements he did make on the issue demonstrate his close affinity with the ideas of the nature-school of the early 19th-century (i.e., Max Müller). (For example see Eliade's: Patterns in Comparative Religion (1958, Pages 449 onwards.) The Romanian émigré-scholar to the USA, Mircea Eliade recognized he was not "systematic" in his explanations and that he failed to express his views in a logical and rigorous manner.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr (The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr (2001, Page 17 & 18) makes several interesting comments about Giorgio de Santillana: "He had been a collaborator with Émile Meyerson in the effort to combat logical positivism. … He was also seriously interested in Hinduism and Islamic thought, his father David de Santillana having been one of the foremost Islamicists of Italy. … [H]e was deeply interested in traditional metaphysics and metaphysical philosophy and regretted their eclipse in the modern West." Science and Civilization in Islam by Seyyed Hussein Nasr (1968) contained a Preface by Giorgio de Santillana. For the book's inaccuracies and mystical interpretation see the (English-language) book review by A. G. Molland in The British Journal for the History of Science, Volume 4, Number 4, December, 1969, Page 416.

"De Santillana himself had been a friend and collaborator of Émile Meyerson [(1859-1933), Polish-born French epistemologist, chemist, and philosopher of science] and opposed [Henri] Poincaré in the famous debates that were carried on in the early part of the 20th century in France." (In Search of the Sacred by Seyyed Nasr with Ramin Jahanbegloo (2010, Page 40).) Poincaré's writings about the foundations of mathematics inevitably led to discussions/debates about the nature of knowledge and certainty. The French mathematician Henri Poincaré (1854-1912) is regarded as perhaps the greatest celestial mechanic of all time. The study of celestial behaviour in celestial mechanics dates back to the pioneering work of Henri Poincaré on the so-called three-body problem. It resulted in the introduction of the revolutionary concept of chaos into celestial mechanics.

There is reason to believe that at least some of his ideas concerning the early history of science bordered on the mystical. In a 1994 (1997?) interview Jerome Lettvin related that de Santillana would conduct Tarot readings (and seemed to earnestly believe in the veracity of such). According to Lettvin, de Santillana conducted a Tarot reading for his wife Maggie and multiple Tarot readings for Walter Pitts, who constantly requested such. In his autobiography in The History of Neuroscience in Autobiography, Volume 2 (1998, Pages 222-243), edited by Larry Squire, Lettvin writes (Page 234): "One of my best friends at MIT was Giorgio de Santillana, the historian of ideas. He was a most learned and kindly man with a mordant wit. Walter, Wiener, and I often hung out at his office. (Both Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend were acknowledged influences on Jerome (Jerry) Lettvin.) Giorgio was a past-master at fortune-telling with the Tarot. Wiener loved having his fortune told. Giorgio vainly tried to persuade him that the Tarot should be a rare and sometime thing to be used only in crisis, but Wiener would have none of such excuses. For example, Walter and I used it when we started a new experimental venture." Needless to say this is all quite bizarre. (One supporter of Hamlet's Mill attempts to dismiss this as merely the 'lighter side' of de Santillana. Nothing supports this view.) (At least one academic offered that in 1944 Giorgio de Santillana gave a talk in which he appears to have indicated his belief in a "quasi-mystical unanalyzable sort of event." (See: The Foundational Debate: Complexity and Constructivity in Mathematics and Physics edited by Werner DePauli-Schimanovich et al. (Series: Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook, Volume 3; 1995, Page 271).) Giorgio de Santillana had Merlin fantasies. It appears de Santillana held the fantasy that he was the reincarnation of Merlin travelling backwards in time.) He would sometimes sign his letters (and books) "Giorgio (Merlin)" or simply "Merlin." This is very bizarre.

Hertha von Dechend and the tarot

"An investigation of the original scientific meaning of tarot cards has been started without mutual knowledge by Phyllis Ackerman in the United States and by Hertha von Dechend in Germany." ("The Origin of the Alphabet." by Livio Stecchini (The American Behavioural Scientist, February 1, 1961, Volume 4, Issue 6, Pages 3-7, Page 5).) 'Tarot' does not appear in the index to Hamlet's Mill. Obviously the intention of von Dechend was to link an ancient tarot with cosmology.

The original purpose of tarot cards was to play games, a very cursory explanation of rules for a tarot-like deck is given in a manuscript by Martiano da Tortona before 1425. When not used for card games tarot cards are used primarily for divinatory purposes. Livio Stecchini believed that tarot cards originated in Mesopotamian. Playing cards first entered Europe in the late 14th-century, most likely from Mamluk Egypt. The first documented tarot packs were recorded between 1440 and 1450 in Milan, Ferrara, Florence and Bologna. For a completely speculate alternative history see perhaps: Origins of the Tarot Deck: Study of the Astronomical Substructure of Game and Divining Boards by Stephen Franklin (1988). Franklin is basically an occultist and supporter of Hamlet’s Mill.

Phil Norfleet, an uncritical supporter of Hamlet's Mill and its authors, uncritically (and without explanation) describes de Santillana as "an expert on Tarot card reading." Norfleet offers no evidence to support what is somebody else's opinion. This statement concerning tarot use simply identified that de Santillana was credulous/superstitious. The tarot deck is used for divination. The earliest known tarot decks were not designed with divination in mind; they were actually meant for playing a parlor game (a game called triumph) similar to modern-day bridge. There is no documented evidence of the tarot being developed for divination purposes or of the usage of tarot for divination before the 18th-century. Also, tarot cards are not ancient. According to Tarot historian Tom Tadfor Little, traditional playing cards were first seen in Europe in 1375, having been brought over from the Islamic societies where they had been used for centuries before that. These cards were not, however, Tarot cards. At this point, he says, there is no evidence to show that Tarot cards had yet been created, which goes against many claims that ordinary playing cards evolved from the original Tarot deck. It wasn't until 1440 that the cards that were most likely the origin of Tarot cards were first mentioned.

Giorgio de Santillana's academic interest in art

Giorgio de Santillana had an academic interest in art. (See: De Santillana, Giorgio. "The Role of Art in the Scientific Renaissance." In: Critical Problems in the History of Science edited by Marshall Clagett, (1959) pages 33-65; Reprinted in: The Rise of Modern Science edited by G. Basalla (1968) pages 76-82.) At least for 1961-1962 de Santillana was a member of the Renaissance Society of America.

Giorgio de Santillana and Galileo

Henry Guerlac states that for de Santillana "Galileo is the central symbolic figure linking the Ancients with the Moderns." (Galileo's lifework in mechanics was a sort of watershed between medieval and modern science. A large part of Galileo's work challenged previously held Aristotelian assumptions. Among the most prominent were his studies of projectile motion and inertia. Galileo destroyed the fabric of Aristotelian science on which medieval thought had rested. Due to the influence of Aristotelian philosophy on religion at the time it can be seen that these new views were an indirect challenge to religious authority.) George Basalla (The Rise of Modern Science (1968)) wrote: "Few who write on Renaissance science today can match de Santillana's knowledge of the philosophical currents of that era." For errors in De Santillana's scholarship on Galileo see: Galileo, Science, and the Church by Jerome Langford (1992). Also see: Galileo and the Church: Political Inquisition or Critical Dialogue by Rivka Feldhay (1995).

For a quite different account of the origin of Galileo's troubles with Rome see, Galileo, Heretic by Pietro Redondi (1987). (See also: The Advancement of Science by Philip Kitcher (1995).

Mary Lefkowitz and Guy Rogers (Black Athena Revisited, 1996, Page 223), discussing Martin Bernal's claims for de Santillana, state: "  ... de Santillana was at best a minor figure, hardly "one of the greatest, if not the greatest, historians of Renaissance science" (BA I:275). His provocative, sympathetic and pro-Galileo, and passionately anticlerical book on Galileo's trial, The Crime of Galileo (1955), does not stand up very well in the light of recent research on Galileo's trial and its background, and his revision of a seventeenth-century English version of Galileo's Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1953) was already superseded when it appeared by the publication of Stillman Drake's superior translation in the same year." (Worth referring to is: "New Galilean Studies." by Giorgio de Santillana (Isis, Volume 33, Number 6, June, 1942, Pages 654-656.) De Santillana's edition of Galileo's Dialogue on the Great World Systems [Concerning the Two Chief World Systems] was the first modern English translation in 300 years, based on the early translation of Thomas Salusbury (published in 1661). In 1664 Salusbury also published a life of Galileo. Critics did praise de Santillana's efforts (see the favourable English-language book reviews by Douglas McKie in The New Scientist, 3rd October, 1957, Page 35; and the book review in Scientific American, Volume 189, 1953, Page 104), which had involved de Santillana in painstaking research and also a painstaking revision of the Thomas Salusbury version. It had a 40-page historical introduction  and inclusion of numerous notes. However, it is criticised for remaining muddled and inaccurate in places. It was during the course of these efforts that de Santillana had the idea of writing The Crime of Galileo (a revisionist view of events concerning Galileo's conflict with the Catholic Church.). Critics of this book pointed out errors and erroneous claims, especially in de Santillana's discussion of "Ad Lectorem." (See: The Copernican Achievement by Robert Westman (1975, page 240).)

At least Professor Robert Palter (when at the University of Texas at Austin) held that de Santillana's reputation as a translator of Galilean material is low present-day. (See: Black Athena Writes Back (2001) edited by David Moore.)  (Robert Palter was at least 1995-2006, Dana Professor of the History of Science (Emeritus), Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut.) De Santillana's reputation certainly reached a low ebb with the publication of Hamlet's Mill.

The Crime of Galileo has been published in French, Italian, Swedish, and German languages.

De Santillana's dispute with Arthur Koestler over Galileo

Giorgio de Santillana had an ongoing dispute/disagreement with Arthur Koestler regarding Galileo. It concerned their contrasting views of the Galileo trial. De Santillana's pro-Galileo, antichurchmen stance in The Crime of Galileo (1955) was opposed by Arthur Koestler in The Sleepwalkers (1959). (See: Galileo, Science, and the Church by Jerome Langford (3rd-edition, 1992, Page 197).) Likely also over Koestler's overly-critical approach to some of Galileo's ideas, in his book The Sleepwalkers (1959). See: the book review article: "Arthur Koestler and His Sleepwalkers." by Giorgio de Santillana and Stillman Drake (Isis, Volume 50, Number 3, September, 1959, Pages 255-260). It sets out the view that Koestler is unfair to Galileo. See also "Reply" i.e., "Replies to a review of The Sleepwalkers by Giorgio De Santillana and Stillman Drake." (Isis, Volume 51, March, 1960, Pages 73-76).

In his book de Santillana supported the view that Galileo was unfairly persecuted (and this was taken as evidence of anticlerical prejudice). For de Santillana, Galileo was a hero of science who was brought down by Roman Catholic senior churchmen. For a discussion that de Santillana's 1955 book on Galileo is a biased work see: Galileo's Mistake by Wade Rowland (2003, Page 11).

Excerpt from: Intelligent Inference and the Web of Belief by Ronald Pine (1996, PhD Thesis, Chapter 2: The Copernicus Episode.) "The initial review of Koestler's book by Santillana and Drake(5) [Santillana, George and Drake, Stillman, (1959), Isis, Vol. 50.] was equally extreme, prompting further shrill responses in defense of Koestler. According to Santillana and Drake, Koestler depicts the founding fathers of the Copernican revolution as "antisocial schemers, cowards, liars, hypocrites, irresponsible cranks or contemptuous snobs." In portraying the revolution this way, they claim Koestler has the "unique inability to understand what Galileo wrote" and "the distinction of being the first writer to misunderstand (Galileo's sunspot argument) entirely," that Koestler's book is full of "insolent misrepresentations" and his "ulterior motive" is the "blackening of science as the destroyer of 'spiritual values'," and finally that his thesis is "repugnant to everything we have written, and in contradiction with all that we have learned in the course of years devoted to these studies."(6) [Santillana, George and Drake, Stillman, (1959), Isis, Vol. 50.] According to Santillana and Drake, one of the many things we have learned is that "Galileo seems to have been practically the only man of his age who was fully aware of what was happening and what would follow."(7) [Santillana, George and Drake, Stillman, (1959), Isis, Vol. 50, Page 255, Note. 2. An extreme characterization when one considers Galileo's adherence to circular motion and his flipflop on comets.] For a response to this review, consider Mark Graubard's summation after noting that Santillana's and Drake's attack of Koestler was "hostile to a degree rarely encountered in academic literature: . . . history shows reason and scientific rightness to have been with Bellarmine and not with Galileo, who truly had no evidence besides the phases of Venus which disproved Ptolemy, but not Brahe. There was indeed no real proof. . . . The overall work of traditional historians such as Santillana, compares to the contribution of Koestler much as the work of rat-psychologists compares to the contribution of a Sophocles, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy or Faulkner to our knowledge of the human psyche, even though here and there Santillana does point to a slight inaccuracy of no genuine relevance."(8) [Graubard, Mark, (1976), "The Sleepwalkers: Its Contribution and Impact." In: Astride the Two Cultures: Arthur Koestler at 70, Harold Harris, (Editor), Pages 21-36; see Pages 31-32.]."

De Santillana's dispute with Otto Neugebauer over Pythagoreanism

Source: "Otto Neugebauer's Vision for Rewriting the History of Ancient Mathematics." by David Rowe (Anabases: Traditions et réceptions de l'Antiquité, Volume 18, 2013, Pages 175-196, see Pages 10-11).

This is something of a contrast to Hamlet's Mill. In Hamlet's Mill the authors argue for the pre-Greek origin of mathematics and astronomy.

Giorgio de Santillana's frequent overseas trips

Beginning early in the post WWII period de Santillana made a number of overseas trips to Europe. De Santillana was The Atlantic (journal) correspondent in Italy in the years immediately following the end of World War II. In 1946 at least (and probably as early as 1943) he was a foreign correspondent in Italy and Yugoslavia for The Atlantic. He made annual visits abroad during the summer.

He was a Fulbright Fellow in Italy, 1954-1955.

De Santillana also visited England several times (at least 1957 and 1961). The Oxford Magazine, Volume 76, 1957, reported that Giorgio de Santillana was visiting Oxford on Friday, 30th May (to lecture on "The Issues in Galileo's Trial"). It appears that de Santillana's trip to Europe in 1961 (encompassing at least Oxford, England and Naples, Italy) was at least partly in the company of Jerome Lettvin and his family. (Jerome Lettvin and family visited Naples in 1961.) De Santillana's trip to Italy may have encompassed meeting his son Ludovico and his wife Anna, and grandchildren Laura and Allessandro. (Laura is Italian, she was born in Venice (Italy) in 1955 (some sources incorrectly state 1950) and studied at the School of the Visual Arts in New York. She lives and works in Venice, Italy. Allessandro was born in 1959 in Paris (France) and was educated at The University of Venice, Venice, Italy.)

The committee of the Associazione Culturale Italiana invited de Santillana to give a lecture in Turin in March, 1963, entitled "Fato antico e fato moderno" ("Ancient and Modern Ideas of Fate"). One of the major points of the lecture was the idea that "the great cosmological myths both preceded and had been the equivalent of modern science."

The Experimental Epistemology Laboratory

At MIT Giorgio de Santillana, Hertha von Dechend, Harald Reiche, Jerome Lettvin, Warren McCulloch, and Walter Pitts were all part of a group which called itself the Experimental Epistemology Laboratory. (Norbert Wiener may have been also part of the group. Wiener associated closely with de Santillana.) This was Jerome Lettvin's laboratory and office and was a gathering point for group meetings. MIT materials science professor Robert Rose recalls Lettvin was perhaps at his best holding forth at the giant table in his Building 20 office, where colleagues loved "schmoozing and arguing and calling each other names." (See: MIT News Magazine, January/February, 2013.) (Jerome Lettvin's office and multiple laboratories occupied Wing C of Building 20.) For many years, Jerome Lettvin's laboratory located in the easternmost wing of ramshackle Building 20 at MIT had a sign reading "Experimental Epistemology Laboratory" on the door. (According to another version the sign actually read "J. Y. Lettvin Experimental Epistemology.")

The name "experimental epistemology" likely owes to Warren McCulloch. According to one informed source "Experimental Epistemology" was a phrase coined by Jerry Lettvin and Oliver Selfridge. The phrase was a sign on the door of McCulloch's new state-of-the-art brain research laboratory. From 1952 (when he joined MIT) until his death in 1968/1969? Warren McCulloch (1898-1968/1969?) was a professor at MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics. McCulloch was a physician (who trained in neurology, 1928-1931) turned physiologist. McCulloch characterised his work as 'experimental epistemology,' the study of the nature of knowledge through understanding the nature of the brain within which it resides. 'Experimental epistemology' is a pun on the EE of 'electrical engineering.' Warren McCulloch worked with, and influenced, Jerry Lettvin at MIT. (McCulloch was Lettvin's mentor. Both were irreverent. McCulloch and Lettvin initially met in 1941 when Lettvin was McCulloch's student.) Working with Walter Pitts, McCulloch constructed a logical model of the nature of mental activity. (However, without Pitts' continued input McCulloch's logical models encountered significant problems.)  (See: Systems Thinking by Magnus Ramage and Karen Shipp (2009, Page 28).)

In the 1950s and 1960s "the Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT was a playground of new thought. Engineers, mathematicians, and scientists mingled with linguists and poets, artists and musicians, [etc] …." (Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science edited by Lynn Nadel (Volume 1, 2003, Page 1042.)

For decades Lettvin was located in (or kept control of) a small decrepit wooden shack on the roof of the EE building (the tall old physics building). The meetings of the Experimental Epistemology Laboratory took place in this location because Lettvin enjoyed smoking and the shack was the room at MIT that was not subject to a smoking ban (MIT allowed him to smoke there after bans were introduced). At one time Lettvin was smoking 3 packets of cigarettes per day. Access was via an elevator and then a final climb up a rickety staircase to the roof. The door lock was then opened with a credit card or similar 'tool.' The meetings of the Experimental Epistemology Laboratory were held on Friday afternoons. The regular attendance of 'members' (MIT academic staff and students) was occasionally bolstered (apart from birds and bats) by the presence of a visitor (often a noted academic visiting MIT). In 1960 the British academic Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) arrived at MIT as Carnegie visiting professor of humanities. He became an occasional visitor to Experimental Epistemology Laboratory. (Aldous Huxley came to live in the USA in 1936.)

Tim Wilson, writing in 2005 about his student experiences at MIT in the early 1970s, recollects that he "got to hang out at Lettvin's lab, which was a kind of nearly-never-ending bull session on everything." also, Abe Aronow frequently 'hung out' at Experimental Epistemology Laboratory. He recalls: "The place was marvelously stimulating, although the "Bull" was often boot high."

Norbert Wiener, Warren McCulloch, Walter Pitts, and Giorgio de Santillana discussed the construction of a practical philosophy of technology for the modern age. (Jerome Lettvin and others would also meet in Giorgio de Santillana's office.) (During 1965-1966 Douglass Carmichael - then a student - spent a lot of time with Jerry Lettvin.) In 1951 Giorgio de Santillana and Walter Pitts collaborated in a rebuttal of Erich Frank's attempt in the 1920s to reject all the fragments attributed to the 5th-century Greek philosopher Philolaus as spurious. (See: "Philolaos in Limbo, or: What Happened to the Pythagoreans?" by George de Santillana and Walter Pitts (Isis, Volume 42, Part 2, 1951, Pages 112-120).) Walter Pitts and Hertha von Dechend were also very close friends, had lots of lengthy conversations, and Walter Pitts had a small influence on Hamlet's Mill. Walter Pitts was a participating audience member for the 1961 seminar. He also prepared a critical summary of Norman Lockyer's work, The Dawn of Astronomy, which Hertha von Dechend presented as the 1961 seminar continued. (During the early 1960s Giorgio de Santillana and Walter Pitts collaborated on a book on Parmenides. It later appeared as an essay only. Walter Pitts believed that he had a metaphysical experience when he was young that enabled him to see that logic rules the universe.)

Abe Aronow believes (personal communication): "There was an undoubted intellectual cabal at MIT at that time [the 1960s] that provided cross pollination and lots of stimulus to the students." The intellectual cabal was likely based around the group of MIT academics which called itself the Experimental Epistemology Laboratory. (The definition in Wikipedia is likely best describes the issue: "A cabal is a group of people united in some close design together, usually to promote their private views or interests in a church, state, or other community, often by intrigue.") The core 'members' of the Experimental Epistemology Laboratory were a small cabal in their support and promotion of the ideas of de Santillana and von Dechend.

See also: "(Physio)logical circuits: The intellectual origins of the McCulloch-Pitts neural networks." by Tara Abraham (Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Volume 38, Number 1, February 2002, Pages 3-25).

Excursus: Building 20

Building 20 at 18 Vassar Street was built by MIT in 1943 (during WWII) and demolished in 1996. It is commonly stated it took less than 1 day to design. It was intended to demolish the building at the end of WWII. It was built as a temporary structure to house part of the Radiation Laboratory. With the end of WWII and the disbandment of the Radiation Laboratory the building was consigned to (returned to the control of) MIT. The all-wooden structure was termed "Plywood Palace." After some dormancy the building became the first residence for the Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE). RLE was founded in 1946. Jerry Lettvin gained a full-time entry-level position at MIT at the RLE. As the building was made to support heavy loads even the roof was used to house equipment and instruments.

Short biographical note for Jerome Lettvin

Jerome Lettvin (Chicago, 23.2.1920 - Hingham, MA, 23.4.2011), a charismatic figure, was a cognitive researcher at MIT and eventually Professor Emeritus of Electrical and Bioengineering and Communications Physiology. Lettvin joined MIT in 1951. In Encounter, Volumes 64-65, 1985, Page 18, Dr Jerome Lettvin is described as "Professor of Communications, Physiology, and Bio-engineering in the Departments of Computer Science, Biology, and Electrical Engineering at MIT."

Lettvin trained as a neurologist and M.D. at the University of Illinois receiving a B.S. and an M.D. (in 1943) and, was an intern at Boston City Hospital. The U.S. Army provided him with further training as a psychiatrist, and he was an Army doctor during the Battle of the Bulge. After WWII he spent 1 year as a neurologist at the University of Rochester, then a further 3½ years as a psychiatrist at Manteno State Hospital in Illinois.

In the Fall of 1946 Lettvin came to MIT as a specialist student. Jerome Lettvin, Walter Pitts, and Oliver Selfridge shared a flat at 139 Beacon Street in Boston. In her 2012 article Tara Abraham states very quickly they befriended de Santillana. Lettvin and Oliver Selfridge (1926-2008) are described as being engaged in endless scientific and money-making schemes. Selfidge was attached to the Lincoln Laboratory, MIT, for his entire career. For a time both Jerome Lettvin and Walter Pitts lived in Walter McCulloch's house. Lettvin remained a lifelong friend of Walter Pitts. It is indicated that not everybody was happy with the influence of Lettvin on Pitts.

Lettvin gave generously of his time even when busy with work demands. Lettvin's great idol was the Spanish pathologist, histologist and neuroscientist Ramon y Cajal (1852-1934, a Nobel laureate), a volume of whose work was always kept nearby. Jerry Lettvin smoked 3 packets of cigarettes per day and for a large duration of his adult life he weighed approximately 137 kilograms (300 pounds). He lived to be 88 years old.

On retirement, Jerry Lettvin’s title became Professor of Electrical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, Emeritus, at MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

See the Obituary for Jerome Lettvin in The Boston Globe, May 15, 2011; and the Obituary notice by Alex Andrew in Kybernetes, Volume 40, Issues 7/8. See also the Wikipedia entry: Jerome Lettvin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerome_Lettvin). At the 'memorial' website for Jerome Lettvin he is mentioned as being an influence on de Santillana and von Dechend. This is likely connected with his studies of cognition.

Lettvin wanted von Dechend to remain in the USA (telephone conversation, 15/9/2006). I would presume that he would have attempted to find a permanent position for her at MIT.

Jerome Lettvin and Hamlet's Mill

Jerry Lettvin, a supporter of Hamlet's Mill, suggested that the myth of Perseus not only encodes knowledge about the Mediterranean fauna and especially various species of squid. Lettvin also makes a case for the Gorgons and Phorcyades in the myth of Perseus corresponding to squid, sepia, and octopus. Also, knowledge about the constellations that bear the name of the protagonists with special focus on Algol (the only star whose brightness changes visibly in the course of a single night), and so was identified with the evil eye of Medusa (which can bring death), Lilith and other malevolent demons or deities. Algol is a binary (double and therefore “blinking”) star. He also connected the diamond sword of Perseus to the meteor showers which regularly spring from the wrist of the figure in the constellation. (See: "The Gorgon’s Eye." by Jerome Lettvin, In: Astronomy of the Ancients edited by Kenneth Brecher and Michael Feirta (1979, Pages 133-151). Lettvin ends his article by commenting that myth: "... is dangerous, too, because you are sure to go too far when you attempt to reinterpret myth. I myself have gone much too far in this article, and so can be accused of making my own myth to render memorable the sundry places in the sky. I am not offended by that charge at all. If you find the story of the octopus, Algol, and the Gorgon Medusa irritating enough to recall, I will have explained the ancient arts of memory more by illustration than by proof. Most of you, of course, may prefer a rational account of things; but I was never one to put Descartes before Horus."

Jerome Lettvin's contribution "The Gorgon's Eye" suggests that the myth of Perseus not only encodes knowledge about the Mediterranean fauna and especially various species of squid but also encodes information about the constellations bearing the name of the protagonists with special focus on the star Algol, the only star whose brightness changes visibly during the course of a single night, and which was in consequence identified with the evil eye of Medusa, Lilith and other malevolent demons or deities. Lettvin also emphasises the role of mythic tales for memorising information (see pages 133-135 of his essay in, Astronomy of the Ancients).

Walter Pitts

Jerry Lettvin described Pitts as self-taught mathematical genius. Pitts had a prodigious talent for mathematics and formal logic. By 1946 he was widely considered to be a polymath. Pitts was a neuroscience pioneer. Personality-wise Pitts had always been gentle, shy, and introverted. He was considered eccentric.

Pitts had a troubled childhood and ran away from home whe still quite young. Pitts arrived at the University of Chicago in the late 1930s when he was 15 years old. There Rudolph Carnap referred Pitts to Nicolas Rashevsky's mathematics class, where Pitts met Jerome Lettvin, who introduced him to Warren McCulloch. (Nicolas Rashevsky (1899-1972) was a theoretical physicist at the University of Chicago.) Pitts later shifted to MIT where he became a protégé of Warren McCulloch.

The polymath Walter Pitts (1923-1969) was a 'student' of Rudolph Carnap and a disciple of Norbert Wiener. Pitts PhD dissertation theory of randomly connected neural nets languished and was never finished. Pitts made slow progress with his Ph.D. and then abandoned it. Wiener offered Pitts a PhD on the basis of already published work but Pitts declined the offer.

Pitts played a pivotal role in establishing the revolutionary notion of the brain as a computer. It was a seminal idea in the development of cybernetics.

Walter Pitts and Oliver Selfridge were doctoral students of Wiener. They were considered Wiener's 2 most talented doctoral students. Selfridge was described as "a creative thinker and researcher." Oliver Selfridge was a pioneering computer expert - a pioneer of artificial intelligence - and a member of Wiener's inner circle. Oliver Selfridge was the grandson of Harry Selfridge the (USA born) founder of London's fashionable Selfridges department store.

At MIT, Neumann, Wiener, McCulloch, and Pitts intended to construct a materialistic and mechanistic science of mental behaviour. They were part of The Teleological Society (also called the Cybernetics Group), under the aegis (sponsorship) of the Josiah Macy Foundation. McCulloch appears to be the cause of Wiener splitting from the group. (The immediate cause was an untruth connected with McCulloch that was told to Wiener by his wife Margaret who despised McCulloch.) McCulloch was described as having a "Bohemian lifestyle" which apparently was a euphemism for either "promiscuity" or "philandering." Shortly after the Wiener-McCulloch split Pitts began drinking heavily and became a near total recluse. Pitts burned his much anticipated doctoral dissertation, and also all of his notes and papers. Pitts died alone in 1969 in a Cambridge boarding house, aged 46, from bleeding esophageal varices.

See the study of Norbert Wiener: Dark Hero of the Information Age by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman (2009).

According to Jerome Lettvin, Walter had a small influence on Hamlet's Mill. Pitts Walter Pitts engaged in numerous discussions with Hertha von Dechend. Before his death in 1969, Walter Pitts was actively involved with Hertha von Dechend in the "Hamlet's Mill project." He conducted research into Egyptian astronomy and also possible early knowledge of precession. It appears that all of what survives is the mention in von Dechend's course notes. In  the seminar/course Introduction to Cosmology (1961, Page 117) de Santillana and von Dechend state: "Our rigorous friend, Mr Walter Pitts ... has kindly volunteered to help us, and to give a critical summary of Sir Norman Lockyer's work, The Dawn of Astronomy. ... [I]t is important to note that he too, concludes independently that Egyptian astronomy could not but know about Precession."

See: "Walter Pitts." by Neil Smalheiser in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, Volume 43, Number 2, Winter, 2000, Pages 217-226.

Excursus: The movie "Good Will Hunting" and Walter Pitts

Abe Aronow recalls: "When I first saw "Good Will Hunting", the Matt Damon movie, I recognized a lot of Walter Pitts in lead character. Lettvin confirmed my suspicion at a later conversation. I have no idea how that "lore" got into the script. I was personally present in 1961-62 when a full professor of EE came into the EEL with a 3 ft sq scroll of graph paper which he unrolled on the table showing a very complex circuit design covering almost the entire scroll. Lettvin, McCulloch, Pitts and several other students were there. The prof of EE whom I didn't know then, and whose name I do not recall, said something to the effect that, "this doesn't work and I don't know why". Lettvin and especially Pitts who were both "circuit savants" looked at it for less than 2 minutes and then Pitts pointed a finger at the paper and the EE prof's mouth dropped open in a manner not unlike the scene in the movie with the math prof and the unsolved math problem that the Damon character solved in a snap. The EE prof rolled up his circuit and left."

Walter Pitts never had official status for teaching or grading. Wiener promised Pitts a PhD in mathematics at MIT. This despite the fact that Pitts had never graduated from High School, and also that it was prohibited by the strict rules at the institution. When he was eventually offered his PhD, Pitts refused to sign the paperwork.

Pitts when not completely absorbed in his work would exhibit troubled behaviours. On account of his markedly odd behaviours and difficulties with social interaction it was thought he may have suffered from schizophrenia. It is thought that Walter Pitts may have committed suicide in 1969. (More reliably, it is indicated he died from the ill-health effects of alcoholism.) Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts collaborated on the following papers: "A Logical Calculus of Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity." (1943); "On how we know universals: The perception of auditory and visual forms." (1947). Norbert Wiener and Walter Pitts collaborated on the papers: "An Account of the Soike Potential of Axons." (1948); "A Statistical Analysis of Synaptic Excitation." (1949; full authorship: A. Rosenblueth, N. Wiener, W. Pitts, J. García Ramos).

Warren McCulloch would present speculation dressed up as fact. This was not properly understood by Norbert Wiener and caused him academic embarrassment. It has been stated that the serious mental decline suffered by Walter Pitts in 1952 (and his alcoholism) was in (large) part due to the feuding between Norbert Wiener and Warren McCulloch (and his group). The feud at least caused Pitts to abandon his slowly progressing PhD thesis.

Source: American Neuroscience in the Twentieth Century by H. W. Magoun and L. Marshall (2003, Page 103).

Source: Feferman, Solomon. (Editor-in-chief). Kurt Gödel: Collected Works: Volume V Correspondence, H–Z (2014, Pages 157-158). Footnote d, page 157: "He [Pitts] was again registered as a student at MIT in 1956-1958, this time in electrical engineering and computation."

More usual candidates for the Matt Damon character in the film are: (1) George Dantzig (1914-2005), (2) William Sidis (1898-1944), and Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920).

Hoax publication by Jerome Lettvin and Walter Pitts

Jerome Lettvin was a prankster.

In 1943 Jerry Lettvin and Walter Pitts, both then in their early 20's, collaborated in a hoax. They coauthored a thoroughly nonsensical paper called "A Mathematical Theory of Affective Psychoses" which was published in The Bulletin of Mathematical Biophysics, December, 1943, Volume 5, Issue 4, Pages 139-148. The paper comprised an invented mixture of mathematical equations and jargon having no sensible meaning or scientific merit. Abstract: "The theory introduces two variables ψ and ф. The first represents the intensity of emotion, the second measures the intensity of activity. A set of integrodifferential equations is assumed to govern the variation of ф and ψ with respect to time. Since for increasing values of ф the conduct of the organism varies from great impassivity through a normal level of feeling to extremes of a circular depression or catatonic excitement; whereas an increase of ψ results in a transition from stupor to manic excitement, the solutions of the equations represent quantitative specifications of different psychotic states." The paper concluded with the statement: "As remarked above, these are no periodic orbits in the large, and unless continually disturbed, the particle will ultimately settle toward one of the equilibria." According to Lettvin they were surprised to receive praise for the article and were also offered research funding (which they declined). Lettvin was fond of repeatedly telling people of the hoax. Not mentioned is whether papers for publication were refereed.

Teaching method used by Jerome Lettvin

Abe Aronow recalls that Jerome Lettvin actually used 'bullcrap' (nonsense) as a teaching tool.

Marc Abrahams writes (http://www.improbable.com/2011/04/26/jerry-lettvin-is-gone/): "Jerry has the curse and the gift of speaking in caricature, which can make his stories sound so good they feel apocryphal. In general, his craziest-sounding science stories are based on facts, with documentation aplenty if you’re willing to go look it up. Some scientists dismiss the stories, though. One told me: "Half of what Jerry Lettvin says is wrong. The trick is to figure out which half.""

Lettvin's undergraduate lectures/courses from the mid 1960s were taught jointly with de Santillana who provided a historical-philosophical perspective on the biological bases of knowledge and perception. (See: "'The Materials of Science, the Ideas of Science, and the Poetry of Science': Warren McCulloch and Jerry Lettvin." by Tara Abraham (Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, Volume 37, Number 3, September, 2012, Pages 169-186).)

The Neurophysiology Research Group at MIT

In 1951 Norbert Wiener (whose father, interestingly, was Leo Wiener the Harvard philologist) convinced Jerry Wiesner (president of MIT) to hire some physiologists of the nervous system (i.e., to establish a brain research group composed of mathematicians and physiologists of the nervous system). This was the Neurophysiology Research Group (established in the 1950s). “Adding a neurophysiology group to MIT’s Research Laboratory for Electronics was intended to more fully implement Wiener’s vision of a center for cybernetic ideas. MIT would, thus, become the institutional home to the fruits of the Macy conferences. All of which made a move to MIT in October 1952 seem eminently attractive.” (Entry: “McCulloch, Warren Sturgis” by Kenneth Aizawa, In: Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography (2008).) When finally established the group included Walter Pitts, Jerry Lettvin and Warren McCulloch. Walter Pitts soon wrote a lengthy thesis on the properties of neural nets connected in three dimensions. However, when Walter Pitts went into what has been described as 'cognitive suicide', a gradual but steep decline into social isolation, from which he never recovered, he burnt the manuscript on three dimensional networks and took little further interest in work. The only exception was a collaboration with Robert Gesteland which produced a paper on olfaction. Later Pitts began to live on his own in Cambridge. (During the 1960s, Pitts became increasingly withdrawn and more exclusively attached to Warren McCulloch.) Jerry Lettvin described Walter Pitts as being "in no uncertain sense the genius of the group … when you asked him a question, you would get back a whole textbook."

The Neurophysiology Research Group established at MIT  was, at one time, involved in 9 research projects. The group's research work was (initially) supported in part by Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc.; the National Institutes of Health (Grant B-1865-(C3), Grant B-2480(C1), Grant MP-4737); The Teagle Foundation, Inc.; and in part by the U.S. Air Force (Aeronautical Systems Division) under Contract AF33(616)-7783. The research interests of this group went further than simply physiology. Among the 20-25 members of this group (the membership fluctuated) was Hertha (spelled Herta) von Dechend. Jerome Lettvin and Walter Pitts was also members. Giorgio de Santillana was not a member of the group. Walter H. Pitts Junior (1923-1969) a logician who worked in the field of cognitive psychology at MIT, was teamed with a number of researchers on different research topics. Hertha von Dechend was teamed with Walter Pitts on the topic of: Evolution of Scientific Language. What exactly the content of their studies was is presently unknown to me. In one report-back by the entire group (RLE Progress Report No. 064 (1962) XXVII. Neurophysiology) von Dechend and Pitts simply state: "We intend to continue study of the origins of scientific language." Later: Herta von Dechend and Walter Pitts: "(g) Evolution of Scientific Language. We intend to continue study of the origin of scientific language." (Neurophysiology, MIT Report Number 64, Page 286.) There is the possibility that von Dechend joined this Group during her initial visit to the USA in 1960. (RLE = Research Laboratory of Electronics (at MIT).) The report was a quarterly progress report dated January 15, 1962 (Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Research Laboratory of Electronics. Quarterly Progress Report, Number 64). In his profile of Walter Pitts, Neil Smalheiser writes that Pitts engaged in many discussions with von Dechend. A passing reference to neurophysiology is made in Hamlet's Mill (Pages 71-72).

The study of von Dechend and Pitts into the origins of scientific language

It is unfortunate that no record/report seems to have survived regarding the study of von Dechend and Pitts into the origins of scientific language. (An eventual formal report is not indicated.) Likely their investigations would have included the structure of the primitive alphabet, the development of literary expression, measures (numerical notation), the development of poetry before prose, the importance of ars combinatoria, the relation between writing and divination, the connection of the letters of the alphabet with numbers, phonetics, belief that the world has hidden structure (based on topological structures, numbers, and probability), highly formalised structuring of thought, ciphers/cyptographics (hidden meaning), and artificial structuring. There is a limited discussion of language in Hamlet's Mill.

The relationships between the Research Laboratory of Electronics and the Neurophysiology Research Group

The Research Laboratory of Electronics was formed in 1946. The Neurophysiology Research Group was formed in the early 1950s (no earlier than 1951). Lettvin was employed at MIT by the Research Laboratory of Electronics. The Research Laboratory of Electronics was an interdepartmental laboratory of the Department of Electrical Engineering and the Department of Physics. The Neurophysiology Research Group (= Neurophysiology Laboratory) was a group comprising a mixture of full-time (dedicated) academic member, academics from other MIT departments (permanent and transient involvement), graduate students (transient involvement), and academic visitors (transient involvement). (Different employment/engagement arrangements.) The Neurophysiology Research Group (Neurophysiology Laboratory) was formed within the Research Laboratory of Electronics. Its concept was an extension of the Research Laboratory of Electronics (and its investigations used Research Laboratory of Electronics equipment). Both the Research Laboratory of Electronics and the Neurophysiology Research Group were located in Building 20. (See: Dark Hero of the Information Age by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman (2009).)

In the beginning the research objectives of the NRG were mainly concerned with synaptic transmission.

Basically, the persons forming the NRG (= the more general term Neurophysiology Laboratory) formed the basis for the informal group calling itself the Experimental Epistemology Laboratory. Jerome Lettvin's office at his Experimental Epistemology Laboratory was long a meeting place for numerous persons and all types of discussions. I would expect that such discussions often paralleled the interests of de Santillana.

Giorgio de Santillana's preoccupation with 'genius' and 'discovery'

Mark Stahlman (son of the eminent science historian William Stahlman) has enabled some insights into Giorgio de Santillana's time at MIT and the background to Hamlet's Mill. (Mark's Stahlman's father was a protégé of Norbert Wiener, beginning when his his father arrived at MIT just before WW II.) It appears that Norbert Wiener (Professor of Mathematics at MIT, and also a capable historian) was a close collaborator with Giorgio de Santillana. Both wished to understand the nature of "genius" and "discovery." (Giorgio de Santillana was obviously not prepared to sweep aside the question of genius as many historians had frequently done.) Giorgio de Santillana was no doubt taken by the fact that many ancient cultures believed consciousness was not linear by cyclical. (Norbert Wiener had an interdisciplinary approach to his work and was known for his ability to find connections between mathematics and other fields.) In the mid-1950s Norbert Wiener turned his attention to the question of "genius." He shared his interest in "genius" with Giorgio de Santillana and other historians (both at MIT and elsewhere). Mark Stahlman believes that Hamlet's Mill is the primary statement of Norbert Wiener's investigations to understand how genius had functioned throughout history. It appears Norbert Wiener believed that the Greek-Egyptian polymath Ptolemy (Claudius Ptolemaeus, astronomer, mathematician, geographer, life dates circa 90-170 CE, resided in Roman Egypt) was the best example of genius in history.

By the early 1940s Norbert Wiener was a friend and collaborator of de Santillana.

Giorgio de Santillana believed that genius and the origin of scientific discovery is to be found in the Neolithic Period. Hertha von Dechend believed that she had discovered one expression of this Neolithic Period genius and discovery, namely, knowledge of precession transmitted through mythology as a technical language. A variety of ancient/early myths were specifically designed to transmit information about precession and its observed effects. This Neolithic knowledge of precession was not general but involved the knowledge of the scientifically accurate rate of procession through an established zodiac of 12 equal divisions. Eric Voegelin in a 1970 letter to (the German prehistorian) Marie Köenig (See: Selected Correspondence 1950-1984 (2007) by Eric Voegelin et al writes "Santillana formulates it specifically as the transmission of the inorganic and biological developmental period to the human period, in which things are simply approached differently.") In his delayed publication of Order and History, Volume 4: The Ecumenic Age (1974), Eric Voegelin endorsed Hamlet's Mill by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend (1969) and added new arguments. See page 132 onwards.

It is baffling that von Dechend believed it was possible to conduct 'mental archaeology' into the remnants of ancient preliterate cultures. History is largely concerns the study of the past through written evidence. Archaeology is primarily concerned with the artefacts or objects left by past societies. It is a subject that involves problem-solving and sophisticated use of evidence and theoretical argument.

Giorgio de Santillana's "project group" at MIT

Giorgio de Santillana had a practice of assigning persons (including students) to study various topics related to the "Hamlet's Mill project." It would be interesting to know just how much of this was utilised by Hertha von Dechend and incorporated into her chaotic seminar notes.

The MIT course notes with the title, Introduction to Cosmology: A Preliminary Reconnaissance by H. von Dechend [and] G. de Santillana, originally issued in 1961 as 152 pages of notes for the topic "Ancient Cosmology" within the regular Humanities course (XXI-B), enable some insight. These notes supported the course topic "Ancient Cosmology" which ran at least 1961-1962 and was presented by de Santillana and von Dechend. It appears that eventually some 100 supplementary pages were issued. The overall purpose of the course was to establish a basis for a school of comparative celestial culture, and also establish a student Hamlet's Mill project group. The MIT course notes, Introduction to Ancient Cosmology by Hertha von Dechend and issued in 1966 also enables some insight. Introductory comments strongly imply the course has also been presented 1964-1965. Also, these are new course notes with a different approach to presenting the material, to enable better understanding by students of the theme being promoted. It appears that from 1961 to 1965 Humanities students undertaking the "Ancient Cosmology" module were experiencing difficulty in understanding the ideas being presented.

Mark Stahlman states that William Stahlman was a member of Giorgio de Santillana's "project group" contributing towards Hamlet's Mill. Mark Stahlman also states that William Stahlman was a protégé of Giorgio de Santillana and was perhaps encouraged by him to study the genius of Ptolemy and his discoveries.  It is difficult to accept Mark Stahlman's claim that William Stahlman was the primary resource for Hamlet's Mill. At the time of his early death in 1975 William Stahlman was with the Department of History of Science, University of Wisconsin. William Stahlman, later to become a science historian and Ptolemy specialist, was a student of Giorgio de Santillana at MIT. (He was a Class of 1948, Course XXI - Humanities graduate.) More broadly he was a student of Greek and pre-Greek mathematical astronomy. In 1960 William Stahlman earned a Ph.D. from Brown University, History of Mathematics Department, under Otto Neugebauer. His doctoral dissertation was: The astronomical tables of Codex Vaticanus graecus 1291. William Stahlman had already taught at MIT, Harvard University, and University of Wisconsin prior to gaining his Ph.D. (At the time of his employment (tenureship) at University of Wisconsin in 1960 he was completing his Ph.D.) At University of Wisconsin he taught courses in science in antiquity until his death in 1975 from serious illness. In March 1963 William Stahlman gave a talk at MIT on early astronomy.

William Stahlman and Harald Reiche collaborated with Giorgio de Santillana in, Memorandum on Greek Science (circa 1955, 33 pages typewritten manuscript). Sub-titled Greek Science in Three Acts. I Advance. II Challenge and Response. III Retreat and Dissolution. On the title page: "In addition to the use made of this memorandum in H11, students should keep it for reference in H12, Spring Term, 1955."

While a student at MIT and a member of Giorgio de Santillana's "project group" Abe (Abraham) Aronow states he worked on the mythological and cosmological references in the Midrash and the Zohar. In a letter to Isaiah Berlin at Oxford, dated February 14, 1967, de Santillana writes: "... Abe [has] ... engaged with me in a study of archaic cosmology ...." Abe Aronow's 1962 undergraduate thesis was on the Midrash and Zohar. (This was directed by Giorgio de Santillana. Some people believe that this type of Jewish material contains precessional references. Some persons believe the secret doctrine of the Kabbalah and other Jewish mystical books/writing is precession. The Kabbalah contains what are deemed to be precessional numbers. As examples: Divine names, such as the Shemhamphorash a corruption of the Hebrew term Shem ha-Mephorash ("the explicit Name [of God]," (name of 72 letters). Also, the 72 arrangements of the Tetragrammaton, or the 4-lettered name of God (i.e., the god Yahweh) in Hebrew. These 4 letters can be combined in 72-two combinations, resulting in what is called the Shemhamforesh. In early Kabbalah, the term was used to designate sometimes a 72-letter name for God (i.e., the god Yahweh), and sometimes a 42-letter name. In the Jewish mysticism of the Kabbalah, there are 72 sacred names for God in the Zohar. Also, according to the Zohar: the 72 old men of the synagogue; and the 72 degrees of Jacob's ladder. See also the somewhat odd book: The Universal Kabbalah: Deciphering Cosmic Code in the Sacred Geometry of the Sabbath Star Diagram by Leonora Leet (2004, Page 122).) In her earlier book, Doctrine of the Kabbalah (1994, Page 94) Leonora Leet Ph.D. claims the Sefer Yetzirah "perpetuates a unified cosmology that goes back to Neolithic times and was spread over the entire globe."

Note: The Zohar (a group of books written in medieval Aramaic and medieval Hebrew and unified under the one name) is the central text of the Jewish Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition. The bulk of the Zohar consists of a running commentary on – and mystical interpretation of (in a unique and metaphorical language) - the Torah, from Genesis through Deuteronomy. The Zohar first appeared in Spain in the 13th-century, and was published by a Jewish writer named Moses ben Shem-Tov de Leon (who claimed it was passed down from the 2nd-century CE - written by Rabbi Simeon Bar Yohai (and his students), Yohai was one of the Tannaim, the Mishnaic sages of the 2nd century CE). Modern scholarship concludes that the Zohar was likely written by the man who claimed only to have 'discovered' it; Moses ben Shem-Tov de Leon (1250-1305) of Avila, Spain.

Astronomy and Mythological Cosmology and Cosmogony in the Midrash Rabba and Zohar by Abraham Aronow (May 12, 1962, Department of Humanities, Course XXI-B, Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, June, 1962 [103 Pages]). Extracts: "Acknowledgements [Page 3]. I would like to thank Dr, Hertha von Dechend and Professor Giorgio de Santillana for their inspiration and assistance. I would like, also, to thank Miss Susan B. Chase and Miss Barbara R. Leopold for their technical assistance." "Preface [Page 4, 2/6/62] In the very recent past I have been a small part of a large inquiry into the similarities that existed in many diverse ancient cultures. The inquiry has been mainly concerned with the astronomy, the cosmology, the cosmogony, and the accompanying mythological accounts of "the Creation" in the early civilizations of this planet. The prime movers of this project, my advisors and my constant inspiration, are Dr. Hertha von Dechend and Prof. Giorgio de Santillana. It is my hope that my small contribution will be of use to them in the later, correlative aspects of their study." "Second Preface [Pages 5-6, 4/21/62]. In the course of writing the body of my thesis, I have been very apprehensive, for I feared that 21.85 might be a necessary prerequisite for a lucid reading of this paper. 21.85 is catalogued as "Introduction to Cosmology" and is a seminar designed to perform a preliminary reconnaissance into cosmological patterns, both ancient and modern. The purpose of this reconnaissance is to establish a basis for a school of comparative celestial culture. This new field is an interesting synthesis of: astrology, mythology anthropology, and history of science. The seminar (1961-62) was composed of students of varied background and divergent interests. The lack of homogeneity in the group was the key to its great success. Prof. de Santillana and Dr. von Dechend gave preliminary lectures and a reading list and then each individual selected the corridor of research which most suited his abilities and interests. At one meeting, Prof. de Santillana named the group, "the crazy cosmology club"; the name has stuck. This name seems to typify the average outsider's attitude towards the seeming lack of rigour in our investigative techniques. I shall try, in the following introduction, to dispell some of the reader's fears concerning the apparent investigative randomness of this research technique, and to delineate clearly the exact aims, boundaries and goals of my own contribution. I would strongly recommend that the reader secure and read a copy of An Introduction to Cosmology by Dechend and de Santillana prior to reading this paper. I choose to investigate Hebrew literature because I am fortunate enough to be fairly facile in that language. Prior to the organization of the cosmology seminar I had several occasions to be of assistance to Prof. de Santillana and Dr. von Dechend because of my Hebrew. Several other students in the seminar also chose topics which were related to a Foreign language in which they could read primary source material."

Abe Aronow vaguely recalls that other undergraduates worked on Maya and Polynesian material.

This makes it clear that (at least some) undergraduate students studying for their bachelor degree within the Department of Humanities (at least at this time) completed a thesis relevant to the research interests of de Santillana and von Dechend in ancient astronomy. The seminars aided this student effort. The courses notes for these particular seminars were prepared by von Dechend. (Some recent PhD dissertations give support to Hamlet's Mill. Uncritical and uninformed support for Hamlet's Mill appears in pages 13-14 of the 2010/2011 PhD dissertation, An interdisciplinary study of time in language and mind by Roberto Bottini.)

The continued existence of 'project group' theses remains unknown. The location of these theses, if retained, would be in the MIT Collections headed Humanities - Bachelor's degree (Theses - Department of Humanities > Humanities - Bachelor's degree). Example: Newton and the Origin of Spectroanalysis by William Joseph Bisson. Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Science [Department of Humanities] at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, June 1960. Bisson, in his Preface, thanks Professor William H. Dennen, of the M.I.T. Department of Geology, and Professor Giorgio deSantillana (sic) of the Department of Humanities for their guidance in the experimental and historical aspects of the thesis. The title page of the thesis bears the stamp mark: "Mass. Inst. Of Technology Library Jul 26 1960."

Excursus: The claim that Giorgio de Santillana was mentor for Kenneth Caneva PhD, an historian of science at University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), appears erroneous. Caneva entered Princeton's graduate program in the History and Philosophy of Science in the fall of 1967. There he was a student of Thomas Kuhn. He received his PhD from Princeton University in 1975 and joined the UNCG faculty in the spring of 1979. He departed UNCG as Professor, Emeritus (2010). MIT's Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology appointed him a senior fellow for 1999-2000. In November 2006 he informed me he had never heard of any Ancient Cosmology seminars at MIT. (Indicates they were not widely or actively publicised or he had little connection with MIT and Giorgio de Santillana?) Perhaps there has been confusion with William Stahlman.

William Duane Stahlman's "lost" 3-volume manuscript on the history of astronomy

William Duane Stahlman at University of Wisconsin, 27 March 1968. In the larger photograph Stahlman is pointing his left hand to the symbol of the moon in a Nabataean zodiacal artifact at UW Madison. The recorded history of the Nabataeans extended from 300 BCE to 200 CE. To ensure that he would not overlook the correct date, Stahlman investigated the period from 300 BCE to 300 CE. Source: University of Wisconsin News Bureau. Reproduced as 'fair use' for the purposes of education, criticism and comment.

Left: Source: The Erindalian, February 27, 1973, "About Campus" Page 5. Right: Source: University of Toronto Bulletin, Number 23, Friday, 23rd February 1973, Page 4.

Source: The Erindalian, Volume 5, Issue 16[-17], February 27, 1973, Page 5. The interesting statement is: "A science historian at the University of Wisconsin, Dr. J.(sic)D. Stahlman, is completing work on a three-volume study showing the connection between global myth and the history of astronomy. He believes pre-historic men observed the skies in an organized way, long enough ago to reckon time in star-fixed ages, rather than man-timed centuries."

Source: The Erindalian, Volume 5, Number 18[-19], March 13, 1973, Page 2. The interesting statement is: "Professor J. (sic) D. Stahlman, science historian at the University of Wisconsin is completing work on a three volume study showing the connection between global myth and the history of astronomy. Focusing his attention on Babylonian astronomy, he stated in his lecture, "Science in Antiquity, that astronomical myth studies are extremely complex and as he said, "More frankly they are in a premature stage, in my own mind, for public presentation."" Note: Matt will be identifiable as Matt Shakespeare, a contributor at that time to the Erindalian. (By September 1973 at least, he was the editor.) Interestingly, at no time before or after the lecture, was the name error J. D. Stahlman corrected to W. D. Stahlman. Whether the presenters stayed for the 2 days or simply turned up, presented, and left soon after - without really meeting each other - is unknown.

The above few clippings - and an essay by William Stahlman in the Saturday Review - seem all that remains to identify Stahlman's proposed book and its thesis. It is indicated that it (largely) mimics Hamlet's Mill (i.e. precessional zodiacal world ages). His apparent point of difference is the astronomical interpretation of myth. Stahlman made the point of the difficulty of immediately [easily] translating myth into scientific terminology. For von Dechend the supposed structure of the Ur-myth involved the following 6 features at least: (1) astronomy, (2) arithmetic, (3) geometry, (4) alchemy, (5) metrology, and (6) harmonics. Nothing similar is identifiable in Stahlman's 1970 paper.

William Duane Stahlman was born in Clarion, Pennsylvania, May 27, 1923 to Harry Earl Stahlman and Myrtle Stahlman (née Jolly). There were 4 other siblings. (Hid father Harry was born on September 21, 1881, in Clarion, Pennsylvania. His mother Myrtle was born on March 11, 1890.) At least until 1940 he remained living in Pennsylvania. At age 24, William Stahlman married Rita Byrnes in 1947 and they had 3 children: Robert Stahlman, Mark Stahlman, and Mary Lou Stahlman. (His son Mark D. Stahlman is Director, Center for the Study of Digital Life. Stevens Institute of Technology. Hoboken, New Jersey.) William Stahlman died at his residence of an illness on March 27, 1975, in Wisconsin, aged 51 years.

From Stahlman's PhD Dissertation, Page. iii: "After being graduated from the Clarion Senior High School in l941, he entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and following his graduation in l948, with the degree of S.B. in Mathematics, he taught at Amherst College for two years. In 1950 he was awarded the M.A. degree in Philosophy by Amherst College. From 1950 to 1953 he was a resident graduate student at Brown University in the Department of the History of Mathematics. Since 1953 he has taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During the fall semester of 1957 he taught at Brandeis University also."

World War II service: Honor Roll .. Clarion County, Pennsylvania. World War II, World War I, Spanish-American and the Civil War. (No date or authorship.) On page 85 under "Veterans of World War II" appears "Stahlman, William D."

Military Service: United States World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946:

Name: William D Stahlman
Name (Original): STAHLMAN WILLIAM D
Event Type: Military Service
Event Date: 01 Oct 1942
Event Place: Belmont, Massachusetts, United States
Race: White
Citizenship Status: Citizen
Birth Year: 1923
Birthplace: PENNSYLVANIA
Education Level: 1 year of college
Marital Status: Single, without dependents
Military Rank: Private

It appears that when discharged he held the rank of Staff Sergeant.

Dr. William D. Stahlman from The Oil City Derrick [newspaper published in Oil City, Pennsylvania], April 1, 1975: "CLARION - Dr. William D. Stahlman, 51, of Madison, Wis., a professor at the University of Wisconsin and a former faculty member at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, died at his residence Thursday (March 27, 1975). A native of Clarion, he was born May 27, 1923, a son of Dr. Harry E. and Myrtle Jolly Stahlman. He graduated from Clarion High School in 1941, later from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was awarded a Ph.D. from Brown University (In Rhode Island). He was teaching the history of science at the University of Wisconsin at the time of his death. Dr. Stahlman was national administrator of the Scrutineers Sports Cars of America. He was a member of the United Methodist Church and a World War II veteran. He is survived by his wife, the former Rita Byrnes of Madison; two sons, Mark Stahlman of New York City and Kent Stahlman of Milwaukee, Wis.; a daughter Mary Lou Stahlman of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; his mother, Mrs. Harry E. Stahlman of Brownsville, Texas; a sister, Mrs. A. E. Kunselman of Indiana, Pa., and a brother, Dr. Robert K. Stahlman of Dallas, Texas."

According to Mark Stahlman, his father, had been a protégé of Norbert Wiener's since the early 1940s, when he arrived from rural Pennsylvania as an MIT undergraduate on a Westinghouse scholarship. Dr. William Duane Stahlman, obtained his S.B. at MIT. (The S.B., Latin for "scientiae baccalaureus," is the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) undergraduate degree. His B.S. was in mathematics. His M.A. was in philosophy.) Wiener thought that the remarkable people that are geniuses would continue to appear and that leaving a record of geniuses who had come before would be useful to future geniuses, particularly for the scientists. This apparently was the basis, or part of it, for persuading William Stahlman to become a historian of science (particularly the history of ancient mathematics), under the tutelage of Giorgio de Santillana. William Stahlman later earned his PhD at Brown University, under Otto Neugebauer. (W. D. Stahlman, "The astronomical tables of Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1291", unpublished PhD thesis, Brown University, 1959. The dissertation includes an edition of Ptolemy's Handy Tables. Available from University Microfilms. Also, it was planned to be published by Garland (date unknown) circa 1970.) William Stahlman became one of the world's leading experts on the life and contributions of the 2nd-century Alexandrian mathematician, astronomer/astrologer and geographer Claudius Ptolemy. During the course of his academic career he also learned to read 18 ancient languages.

By the mid 1950s at least, William D. Stahlman was in the History of Science Department at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He moved from MIT, when he was assistant professor of the history of science, to the Department of the History of Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, in September 1960. He continued his post as Treasurer of the History of Science Society. In 1960 William Duane Stahlman was awarded a PhD from the Department of Egyptology & Department of the History of Mathematics, Brown University, for his dissertation "The astronomical tables of Codex Vaticanus graecus 1291." His job placement that followed was: Professor of History of Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Stahlman's academic specialty was the history of ancient and Renaissance science. In the 1960s, when most American historians of science did not work in the area of the ancient history of science, Stahlman was specifically working in ancient Ptolemaic astronomy. (His hobby was cars.) Stahlman's undergraduate lectures varied from (1) the history of Babylonian mathematics to (2) the history of the automobile.

At the time of his early death Prof. William Duane Stahlman (1923-1975), Department of History of Science, University of Wisconsin was apparently "completing work" on a 3-volume history of astronomy. The general content was global mythology. The fate of the unpublished manuscript is unknown. It appears that Stahlman presented 2 public lectures on "Science in Antiquity" (1963 at MIT and 1973 at Erindale College) but perhaps without including a summary of his book material. This is indicated at least for 1973. Why he would publish an overview of his ideas in January 1970 but decline to present them in a lecture in March 1973 is somewhat puzzling. I have been reliably informed by a past student that in the late 1980s the late Prof. David Lindberg had - in an office filing cabinet - unpublished research material by Prof. William Stahlman. Lindberg was hoping that someone might "carry on" the material. The identification of this material now seems unlikely.

To what extent Stahlman invoked precession can be identified from his January 10, 1970 article in the Saturday Review. It is a 'mirror' of Hamlet's Mill. It is interesting that Stahlman is not mentioned in either the Bibliography or Index of Hamlet's Mill. The relationship between Stahlman and his (supposed) manuscript and de Santillana and von Dechend and Hamlet's Mill is perhaps now unable to be worked out. Stahlman's 1970 article also carries the statement: "Wisconsin University science historian William D. Stahlman's three-volume study of Ptolemy, now in process, explores the role of archaic science in myth." It seems indicated that Ptolemy was a key focus of the 3-volume study.

Theses and Dissertation

Wiener's theory of prediction for discrete time series by William Duane Stahlman. (Thesis (B.S.), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Mathematics, 1948. Supervised by Norbert Wiener.) [Note: Quite short - approximately 20 pages.]

Aristotle's philosophy of mathematics by William D. Stahlman. (Thesis (M.A.), Amherst College, Department of Philosophy, 1950. [Supervisor not yet identified.])

The astronomical tables of Codex Vaticanus graecus 1291 by William D. Stahlman. (Thesis (Ph.D.), Brown University, 1959. Supervised by Otto Neugebauer.)

Mostly relevant publications/presentations:

Source: Boyer, Carl B. Bulletin of the History of Medicine; Baltimore, Maryland; Volume 29, January 1, 1955, Page 274.

William D. Stahlman. (1956). "Astronomical Dating Applied to a Type of Astrological Illustration." (Isis, Volume 47, Pages 154-160).

A short newspaper article on Stahlman, "UW Scholar Seeks Babylonian Error", appeared in The La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wisconsin) Sunday, December 3, 1961, Page 14. (To do with error(s) in the Plimpton Tablet.) The newspaper article noted that William D. Stahlman was one of six researchers in this country [USA] in the history of ancient science.

The 5 short articles included in the Saturday Review for January 10, 1970 are basically a sampling of Hamlet's Mill ideas:

Lear, John. (1970). "The Star-Fixed Ages of Man." (Saturday Review, January 10, Pages 99-100). The influence of Hamlet's Mill on John Lear is evident.

Stahlman, William. (1970). "The Star-Fixed Ages of Man-2: Global Myths Record Their Passage." (Saturday Review, January 10, Pages 100-103). Stahlman states that "Hamlet's Mill is both controversial and exciting; it is essential reading for anyone in the least intrigued by mythology." Whether Stahlman's article - I think obviously written for the Saturday Review - was requested by John Lear and why is not known. It forms a triplet with Lear's article and the extract from Hamlet's Mill.

De Santillana, Giorgio., and von Dechend, Hertha. (1970). "The Star-Fixed Ages of Man-3: The Age of Strong Man Sampson." (Saturday Review, January 10, Pages 103-105).

Deuel, Leo. (1970). "The Star-Fixed Ages of Man-4: Their Relics Remain in the Americas." (Saturday Review, January 10, Pages 105-108).

Kosok, Paul. (1970). "The Star-Fixed Ages of Man-4: The Woven Calendars of Peru." (Saturday Review, January 10, Page 109).

Note: The term "star-fixed ages" = zodiacal ages or similar (i.e., dual system of ecliptic marking star and pole star).

Other Publications by William Stahlman

Stahlman did some computationally based work. Whilst at MIT Stahlman published, with Owen Gingerich, a book giving Solar and Planetary Longitudes for Years -2500 to +2500 (1963); appearing about the same time as the Tuckerman tables (1962, 1964, ...). Stahlman and Gingerich produced their ephemeris by computer calculation, using the tables of P. V. Neugebauer, which are reprinted in their book. The project was suggested by Stahlman.

"On the Date of a Comet Ascribed to A.D. 1238." (Isis, Volume 43, 1952, Pages 348-351).

"Astronomical Dating App1ied to a Type of Astrological Illustration." (Isis, Volume 47, 1956, Pages l54-160).

Stahlman edited a new edition (wrote an extensive (120 page) commentary) of the only printed edition of the Handy Tables, Commentaire de Théon sur les Tables manuelles astronomiques de Ptolémée translated and edited by l'abbé Nicolas Halma, 3 volumes, 1822–1825.

William Stahlman's, The Astronomical Tables of Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1291 (PhD dissertation, Brown University, 1960) was published in 2000.

Some key statements in Stahlman's 1970 paper and in the 1973 Erindalian

"I will deal here with a sub-set of myth: that portion of myth presently believed by many scholars to contain genuine scientific observation. Lest the word sub-set suggest that only a small percentage of mythology is involved, let me say at the outset that the case is quite the opposite. Virtually all of the major myths of all early cultures are involved, from the well-known Gilgamesh Epic of Mesopotamia and the Book of the Dead of Egypt to the lesser-known Icelandic myth of Amlodhi and the Polynesian Muri Ranga Whenua. As we shall see, the common thread is astronomical/cosmological knowledge." (Stahlman, William. (1970). "The Star-Fixed Ages of Man-2: Global Myths Record Their Passage." (Saturday Review, January 10, Page 100).) Note: Stahlman also stated the difficulty of immediately [easily] translating myth into scientific terminology.

"But the new approach is quite different in spirit and in method. It begins with a clear acknowledgment of the impossibility of reconstructing the original order of things human. Verified historical events will no more explain myth than will my wrist watch explain time. Whatever our tools and whatever our data, reconstructions are at best ambiguous and elusive. Words today, even as in antiquity, evoke while often failing clearly to denote. We are forced to attempt to trace themes and echoes of themes. We cannot expect quantified analyses, correct to the fourth decimal point." (Stahlman, William. (1970). "The Star-Fixed Ages of Man-2: Global Myths Record Their Passage." (Saturday Review, January 10, Page 101).

"A science historian at the University of Wisconsin, Dr. J.(sic)D. Stahlman, is completing work on a three-volume study showing the connection between global myth and the history of astronomy. He believes pre-historic men observed the skies in an organized way, long enough ago to reckon time in star-fixed ages, rather than man-timed centuries." (The Erindalian, Volume 5, Issue 16[-17], February 27, 1973, Page 5.)

"Professor J. (sic) D. Stahlman, science historian at the University of Wisconsin is completing work on a three volume study showing the connection between global myth and the history of astronomy. Focusing his attention on Babylonian astronomy, he stated in his lecture, "Science in Antiquity, that astronomical myth studies are extremely complex and as he said, "More frankly they are in a premature stage, in my own mind, for public presentation."" (The Erindalian, Volume 5, Number 18[-19], March 13, 1973, Page 2.)

William Stahlman urged a new approach to the study of prehistory. It is a misuse to try and apply the concept of biological evolution to history. Ancient myth has truth value and global myths and ancient writings need decoding for the truth's they contain about mankind's past.

Note: The Erindalian was issued by multiple student staff - with rapid turnover. The editor in February 1973 was Ihor Pelech and the key editors in March 1973 are indicated as Tanya Abolins and Paul Moran. It is likely that these people have included the statement that William Stahlman was working on a 3-volume study showing the connection between global myth and the history of astronomy John Lear, the science editor for Saturday Review in 1970 was likely/obviously the person who included/inserted the statement to Stahlman's paper that William Stahlman was working on a 3-volume study of Ptolemy: "Wisconsin University science historian William D. Stahlman's three-volume study of Ptolemy, now in process, explores the role of archaic science in myth." The slightly different descriptions are interesting. It is worth noting that nowhere is there any statement able to be directly attributed to William Stahlman that he is working on/has nearly completed a 3-volume manuscript on historical astronomy. It is unclear whether the recommended source reading included on page 102 with Stahlman's paper was provided by Stahlman or by Lear (the editor). It is clear that Stahlman is not drawing from any unpublished manuscript that he apparently has. The 3 books recommended are (1) Hamlet’s Mill, (2) Before Philosophy, and (3) Stonehenge Decoded. Publication dates are not given. (Gerald Hawkins is mentioned on page 69 of Hamlet's Mill. Before Philosophy (and its main author Henri Frankfort) is not mentioned in Hamlet's Mill.) However, 2 different editors, 3 years apart and unknown to each other, are in agreement that William Stahlman is working on a 3-volume history of astronomy. There is no denial/correction by Stahlman regarding the statements. Somehow, William Stahlman must be the source.

Stahlman was correct that myth studies are extremely complex. Deciphering myths is a tricky task. Myths are often equivocal and it is all too easy for someone to impose their own astronomical meaning on them. What is really wanted is the intended meaning(s) of myths. When people like Hertha von Dechend assume to be astral mythologists and impose a single global astronomical theory on myths drawn from different cultures and at different periods of time they are engaging in a fantasy. The problem with their claims is that nothing in their claims is explicit within the myths they use.

Examining myths for astronomical content can be straightforward/undemanding. As examples: (1) The Babylonian Enuma Elish myth states that in the beginning the god the supreme Marduk established the celestial paths of the "three stars each" and the regular cycle of lunar phases. (2) Puebloan origin myths (which feature lack of consistency) state that after the emergence from the underworld, in a holy place called Sipapu, the people encountered 4 cardinal directions defined by sunrise and sunset at the winter and summer solstices on the horizon and associated with colours (Hopi), or 4 cardinal directions associated with sacred mountains and trees (Keresan), or a regular cycle of name months (Zuni). These are explicit statements of different astronomical concepts being expressed within a mythological construction. The astronomical concepts are readily understandable.

The arguments and conclusions in Hamlet’s Mill are not clear. Much too often the authors resort to hints, allusions, or throwaway questions. So much so that threads of reason become more tangled than is necessary. Another example: Sullivan's, Secret of the Incas needs to be treated with extreme caution. Some more reputable studies of various aspects of Incaic and related Andean astronomies include: (1) Brian Bauer and David Dearborm, Astronomy and Empire: The Cultural Origins of Inca Sky Watching (1995). (2) Mariusz Ziolkowski and Robert Sadowski, Time and Calendars in the Inca Empire (1989). (3) Mariusz Ziolkowski and Robert Sadowski, La Arqueoastronomia en la investigacion de las culturas Andinas (1992). (4) Anthony Aveni, The Lines of Nazca (1990).

William Stahlman's 1970 paper

This paper appears to be the only publication/presentation by William Stahlman on astronomical mythology. Reproduced as 'fair use' for the purposes of education, criticism and comment.

John Lear

John Lear was considered one of the leading American science writers. For 17 years his title was "science editor" of the respected literary magazine Saturday Review. (However, the magazine was not without its critics, and John Lear was not without his critics.) John Lear was also American correspondent of the New Scientist journal, a UK-based weekly English-language international science magazine. During the late 1960s at least, Lear's co-editor at the Saturday Review was John Fuller. John Fuller became a believer in the reality of UFOs (as alien spacecraft) and in 1966 published, The Interrupted Journey-Two Lost Hours Aboard A Flying Saucer. (About the alleged abduction by aliens of Betty and Barney Hill.)

John Lear was interested in the history of astronomy - in 1965 he published Kepler's Dream - but, as his Saturday Review paper shows, he did not have an adequate understanding of ancient astronomy.

John Lear was one of the few supporters of Hamlet's Mill outside of MIT. (The same can be said of William Stahlman.)

A January 2018 search for evidence of a 3-volume manuscript

The issue seems to be the reliability of William Stahlman that he was working on a 3-volume manuscript dealing with astronomical mythology. He never mentioned or discussed this project with colleagues at University of Wisconsin, Madison. It seems he only mentioned his project to a journal editor in 1970 with publication of his paper and also to a journal editor in 1973 for an advertised talk he did not give ("Science in Antiquity"); a substitute talk (same title, "Science in Antiquity") on Babylonian astronomy being given instead. The change in talk content only being announced at the time of presentation: Saturday, March 3 at 8.00pm. Because the length of the talks given by the presenters are indicated as 60-90 minutes duration William Stahlman must have prepared his substitute/alternative talk some time beforehand - most likely simply using his lecture material. This would have entailed a minimum of preparation time. I presume overheads were used. There is no indication that any notes were issued to participants.

The "search for evidence" was comprised of a "request for assistance" to Hastro-L; to several present and past academics at University of Wisconsin, Madison; and to UW Archives and Records Management (425 Steenbock Library). The result was a surprising amount of valuable information after a gap of nearly 45 years since William Stahlman's death. All replies were from accomplished academics.

Combined (edited) summary of information from 5 persons (mostly current and retired academics. some past students of William Stahlman) provided in their responses:

Stahlman at MIT

At MIT Stahlman conducted courses in ancient science in the late 1960s and early 1970s. [Note: Stahlman also conducted a course on the history of Babylonian mathematics.]

The references in Stahlman's article, to Frankfort's Before Philosophy and Hawkins's Stonehenge Decoded match the readings in Stahlman's ancient science course during the 1968-1969 term.

Stahlman did some computationally based work. Whilst at MIT Stahlman published, with Owen Gingerich, a book giving Solar and Planetary Longitudes for Years -2500 to +2500 (1963); appearing about the same time as the Tuckerman tables (1962, 1964, ...).

Stahlman at Brown University

One of Stahlman's class handouts was a sexagesimal multiplication table that later appeared in Neugebauer's HAMA (1975), Pages 1128-1129 as Table 5. It is likely Stahlman did the computations when he was Neugebauer's student.

Stahlman at UW

From at least 1969 the works Stahlman cites (de Santillana and von Dechend, Hawkins, and Frankfort) in his 1970 article correspond to those he referenced in his graduate class.

A number of people at UW who knew Stahlman during the early 1970s had serious doubts about whether he was as committed to his scholarly studies as he had once been.

Stahlman had an excellent library [personal/UW property] in his office, which it took him several years to get organized, but he was only at UW for two days a week, and these two days were taken up with teaching.

[Note: At UW at Madison, Stahlman also taught classes on the history of Babylonian mathematics, as well as on ancient science.]

Stahlman's Research

 Ptolemy was a more respectable topic than ancient myth, so Stahlman may have been using Ptolemy to enhance his credentials.

Knowledge of Stahlman's Magus Opus

[Note: It appears that most people had no knowledge of Stahlman's magnus opus either by sighting it or by general conversation.]

Stahlman's proposed magnum opus was never seen. [Note: This includes by students and colleagues at MIT and UW.]

It was general knowledge ("constantly mentioned") that Stahlmanl had a large project underway on Ptolemy: This puts weight on the 1970 description in Saturday Review rather than the 1973 advertisements/review from the Erindale College seminar. 

Any material of Stahlman's proposed three-volume magnum opus that may have gone to David Lindberg, since Lindberg had Stahlman's notes, may have gone astray when Lindberg was taken by Alzheimer's disease.

Stahlman's MA thesis at Amherst was on Aristotle's philosophy of mathematics. This comprised a stark contrast with the mythological approach of the de Santillana group and with Neugebauer's opposition to philosophy.

In the late 1980s', Lindberg showed a graduate student some files in his office filing cabinet that he identified as research/writing of Stahlman's that Lindberg was hoping some graduate student ("in the program") might "carry on."  If Lindberg had material to do with Stahlman's magnus opus then he said nothing to others. It is most likely he would have told at least one other person if something like this existed. If Lindberg had kept such material in his own files, then the files are now gone.

Lindberg thought highly of Stahlman's work.

I know nothing about such a manuscript. [Note: A usual response.]

The Lindbergs moved to a retirement community early in 2010 and their daughter made sure that they "downsized" drastically. [Note: I think the reference made to Oakwood is a reference to Oakwood Common, a non-profit Continuing Care Retirement Community.]

 No one on the committee that met after Stahlman's death to write up a memorial resolution had reason to suspect that the world had been deprived of a magnum opus.

Regarding the fate of Bill Stahlman's three-volume manuscript on the history of astronomy. If David Lindberg ever once had the manuscript, he was quiet about it.  This is difficult to imagine as happening, but only if he thought that the manuscript really did not amount to much.

 Over the years, at least one person who knew Stahlman wondered about whether such a manuscript ever existed and what might have become of it if it did exist. It seems nobody ever heard Stahlman mention the manuscript in conversation.

There is little chance of Stahlman's manuscript being placed away somewhere in a file box with other material from the days when History of Science at Wisconsin was a separate department.

Stahlman never mentioned the progress that he was making on what would have been a monumental book. The possibility that Stahlman had a manuscript in progress underway that he chose not to tell people much about cannot be discounted.

I never queried Stahlman about his proposed manuscript. [Note: Nobody seems to have queried Stahlman about his manuscript.]

Ptolemy was one of Stahlman's real interests.

 William Stahlman prided himself on being a master auto mechanic qualified to work on any sort of car, and he talked animatedly about his undergraduate course on the history of the automobile.

Influences on Stahlman

What Stahlman taught in his graduate classes on ancient science focused on Greek and Babylonian antiquity. Likely his three volume study would have also focused on in graduate classes, Greek and Babylonian antiquity,

Amongst sources that influenced him Stahlman was also influenced by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend's, Hamlet's Mill and to a lesser extent by the archaeoastronomical work of Gerald Hawkins and Alexander Thom.

Neugebauer as Mentor

To the extent Stahlman was investigating myths, it would be something of a rebellion against Neugebauer, who was scathing in his dismissal of both myth and natural philosophy.

Criticisms of Stahlman's Ideas

In his classes Stahlman presented a diagram of precession like the one in his 1970 article. In his 1970 article Stahlman writes about it" "To first approximation (which is all that premodern man could or needed to know about it), precession was that motion described by the axis of a spinning top...." Looking at his description, after many years, I now find it historically naive. The notion that "premodern man" would view the Earth as a top implies a kind of physical conceptualization that is found nowhere in the ethnographic (or early written) record.

The sequential change of the equinoctial or solstitial constellations is clearly an observable phenomenon; the conceptualization of this phenomenon as the wobbling of the axis of a spinning top seems anachronistic, drawing as it does on concepts of modern physics.

Manuscript Progress

It is doubtful whether the manuscript/book was ever entirely finish. If deemed completed it is doubtful whether it was in a form that was publishable.

Stahlman had a serious alcohol addiction problem which greatly interfered with his academic productivity.

Archival Material

UW Archives and Record Management have materials on William Stahlman and David Lindberg. Found during an initial search: [1] Biographical files on both Stahlman and Lindberg [2] David C. Lindberg Papers, 1976-2011 [3] An Oral History Program Interview with David Lindberg (2003)". The number of archive boxes or foot-length of documents was not indicated. [Note: A look inside the David Lindberg papers might be productive.]

There were some Stahlman and Coleman materials still left in a storage room in, and

At least one person at UW inherited a few odd items from Stahlman (that included bound photocopies of the first two volumes of Delambre's, Histoire de l'astronomie ancienne [1817] and a blue binder with a handful of sparse notes on the Almagest (apparently for a seminar). The items were passed on by David Lindberg from Stahlman's library of books on ancient astronomy. [This identifies the library of books in Stahlman's office as being his personal collection.]

 I am again reasonably sure that, if such a history of astronomy (still?) existed in Dave's files at the time, I would have been consulted about it, in person or by email (... Dave passed on to me from his library a few of Stahlman's books on ancient astronomy)."

Miscellaneous Remarks

Stahlman's research was unknown [undisclosed] to most of his graduate students [MIT]. It is certain that at least one of Stahlman's former students was aware of the manuscript [at the time] but doubted the book was ever finished, and if it was finished doubted it was in a publishable form.

There was a belief among the graduate students that Stahlman had become a perfectionist because of his mentor Otto Neugebauer.

It's interesting that Stahlman mentions Otto Reuter, author of Germanische Himmelskunde. At Oxford 1 in 1981 Olaf Pedersen had some negative comments about Reuter's work: "a vast, but uncritical and unmethodical compilation."

Stahlman's interpretation of the Greeks was a bit strange and didn't match what was taught in the philosophy courses. [It would be interesting to know how Stahlman deviated from scholarly consensus on the ancient Greeks and science.]

A lot is now only remembered vaguely. Class notes possessed from the period were disposed of circa 2003 during downsizing.

Stahlman's PhD dissertation likely had the mathematical touch of a Neugebauer student.

David Lindberg was disappointed when he realized he couldn't do scholarship any more, but was really disappointed when he couldn't remember what to do next in a woodworking project (he did fine hardwood cabinetry as a hobby).

Stahlman had three dissertation students who might once have been contacted, but two of these have already passed away and the third finished his degree too early to have known anything about Stahlman's publication plans in the 1970s.

Since 1988 the Department relocated twice and disposed of much as a consequence of the relocations. Now it no longer even exists, its faculty has been merged into History.

Provisional conclusion

My conclusion is the one-time existence of the manuscript cannot be ruled out. If it did exist, what became of it is now unsolvable. Also, details of its content are unknowable. Mark Stahlman states that when at MIT, William Stahlman was a member of Giorgio de Santillana's "project group" contributing towards Hamlet's Mill. However, it is difficult to accept Mark Stahlman's claim that William Stahlman was the primary resource for Hamlet's Mill. According to Mark Stahlman his father related that Giorgio de Santillana relied heavily on his [somewhat ambiguous but obviously meaning William Stahlman's] collection of ancient manuscripts in the preparation of Hamlet's Mill. Again, it is a somewhat puzzling statement. The culmination of multi-contributor efforts that became Hamlet's Mill was combined in the 'train wreck' that comprised the 1966 seminar notes. The source/basis of Hamlet's Mill was the Spring 1966 seminar notes marked, "21.93 T Autumn, 1966, Introduction to Ancient Cosmology." This poorly written document was prepared by von Dechend (who made no attempt to correct it and retype it). (I need to check this document again for any reference to Stahlman's name.) But we can see a reason for William Stahlman to have begun to accumulate a collection of notes on mythology and astronomy. After his move to UW-Madison, details of continued cooperation with de Santillana are perhaps contained in archival material. Also some time after his move to UW-Madison, by the 1970s at least, some people believed he was not as committed to his scholarly studies as he had once been. Health and personal issues seem to have played a role. It was indicated that he was addicted to alcohol. Also, he applied for a disability parking permit. Progress with his manuscript had perhaps stalled. Perhaps his alcohol dependence and resulting illness resulted in a cessation of the project. If any manuscript went to the care of David Lindberg it remained unactioned and when David Lindberg began to suffer with Alzheimer's disease any material by William Stahlman that was in his care may have eventually become lost.

The reason for the considerable interest in William Stahman is Hamlet’s Mill was a muddled book salvaged from von Dechend's 'train wreck' 1966 seminar notes whereas Stahlman was independently and progressively working on the same/similar themes in an expansive and orderly and clear manner.

Excursus: MIT, School of Humanities

Even in the late 1940s, MIT did not stress the humanities. The emphasis was on a myriad of science courses. It is indicated that all new students took the introductory courses in physics and calculus. However, this period at MIT was also a time of the beginning curriculum change. An architect was appointed as Dean of Humanities and he started a course - required of all undergraduates - that was taught by the Giorgio de Santillana. It is recalled by a past student that de Santillana made a valiant effort with the course content. "MIT at that time [circa end of 1940s] didn't stress the humanities; there wasn't time with all the science courses. The Institute was just beginning to change this situation. They appointed an architect as Dean of Humanities and started a course required of all undergraduates taught by a historian named Georgio de Santillana. I can't recall the reading assignments now, but he made a valiant effort to convert all of us into regular people." ("Wondering About Things." by George Field (Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Volume 52, 2014, Pages 1-42, Page 3).)

MIT School of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences (http://shass.mit.edu/inside/history): "Pioneering MIT pioneered among the science and technical schools in offering a rigorous liberal arts education. The School's focus on critical thinking, communication and leadership skills, cultural perspective and international education are central to the Institute's mission of knowledge, innovation, and service. 1930s Elevating the Humanities and Social Sciences at MIT During the administration of President Karl Taylor Compton (1930-1949) work was done to improve the status of humanities and social sciences at MIT. On 9 March 1932 the MIT Corporation adopted a new plan of administration, creating three schools (Engineering, Science, and Architecture) and two divisions including the Division of Humanities. The Division of Humanities differed from the schools in that it offered no programs leading to degrees. Aside from academic instruction in the fields of English, history, economics, and language, the division was also "responsible for instruction in such fields as sociology, labor relations, government, international relations, law, philosophy, psychology, literature, music, and fine arts for both undergraduate and graduate students." The Department of Economics and Statistics, the Department of English and History, and the Department of Modern Languages were brought into the Division of Humanities in 1932. …. 1940s Four-year Program in the Humanities Created In 1944, a four-year program of required courses in the humanities and social sciences for undergraduates was adopted by the faculty. The Committee on Educational Survey, also known as the Lewis Committee, whose report was published in 1949, called for the establishment of a School of Humanities which could grant degrees. …. 1950s School of Humanities and Social Studies Formed The School of Humanities and Social Studies was established in December 1950 with John Ely Burchard as the first dean. The Center for International Studies was founded and placed within the School in [1950] as an extra-departmental organization. The psychology and political science sections were established in the Department of Economics and Social Science in 1951 and 1956 respectively. In 1954, a Department of Humanities was created within the school. The new department incorporated the Department of English and History and other areas of related academic interest. In 1955, Course XXI was begun so that students could major in humanities or social sciences in combination with science or engineering. The students received the degree of bachelor of science without specification of a science or engineering department. A graduate program in political science was introduced in 1958, and in 1959 the name of the school was changed to School of Humanities and Social Science (SHSS). …. 1960s New Sections and Departments Created The early 1960s saw the establishment of history (1960), philosophy (1961), music (1961), and literature (1962) sections within the Department of Humanities. Graduate programs in psychology (1960), linguistics (1961), and philosophy (1963) were developed in addition to the well-established graduate program in economics. …. 1970s Revisions to the Core Curriculum In 1971 the Commission on MIT Education began reevaluation of both the general structure and the specific content of the General Institute Requirements in the humanities and social sciences. In October 1971, Dean Bishop appointed a subcommittee of the School Council to examine various plans for revision of the core curriculum in humanities and social science. Dean Harold John Hanham was appointed in 1973. During his tenure the SHSS stated its mission as comprising three elements: to provide highly developed graduate programs in economics, linguistics, philosophy, political science, and psychology; to enable students to satisfy MIT's humanities requirement (viewed by the SHSS as a general education requirement); and to maintain undergraduate subject majors in economics, philosophy, political science, humanities, and science and engineering. In 1973 the Technology Studies Program was developed to relate the humanities more directly to science and engineering. …. 2000s A New Name On 1 July 2000, the name of the school changed from the School of Humanities and Social Science to the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences to recognize more fully the breadth and contributions of the arts at the Institute. …."

In one teaching program by the Department of Humanities the topic explored was the "Greek Achievement." Professor Giorgio de Santillana led sessions on Greek science and cosmology, Assistant Professor William Watson talked on the economic background, and Assistant Professor David Berlew of the Alfred P. Sloan School of Management discussed the subject from the perspectives of sociology and physiology.

John Blum (who taught for 9 years at MIT) relates that one year Giorgio de Santillana offered a seminar on great trials, beginning with Socrates, then proceeding on, to use de Santillana's own book on Galileo, and ending with Sacco and Vanzetti.

"The Committee on Educational Survey, also known as the Lewis Committee, whose report was published in 1949, called for the establishment of a School of Humanities which could grant degrees. The School of Humanities and Social Studies was established in December 1950 with John Ely Burchard as the first dean. The Center for International Studies was founded and placed within the School in [1950] as an extra-departmental organization. The psychology and political science sections were established in the Department of Economics and Social Science in 1951 and 1956 respectively. In 1954 a Department of Humanities was created within the school. The new department incorporated the Department of English and History and other areas of related academic interest. In 1955, Course XXI was begun so that students could major in humanities or social sciences in combination with science or engineering. The students received the degree of bachelor of science without specification of a science or engineering department. In 1959 the name of the school was changed to School of Humanities and Social Science (SHSS). Graduate programs in political science (1958), philosophy (1963), psychology (1960), and linguistics (1961) were developed in addition to the well-established graduate program in economics. The early 1960s saw the establishment of philosophy (1961), music (1961), history (1960), and literature (1962) sections within the Department of Humanities." (https://libraries.mit.edu/mithistory/research/schools-and-departments/school-of-humanities-arts-and-social-sciences/)

"MIT's Course 21 (Humanities) was considered innovative when it was established in the 1950s, although its roots go back to the opening of the Institute in 1865. During the 1960s the School grew rapidly, was reorganized into most of its current departments and sections, and began to grant full-scale degrees. In the 1970s and 1980s, the School continued to define separate programs and rearrange sections. In 1990 the School replaced the generic SB degree in Humanities with SB degrees in specified areas of humanistic study: Anthropology, History, Literature, Foreign Languages and Literatures, Music, and Writing. To reflect the growth and incorporation of the arts at MIT, and in celebration of its 50th anniversary in 2000, the School changed its name to the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences." (http://web.mit.edu/catalog/degre.human.deans.html)

Presumed to be Giorgio de Santillana's office secretary circa 1967-1968. The person is unidentified but most likely is still living at this time (2017).

Von Dechend's investigative method in the absence of secondary sources

Both de Santillana and von Dechend believed astronomical information was coded for ease of transmission (i.e., intended world-wide transmission) and to enable secrecy (i.e., confinement to intellectual elites).

Von Dechend's method for obtaining/decoding astronomical information in the absence of discussion of such in secondary sources attracted critics due to its lack of rigour in investigative technique. Von Dechend's method is explained by Abe Aronow in his 1962 thesis (Page 21): "After having thoroughly reviewed the cosmological traditions of earlier, contiguous and contemporary cultures, the text is read and evaluated, by enlightened conjecture for the most part and then later correlated with many other similar studies in ... [the] attempt to extract a pattern or connection between various different explorations." Abe Aronow continues (Pages 21-22): "It is obvious to me that in the course of such a study, much spurious information seems, for a time, to be important. However, such dangers can be mitigated by good scholarship in the correlative stages of the study." Also (Page 22): "Professor de Santillana has given the following analogy for this method: Most history comes to us as a container with its contents rotted and we must try to reconstruct the contents by comparing the containers. This study is a case in which the contents are extant but the containers have been rotted away. Only in comparing the various contents can we ascertain the character of their various or, maybe, not so various containers."

Von Dechend discusses her use of the methodology of comparison in "Einführung in die Archaische Kosmologie." (Pages 7-31. In: Einführung in die Archaische Kosmologie, Vorlesungen im Wintersemester 1976/77, Hertha von Dechend. (The publication is available from Differenz-Verlang\Franz Krojer, München.) Some plain and more detailed writings on the methodological approach would have been helpful. At times the tales are not even similar in a general sort of way but are believed to be different in form but similar in content.

Von Dechend's decoding method and rules

Not a lot is known about the history of these. However, it is evident from the content of Hamlet's Mill that the conclusions drawn are not based on any profound research. According to von Dechend's predecessor Eduard Stucken there were formal formulas of astral mythology. Mythology was converted into a formula for universal application. In the case of Israel this particularly constructed mythology was later demythologized and recast as Biblical historical figures. However, Stucken had intellectual connections with the star-myth school of Ernst Siecke in that he adopted the methods of the star-myth school.

The astral methods of Siecke's star-myth school are basically the methods of Stucken's Astralmythen (and most likely the basic methods of Hertha von Dechend). Nowhere in her writings is von Dechend critical of Eduard Stucken. In the first 3 parts of his Astralmythen, Stucken examined the figure of a major personage from the Hebrew Bible against his astral interpretation of earlier Mesopotamian myth. (Stucken's Astralmythen depended heavily on Near Eastern materials.) His method was to parse (separate into component parts) the Mesopotamian stories into motifs and then cite biblical passages that corresponded to them, often letting the 'parallel' excerpts speak for themselves. Particularly in the last 2 parts of Astralmythen, Stucken 'connected' the biblical narrative to star lore through a wide-ranging tour of world mythologies. By the completion of Astralmythen (Part 5 being published 10 years later that Part 1), Mesopotamian origins no longer seemed to be the focus. Stucken made no reference to the planets. (Note: Motif = a unit (detail) of content (a narrative plot, a sequence of several events, or a single event or action). Traits, within a cultural context, are human activities. The meaning of traits differs amongst different cultures. It is demonstrated that isolated motifs can travel quite easily across space and time.)

Note: Discussing myths as abstractions detached from the cultural and political systems in which they develop (or are adopted and adapted) enables structural and narrative analysis.

Stucken made random comparisons from mythologies all over the world. This 'method' was followed in Hamlet's Mill. Also followed was uncritical acceptance of coincidences of detail, incidental similarities, and general resemblances. All are useless as convincing evidence. Also useless is assertion replacing proof.

We may add to von Dechend's investigative method the method and rules von Dechend decided to apply. The rules von Dechend decided to apply: (1) animals are stars, (2) gods are planets, and (3) topographic references are metaphors for locations - usually of the sun - on the celestial sphere. The 'rule' that animals = stars was proposed by Leo Frobenius (Das Zeitalter des Sonnengottes (1904)) when attempting to establish foundations for further research.

The few rules are not established in any manner to demonstrate they are a means to separate superficial similarities and presumptions of direct connections from any possible genuine affiliations.

Frobenius formulated "laws" for interpreting mythology. See: Die Weltanschauung der Naturvölker (1898). See also the critical (English-language) book review by Franz Boas in American Anthropologist, New Series, Volume 1, Number 4, October, 1899, Pages 775-777.

Von Dechend's premise that real myths grew out of "measures and counting" enabled selective use of material i.e., what conformed to expectation of precessional coding. (Note: The archaic importance of measures and numbers should not be underestimated. "We are, then, confronting here an extremely widespread practice, and this virtual universality entitles us to see in it a deep-rooted trait of the primitive mentality. To measure is to isolate a certain quantitative feature of the object measured - whatever its quality. But to the primitive mind, measure is something derived from the quality of the object or, at least, intimately connected with that quality - hence the need for a different measure for virtually every separate object, with none of the measures reducible to the others." (Measures and Men by Witold Kula (1986, Page 89).)

Regarding von Dechend's investigative method: In an article on Panbabylonism in The American Journal of Theology, Volume 12, 1908, it is explained that Stucken applied the 'astral' test to the myths of various people. Regarding von Dechend's premise that real myths grew out of "measures and counting": Hugo Winckler's version of Panbabylonism gave importance to its 'number theory,' which was passed down in the Pythagorean number theory. The Panbabylonist Hugo Winckler found ultimate significance in an abstract mathematical scheme. Distinctive in Winckler's particular version of Panbabylonism was the emphasis/importance he gave to its "number theory." He claimed that this has come down to us in the Pythagorean teaching, which he further claimed was simply a product of the ancient Near East.

Franz Krojer writes that von Dechend stated in conversation that in a lecture text ("Introduction to Archaic Cosmology") for the 1976/1977 winter semester [at MIT], she stated she set out the "rules" for the astronomical interpretation of mythology. Amazingly, she seems never to have made them available them elsewhere. The "rules" given in the stated publication are quite few and quite basic.

Attempts to infer the meaning of ancient myths has to deal with the problem of corruption of content. In many cases there is a single version extant (and so does not enable comparison with other versions). This makes the ‘time depth’ of meaning inferred open to debate. Added to these considerations are issues of shared ancestry, or cultural transmission, and those due to parallel invention. Also, myths change over time, are abandoned, or invented anew. Examples: (1) The rapid inclusion of horses in the mythologies of the Plains Indians after European contact, (2) The rapid development of Melanesian cargo cults after European contact (especially WWII), (3) the invention by Mormons in the 1820s and 1830s of an entire mythology for New World Indians.

In, When They Severed Earth from Sky (2005) the Barbers offer scores of what they concoct as "myth principles." Not explained is why would ancient people transform observations into complex stories.

For von Dechend, and for others, ancient, classical, and medieval mythology has been a Rorschach test into which they can project nearly any notion that appeals to them. The contents of the myths tell a different story to every person who interprets them. The resemblances between the myths and identification of a parallel astronomical content originates with the imagination. What is required is a more robust form of evidence - and especially theories that can be tested. It is all too easy to make unverifiable assertions about mythology.

Von Dechend's model for 'discovering' connected similarities is ultimately a crude attempt to marshall at times very complex material. Meticulous collating to reveal the extent of parallelisms is absent. This hardly allows for nuanced comparison. Many claimed parallels can only be described as "rough parallels." Claimed matches/parallels are often tenuous. Any discrepancies are not delved into. With many examples the differences outnumber the resemblances. The book overall is little more than series of vignettes which illustrate the intuitions of the main author (von Dechend) but fail in proving them to have a connected point. The claimed similarities are too elementary for a book that makes very sweeping claims. Also, there is not much that is evidently in common until von Dechend forces an interpretation.

For a modern structured analysis of world mythology see: Myths and Genes: A Deep Historical Reconstruction by Andrey Korotayev and Daria Khaltourina (2011).

Eduard Stucken

The astronomical method of interpretation of mythology applied by Eduard Stucken (and later adopted by the key Panbabylonists) was simply the restricted application/extension of the nature method of interpretation of mythology applied by such persons as Wilhelm Schwartz (Friedrich Leberecht Wilhelm Schwartz, 1821-1899). There was actually, however, limited astral interpretation within Stucken's Astralmythen. Suzanne Marchand (Down from Olympus (2003)) has described Stucken's Astralmythen as "bizarre." Also, the book was written in an iconoclastic manner. According to Stucken, Abraham is originally the constellation Orion, and Sarah is the star Sirius. Also, Abraham and Sarah are parallel figures to Osiris and Isis in Egyptian mythology. According to Stucken the accounts of Abraham go back to 2 Babylonian sources, the legend of Etana and Istar's Journey to the Underworld. Not a lot is known about what the Panababylonists believed about supposed coding methods and rules. According to Hertha von Dechend's predecessor Eduard Stucken there were formal formulas of astral mythology. In an article on Panbabylonism in The American Journal of Theology, Volume 12, 1908, it is explained that Stucken applied the 'astral' test to the myths of various people. It was believed by Stucken that mythology was converted into a formula for universal application. In the case of Israel this particularly constructed mythology was later demythologized and recast as Biblical historical figures.

Eduard Stucken was a nephew of the anthropologist Adolf Bastian. Stucken completed a course in astronomy in Hamburg then went with Robert Koldewey's 1890-1891 German Oriental Society expedition to the Hittite site Sendschirli in northern Syria. On his return to Berlin Stucken studied multiple ancient languages but does not seem to have acquired sufficient knowledge of any. He was not - as some persons believed - a linguist. The first volume of his Astralmythen was published in 1896 and was crammed with philological detail. In it he argued that the origin of all myths (especially Old Testament stories) and art was Assyrian astral sciences. (Like the author's of Hamlet's Mill (1969) he sought to explain all the mythologies of the world on the basis of supposed astral-lore encrypted in Mesopotamian myths.) The volume was written as his doctoral dissertation but it was rejected. Stucken simply proceeded with additional volumes. In his second volume of Astralmythen published in 1899 he rejected Adolf Bastian's ideas of independent cultural evolution and universal "elementary forms of thinking." (The polymath and pioneering ethnologist/anthropologist Adolf Bastian was Stucken's uncle.) Instead, Stucken argued for the diffusion of all myths from an ur-Babylonian form. After all 5 volumes of his Astralmythen were published (1896-1907) Stucken focussed on writing plays and novels. The Panbabylonists considered Stucken to be a dilettante. Stucken's ideas of astral myths were adopted by the Panbabylonists but usually Stucken's Astralmythen was not cited directly.

Some rules given by von Dechend to seminar students

In Introduction to Ancient Cosmology (1966; Pages I-VI):

"Now you know from the Decalogue, that commandments are most of the times interdictions, and so you'll not be astonished to meet several stern "Thou-shalt-not-commit's." (sic) They are meant to guide your attention, since your thoughts are, necessarily, so dyed in the wool that you are not even aware of the fact that you have to do with mere suppositions, and not with plain common sense and with very many "obviousnesses". (sic)"

"#1. "Thou shalt not" assume that the founders of high civilization have been of inferior intelligence to you."

"#2. Do not underestimate scientific feats of the first rank and order." "[Do] ... not overestimate the scientific curiosity of the homo normalis, or ... underestimate scientific master feats of our earliest ancestors."

"#3. Take your language seriously: unprecise (sic) language discloses the lack of precision of thought ...."

"#4. "... Forthcoming scientists as you are, you know very well that you cannot "tell" physical, chemical, etc. phenomena but in technical language, by means of formulae, i.e. of a (sic) elaborate and specific terminology. This is no modern occupation ...."

"#5. "Our current conception of poetry is unapplicable (sic) to former times. Particularly the notion that the poet invents his plots out of thin air and is, moreover, completely free in the choice of representing them."

(Page 5.)

"#6. "Thou shalt  not commit Euhemerism: ...." "And "Euhemerism" stands for every sort of interpreting myth as reporting 'history' in the broadest sense ...."

Regarding "#2. Von Dechend further explains (Page III) "And do not overestimate, by all means, the scientific curiosity of the average pedestrian - called homo sapiens - of all times, in all continents: the inventive sub-species which we like to call 'Homo Scientificus' is an extremely rare one.

Possible arguments by MIT critics during the 1960s against von Dechend's method

Every claim that forms a part of Hamlet's Mill has to meet rigorous standards of critical/scientific scrutiny. The claims that made up the book were being openly formed at MIT in the 1960s (during the course of a variety of activities). This pre-publication phase saw critical opposition to the themes and arguments that later comprised the book. The methods, ideas, and claims of Hamlet's Mill were already under scrutiny of other MIT academics and subject to critique. The nature of the arguments put by MIT critics at the time regarding von Dechend's lack of methodological rigour are now unfortunately lost and likely not recoverable (forgotten with the passage of time). Likely they focused on her subjective methods and 'tortured' analysis of myths.

It is possible the MIT critics of von Dechend's methodology expressed their views along the following lines: The key criticisms were likely the approach to myth adopted by von Dechend and de Santillana is methodologically uncritical. The comparisons made are ad hoc i.e., done with a particular purpose in mind. Is mythology a technical language that codes astronomical knowledge (precession) through allegory? A systematic presentation of the analytic methodology that enables its analysis and the evaluation of its validity is not provided. A world-wide dispersal of a primary myth that was originated to preserve and transmit a disguised esoteric astronomical knowledge (precession) has not been demonstrated. Is myth really an effective means for the transmission of astronomical information relating to precession? Do we possess the tools to enable the informed assessment of the uncertainty in the interpretation involving encoded astronomical information? Building on this, another likely criticism would be von Dechend's ideas of oral memory/oral transmission and her concept of astronomical data being coded (using pre-fabricated elements for phrases) – at least by the Neolithic period – by a particular technique of oral verse-making for trans-global transmission, by means of an oral epic comprising a mono-myth that remained unchanged across the globe and across millennia and reached early modern times; with a key example being the Kalevala. What preconditions made such a particular cultural exchange a possibility? A better explanation than exchanges between "scientific elites" is required.

There is no attempt to define with any rigour the manner (way) in which transmission was enabled. An early world of constant mutual contact and exchange is perhaps a Western bias. The label ancient "Near East" masks under a single general term a diverse number of cultures. Also, to imply that early cultures produced no mythology of their own until the monomyth was introduced is an assumption lacking in proof.

It is impossible to define the time of borrowing in tales remembered orally.

A key criticism is - and may well have been at MIT - lack of methodological sophistication regarding proposed parallels. Hamlet's Mill aside, the values of parallels remains difficult to decide. An overreliance on broad thematic similarities. Merely comparing a series of stories rather than scrutinizing individual stories on their own merits ignores a fundamental principle of comparative mythology. Also, the limits of comparative mythology are not discussed. Resemblances are not confirmation. It is not scientific to group together a conglomerate of resemblances from all over the world - and from different time periods - and then argue this is proof of worldwide diffusion. A resemblance is good for the purposes of illustration, but it is not confirmation.

Not discussed by de Santillana and von Dechend are those items of myth and ancient astronomical lore that cannot be fitted by any means within their precessional scheme.

Note: The comparative method of the Panbabylonists/Hamlet's Mill is fraught with peril. It fails to achieve its goal. The question of methodology in making comparisons has not been dealt with. Similarity is not a conclusive argument/conclusive proof of identical correspondences. Cultural meaning is never introduced - a blanket astronomical explanation is given. Understanding whether there are more differences than similarities is important. However, in Hamlet's Mill, explaining differences and their distribution is neglected in favour of chasing similarities. For von Dechend, comparisons are intended to imply direct cultural contacts or borrowings/transmissions, not simply patterns of thought. The justification of this is the belief in the diffusion of the monomyth. An explanation for this approach is demanded. The comparative method is still valid as a research method. The criteria for whether there is an underlying scientific basic is not based on claimed results but on the way information is sought, organised, and argued. Careful criticism of sources needs to be included.

Problems with the use of 19th-century materials as a basis for Hamlet's Mill

The authors of Hamlet's Mill chose to use 19th-century materials and studies of mythology over modern approaches. The reason being these antiquated studies favoured their approach and interpretations. The result was that that Hamlet's Mill is a naive interpretation of mythology. The key problems with this methodology is summarised below by Daniel Ogden.

"In the early part of the last century classicists pointed to the existence of a number of parallels between Aegean mythologies and those found in biblical, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian texts (Brown 1898; Frazer 1921), but often these comparisons lacked methodological sophistication and relied too heavily upon broad thematic similarities. More recent studies demonstrate a greater awareness of the limits of the comparative method, but also a greater appreciation for what shared mythological elements imply (or do not imply) about intercultural contact and the diffusion of ideas (Burkert 1987b; Graf2004a; N. Marinatos 2001; Mondi 1990; Penglase 1994; West 1995, 1997).. The works of Hesiod and Homer, in particular, have been brought into close dialogue with the great epics of Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Syro-Canaan, and, less often, Egypt (Bachvarova 2002, 2005; Langdon 1990; N. Marinatos 2001; Noegel 2002, 2005a). It is now appropriate to speak of an "Asiatic mythological koine" and its formative impact on the Aegean literatures of the Bronze and Iron Ages (Graf 2004a; cf. "Aegean koine" in Burkert 1985, 1992, but "Near Eastern-Aegean cultural community koiner" in Burkert 2005a:291). Such a koine, scholars suggest, explains the parallels that exist between Aegean and Near Eastern mythological conceptions concerning creation, cosmology, the gods, humankind, death, and the afterlife (Astour 1998; West 1995). In some cases, the mythological parallels are so geographically and temporally widespread that any effort to trace their westward movement with precision is impossible. Such is the case with the story of the world deluge. It is attested in a number of Sumerian, Akkadian, Greek, and Indian sources, and of course in the biblical story of Noah (Genesis 6-9)." ("Greek Religion and the Ancient Near East." by Scott Noegel. First published in: Daniel Ogden, Editor. The Blackwell Companion to Greek Religion (2006), Pages 21-37; Page 24.)

Neglected establishment of principles for comparative studies

Is the comparative enterprise justified by similar features in story structure? It is certainly legitimate to look for parallels. However, there needs to be a systematic method in the approach to the comparative method. Simply because many mythic themes are comparable does not necessarily mean that they are compatible in that they necessarily indicate diffusion/cultural contact. It is recognised that researchers are not always properly trained or well suited to do comparative studies. Commonly there has been a 'inventorial' approach to comparisons, listing various parallel themes without a suitable discussion of whether there is significance or not. Adequate articulation is required. Hamlet's Mill has problems on this point.

Von Dechend argued for a common pattern of thought in mythology. Like the Panbabylonists she overstressed "parallels" and similarities. She had little more than a 'detective' approach to literary/cultural comparison. Like the Panbabylonists she made far-fetched interpretations and combinations. It is a mistake to equate "parallelism" with "proof," to substitute the citation of parallels for reasoned argument. Direct borrowing is not necessarily indicated by "parallels" and similarities. A few similarities between 2 narratives doesn't mean that one is a copy of the other or that both have a common origin (ancestor). But where numerous similarities are present then perhaps we have some evidence of interdependence.

The comparative method remains full of uncertainties. Parallels and differences should be noted. Von Dechend does not engage in a discussion of parallels and differences. Sigmund Mowinckel (The Psalms in Israel’s Worship (1962, 2 Volumes, Page 241)) warned against the movement towards a "pan-patternism" (parallelism) as one sided and unreal as Panbabylonism. However, it has been pointed out that that whilst similarity of one or two details does not prove historical dependence, clusters of similarities are something quite different. It is argued that such clusters frequently, are not simply accidental or fortuitous, especially in contiguous civilisations. (See: Christianity, Judaism and other Greco-Roman cults: Studies for Morton Smith at 60. edited by Jacob Neusner (1975, Page 9).)

Johannes Haubold (Lecturer in Greek Literature at the University of Durham) states: "[M]eaningful comparative study is precisely not a matter of micro-level coincidences, however plausible or important they might seem."

Similarity does not mean that borrowing has taken place. Neither does similarity indicate the direction in which borrowing has occurred (if at all).

According to J. H. Walton there are 10 important principles that must be kept in mind when doing comparative studies. Application of these principles is not evident in Hamlet's Mill.

Source: Ouro, Roberto. (2011). "Similarities and Differences between the Old Testament and the Ancient Near East Texts." (Andrews University Seminary Studies, Volume 49, Number 1, Pages 5-32).

"Carolina López-Ruiz's chapter explores the comparative approach of looking at the relation of Greek mythology to traditions in the Near East. The beginning of her chapter reviews previous scholarship and the issues that have characterized the difficulty in reconciling Greek and Near Eastern parallels. Recent scholarship shows how "comparison no doubt holds the key to many unopened doors" (159) and how the state of this field "tantalizes us with the possibility of an apparently inexhaustible line of research" (154). A section on "Methodological Considerations" offers nine pitfalls that scholars should avoid in a comparative perspective. These range, for example, from warnings to avoid thinking of the "Near East" as a monolithic cultural entity to suggestions that we use terms like "adaptation," "appropriation," and "cultural transactions" rather than "simple borrowing" to describe such exchange between cultures (159-60). A final section offers an overview of genres, themes, and mythical figures that find parallels between the Greek and Near Eastern worlds, including discussions of Zeus and Aphrodite, connections between Homer’s poems and the Epic of Gilgamesh, and relation between Greek cosmogony and the Hurro-Hittite Song of Release. López-Ruiz's suggestion that we can speak of a "mythological koine" or "international mythological language" from the Late Bronze Age [1570-1200 BCE] and later is sound and supports the approach of seeing Greek culture as part of, rather than separate from, the cultures of the Near East. This important chapter should become standard reading for anyone looking for a brief but sophisticated overview on this subject." (Book review by Anthony Mangieri (Salve Regina University) of: Lowell Edmunds, Approaches to Greek Myth. Second edition (2014); BMCR 2015.06.13 on the Bryn Mawr Classical Review blog.)

Interpreting mythology

In Hamlet's Mill, mythic themes are traced with confidence and conviction, regardless of the vagueness and obscurity of the material. Hamlet’s Mill is an exercise in "Old School" diffusionism = Wherever a story which consists of the same combination of several elements is found in 2 regions (geographic locations), it must be concluded that its occurrence in both is due to diffusion.

There has never been agreement on how mythology should be handled.

There have been numerous scholarly attempts to analyse myths and identify an origin for them. Myths and legends are intended to convey information (or at least a point of view). The origin(s) of myth/folklore theme are unknown and most likely indeterminable. In a seminar in the early 1960s de Santillana and von Dechend stated their argument is developed from a re-examination of the findings of Nineteenth Century scholars. Interesting, many 19th-century scholars attempted to establish the original or Ur-form of a myth/legend/folk-tale. (Note: They are not the only authors to claim the findings of 19th-century authors are more reliable than modern scholarship. See the same type of argument from the pseudo-scholar Acharyas S (Dorothy Murdock, 1960(incorrectly 1961)-2015) in her totally unreliable book Suns of God (2004, Page 9). The book almost wholly consists of material uncritically taken from 19th-century supporters of the Jesus-Myth theory, many of whom were not scholars. Acharyas S writes: "Furthermore, the so-called outdated scholarship on the origins of religion in general, and Christianity in particular, that arose in the past few centuries is actually superior not only in depth but but also in perspective to what is often produced today." Having one of the largest private collections of 19th-century freethought literature and having spent some 20 years immersed in it I can only say that if she believed this then it is obvious to me that Acharyas S comes across as being totally ignorant of scholarly issues. Her self-published books are examples of weird pseudo-scholarship. (Almost all 19th-century freethought material is useless for present-day purposes.) Her advocacy of "astrotheology" has attracted a cultish group of followers who propagate her views as absolute historical truth. Her so-called astrotheology is based on promoting 19th-century nature myths. An important factor in her astrotheology was precession. Since 1995 until her death from cancer in 2015 Dorothy Murdock made use of the internet to the extent that she was described by Wikipedia as an "American internet personality." A previous note I made on one of her books: "Murdock, D. and S, Acharya. (2009). Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection. [Note: Acharya S is a pen name for D. M. Murdock and she recycles old (19th-century and early 20th-century freethought) myth-theory material of Christian origins. In this book she has a small section discussing the Dendera zodiac and uses long outdated references/sources to claim it likely dates to circa 10,000 BCE (and that Egyptian astronomy was likely this old). Acharya S aka D[orothy]. M. Murdock is completely unreliable and seems incapable (or unwilling) to engage in a scholarly approach. In all her books (most self published) she uses mostly only outdated and unreliable references/sources and seems to be having a joke at the expense of her readers. Her attempts to defend her claims/sources is equally outrageous and seems intent on extending the joke. The author can not distinguish the American freemason Robert Hewitt Brown, author of "Stellar Theology and Masonic Astronomy" (1882), from the English solicitor Robert Brown Junior, author of "Researches into the Origin of the Primitive Constellations of Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans," (2 Volumes, 1899-1900). In one of her books she incorrectly identifies Robert Brown Junior as the author of "Stellar Theology and Masonic Astronomy."]"

According to de Santillana and von Dechend mythology all over the world can be reduced to an ancient ur-myth rooted in  sophisticated astronomical observations, codified for the sake of secrecy, and then hyper-diffused from its unknown origin in the Near East to the rest of the planet.

In looking for patterns within mythology and in interpreting mythology, the type of analysis made and the conclusions determined about the meaning of a myth, will depend on the school of thought (interpretive approach) the myth analyst adheres to. The same evidence elicits different theories. It is highly doubtful if mythology is just one thing. Understanding how to understand the evidence is the issue. No one theory is likely to account satisfactorily for the origin of all myths. Their ages vary considerably and their meanings are likely to be diverse. The existence of fertility myths is a suitable example of a separate genre to any perceived astronomical myths. It is now considered that each myth should be studied separately, and variants compared.

The research methodology formulated by von Dechend - surely no easy task to construct; and its framing important to avoid misinterpretation - should have been clearly explained. Von Dechend attempts to analyse individual and comparative mythologies with a single (and speculative) methodological tool (and claims to get it right). Reducing all myths to a single astronomical explanation is not a methodology. The seemingly limited and simplistic methodology used by von Dechend is obviously coloured by her viewpoint, and this should have been acknowledged. Importantly, humans have an eye for finding 'patterns.' This is a problem when patterns are identified that don't really exist - or when specific meanings are superimposed on something very vague. Also, it is a well-known psychological phenomenon that once there is the conviction that a pattern is present, then everything will seem to confirm it, even if objectively there is nothing there.

The nature myth theory/school - to which von Dechend's ideas belong - is externalistic, without psychological components. Myth is simply a reaction to physical nature and knowledge gained of physical nature through human experience. Gods/goddesses are viewed as personifying meteorological forces and astronomical phenomena/objects. However, the nature myth theory/school fails to account for the full content of most myths.

Astronomy and the origin of ancient mythology

Was astronomy the main source of myth as asserted in Hamlet’s Mill? It is generally agreed that no monolithic theory has succeeded or can succeed in achieving universal applicability. It is now generally agreed no single theory of myth can cover all types of myths. There is no one scheme that is the universal key to all myth.

Amanda Laoupi (Centre for the Assessment of Natural Hazards and Proactive Planning (National Technical University of Athens) (NTUA), Greece, simply uses the material in Hamlet's Mill as evidence of environmental disasters. (See: http://www.drgeorgepc.com/DisasterArchSocCultLaoupi.html) Hamlet's Mill is regarded not as a source for fictional astronomical mythology but a source (one of many) for studying the causes of societal and environmental collapse in the civilizations of the past. She writes: "The initial stages of disaster analysis can be found in the texts of ancient writers (e.g. Homer, Hesiod, Herodotus, presocratic philosophers, Hippocrates, Thucydides, tragic poets, Plato, Aristotle, Theophrastus, et al.), where a serious attempt to categorize the causes of natural and man-induced changes both in the environment and human societies, is easily recognizable."

Excursus: For volcano related myths and legends see (1) Legends of the Earth: Their Geologic Origins by Dorothy Vitaliano (1976), (2) Myth and Geology by L. Piccardi and W. Masse. (2007), and (3) Pele, Volcano Goddess of Hawai’i by H. Arlo Nimmo (2011).

The current status of astral religion/mythology

The current status of astral religion/mythology is somewhat unsettled. Astral religion (worship of the stars) refers to the cultic worship of heavenly bodies or deities (gods/goddesses) associated with them. Babylonian astrology depended essentially on astral religion. However, astral religion, though it had oriental roots i.e., in Babylonia, was fundamentally a Hellenic creation, Pythagorean and Platonic. A fundamental idea of Pythagorean astronomers was the divinity of the astra, especially the planets.

Manfred Hutter has written: "The relationship between a heavenly body and a deity may range from identification to mere association - the boundaries are fluid. There is no astral religion per se, but elements of astral religion appear within particular religious systems. Some scholars have attempted to trace the whole of mythology to astral religion or astral mythology, but such theories are now obsolete. It is important to distinguish astral religion from astrology ...." (See: Hutter, Manfred. "Astral Religion." Religion Past and Present. Brill Online, 2014. Manfred Hutter (born 1957) is a Professor at Bonn University, Department of Comparative Religion. He holds 2 doctorates.) The relationship of astral religion to astrology remains unsettled.

Ancient Near Eastern religions commonly (though not always) associated or identified the visible planets with gods/goddesses. The eminent assyriologist Francesca Rochberg believes that Mesopotamian religion was not astral in nature. Rather, an astronomical body (i.e., sun, moon, planet, star, constellation) might represent a specific god/goddess, but astronomical bodies themselves did not have a god/goddess-like status. (See: Rochberg, Francesca. (2009). "The Stars Their Likenesses." In: Porter, Barbara. (Editor). What Is a God? (Pages 41-91).)

Establishment of horoscopy: - the technique of predicting an individual's future; - mathematical art (causal); based on planetary positions in zodiac, at time of birth; predicted events are inevitable and cannot be avoided. Though largely geometrical Greek horoscopic astrology is still based on concept of astral religion (i.e., gods and goddesses residing in the planets). Also the early belief that planets and stars establish a system of influence on peoples lives by emanating rays.

Zoroastrianism (with its astral cosmology, and celestial realm populated by celestial beings), Mithraism (with its association with astrology), and other similar types of astral religions such as the solar cults of the later Roman Empire (involving astrology) located the gods/goddesses and the proper home of the human soul and special spiritual powers in the celestial realm. The ancient Egyptians identified passage to the afterlife and the attainment of immortality with the passage through the celestial regions, such as the circumpolar region. Astral elements of Zoroastrism (the religion of Zarathustra) were influential – especially the astral origin of the soul. Involving Greek form of Persian myth that the soul comes from the realm of the stars to unite with a living body – and so human character is determined by the heavens. Astrologers were particularly concerned to know the positions of the "heavenly elements" at the moment of the individual's birth, for celestial configurations marked the path that the soul had taken in its descent into the body. These same celestial forces had accordingly exerted, and would continue to exert, an influence on the soul, perhaps determining its experiences. (Introduced into Mesopotamia from Persia.)

Zoroastrianism underwent changes during the Achaemenian era, such as the absorption of Babylonian astral lore. Belief in the development of Zurvanism, a modified form of Zoroastrian religion that supposedly appeared in Persia during the Sasanian period is controversial and likely the uncritical invention of Western scholarship.

Early Sumerian religion was not astral/planetary

There were no planetary gods/goddesses in the earliest Sumerian pantheon. The formal scheme involved An (sky), Enlil (storm), Ninhursaga (fertility), Enki (underground water), Nanna (moon), Utu (Sun), Ereshkigal (underworld), Ezen (grain), etc. It was only much later that the 5 planets were named after gods/goddesses, whose origin had nothing to do with the planets (3 were borrowed from local solar gods): Nergal (Mars), Marduk (Jupiter), and Ninurta (Saturn). Inanna was a rival to the Sumerian earth goddess Ninhursaga who eventually became dominant and associated with Venus. According to the sumerologist Thorkild Jacobsen (The Encyclopedia of Religion edited by Mircea Eliade (1987, Volume 9, Page 451)), "At Uruk - in antiquity as today a center of date culture - there was [Dumuzi-]Amaushumgalana, the power for animal growth and new life of the date palm, and his consort Inanna, earlier Ninana ("mistress of the date clusters")."

Morris Jastrow's numerous publications on Babylonian religion indicate that the association of gods/goddesses with planets was basically arbitrary and also a late development. According to Morris Jastrow (Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia (1911): "The Conception of a god of heaven [i.e., Anu] fits in, moreover, with the comparatively advanced period when the seats of the gods were placed in the skies, and the gods identified with the stars. Such an astral theology, however, is not a part of the earlier religious beliefs of the Babylonians ...." This is supported by more recent scholarship. William Fulco (The Encyclopedia of Religion edited by Mircea Eliade (1987, Volume 7, Page 82, see also Page 145)) writes: "Comparative Semitic evidence suggests that the Akkadian Venus deity was originally masculine but became completely feminized when identified with the female Sumerian deity Inanna. Because of the eventual syncretism of the Sumerian and Akkadian pantheons, the traditions concerning Inanna-Ishtar are extremely complicated. By one such tradition she is the daughter of the sky god An, by another the daughter of the moon god Nanna-Sin (and thereby sister of the sun god Utu-Shamash), and by still another, the daughter of Enlil or Ashur"

By circa the mid-3rd millennium BCE the Sumerian pantheon (later adopted by the Babylonians) was structured with 2 superior triads over the body of lesser gods dominated by those with planetary associations (due to their importance in omenology). These are listed as follows with their sacred (harmonic?) number (often used as the name of the god/goddess) when known in parentheses: 1: An (60), Enlil (50), Enki (40); 2: Nanna (30), Utu (20), Inanna (15); and 3: Ninurta (50), Marduk (10 - changed to 50 by the Babylonians), Neral (12, later 14), Nabu (?), Adad (10), etc. To the Babylonians, the 2 superior triads were: (1) Anu, Enlil, and Ea; and (2) Sin, Shamash, and Ishtar. An/Anu was the overall head of the pantheon with Enlil (and later Marduk, the patron god of Babylon, when it attained political domination of Mesopotamia) being the next most powerful. To the Assyrians, Ashur, patron deity of Ashur, was the overall head of the pantheon (otherwise it closely resembled the pantheon of Babylon).

Recent approaches to mythology by Michael Witzel

The Origins of the World’s Mythologies by E. J. Michael Witzel (2012/2013). (http://www.indologica.de/drupal/?q=node/2455)

Michael Witzel (a comparative linguist) is (Prince of) Wales Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University (and has his share of critics). He believes his studies (focusing on the oldest available texts, supported by data from archaeology, comparative linguistics, and human population genetics) demonstrate the prehistoric origins of most of the Eurasian and Laurasian mythologies and assembles evidence for a prehistoric Ur-mythology dating back 100,000 years. Witzel characterizes all the past approaches to mythology (myth-and-ritual, comparative, historical, structural, diffusion, archetype) as blind men describing an elephant. He rejects the idea of "mnemotechnical mechanics of myth formation as storage device of Stone Age 'scientific' knowledge" as the be-all-end-all explanation of myth.

Michael Witzel argues for 3 distinct historical layers of myth: Pan-Gaean > Gondwana > Laurasian (originating in Greater Southwest Asia some-time between 50,000 [time Australian, New Guinean migration) to 20,000 ybp (American migration) - i.e., sometime after the second-last ice age). The rationale being that the common features can only be explained by common inheritance; they're too similar in structure to be explained as coincidence or based on archetypes, and too separated geographically and temporally to be explained by diffusion.

See the (English-language) book review essay "The Paleolithic Turn: Michael Witzel's Theory of Laurasian Mythology." by Frederick Smith (Religious Studies Review, Volume 39, Issue 3, September, 2013, Pages 133-142). See also the scathing (English-language) book review by Tok Thompson (University of Southern California), Journal of Folklore Research (http://www.jfr.indiana.edu/review.php?id=1613).

Excursus: Some miscellaneous associates of Giorgio de Santillana

Giorgio de Santillana was advisor to George Craig (1914-2002) who taught English at Amherst College from his appointment in 1940 to his retirement in 1985. Craig received his Ph.D. in 1947. The topic of his dissertation was the 17th-century Cambridge Platonist Henry More. Craig’s dissertation was, among other things, about More' prose style and in it Craig combined his literary, philosophical, and scientific interests and knowledge.

The modernist poet and essayist Charles Olson (1910-1970) was an early friend of de Santillana.

A MIT seminar on archaic cosmology presented by Giorgio de Santillana?

There is the likelihood that in 1965 (perhaps circa 1965, 1964?) Giorgio de Santillana may have organised and directed his own seminar on archaic cosmology and science, focusing on the period from 8000 BCE to 2000 BCE aimed at demonstrating the narrowness of the traditional historicistic vision on the origin and early development of science. (See: Italian Quarterly, Volumes 9-10, 1965, Page 87. The Italian Quarterly is an American academic publication.) The issue of Italian Quarterly refers to de Santillana directing a seminar discussing the narrowness of the historical vision of scientific achievements in antiquity. The seminar on the early origins of scientific thought was apparently conducted at University of California. The seminar(s) were likely held in the early evenings and involved Hertha von Dechend. De Santillana was reliant on Jerome Lettvin for advice on organising seminars (at least at MIT). According to Jerome Lettvin, at that period it was very much a hands-on do-it-yourself process.

Also, circa 1964/1965, (apparently) Technology Review, Volume 67, Number 1, November, 1964, Page 64, has a short article mentioning a 1964 (?) MIT seminar on "antiquity of science" (ancient cosmology) conducted by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend. Both are identified with the Department of Humanities. (Note: Volume 66 of Technology Review concluded with Number 9 published in July 1964.) A 1964 seminar is not indicated in other literature - the reference needs to be fully checked. Some excerpts obtainable through Google: "The search for regularity in the universe, a characteristic of modern science, began long before men learned to write, Professor Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend of the Department of Humanities have been pointing out in an M.I.T. seminar. The earliest science they say was archaic cosmology. It preceded the achievements of the Egyptians [!?] and the Greeks, and it was born even earlier than any … [other recorded civilization]. … The great creative period seems to comprise the span between 6000 and 2000 B.C. Psychological interpretations of documents found by archaeologists have misled us, Professor de Santillana thinks. From a re-examination of the findings of Nineteenth Century scholars, he and Dr. von Dechend have concluded that astronomy is an even older science than we have been taught, and was effectively diffused long before letters were invented."

There exists a set of course notes titled, Introduction to Cosmology: A Preliminary Reconnaissance by H. von Dechend and G. de Santillana (no date, but 1961). This set of course notes is more coherent than the book. They perhaps were produced at this period (circa 1965).

Note: The seminars attributed to von Dechend were a series of weekly lectures/presentations.

De Santillana's 1966 presentation at NERC

In 1966 MIT hosted the yearly New England Renaissance Conference (NERC). The MIT conference organizer was Richard Douglas. (Roy Lamson may have assisted.) The conference observed the standard 2-day 3 session format – with usual intended informality – beginning Friday afternoon and finishing Saturday morning. The 1966 conference dates were Friday April 29 and Saturday April 30. The New England Renaissance Conference (NERC) is the oldest scholarly association in the U.S. dedicated to the study of the Renaissance. Since its founding in 1939 the NERC has played a significant role in promoting and disseminating scholarship about the Renaissance. During the morning of the Saturday program Giorgio de Santillana presented the 2nd and last paper – "Archaic Cosmology in Renaissance Literature" – for around 1 hour and 15 minutes. (Though the paper may now be lost the type of content may perhaps be gleaned from his book review of Yate's work on Giordano Bruno where he pointed to certain problems presented by the "churning turbid flood" of Hermetic, Cabalistic and other esoteric literature.) The venue for the presentation of the conference papers was the Library Lounge, Hayden Library Building (on Memorial Drive). Conference registration was in the Hayden Library Building, Room 14N-315 (North Wing, 3rd Floor), Roy Lamson, Richard Douglas.

Giorgio de Santillana as historian and polymath

Steven Wolfe describes de Santillana as a forgotten polymath, humanist, and Galileo scholar. One person has perceptively noted: "De Santillana is a thinker who sees into the depths of his topic, looks deep beneath the appearances to see essences …." Henry Guerlac noted his skill in discovering the unity of the history of science. An example is: Development of Rationalism and Empiricism, with Edgar Zilsel (1941, International Encyclopedia of Unified Science Foundations of the Unity of Science; Volume 2, Number 8, Pages 1-52; 2nd Edition, 1970, Volume 2, Pages 751-801). De Santillana also wrote (the pamphlet) Aspects of Scientific Rationalism in the Nineteenth Century. Guerlac also notes that de Santillana's way of viewing the rise of modern science is no longer fashionable. Steven Wolfe also states that nobody reads de Santillana anymore. However, the exception would be the cultist book Hamlet's Mill.

The obituary by his friend Nathan Sivin (Isis, 1976) states: "His office and classroom doors were always open. Those who passed in and out most often were among the most capacious and independent minds MIT has nurtured - Norbert Wiener, Jerome Lettvin, Warren McCullough, Philip Morrison, and Walter Pitts, to name a few." Jerome Lettvin (in 1998) described Giorgio de Santillana as "a most learned and kindly man with a mordant wit." (It is indicated by one source that he could at times be overbearing.) Jerome Lettvin was an especially close friend of Giorgio de Santillana. (An article in Technology Review, Volume 69, 1966, describes circumstances where Giorgio de Santillana would "... next morning ... be in the inner book-lined fortress with Jerry Lettvin, Hertha von Dechend ...." Though de Santillana's official retirement was in 1967 this 1966 article refers to "Emeritius Giorgio de Santillana.")

"Georgio (sic) de Santillana … was … a brilliant man, who not only knew most European languages including Latin and Greek, but also knew Western philosophy and the history of science like the palm of his hand. Moreover, he was also a thinker of the deepest kind, a perceptive thinker attracted to traditional thought and critical of most of modern Western philosophy. [Note: De Santillana was especially critical of Herbert Feigl and logical empiricism. Feigl was a leading spokesperson in the USA for logical empiricism.] (In Search of the Sacred by Seyyed Hossein Nasr (2010, Page 39.)"

An example of de Santillana's ability to identify historical issues is his paper on the relations between science and medieval art. In 1957 de Santillana presented a pioneering but somewhat cryptic 30-page paper at an influential conference at the Institute for the History of Science at the University of Wisconsin, maintaining that some of the key ideas of the Scientific Renaissance – specifically new conceptions of space – were to be traced to developments in the arts. (De Santillana, Giorgio. (1959, Reprinted 1962, 1969). "The Role of Art in the Scientific Renaissance." In: Clagett, Marshall. (Editor). Critical Problems in the History of Science: Proceedings of the Institute for the History of Science at the University of Wisconsin, September 1-11, 1957. (Pages 33-64). (De Santillana may also have published a later 'paper' (1961), "A study of the relations between artistic and scientific thought in the early Renaissance.")) See especially the discussion in the book review essay "The Art of Science." by Geoffrey Cantor (reviewing The Science of Art by Martin Kemp (1990)) in the Oxford Art Journal, Volume 14, Number 1, 1991, Pages 101-104.

But de Santillana had critics. In his book Love and the Idea of Europe (2009, Page 154), Luisa Passerini wrote: "... an immoderate [excessive] piece by Georges [sic] de Santillana, ... claimed that the 'Mediterranean spirit' had passed from Parmenides to Plato and from Leopardi to Valery ...."

Giorgio de Santillana's idealistic vision of the Renaissance that he put forward in his book The Age of Adventure (1956) has been contested. See: "Don Dinero Encounters Don Juan." by Julio Vélez-Sainz; In: Crosscurrents: Transatlantic Perspectives on Early Modern Hispanic Drama (2006) edited by Mindy Bardía and Bonnie Gasior. (Pages 144-162).

Critical correspondence in the journal Isis (Volume 43, Issue 2, Pages 119-127, Notes & Correspondence) arising out of the article "Philolas in Limbo, or What happened to the Pythagoreans?" by George de Santillana and Walter Pitts (Isis, Volume 42, Part 2, 1951, Pages 112-120).): Isis Volume 43 issue 2 1952_Notes and Correspondence.pdf

Giorgio de Santillana as teacher and writer

In the decade following World War II Giorgio de Santillana was one of a handful of scholars who ensured that the history of science as a discipline was established on a firm scientific footing. It is worth mentioning that Giorgio de Santillana was usually an excellent writer. (He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and a member of the History of Science Society.) During the 1940s and 1950s he was a contributor to The New Republic, and the Atlantic Monthly. In 1958 he was honoured with the Sidney Hillman Foundation journalism award (magazine reporting category) for his article "Galileo and J. Robert Oppenheimer." (The Reporter (1958)). At MIT Giorgio de Santillana was considered a visionary philosopher. Both de Santillana and Lettvin were regarded as excellent teachers by their students. (Giorgio de Santillana wrote 5 articles on Italian literature for the first edition of the Columbia Dictionary of Modern European Literature (1947). It is perhaps worth mentioning that Giorgio de Santillana was one of a number of visiting professors at La Scuola Italiana di Middlebury College (Scuola Italian or Casa Italiano), one of the Summer Language Schools of Middlebury College (located at Middlebury Campus, Green Mountains of Vermont).) In 1954 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His residence at this time was Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1958 the journal Isis (Volume 49, Pages 2) noted that de Santillana was preparing the papers of Vincenzio Viviani for publication. (Vincenzio Viviani (1622–1703), was an Italian mathematician and philosopher to the Grand Ducal Court in Tuscany, and also Galileo's scientific secretary.) He was Fulbright Teaching Fellow in Italy, 1954-1955. The Monthly Supplement, 1955, Page 1742, for the International Who's Who states: "Fulbright fellow in Italy, 1954-1955." (See also: Harper's Magazine, Volume 212, 1956.) In 1964 (April 16), de Santillana gave The Wilkins Lecture: Galileo Today. It appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Volume 280, 1964, Pages 447-?

Abe Aronow recalls that in the world of Giorgio de Santillana’s classes: "the rules of logical scholarship often faded into fantasy with puffs of tobacco smoke, but that did not make the sessions less stimulating, only different." (Before MIT introduced smoking bans both de Santillana and Lettvin would smoke during presenting lectures.) Abe Aronow also recalls: "One of my most enduring memories of Giorgio was a course he put on for one semester, maybe 1961, where he read aloud from the Divine Comedy in the most mellifluous Italian. It was a real treat."

Critique by Otto Neugebauer of the inaccuracies of Giorgio de Santillana as an historian of early science

For a short critique by Otto Neugebauer of the inaccuracies of Giorgio de Santillana as an historian of early science see "The Survival of Babylonian Methods in the Exact Sciences of Antiquity and Middle Ages." in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Volume 107, Number 6, December 20, 1963, Page 531. See also the short critique of Giorgio de Santillana by Asger Aaboe in the book review "Historians of Science." in The Yale Review, Volume 52, Winter, 1962, Pages 326-328. Further, see the short critique by Marshall Clagett, of de Santillana's uncritical acceptance that Thales predicted a solar eclipse in 585 BCE, in The American Historical Review, Volume LXVII, Number 4, July, 1962, Page 999. Giorgio de Santillana also supported the views of Frances Yates on the Hermetic tradition in the Renaissance. (See his enthusiastic review (endorsement) of her 1964 book Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition in The American Historical Review, Volume 70, Number 2, January, 1965, Pages 455-457. (This was an influential book that helped to catapult her to academic stardom.)) In 1966 de Santillana (through the Department of Humanities and its Course XXI Club) arranged a lecture by Frances Yates on "Renaissance Science and Hermetic Tradition" at the Hayden Library Lounge (Room 14E-310). Francis Yates was a historian who specialised in the occult aspects of the scientific revolution (i.e., Western Europe, 1550-1700). However, see the extended, devastating analysis of Frances Yates as a historian and scholar by the academic Christopher Lehrich in his book The Occult Mind (2007). Her personal opinions are presented as assumed facts. Many of her assumptions and conclusions have been refuted by more modern scholarship. It is clear her historical reconstructions were wildly speculative and lack any real evidence. Her ideas now have no solid academic support and historical explanations of the Renaissance proceed without them. See also the discussion of the "Yates thesis": "Natural magic, hermeticism, and occultism in early modern science." by Brian Copenhaver, in: David Lindberg and Robert Westman (Editors), Reappraisals of the Scientific Revolution (1990, Pages 261-301). For de Santillana's errors and exaggerations regarding Leonardo da Vinci's use of Latin texts see Theories of Vision from al-Kindi to Kepler by David Lindberg (1981, Page 155). (See also: Charles Olson & Cid Corman: Complete correspondence 1950-1964 by Charles Olson and Cid Corman (1987, 2 Volumes, Page 243); edited by George Evans for the comment "(... Giorgio de Santillana, now Prof at MIT) who is bright enough, but who never found a keel for their cut-water in themselves ....)." See also: Letters for 'Origin' 1950-1956 by Charles Olson 1968/9 (Page 155); edited by Alfred Glover.)

First meeting between Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend

Giorgio de Santillana first met Hertha von Dechend when he participated in a symposium organised by Willy Hartner at the Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, in Frankfurt, in 1958. (By way of mentioning both were smokers - he a mainly a pipe (but also cigarettes) and she cigarettes. Abe Aronow recalls that de Santillana and von Dechend "both smoked in a decidedly catenary fashion." Due to tobacco smoke Aronow found it difficult to remain in the office for long periods. Tobacco smoke in his office was likely the reason de Santillana had a series of younger lady secretaries.) (Also, long forgotten - if ever really known - is that de Santillana suffered a severe heart attack in 1970, and was hospitalised.) Von Dechend sent de Santillana a summary of her ideas on precessional mythology in 1959 and he immediately accepted her arguments. (Giorgio de Santillana's close support helped the credibility of Hertha von Dechend's ideas. Without the good luck of meeting him her ideas would undoubtedly have remained little known.) (Another version of their 1958 meeting holds that they identified that, by different routes, both had independently reached the conclusion that world-wide myths at the end of the prehistoric era used metaphors to describe celestial phenomena, especially the precession of the equinoxes.) One source holds that during her PhD research (for Die kultische und mythische Bedeutung des Schweins in Indonesien und Ozeanien (completed 1939) von Dechend realised for the first time that the myths of the South Seas inhabitants could only be understood if their science, especially astronomy, is decrypted. However, this ignores the earlier influence of Leo Frobenius and Panbabylonism. After von Dechend completed her Habilitation (a qualification for lecturing in a German university (involving writing another university level thesis and giving a presentation), Dr. habil.) in 1960 de Santillana invited her to the USA that same year for a lake trip vacation. (Her habilitation (Habilitationsschrift) was titled: Der Mythos von der gebauten Welt als Ausdrucksform archaischer Naturwissenschaft. This was the precursor to Hamlet's Mill.) (De Santillana's actual intention was to bring von Dechend to MIT to be a collaborator on a project/book on precessional mythology.) (This Hamlet's Mill project - judging from the state of von Dechend's seminar notes - appears to have been rather chaotic from start to finish. The authors acknowledge in Hamlet's Mill: "Much of the research for this book was supported by a grant from the Twentieth Century Fund." Considering that it was funded research the end result hardly justified the funding.)

Extract from President's Report, Issue 1963, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Bulletin, Volume 99, Number 2, November 1963.

De Santillana knew how to 'work the system' for grants of various kinds. In 1956 de Santillana was the recipient of a travel grant. It appears that William Stahlman (then still teaching at MIT) was also. (See: Bulletin, Volume 4, 1956, Page 14, published by the American Anthropological Association.)

A peculiar error regarding von Dechend at MIT

Terry Lane has incorrectly stated (Sacred Landscape List, November 19, 2003) that von Dechend was a graduate student under de Santillana: "I wrote a letter to Dr. von Dechend via her publisher which she received in Germany. She had been a graduate student under Prof. de Santillana and Hamlet's Mill was her graduate thesis. He was her thesis advisor but most of the book was her work, not his, as she told me." By the time von Dechend visited the USA (MIT) at the invitation of de Santillana she had completed her habilitation (Habilitationsschrift).

Von Dechend was never a student of de Santillana. Hamlet's Mill was based on her 'scrambled' MIT seminar notes. These drew on her Habilitation thesis which was influenced by her PhD dissertation.

Giorgio de Santillana's several marriages

One puzzle concerned several authors maintaining that Giorgio de Santillana was married. Bruce Mazlish, a long-serving Professor of History at MIT, recounts Giorgio de Santillana was known as "the cat who walks alone." (Possibly a reference to his late-night solo walks on MIT campus.) MIT colleague information is that he remained a bachelor. It was popularly believed that he was a bachelor. Neil Smalheiser (2000) described him as a "bachelor popular with the ladies." De Santillana was described as having considerable charm. (I am also informed that another person who knew him well described him as being quite a womaniser.)  However, after considerable research, I identified in 2009 that a number of persons asserted that he was married (at one time) and his wife Dorothy de Santillana was senior editor/managing editor at Houghton Mifflin Company (Trade Division). (See for example: Jerzy Kosinski: A Biography by James Sloan (1996, Page 173; and Sunset and Twilight: From the Diaries of 1947-1958 by Bernard Berenson (1963, Page 373).) In his mid 40s Giorgio de Santillana married Dorothy Tilton. Who was Who in America with World Notables (2007, Page 110, Entry: Giorgio de Santillana) states that Giorgio de Santillana married Dorothy Tilton on September 1, 1948 [in Massachusetts]. The issue of de Santillana's marriage(s) is somewhat intriguing. When I recently (September, 2009) asked the ever competent and prolific researcher and writer Richard Flavin for assistance he promptly resolved the issue for me. The biography for Giorgio de Santillana in the Gale online database (2009) Contemporary Authors Online states in [September] 1948 he married Dorothy Hancock Tilton. I have since identified Contemporary Authors: New Revision Series, Volume 100 (2001, Page 117) edited by Scot Peacock as a source. (They also stated in some sources to have had two sons: Ludovico and Geraldo (= Gerald). However, Dorothy was not the mother, and was Giorgio's 2nd wife.) It appears that at the time of their marriage they lived in an apartment at 84 Mt. Vernon Street on Beacon Hill (Boston, across from the common) and later moved to a house in Beverly Farms, a neighbourhood at the eastern edge of the city of Beverly (Massachusetts), some 20 miles north of Boston. (The Social Register, Boston (1949, Page 69 lists (somewhat cryptically): Mr & Mrs Giorgio Diaz Santillana (Dorothy Hillyer). (This Beverly house is described by James Watson (Avoid Boring People: Lessons for a Life in Science (2007, Page 221) as an "elegant large square wooden house.") Stanley H. Hillyer (H. Tilton) is also mentioned. The Social Register (1952, Page 45 lists: Mr & Mrs Giorgio Diaz Santillana (Dorothy H. Tilton Hillyer), Beverly Cove, Massachusetts.) Richard Flavin also kindly brought to my attention the obituary for Dorothy de Santillana in The Boston Globe (a daily newspaper) for 25th June, 1980, Page 1. The Gale database entry opens doors. At least by 1955 Dorothy Tilton was still signing her letters Dorothy de Santillana.

The house at Beverly was quite magnificent. "I finally got to see the de Santillana's pink palazzo the other night, and I have never seen a more beautiful house anywhere. ... Dorothy is simply the most talented woman with houses I have known." (As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto edited by Joan Reardon (2010, Page 137).) James Watson (Avoid Boring People (2007, Page 221) writes with the implication that the "elegant large square wooden house" belonged to Dorothy de Santillana.

A Venini chandelier based on a design by Napoleone Martinuzzi in clear glass and aluminum, given by Paolo Venini to Mr. & Mrs. Giorgio Diaz de Santillana in 1948, height 35″ diameter 33″. (A matching pair of sconces, height 18″ width 17″ was also included?) Also, apparently, another large Venini colourless blown glass chandelier designed by Napoleone Martinuzzi circa 1952 was also a gift from Paolo Venini to Dorothy and Giorgio de Santillana in the early 1950s.

Tracing Ludovico de Santillana (March 6,1931, Rome-March 15, 1989, Arezzo) and Gerald(o) de Santillana is presently a little more perplexing. (Ludovico was born in 1931 in Rome and sources are certain that Gerald(o) was born in 1939, but I am unable to identify where. They were children by de Santillana's first marriage. (At least one source incorrectly states that Ludovico was the son of Giorgio and Dorothy. The source also incorrectly claims - perhaps following Eleanor Murdock - that Ludovico moved to Italy and became an architect.) Gerald(o) likely came to the USA (as a permanent resident) after WWII. Exactly when he came to the USA is unknown.) Giorgio de Santillana dedicated his book The Crime of Galileo (1955) to Ludovico and Anna de Santillana and included the date 28th December, 1953, and the Latin abbreviation Q.B.F.S. They are clearly identifiable as Ludovico de Santillana (architect and glass artist, March 6, 1931 (Rome) - March 15, 1989 (Arezzo)) and Anna Venini (glass artist, and a daughter of Paolo Venini (and Ginette Gignous (born Stresna, 1891-died Venice, 1982)), glass artist) who married in 1923. Note: One source misprints 1953 for 1923. (Ludovico may have died of a tobacco-related illness. He was a pipe-smoker.) Paolo Venini was a native of Cusano (near Milan) who originally trained as an attorney. (The life dates for Paolo Venini are given by one source as born 1895-died prematurely 1959.) Ludovico graduated from the University of Architecture in Venice, where he was to teach, as Ignazio Gardella's assistant, up until 1964. In 1963 he married Anna Venini. This led to Ludovico designing glass for his father-in-law and eventually taking over the firm (the director and owner of the Venini Factory in Mura, in 1985, after the death of the owner). However, one source states: "His son-in-law. Ludovico Diaz de Santillana (1931-1989) ran the company until 1985, when the glassworks passed out of family hands." Correctly, Ludovico Diaz de Santillana, at the request of Paolo Venini, headed the company from 1959 until 1985. More accurately, Ginette (Gignous) Venini, his widow, and Ludovico Diaz di Santillana, succeeded Paolo as Directors and Artistic Directors, and carried on his work. One Venini source states: "... from the holder’s death in 1985 he became the director of the Venini ...." Ludovico concentrated on the production of large lamps and chandeliers. (One source states he took over the firm from his brother-in-law in 1959.) Also, in her book My years at Villa I Tatti (1980, Page 63) Eleanor Murdock mentions a person named Ludovico de Santillana as being a son of Giorgio and also mentions Ludovico's wife Anna. (The glass artists Ludovico and Anna de Santillana had 2 children, Laura de Santillana (Laura Diaz de Santillana) (born in Venice, Italy, 1955 (some sources incorrectly state 1950), and starting 1977 studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York, previously attended Liceo classico, Venice, Italy ) and Alessandro de Santillana (Italian, born in Paris, 18 July 1959, studied at the University of Venice, became an architect, then joined the family firm Venini in 1981). Both Laura and Alessandro are respected artists who have enjoyed successful solo careers. Currently (2011) Laura de Santillana lives in Venice and works in Murano. She is described as an "artist who has created exceptional and sometimes unexpected examples of art glass.") In their book Italian Glass, Murano, Milan, 1930-1970: The Collection of the Steinberg Foundation (Art & Design) (1997, Page 322) the authors Helmut Ricke and Eva Schmitt state that Ludovico Diaz de Santillana (born 1931, Rome - died (after a lengthy illness) 1989, Arezzo) was the son of the philosopher Giorgio Diaz de Santillana. (One source states he died in Terranova Bracciolini.) (Ludovico Diaz de Santillana, (Architect, designer, and entrepreneur), 1937-1949, attended and graduated from a French High School in Rome; 1949-1956, studied architecture in Venice. He graduated with a degree in Architecture.)

In mid December 2013 I finally located an Italian-language document that identifies Anne Jonkman, a Dutch National, and strict Calvinist, as the mother of Ludovico Diaz de Santillana, and Giorgio Diaz de Santillana as the father. See also the 1936 Passenger Manifest above where Giorgio de Santillana identifies himself as married. Likely he married Anne circa the time he became an instructor at the University of Rome (in 1929). Geraldo was born in 1939. Giorgio de Santillana finally abandoned Italy in 1938. His divorce from his first wife Anne Jonkman was obviously finalised between 1938 and 1948. (I am presuming that Anne Jonkman survived WWII.) So, in the end, Giorgio de Santillana had 2 failed marriages. However, it is not obvious that he abandoned his first marriage by leaving for the USA. As a Jew he needed to leave Europe at that time. It appears Anne Jonkman would not leave Europe. Anne Jonkman obviously had no Jewish heritage, and it was safer for her to remain in Europe. When de Santillana originally left in 1936 he returned in 1938 before leaving again.

At the end of August 2015 I located a death notice and a cemetery/burial reference for Anne Diaz de Santillana.

   

Death notice sources: (1) Nieuwe Leidsche Courant, Page 9, Donderdag 21 Januari 1954. (2) Utrechtsch Nieuwsblad, Dinsdag 19 Januari 1954, Page 3.

The headline reads: "Sister of former minister Jonkman deceased." She died after a long-term illness. Interestingly she is also identified as a Marquise.

Source: The Protestant Cemetery Catalogue - Det Danske Institut i Rom edited by Sebastian Rahtz (January 2000); Country DU: Holland, Page 157. It appears they are buried in Rome.

Anne Jonkman (born 1899, Utrecht - died 1954, Rome) was apparently buried with her father in Rome (not Holland) under her married name, Anne Diaz de Santillana. (For whatever reason she kept her married name and also never remarried.) She was the daughter of the Dutch Calvinist and academic, Henricus Franciscus Jonkman (born 1846, Leeuwarden - died January 1924, Rome). His life dates are sometimes erroneously given as 1844-1920. Album Promotorum Utrecht 1815-1936 (Album Promotorum der Rijks Universiteit Utrecht) has the entry (page 139): "Jul. 12 [1879] Henricus Franciscus Jonkman, geb. te Leeuwarden, Math. et Phil. nat., De geslachtsgeneratie der Marattiaceeën. ¹) [¹) magna cum laude] Rauwenhoff". Also mentioned in another publication as "privaat. Proefechrift". He was primarily a botanist and taught botany. See: Jaarboek der Rijks-Universiteit te Utrecht 1878-1879. According to one source he was president of the People's University in Utrecht.

Information on Gerald (Geraldo) de Santillana is presently more difficult and uncertain. Sufficient sources confirm that Gerald(o) was born in 1939. It appears that Geraldo immigrated to the USA after WWII. A person named Gerald de Santillana attended Pomona College and in 1960 his B.A. Thesis was British public opinion on the Sepoy mutiny, 1857-1858. A person named Gerald(o) de Santillana (and on one occasion Gerald N. de Santillana) appears in the records of the US Department of State/Secretary of State. His names appears in a number of Wikileaks cables. Gerald de Santillana's job activities include: In July 1973 he was a Political Officer with authority to classify documents as secret or confidential; in October 1974 he was an Economic/Commercial Officer, and at that time attended the Regional Commercial Officer Conference in Nairobi; in 1976 he was a desk officer; in 1983 Geraldo N. de Santillana was posted to Haiti (Foreign Service Post). In 2005 Gerald de Santillana contributed to Partners of America. In 1956 and 2010, Eileen and Gerald de Santillana appear in records. Eileen and Gerald de Santillana CdeP 1956 either joined or donated to The Diamond Hitch Club. On November 18, 2010 Eileen C de Santillana and Gerald L de Santillana sold their house at 1806 Barbee Street, Mclean, (Fairfax County) Virginia, 22101, to Yuzhi Liu. The 1458 square feet, 4 bedroom house on 0.27 acres was sold for $650,000. Circa 2010 Eileen de Santillana was part of the Volunteer Program to the Clinical Center (National Institute of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Bethesda, Maryland). In September 2011 (at least) Eileen de Santillana was on the Committee of the Santa Barbara Newcomers Club. Page 779 of the Journal of the Assembly, Legislature of the State of California (1960) mentions "Gerald de Santillana of Santa Barbara." The Foreign Service List (1962) by the United States Department of State lists Gerald L de Santillana. In 1966 at least a Gerald(Geraldo) de Santillana was a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Lima. Abe Aronow briefly spoke to Gerald(o) on the phone in the 1960 and thinks he was perhaps then living in Puerto Rico. However, Peru is most likely. In the 1970s and 1980s a Gerald(o) de Santillana was Director of the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs. (See: A history of organized labor in Peru and Ecuador by Robert Alexander and Eldon Parker (2007, Page 89).) In 2005 a Gerald de Santillana  is mentioned as a significant donor in Partners of the Americas: 2005 Annual Report. Some names and dates appear less puzzling if Giorgio de Santillana had a family in Rome prior to coming to the USA from Paris in 1936. Additionally, the Italian architect Ludovico Diaz de Santillana is stated to have brothers. Urban Glass (Fall, 2009, Volume 7, Issue 3, Page 3) states that Laura Venini Hillyer was the sister of (the late) Anna Diaz de Santillana (who was the wife of Ludovico de Santillana). It presently appears that the/an Italian-born son of Giorgio de Santillana, Ludovico de Santillana, married Anna Venini (de Santillana) (a daughter of the lawyer and famous glass artist Paolo Venini (1895-1959)) in 1953, and the son of Dorothy Tilton Hillyer, Stanley Hancock Hillyer, married Laura Venini (Hillyer) (another daughter of Paolo Venini) a year later in 1954. Anna Venini de Santillana is presently a consultant of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice.

According to one source: Paolo Venini’s older daughter Laura studied languages at Oxford and the Sorbonne. (She was educated in the classics at Liceo Classico Marco Foscarini and studied languages at the University of Ca' Foscari in Venice and at Oxford after the war. She left university in 1948 to work for her father.) She accompanied her father as a translator on his trip to the USA in 1952. When in New York, they took in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art that included his glass, and there Laura met Stanley Hillyer, who she would marry in Venice1954 (and they would move back to the USA 4 years later). They had 2 daughters, Elizabeth and Francesca. Stanley Hillyer was Ludovico de Santillana's half brother and a son from Dorothy's de Santillana's first marriage to Robert Hillyer. Anna Venini de Santillana became the unofficial Venini historian. Her sister Laura Venini Hillyer, who was also a hard worker, became a business executive. When she was widowed in 1975, Laura moved to New York, and went to work at the celebrated design firm Vignelli Associates, a multi-disciplinary design studio, initially as an office manager, and later she came to be appointed Vice President. There she served also as personal assistant to Massimo Vignelli, a cofounder of the firm and protégé of her father. After her retirement in 1992, she moved back to her home Beverly. Laura Venini Hillyer died January 29, 2013, after a short illness. She was predeceased by her sister, Anna Venini. (See the Obituary in The New York Times (Online), March 5/6. 2013.) Laura Venini Hillyer's extensive glassware estate was put up for auction by Northeast Auctions online on Memorial Day Weekend 2013.

Abe Aronow recalls de Santillana making a comment to him to the effect that great or important men probably needed to be married twice, once to have children and again later to have an intellectual partner and companion. (One wonders from this somewhat odd remark whether de Santillana believed that the prime function of wives was to produce children for their husbands.) Also, from the one time he met de Santillana's 2nd wife Dorothy (at dinner at their home, at Beverly (part of Massachusetts's North Shore region, about 20 miles north of Boston.), she seemed to be the intellectual partner and companion.

Excursus: Biographical information for Dorothy Tilton

Dorothy Tilton was born in 1904(1906?) and died unexpectedly in 1980. (See entries under Hillyer in: American Women, Volume 1, 1935, Page 412; and Principal Women of America, Volume 2, 1936, Page 191.) (Somewhat confusingly, another source states: Dorothy Tilton, Born 15-11-1918 Massachusetts, Died 29-12-1988, Aged 70 years. A different person may be meant.) Dorothy Hancock Tilton was the daughter of John Tilton (1870-1950) and Elizabeth (Seeley) Tilton (1861-1944). John Tilton was a wealthy real estate and insurance broker residing in Haverill (an upper-middle class suburb north of Boston, Massachusetts. (He was sufficiently prosperous to collect art.) In the Report, Humane Society of Massachusetts, for 1908, John Tilton is mentioned as receiving their Bronze Medal (connected with actions during a drowning incident?)

Dorothy Tilton was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts (other sources state Boston, Charlestown, Massachusetts in 1904), attended Goucher College, and was a graduate of Radcliffe College (a women's liberal arts college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, affiliated with Harvard University). Dorothy de Santillana is variously described as "beautiful and enormously fat," "fat and fierce," (it appears she had a rare glandular condition), "daunting," "formidably outgoing," "a great natural force," and a "wonderful editor." Shannon Ravenel, who worked at Houghton Mifflin for Dorothy de Santillana, wrote: "... the fat, formidably outgoing Senior Editor, Dorothy de Santillana ...." (It was also stated that "men gravitated to her like flies.") One writer described Dorothy de Santillana as "holding great personal prestige."

In 1926 Dorothy Tilton married the poet Robert Hillyer (1895-1961), who was one of her teachers at Radcliffe College, and in 1943 they were divorced (in Reno). In the US Federal Census for 1930 both Robert Hillyer and Dorothy Hillyer are listed as teachers in Windham County, Connecticut. (In the 1940 United States Federal Census their address is given as "Residence: 1935 - Pomfret, Windham, Connectcut.) Robert Hillyer was married 3 times. In 1937 Robert Hillyer was named Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard College. He received a Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1934 for The Collected Poems of Robert Hillyer (1933). He dedicated the book to his wife and son. In 1944 he retired to Old Greenwich, Connecticut. Robert Hillyer and Dorothy Tilton had a single child, a son, Stanley Hancock Hillyer. After serving as book editor of The Boston Globe in the late 1930s and very early 1940s, she joined Houghton Mifflin Company of Boston as an Assistant Editor in 1941. Between 1941 and 1969 Dorothy Tilton was progressively Editor (The Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, January 16, 1944, Pages 16 has: Dorothy Hillyer, Editor), then, at least by 1948 - as she was using the name Dorothy de Santillana - Managing Editor (Trade Department of Houghton Mifflin), then Senior Editor at Houghton Mifflin Company in Boston. (At the time she was Senior Editor - using the name Dorothy Hillyer - the address of the Houghton-Mifflin Company was 222 Berkeley Street, Boston, Massachusetts, 02116.) (Names & Numbers 1964-1965 (published 1963) gives: Mrs Dorothy Santillana, Houghton Mifflin Co, 2 Park Street, Boston 7, Mass.) From 1969 onwards she was Executive Editor. (In 1936 she was one of a small group of people who established in Brooklyn an associated chapter of New York's Museum of Modern Art. ) She retired in 1973. During her editorial career of more than 30 years with Houghton Mifflin Company she was principally an editor of fiction, although she also dealt with other literary forms and was recognised for discovering and developing of young talent. Among writers with whom she worked were Jerzy Kosinski, Archibald MacLeish and Willie Morris.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian, also Professor of History Emeritus at Northwestern University, Garry Wills (1934- ), writes the following recollection about Dorothy de Santillana (Outside Looking In: Adventures of an Observer (2010).): "I ... got a call from Dorothy de Santillana, an editor at Houghton Mifflin publishing house in Boston. She ... told me "You have to write a book about Nixon." I replied that I had now said everything I knew about him - and besides, I did not think he could win in November. (So much for my political prescience.) She maintained that what I wrote about America - its conflicted Cold War liberalism - was what she wanted to hear more of, whether Nixon won or lost. I was not convinced. She said, "Would you at least come up from Baltimore to New York, and let me go down from Boston, to talk this over?" I did not know then what I learned later, that Dorothy had a gift for getting the first book (or the first important one) from writers she set her sights on - she had edited early books from David Halberstam and Robert Stone. She was married to the Renaissance historian at MIT, Giorgio de Santillana, and she had a wide cultural vision, which, at our New York dinner, she fit my article into. ... After taking on the book assignment, I boarded Nixon's campaign plane (a far bigger deal than the one he was flying in January, when I had first joined him). ... Dorothy de Santillana read each draft of the book and found me some extra advances as it grew in bulk. She went to bat for me with other editors when they tried to kill my title, Nixon Agonistes - they said no one could pronounce the second word, people would be intimidated by it, afraid to ask for it in book stores. She pointed out that two of the most famous poems in the English language were Milton's Samson Agonistes and Eliot's Sweeney Agonistes. When the book came out, she arranged for a launch party at Sardi's in New York, and the senior publishing board came down from Boston for it."

Avis DeVoto writes: "She [Dorothy de Santillana] is now married to Giorgie (sic) de S. who … teaches history of philosophy at MIT and is a darling. They go abroad every summer – well, almost – and might very well see you in Paris this year. You’ll die when you meet Dorothy because she is very beautiful and enormously fat – I think this is really one of the rare glandular cases – it makes no difference because she is a great natural force and men gravitate to her like flies." (As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto edited by Joan Reardon (2010, Pages 419-420).)

Dorothy de Santillana took private cooking lessons in New York with Dione Lucas (a British-born celebrity Chef and TV presenter) who began the Cordon Bleu restaurant and cooking cooking school in New York.

Whether Dorothy Tilton was ever divorced or legally separated from Giorgio de Santillana is not yet known. It is likely that neither was the case, but it appears there was a rift in the marriage. In his 1970 protest letter to the Editor of the New York Review of Books, Giorgio de Sanillana signed it "Giorgio de Santillana, Beverly, Mass." Apparently he was still living in the same house as his 2nd wife, Dorothy Tilton - unless she had moved out. (The Massachusetts Death Index gives her name as "Dorothy Desantillana.") At the time of her death (1980, aged 76) she lived on Curtis Point (The Massachusetts Death Index states Beverly, Massachusetts).

The estate of Dorothy de Santillana was sold at auction on Friday, June 26, 1981, by Christie, Manson & Woods International Inc (New York).

Dorothy de Santillana (played by actress Helen Coxe) was a character in the 2009 movie Julie and Julia (based on the autobiographical book of the same name).

Actress Helen Coxe in the role of Dorothy de Santillana in the 2009 film Julie and Julia.

According to The Boston Globe, Dorothy de Santillana had two grandchildren, Elizabeth and Francesca Hillyer, both of Beverly. (No children of Dorothy de Santillana are mentioned.) Elizabeth Hillyer is a veterinarian and part editor of the book Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery (1996). Francesca Hillyer is an educationalist(?) and part author of Diversity in Action (1998). Stanley Hillyer (1927-1969) graduated from MIT and in the mid 1940s completed postgraduate studies at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. In 1948 he was living in Boston; in 1950 he graduated from MIT; and in 1954 he married Laura Venini at Venice, Italy, and they had a family of two daughters (Elisabeth Hillyer and Francesca Hillyer). His wife, Laura Venini Hillyer, was vice president of Vignelli Associates, a New York design concern. Stanley Hillyer was the executive vice president of Far Eastern operations for Raytheon in Waltham, Massachusetts. In 1966 he was named its senior corporate representative in the Far East with headquarters in Tokyo. (He died in the USA.)

The New York Times, August 28, 1988: "Dr. Elizabeth Hillyer Marries. Dr. Elizabeth Venini Hillyer, a daughter of Mrs. Stanley H. Hillyer of New York and Beverly, Mass., and the late Mr. Hillyer, was married yesterday to Stephen Ward Parker, a son of Mr. and Mrs. Cortlandt Parker of Bedminster, N.J., and Portsmouth, R.I. The Rev. Barbara Platt-Hendren and the Rev. Frederick Baldwin performed the ceremony at St. John's Episcopal Church in Beverly Farms, Mass. Mrs. Parker, who will retain her name professionally, is a staff member of the Animal Medical Center in New York. An alumna of Concord Academy and a cum laude graduate of Yale College, she received a degree in veterinary medicine from Tufts University. Her mother, Laura V. Hillyer, is a vice president of Vignelli Associates, a New York design concern. Mr. Hillyer was the executive vice president of Far Eastern operations for Raytheon in Waltham, Mass. The bride is a granddaughter of the late Ginette Venini and the late Paolo Venini, the founder of Venini Glass in Venice. She is a granddaughter also of the late Robert Silliman Hillyer, the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard College, who received a Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1934, and of the late Dorothy Hancock Tilton de Santillana, a senior editor of the Houghton Mifflin publishing house."

Excursus: Clarifying the marriages to Paolo Venini's 2 daughters

Giorgio de Santillana and his 2nd wife Dorothy, both of whom had sons by previous marriages who, as circumstance would have it, married Venini's two daughters. Giorgio's son, Ludovico (1931-1989), married Anna Venini (Anna Venini Diaz de Santillana). Dorothy's son, Stanley (died 1969), married Laura Venini (Laura Venini Hillyer). (Life dates for Paolo Venini, originally a lawyer from Milan: 1895-1959. Life dates for Ginette (nee Gignous) Venini (Gignous-Venini), a designer: 1891-1982. Anna Venini's mother was Ginette Venini. Anna's children are Laura and Alessandro. Laura Venini's mother was Ginette Venini. Laura's children are Elizabeth and Francesca. Life dates for Anna Venini: 1929-2009 (but also given by one source as 1921-1986). Life dates for Laura Venini (who died after a short illness): 1926-2013.)

Excursus: Robert Hillyer Papers

The ‘Robert Hillyer Papers’ are held at the Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries, 222 Waverly Avenue, Syracuse, NY 13244-2010. Family correspondence in Box 6 contains, among other material, his comments on his marriage to Dorothy Tilton. Access to the material in Box 6 is restricted. "Permission to read family correspondence (Box 6) must be granted by Laura V. (Mrs. Stanley H.) Hillyer; upon her death, permission must be granted by either of her two daughters, Elizabeth V. Hillyer or Francesca P. Hillyer. Mrs. Hillyer is also to be contacted when anyone is interested in the scholarly use of Robert Hillyer's works and papers."

Ludovico Diaz de Santillana's teaching appointment at MIT

At the time of the death of Paolo Venini in 1959 Ludovico was in Paris attending to a project, before leaving for the USA where he had gained a teaching position. His appointment was: Assistant at the Faculty of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (also described as a professorship teaching architecture). With his wife about to give birth to their second son Alexander, and the unexpected death of Paolo Venini, it may be that he did not take up the appointment.

Giorgio de Santillana's written estate

Giorgio de Santillana's papers are held by the MIT Archives. The papers of Giorgio de Santillana were given to the archives by his family. (See: Report of the President, 1981-82, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.) Considerable other papers are held at: MIT Libraries Archive, Institute Archives and Special Collections, Building 14N-118, Records of the President (Jerome B. Wiesner), 1960-1984, Archival Collection-AC8, [Box] 74 [Folder] 9 (R-75) de Santillana, Giorgio 1965-1966. (Note: R = Restricted.) One letter by Dorothy de Santillana and 21 letters by Giorgio de Santillana are held in the George Sarton Papers Archive at Houghton Library, Harvard College Library. (Included is a curriculum vitae dated 1943.) Correspondence from both Giorgio de Santillana and Dorothy de Santillana are held in the Archibald MacLeish Archive, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Correspondence, 1907-1981, (Container/Correspondence: Box 20, Santillana, Dorothy and Giorgio de, 1961-1975, undated). (Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982) was a poet.) Other, more limited, archive sources include: James M. Barker Papers, [Repository:] The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts, 60 West Walton Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60610,[Box] 11 [Folder] 252 de Santillana, Giorgio, 1958. (The Newberry Library is an independent research library.) Letters by Dorothy de Santillana are also held in the Julia Childs Papers Archive at Radcliffe College. Correspondence from Giorgio de Santillana is held in the Arthur Livingston Papers (Correspondence, 1904-1944, De Santillana, Giorgio, 1902- 4.9), at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, the University of Texas at Austin, and his letters are also in the Norbert Wiener Papers collection at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (The repository of the papers of Norbert wiener are held in the MIT Institute Archives and special Collections (ID: MC.0022)) The Robert Hillyer Papers are held at Syracuse University Library. The University of Chicago Press Records, 1892-1965, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library, contains files on de Santillana's books published by the Press.

Partial bibliography: The Crime of Galileo (1955), Leonardo da Vinci (1956), The Origins of Scientific Thought (1961), Renaissance Philosophers (1962), Reflections on Men and Ideas (1968), Hamlet’s Mill (1969). It is worth noting that Reflections on Men and Ideas is an example de Santillana's ability for immensely wide-ranging discussion.

Biography of Hertha von Dechend

Hertha von Dechend is described as a cultured person. Hertha von Dechend was born in Heidelberg, Germany, on 5 October 1915. Her parents were Dr. phil. Alfred von Dechend and Elsbeth (née Krohn). Her grandfather, Hermann von Dechend, had been the first President of the Reichsbank. Dr. Alfred von Dechend was a Chemist. In 1913 he completed his doctoral dissertation on chemistry; Üeber die genaue Messung der Lichtbrechung in Gasen; at Ruprecht-Carls-Universität zu Heidelberg. From 1907-1910 he was assistant to Professor Max Trautz (sometimes misspelled as Trauts) in Freiburg in Baden. Hertha von Dechend's father Alfred, a chemist, lost his job in the economic crisis beginning in Germany in 1929 (the collapsing German economy) and separated from the family. Hertha von Dechend studied ethnology, philosophy, and archaeology at the University of Frankfurt am Main. She obtained her doctorate in 1939. It remains unpublished. In 1943 she was Assistant, Institute for the History of Science, Frankfurt am Main. (Another source states she graduated in 1943 in Frankfurt and afterwards was employed at the Institute for the History of Natural Sciences.) In 1966 she was Associate Professor. Von Dechend died on 23 April 2001 after a short but severe illness.

Unlike Giorgio de Santillana, she was not a polymath (though some proponents of her ideas like to claim she was).

From 1923 to 1928 the Dechend family and the Caspari family lived in the same house (70 Mountain Road, in Heidelberg). It appears her childhood was a happy one, with close attention from her mother. Hertha von Dechend and Lotte Caspari remained lifelong close friends. Hertha von dechend memorized into old age all the details (name and "fate") of each main character of her children's books. She also remembered song lyrics from her youth.

In 1925, she began at the Heidelberger Mädchenrealgymnasiums (1925, Heidelberg girls secondary school; and in 1930 she began at the Gymnasium Branck/Department at the same school (in die gymnasiale Abteilung derselben Schule)). When a student at the Gymnasium branch of the Girls Grammar School, Heidelberg, von Dechend mastered Latin and Greek. Her teacher was Prof. Theo Hänlein. In 1934 she began at high school. According to Uta Lindgren (a good friend) von Dechend's rejection of the Nazis was so open and clear that she received her high school diploma (Abiturzeugnis) only with difficulty.

Music was a serious career challenger for Hertha von Dechend. At 13 years of age she received violin lessons from Gösta Andreasson who was a renowned classical violinist for the Busch String Quartet (was 2nd violinist). At 15 years of age von Dechend made a decision in favour of a career in science but never completely separated herself from music. Throughout her early academic career she continued to play violin with various classical string quartets.

When she was 19 years old, von Dechend began informal studies at the Museum für Völkerkunde in Frankfurt. According to Uta Lindgren: It was in 1934, without having a study permit, that von Dechend found a haven at the municipal Museum of Ethnology in Frankfurt where Leo Frobenius had been appointed director in 1932. There she participated in the production of the magazine and the organisation of the artifacts.

Von Dechend did not become a member of the League of German Girls. She made Jewish friends at the Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof (major railway station) as they were leaving for Palestine (after receiving permission to leave Germany). Whilst studying at university she also took risks and gave assistance (such as accommodation) to socially oppressed persons.

From 1934 she worked in Frankfurt/Main at the Frobenius Institute (since 2001 known as the Museum der Weltkulturen (Museum of World Cultures). The museum was directed by Leo Frobenius (who lacked formal training as an anthropologist/ethnologist) until his death in 1938. Initially, von Dechend lacked permission to study (Studienerlaubnis), but managed to obtain a certificate (Abiturzeugnis). Her difficulties were related to her staunch and public opposition to Nazism, which led her to disguise her interests with focuses on archaeology and the study of ancient languages. After performing her obligatory national service (Arbeitsdienst), von Dechend enrolled at the University of Frankfurt am Main (the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University). Von Dechend studied ethnology, philosophy, and archaeology at the University of Frankfort am Main. According to Richard Flavin she majored in archaeology and ethnology. However, she cannot be considered, as one source claims, both an ethnologist and archaeologist, and a major figure in German ethnology. She basically dabbled in her version of comparative mythology and was a minor ethnologist and not at all to be considered an archaeologist. (According to one source in 1936 she was exempted? from the Labor Service (leistete sie den Arbeitsdienst ab).) In the winter semester 1936/37 she began ethnographic studies at the University of Frankfurt. She still remained working at the "Research Institute of Cultural Morphology" and remained working there, managing the private library of Leo Frobenius until his death in 1938.

From 1939 to 1945 von Dechend is listed in the Frobenius Institute records as an associate fellow. (One source states her position of research assistant from 1939 to 1946 was "half-time.") From 1941 to 1960 she was Secretary, Librarian and Assistant Professor at the Institute for the History of Science (IGN). Her employer there was Prof. Dr. Willy Hartner. (The webpage of the Frobenius-Institut records: "Ethnologist and archaeological astronomer. High-school teacher at the Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Frankfurt/M. (1943-1980).") Note: The term "archaeoastronomer" is really only a pseudo academic term. Besides, von Dechend was not by training or experience an archaeologist or an astronomer. According to some sources she was only from November 1943 temporarily at IGN. According to Schipper, Björn. (2006). "Verzeichnis der Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter des Frobenius-Instituts." In: Kohl, Karl-Heinz. and Platte, Editha. (Editors). Gestalter und Gestalten - 100 Jahre Ethnologie in Frankfurt am Main. (Pages 241-256); Hertha von Dechend was a research assistant from 1939 to 1946 (wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin). The current (2015) webpage for the Frobenius-Institut an der Goethe-Universität - Frankfurt am Main, gives the following summary information about Hertha von Dechend: "Ethnologist and archaeological astronomer. High-school teacher at the Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Frankfurt/M. (1943-1980) . Extent and type of legacy: about forty removal boxes. Accessibility: partly processed in the form of an electronic database." There is a letter of dismissal (or statement of employment) from the Research Institute of Cultural Morphology signed by Prof. Dr. Adolf Jensen, 20(25?)-11-1946.

In 1939, during WWII, von Dechend completed her doctoral thesis and received her doctorate with a thesis on an ethnological subject. The topic was: "The ritual and mythical significance of the pig in Indonesia and Oceania." (It remains unpublished.) The topic of her thesis may have been suggested by Frobenius. The date of the thesis examination was 8 November 1939. (Von Dechend does not appear to have carried out (completed) any notable or 'hands on' ethnographic work.) Von Dechend should not be considered an ethnologist in the modern sense of the term. She was definitely not a fieldworker. Von Dechend did not perform any significant fieldwork. She perhaps can be viewed as working within the classificatory (comparative) and diffusionist models of human history. Von Dechend's PhD thesis is not included in, The Importance of the Pig in Pacific Island Culture: An Annotated Bibliography (Secretariat of the Pacific Community, 2007, 45 pages).

In 1940 von Dechend continued her study of the history of science and philosophy at the University of Frankfurt. However, during 1940-1941 von Dechend became assigned to the Luftwaffe Intelligence in Paris. (However, her political stance had not altered.) According to Uta Lindgren, although von Dechend did not understand a word of French, she quickly made contact with the ethnologists at the Musée de l'Homme. Von Dechend, when employed as a secretary in Paris in the services of the Military Commander learned about Gestapo plans for a raid and assisted the resistance group Musée de l'Homme to escape. (See: The Military in Politics and Society in France and Germany in the Twentieth Century by Klaus Müller (1995, Page 147).) The Musée de l'Homme = the Anthropology Museum in the Palais de Chaillot. The Groupe du musée de l'Homme (= Group of the Museum of Man) was resistance group comprised of French intellectuals. It was the centre of early resistance to the German occupation of France. In January 1942 they were denounced and many of them were executed. Leo Frobenius also resisted Nazi ideals.

In 1943, von Dechend held a half-time position at the Institute for the History of Science in Johann Goethe University (now the University of Frankfurt am Main). It appears she played an integral part in running the university when Willy Hartner, the founder of the Institute for the History of Natural Sciences, was on leave at Harvard. Von Dechend was also instrumental in building the university's library. In 1943 Willy Hartner succeeded in establishing an Institute for the History of Science in Frankfurt, which was later (the IGN itself was closed (merged) in 2009) incorporated into the Department of Physics. At the establishment of the Institute he engaged the ethnologist Hertha von Dechend as a secretary, librarian and assistant.

A source for understanding the history of the Institute for the History of Natural Sciences.

It is obvious the Willy Hartner employed because he knew her from his time at the Frobenius Institute, she - like himself - had been staunchly anti-Nazi, she had senior academic qualifications, and she had the experience initially required when he was establishing the IGN.

Von Dechend participated at the first meeting of German anthropologists after WW II (Frankfurt/Main, 19th-21st September 1946).

Though her Doctorate was obtained in 1939 it was only 2 decades later that she obtained her Habilitation. She is listed as "Assistant, Institute for the History of Science, Frankfurt am Main, from 1943." In most ways it was a repeat of her work for Leo Frobenius at the at the "Research Institute of Cultural Morphology." Von Dechend completed/gained her Habilitation in 1960. The topic of her thesis was archaic science. She became a professor in 1960 and joined the faculty of the History of Natural Sciences in 1966. Her PhD dissertation (1939, Frankfurt University) was Die kultische und mythische Bedeutung des Schweins in Indonesien und Ozeanien. It remains unpublished. Her habilitation (1960, Frankfurt University) was Der Mythos von der gebauten Welt als Ausdrucksform archaiser Naturwissenschaft. It remains unpublished.

At a symposium in Frankfurt in 1958 she met Giorgio de Santillana (then Professor of the History of Science at MIT) and they became firm friends. At the invitation of de Santillana she spent a few months every year (for nearly a decade in the 1960s) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, USA.

In 1953 von Dechend's book on Justus von Liebig (and his contemporaries) was published. She was the editor of the book. It was her only major publication. It was republished (2nd edition?) in 1963. The Forward was written by Willy Hartner. In 1969 she published together with Giorgio de Santillana, Hamlet's Mill, An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time.

After the publication of Hamlet's Mill in 1969 and the death of Giorgio de Santillana in 1974 she continued to visit MIT and hold/teach seminars (on ancient cosmology). ("Introduction to Ancient Cosmology," 1976/1977 winter semester, MIT.)

Interestingly, Hertha von Dechend was a member of the International Astronomical Union sub-group, Inter-Union Commission for the History of Astronomy (ICHA).

In 1960 Hertha von Dechend was Professor of cultural morphology. (Morphology = the form or structure of any culture.) Her listings in academic directories (at later dates) include: (1) Fünfzig Jahre Habilitation von Frauen in Deutschland by Elisabeth Boedeker and Maria Meyer-Plath (1974) "Folk-Narrative Research ... 1966 Spezielles Lehrund Forshungsgebeit: Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Archaische Kosmologie und Astronomie." [= In 1966 she was appointed the title of extraordinary professor.] (2) Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Volumes 2-3, 1979 "Lehrgebiet: Frühgeschichte der Naturwissenschaft; Forschungsschwerpunkt: archaische Kosmologie." (3) Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, [Volume 41, Issues 7-12, Page 634], 1990 "Gestchichte der Naturwissenschaften, Archaische Kosmologie." Several sources state/claim she was Professor of the History of Science at the University of Frankfurt. This is a mistaken shortening of "Gestchichte der Naturwissenschaften, Archaische Kosmologie."

According to Uta Lindgren, von Dechend's career in Frankfurt was unspectacular. Although she was, as was customary, appointed the title of professor 6 years from her Habilitation, it was not until 1971, 9 years before reaching retirement age, that she was given "Professor for Life" ("Professor auf Lebenszeit"). During this time von Dechend held each semester break from lectures, associated seminars when not engaged with such at MIT in the USA.

The German-language edition of Hamlet's Mill appeared in 1993. In 1977 she published an essay on the thunderbolt ("Bemerkungen zum Donnerkeil.") in: Prismata, Festschrift for Willy Hartner.

She retired from the University of Frankfurt am Main, becoming a Professor Emeritus (Archaische Kosmologie) in 1980?/1982. Hertha von Dechend retired in 1982 on a modest pension (enabled by her having secured a permanent teaching position with the university). Without the pension her retirement would have been rather precarious. After her retirement in 1980 she continued to hold seminars in private premises for a small group of about 8 participants. The location for these seminars was often the living room of the home of the Volhard family. It appears she would also meet with Prof. Mayama in a room at IGN. Also, once a week she would travel from Kronberg to visit the library to receive material or to use materials from the library. These activities no doubt served a social function also - without them she would have been quite isolated in retirement.

Von Dechend died on 23 April 2001 (aged 86) at St. Mark's Hospital, Kronberg near Frankfurt am Main. Kronberg im Taunus is a town in the Hochtaunuskreis district, Hesse, Germany. Her funeral service was held on May 11, 2001. She continued to work until shortly before her death. Her address was Bahnhofstrasse 30, Kronberg, D-6242. (D-61476 given by one source is an error. Another citation of the her address for 1994 is Bohnhof Strasse #30, W6242, Kronberg.) Hertha von Dechend was a good friend of German internist Franz Volhard (1872-1950, a famous German specialist in internal medicine) and his extended family. She had worked as an assistant to his son Ewald Volhard at the Institute for Cultural Morphology. Due to her continued close relationship with the Volhard family she was buried in the Volhard family tomb. According to one source, following a memorial service at Frankfurt main cemetery, on 20 June an urn with her ashes was buried in the Volhard family tomb.

Von Dechend's study at her residence in Kronberg in 1994. Copyright © 1994, 2018 by Abe Aronow. Used with permission.

Von Dechend's desk at her residence in Kronberg in 1994. Copyright © 1994, 2018 by Abe Aronow. Used with permission.

Richard Flavin (Hastro-L, 4 May 2001) wrote that later in May von Dechend was scheduled to attend an informal conference at MIT. (His informant was Mrs Irene Reiche.) It would be interesting to have more details regarding the conference and its intended audience. Note: It appears that this was an error in understanding.

Abe Aronow always found Hertha von Dechend very charming (both at MIT and when visited decades later in Germany). Abe Aronow also relates that, to the best of his recall, he never heard anybody use her first name in conversation, and Giorgio always addressed her as Dechend. According to Abe Aronow: "She was a "sie" not a "du" person."

It is indicated she had certain spiritual values but these are unclear.

Obviously she was fluent in several languages (including English and French). Regarding her knowledge of languages, Abe Aronow states: "I'm sure she was fluent in French, probably required in German scholarship. She was very comfortable in English and probably more precise than her students. I have to believe she knew Italian enough to carry on conversations. I remember Giorgio speaking on the phone in mellifluous Italian and she seemed comfortable in following his end. She was trained in Greek, Latin and some Hebrew and had working knowledge of ... [other languages]."

For details concerning von Dechend as an ethnologist see Frauen in der deutschsprachigen Ethnologie: ein Handbuch (2007) by Bettina Beer. It contains brief details of the other 2 female ethnologists (Hildegard Klein (1904-1989, PhD, an excellent ethnologist and scholar) and Karin [Hahn-]Hissink (1907-1981), PhD, who participated in ethnological expeditions) employed at the Frobenius-Institute, and conflicts. Also see: Leo Frobenius, anthropologue, explorateur, aventurierle monde étranger, c'est moi (1999) by Hans-Jürgen Heinrichs, for further brief details of Hertha von Dechend.

According to Wikipedia (26/1/2013): "Von Dechend is best known for her collaborative work on Hamlet’s Mill: an Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time, co-authored with Giorgio de Santillana, an Italian-American philosopher and historian of science on the faculty at MIT. Hamlet's Mill is a study of history, mythology, and specifically archaeoastronomy. [The claim the Hamlet's Mill is linked to archaeoastronomy is interesting. In one of his articles Roopa H. Naragan has stated that investigating knowledge of astronomy in mythology is part of the discipline of archaeoastronomy.] Von Dechend's contribution was to connect astronomical phenomena to the myths that they represented and to clear up historical misinterpretations of those myths."  This is simply sympathetic (biased) and inaccurate. Close to the truth is the comment by one writer that Hertha von Dechend "... spent her life reinterpreting ancient stories as a kind of scientific shorthand for astronomical events." Her principal fields of research were archaic cosmology and astronomy. Hamlet's Mill is not archaeoastronomy. It is speculation. The historian Carroll Quigley referred to Hamlet's Mill as linguistic archaeology.

Von Dechend published two papers on archaic cosmology: "Il concetto di simmetria nelle culture arcaiche." (La Simmetria, a cura di Evandro Agazzi (1973) / (La Simmetria edited by Evandro Agnazzi (1973, Pages 361-399, includes Discussione) and "Bemerkungen zum Donnerkeil." ("Comments on the Thunderbolt.") In: Festschrift Willy Hartner (1977). Von Dechend also undertook research on the work of Justus von Liebig, a well-known organic chemist, publishing a review of letters between Liebig and chemist Friedrich Wöhler of Göttingen. Her slim book (in which her role was that of an editor) on Justus von Liebig (published 1953, 2nd edition 1963) basically consists of her annotations to key excerpts from letters, journals and newspaper articles (chronologically arranged) concerning important events involving Justus von Liebig; and a bibliography of 369 publications. One (English-language) book review (by Ralph Oesper, University of Cincinnati, Ohio) appeared in the Journal of Chemical Education, Volume 41, Number 10, October, 1964. His concluding remark is: "This is an unusually interesting book." Unpublished works include her doctoral dissertation and her Habilitationsschrift (a postdoctoral thesis required for qualification as a professor), but the resources that she used to complete them still exist.

One academic listing for her simply states: Dr. Hertha von Dechend; Prof. h.c. Dr. mult.

Von Dechend was academically connected (joint publications) with Walter Wetzel, Wolfgang Trageser, Walter Saltzer, and Claus Nissen. Her voluminous correspondence is kept at the Frobenius-Institute.

I have yet to sight the small Hertha von Dechend Memorial Volume that was published shortly after her death.

Note: A lengthy obituary ("The Woman Who Wondered") for Hertha von Dechend was written by Richard Flavin and posted at his Flavin's Corner (http://www.flavinscorner.com) as his weekly column for May 4, 2001. It is full of eulogistic praise for her efforts. In writing it he was helped by Irene Reiche and Emma Duchane sharing their memories with him of von Dechend. This makes it valuable as a source of information. The obituary is supportive of the work and ideas of Hertha von Dechend and Hamlet's Mill. Unfortunately, some details are absent and some of the details and observations appear to be incorrect.

Points: (1) It can hardly be claimed that Hamlet's Mill is appreciated for its multi-disciplinary sincerity by nearly everyone. It is largely a philological argument rather than multi-disciplinary. The redundant nature of the main methodology has not appreciated by other specialists. Interestingly, the St. Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, Curriculum Committee Report to Senate, November 2010, a course proposal document, included Hamlet's Mill (1969) in the proposed Morgan Sound Course Bibliography. (2) It is not stated for how long Hertha von Dechend studied under Leo Frobenius at the University of Frankfurt. As her PhD was awarded in 1939 a 1936/1937 enrolment is indicated (making her enrolment age around 18 years). The Abiturzeugnis obtained by von Dechend in the 1930s was the General Certificate of Education (advanced level), and a university entrance qualification. It appears to have been sufficient qualification for entry to doctoral level studies (and not simply an undergraduate degree). In 1932 Frobenius was appointed Honorary Professor at Frankfurt University. He died on 9 August 1938. (3) Von Dechend concentrated most of her efforts in the study and teaching of the history of science. This generalised statement obscures career details and makes a 'time jump' of some 2 decades. It is obvious she did not pursue a career in archaeology or ethnology. However, it is indicated that it was only through particular circumstances (such as her friendship with Willy Hartner, who also had been associated with Frobenius) that she became associated with the history of science. The reality is her principal fields of research were what she believed was archaic cosmology and astronomy - and her method was speculation in the form of 'linguistic archaeology.' (4) The significant influence of Leo Frobenius on Hertha von Dechend is no mere allegation attempting to diminish her "bold accomplishments," nor does it comprise an attack. There is abundant evidence that the ideas of Frobenius, German-Austrian diffusionism, and Panbabylonism were significant influences, and that von Dechend took significant ideas from all three. Her scheme of interpreting world mythology was certainly not original. (5) The significance of Leo Frobenius for ethnology has diminished over time. That he is still cited with caution is nothing unusual. (6) The direction and method of von Dechend's work was not entirely her own. She was a hyper-diffusionist and Panbabylonist, and employed their methods. Within the British school of Pan-Egyptian hyper-diffusionism, J[ames] Rendel Harris (1852-1941, Biblical scholar and curator and amateur archaeologist/anthropologist) published numerous essay series (Caravan essays, Evergreen essays, Sunset essays, The After-glow essays, Woodbroke essays) during the 1920s and early 1930s, using "philological archaeology" that included his supposed identification of ancient traces of Egyptian language and culture around the world (but especially in Western Europe). As example: Traces of Ancient Egypt in the Mediterranean, Volume 1 of the Woodbroke essays (1927, 23 Pages). The possible influence of this approach on von Dechend (who was an enthusiastic supporter of the British Pan-Egyptian school) has not been examined. (6) It is not entirely correct to state that her major publications were few in number. Her Phd thesis remains unpublished. I have never seen her PhD thesis referred to in professional (or any) studies. Von Dechend's PhD thesis is not included in, The Importance of the Pig in Pacific Island Culture: An Annotated Bibliography (Secretariat of the Pacific Community, 2007, 45 pages). Hamlet's Mill was not a major publication - and was co-authored with Giorgio de Santillana. She never really moved away from the original 1969 format with the later 1993 German-language edition. Her only major publication was the short book (2 editions (1953, 1963), 158 pages), Justus von Liebig in eigenen Zeugnissen und solchen seiner Zeitgenossen. It is basically an anthology of snippets from his letters and a detailed bibliography of his publications. She was the editor. Much of the material had been published before. Liebig (1803-1873) was an important figure in the history of chemistry (the greatest chemist of his time) but had attracted little attention from historians. See the (English-language) book review by Henry Leicester in Isis, Volume 55, Number 3, September 1964, Pages 396. There is no reason to believe she was considering any similar publication when de Santillana met her in Frankfurt in 1959. Certainly, her short book on Justus von Liebig was not expanded into a detailed biographical study. See also: "Liebigiana: Old and New Perspectives." by W. H. Brock in History of Science, Volume 19, Number 3, 1981, Pages 201-218. (7) The construction that de Santillana "whisked" von Dechend away to MIT in 1965 to lecture whilst Willy Hartner, her colleague at IGN, wrote his "classic" paper, "The Earliest History of the Constellations in the Near East and the Motif of the Lion-Bull Combat" is somewhat fictional. The details of the terms of von Dechend's 'engagement' at MIT - beginning in the early 1960s - and her interaction with students, remains to be clarified. To suggest she was a 'mainstream' lecturer with her own autonomy and not subsumed within the teaching and other activities of de Santillana (and later Reiche, after de Santillana's death) is indicated as misleading. Von Dechend was established as a research associate circa 1961 at MIT, and would spend part of the year (basically end of year) at MIT. (I have only seen the current (2016) MIT Policy for Academic Research Staff Appointments. Sighting a copy of the one for the early 1960s would be informative.) Her lectures were to Humanities students at short seminars held in the evening as part of the Independent Activities Period. Hartner's paper was largely speculative and has failed to be influential. (8) The contention that persons who dismiss Hamlet's Mill are "small-minded individuals," who are intimidated by the sheer scope of their central thesis is without validity. The book's central thesis simply mirrors the tenets of Panbabylonism. The manifold problems with Panbabylonism were critiques without difficulty. My essay on Panbabylonism comprises a comprehensive critique. A reasonable "rule of thumb" is the judgement that the burden of proof lies with the proponent of the claim being asserted. Critics of Hamlet's Mill have pointed out fundamental problems that go to the core of the methodology used and the reliability of the claims being made. As far as I am aware this particular essay is the most detailed critique. (9) It has not been unrealistic to have expectations for further commentary and proof. The presentation of the "central thesis" of Hamlet's Mill has been left muddled and obscure by the authors. That von Dechend, a university professor, cannot - or cannot be bothered - to rectify the situation and clarify the argument (along with the so-called proof) is simply unacceptable for a supposedly scholarly work. It is also impossible to make a concise summary/assessment of each book chapter regarding the main argument. To claim that a concise assessment could never be fair - without explaining why - is puzzling. (10) To claim that both authors of Hamlet's Mill would have wanted students to think for themselves is irrelevant to the muddled content presentation. The MIT course notes, Introduction to Ancient Cosmology by Hertha von Dechend, issued in 1966, also enables some insight. The introductory comments strongly imply the course had also been presented 1964-1965. Also, these are new course notes with a different approach to presenting the material, to enable better understanding by students of the theme being promoted. It appears that from 1961 to 1965 Humanities students undertaking the "Ancient Cosmology" module were experiencing difficulty in comprehending the ideas being promoted. Astoundingly, over a span of 4 decades, this situation could not be fixed by either of the authors! Hamlet's Mill was 'cobbled' together over more than a decade before being first published. Von Dechend had not made the attempt to establish a clear text. De Santillana came late to the task of preparing a manuscript for publication. (11) Von Dechend's supposed "bold accomplishments" are mostly derivative - sourced from Leo Frobenius, hyperdiffusionism, and Panbabylonism.

Ethnology at a distance

Von Dechend's PhD work is an example of "armchair" ethnology; an example of "ethnology at a distance." At no time for her PhD, Habilitation, or work on the Hamlet's Mill project was she a fieldworker. Her PhD thesis was begun prior to WWII and completed during the very early period of WWII. She did not visit the Pacific region and she was not able to ensure she gathered quality empirical data. It is doubtful that it comprises an important explanatory guide. By the 1940s, ethnologists/anthropologists conducted research through participant observation and long-term residence with their informants, a methodology known as ethnographic fieldwork. How von Dechend compensated for this significant methodological limitation is presently not known to me. The problem appears to have been overlooked in any comments on her PhD thesis. Whether von Dechend reach flawed conclusions also appears to have been overlooked. For a study of the types of problems/difficulties see the 2004 critique by Sonia Ryang of Ruth Benedict's mid 1940s work - involving empirical and interpretive errors - on Japanese culture (The Chrysanthemum and the Sword by Sonia [sometimes erroneously, Sonja] Ryang (2004)).

Academic progress of Hertha von Dechend

Institution Duration Title Comments
Heidelberger Mädchenrealgymnasiums (Heidelberg Girls Secondary School) Beginning 1925 Student Began when she was 10 years old.
The Gymnasium Branck (The Gymnasium branch of the Girls Grammar School, Heidelberg = Department at the same school (in die gymnasiale Abteilung derselben Schule).) Beginning 1930 Student She mastered Latin and Greek.
High School (no other details) but likely at the Kurfürst-Friedrich-Gymnasium Heidelberg Beginning 1934 Student Because of her openly anti-Nazi views she received her high school diploma (Abiturzeugnis) only after some difficulty.
Museum für Völkerkunde in Frankfurt = the municipal Museum of Ethnology in Frankfurt am Main (also known as the Frobenius Institute) Beginning 1934 Informal student When she was 19 years old, von Dechend began informal studies - and worked - at the Museum für Völkerkunde in Frankfurt = In 1934, without having a study permit, von Dechend found a safe place at the municipal Museum of Ethnology in Frankfurt. Initially, von Dechend lacked permission to study (Studienerlaubnis), but managed to obtain a certificate (Abiturzeugnis). Leo Frobenius had been appointed museum director in 1932. The museum was directed by Leo Frobenius until his death in 1938. She participated in the production of the magazine and the organisation of the artifacts. Since 2001 it has been known as the Museum der Weltkulturen (Museum of World Cultures). There are no details regarding whether paid work or unpaid volunteer work.
University of Frankfort am Main (the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University) Beginning in the winter semester 1936/1937 PhD student After performing her obligatory national service (Arbeitsdienst), she enrolled at the University of Frankfurt am Main (the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University) where she studied ethnology, philosophy, and archaeology. She majored in archaeology and ethnology. She still remained working at the Research Institute of Cultural Morphology (Forschungsinstitut für Kulturmorphologie) in Frankfurt, managing the private library of Leo Frobenius until his death in 1938. After his death she remained working there. In 1925 the Forschungsinstitut für Kulturmorphologie was moved to Frankfurt am Main, where it was attached to the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, where Frobenius was appointed to a lectureship in culture and ethnology. In 1934 Frobenius also became director of Frankfurt's Museum of Anthropology (Museum für Völkerkunde).
University of Frankfort am Main (the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University) Ending 1939 Student - completion of PhD She completed her doctoral thesis in 1939, during early WWII,  and obtained her doctorate with a thesis on an ethnological subject. The topic was: Die kultische und mythische Bedeutung des Schweins in Indonesien und Ozeanien. [The ritual and mythical significance of the pig in Indonesia and Oceania.] (It remains unpublished.) From 1939 (obviously after completing her PhD) to 1945 von Dechend is listed in the Frobenius Institute records as an associate fellow. (One source states her position of research assistant from 1939 to 1946 was "half-time." The Frobenius Institut lists her as an Associate Researcher (wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin) from 1939-1945.) According to Schipper, Björn. (2006). "Verzeichnis der Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter des Frobenius-Instituts." In: Kohl, Karl-Heinz. and Platte, Editha. (Editors). Gestalter und Gestalten - 100 Jahre Ethnologie in Frankfurt am Main. (Pages 241-256); Hertha von Dechend was a research assistant from 1939 to 1946 (wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin). The current (2015) webpage for the Frobenius-Institut an der Goethe-Universität - Frankfurt am Main, gives the following summary information about Hertha von Dechend: "Ethnologist and archaeological astronomer. High-school teacher at the Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Frankfurt/M. (1943-1980) . Extent and type of legacy: about forty removal boxes. Accessibility: partly processed in the form of an electronic database." There is a letter of dismissal (or statement of employment) from the Research Institute of Cultural Morphology signed by Prof. Dr. Adolf Jensen, 20(25?)-11-1946.
University of Frankfort am Main (the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University) Beginning 1940 Post-doctoral student  In 1940 von Dechend continued her study of the history of science and philosophy at the University of Frankfurt. During and after her PhD studies at Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität she was a co-worker at the Frobenius-Institut and the Museum für Völkerkunde.
Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Frankfurt am Main (= Institute for the History of Science, Frankfurt am Main) = IGN Beginning 1941 (to 1943) Secretary/Librarian From 1941 to 1960 she was Secretary, Librarian and (1943) Assistant Professor at the Institute for the History of Science (IGN). Her employer there was Prof. Dr. Willy Hartner.
Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Frankfurt am Main (= Institute for the History of Science, Frankfurt am Main) = IGN Beginning 1943 to 1980 High-school teacher?/Assistant professor? For at least 1959 de Santillana identifies von Dechend was Assistant to the Chair of the History of Science (see Hamlet's Mill page vii) She was Assistant [high -school teacher/professor?], Institute for the History of Science, Frankfurt am Main. She is listed as "Assistant, Institute for the History of Science, Frankfurt am Main, from 1943." It seems, more correctly, she was Assistant to the Chair of the History of Science. In most ways it was a repeat of her work for Leo Frobenius at the at the Research Institute of Cultural Morphology. (One source states she graduated in 1943 in Frankfurt and afterwards was employed at the Institute for the History of Natural Sciences. The graduation date is erroneous for her PhD.) The webpage of the Frobenius-Institut records: "Ethnologist and archaeological astronomer. High-school teacher at the Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Frankfurt/M. (1943-1980).") Note: The term "archaeoastronomer" is really only a pseudo academic term. Besides, she was not by training and/or experience an archaeologist or an astronomer. According to some sources she was only from November 1943 temporarily at IGN. In 1943, she held a half-time position at the Institute for the History of Science in Johann Goethe University (now the University of Frankfurt am Main). It appears she played an integral part in running the university when Willy Hartner, the founder of the Institute for the History of Natural Sciences, was on leave at Harvard. She was also instrumental in building the university's library. In 1943 Willy Hartner succeeded in establishing an Institute for the History of Science in Frankfurt, which was later (the IGN itself was closed (merged) in 2009) incorporated into the Department of Physics. At the establishment of the Institute he engaged her (beginning November) as a secretary, librarian and (personal?) assistant.
University of Frankfort am Main (the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University) stated rather than Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Frankfurt am Main (= Institute for the History of Science, Frankfurt am Main) = IGN Beginning circa 1958 Post-doctoral student - Habilitation  Habilitation (begun circa 1958, completed in 1960). The topic was: Der Mythos von gebauten Welt als Ausdrucksform archaischer Naturwissenschaft. [The myth of the built world as an expression of archaic science.]
University of Frankfort am Main (the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University) stated rather than Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Frankfurt am Main (= Institute for the History of Science, Frankfurt am Main) = IGN Ending 1960 Post-doctoral student - Habilitation She completed/gained her Habilitation in 1960. The topic of her thesis was archaic science. Though her PhD was obtained in 1939 it was only 2 decades later that she obtained her Habilitation. It remains unpublished.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA 1960-1969 (but beginning1961) Research Associate 1960-1969 regular research and teaching visits to the MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts were for 2 months duration each visiting year. First visit to MIT in 1961 as a research associate. Arranged through de Santillana. During her visits as a Research Associate she became involved with de Santillana's "project group," and student seminars on ancient cosmology, and Jerome Lettvin's so-called Experimental Epistemology Laboratory. In summary, she attended MIT regularly for 3 reasons: (1) Her involvement with projects at the Neurophysiology Research Group (Neurophysiology Laboratory), (2) her involvement with de Santillana and his Humanities students in the Hamlet's Mill research project, and (3) presenting seminars (in conjunction with other MIT staff) on Ancient Cosmology. Note: De Santillana's advice enabled Hertha von Dechend to receive a Sloan Foundation grant for post-graduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he lectured. He also assisted her to become a research associate (within the Humanities Department) at MIT. (Within a university the title research associate is given to post-doctorates who are conducting post-doctoral research. Hertha von Dechend's research would have been leading towards the book Hamlet's Mill.) It would also appear that Hertha von Dechend remained a research associate at MIT throughout the 1960s and between 1960 and 1969 either stayed in the USA or made regular (annual) lengthy research and teaching visits to MIT. During this period, with leave-of-absence from Frankfurt University, she apparently resided in the USA for at least a considerable number of years on one visit. Some sources hold she resided in the USA from 1960 to 1969. (Yet another source suggests she was a research associate at MIT for 5 winters from 1962 to 1967. Who's Who in Germany 1990 (Part 1, Page 254) states von Dechend "Spent 6 winter terms in visiting capacity at MIT." This is likely accurate. For 5 years from 1962 to 1967 von Dechend was associated with one of the research laboratories at MIT. It appears de Santillana was for many years also associated with a research laboratory at MIT. (See: La Fondation du monde by Michael Demion (2011, Page 263.) This was obviously the Neurophysiology Laboratory. The Neurophysiology Research Group (Neurophysiology Laboratory) was formed within the Research Laboratory of Electronics. Its concept was an extension of the Research Laboratory of Electronics (and its investigations used Research Laboratory of Electronics equipment). Both the Research Laboratory of Electronics and the Neurophysiology Research Group were located in Building 20.) The most reliable source states that 1960-1969 she made regular research and teaching visits to MIT. (This period was her only break with her otherwise continuous employment, since November 1943, at the Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, in Germany (founded by Willy Hartner).) In 1969 she returned to the University of Frankfort and her post as Professor of the History of Science (and Emeritius from 1980). (The Wikipedia article on Hamlet's Mill (January, 2010) erroneously identifies her as a scientist.)) (According to one source at the Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften her regular research and teaching visits to MIT spanned 1960-1969. According to another source she was a research associate at MIT for five winters spanning, 1962-1967. Naturwissenschaftliche Rundschau, is now perhaps the best guide. Naturwissenschaftliche Rundschau, Volumes 16-17, 1963, Page 458, has Hertha von Dechend as: Priv.-Doz. (Privatdozent (= holding all formal qualifications (both doctorate and habilitation) [unsalaried lecturer if a formal position not held?]) researching at MIT for winter semester 1964/1965 (... wird im WS 1964/65 zu Forschungszwecken am Massachusetts Institute of Technology ....). According to Who's who in Germany 1990: Part 1, A-L, Page 254: "Dechend ... spent six winter terms in visiting capacity at MIT, Cambridge, Mass., USA. 1960-1967 ...." (Once again, other sources give 1960-1969.) (See also: (MIT) Technology Review, Volume 62, 1960, Page 76, for mention of "Herta von Dechend, Germany, protohistoric material of myths and legend ...." ) It is not evidence from MIT reports (i.e., Report of the President and the Chancellor) I have so far seen that von Dechend was there in 1967.
University of Frankfort am Main (the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University) stated rather than Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Frankfurt am Main (= Institute for the History of Science, Frankfurt am Main) = IGN 1960 Professor of Cultural Morphology It is indicated that in 1960 she was Professor of cultural morphology. (Morphology = the form or structure of any culture.)
Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Frankfurt am Main (= Institute for the History of Science, Frankfurt am Main) = IGN 1966 Associate Professor (apl. Prof. 1966) In 1966 she became/was Associate Professor at IGN. She was, as was customary, appointed the title of professor 6 years from her Habilitation, (According to one source she became a professor in 1960 and joined the faculty of the History of Natural Sciences in 1966. The date 1960 is indicated as somewhat problematic.) Her listings in academic directories (at later dates) include: (1) Fünfzig Jahre Habilitation von Frauen in Deutschland by Elisabeth Boedeker and Maria Meyer-Plath (1974) "Folk-Narrative Research ... 1966 Spezielles Lehrund Forshungsgebeit: Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Archaische Kosmologie und Astronomie." [= In 1966 she was appointed the title of extraordinary professor.] (2) Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Volumes 2-3, 1979 "Lehrgebiet: Frühgeschichte der Naturwissenschaft; Forschungsschwerpunkt: archaische Kosmologie." (3) Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, [Volume 41, Issues 7-12, Page 634], 1990 "Gestchichte der Naturwissenschaften, Archaische Kosmologie." Several sources state/claim she was Professor of the History of Science at the University of Frankfurt. This is a mistaken shortening of "Gestchichte der Naturwissenschaften, Archaische Kosmologie." It would be interesting to know exactly how her title of "Professor of History of Science, Ancient Cosmology" was established.
Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Frankfurt am Main (= Institute for the History of Science, Frankfurt am Main) = IGN

 

1966 Von Dechend's eventual title was "Professor of History of Science, Ancient Cosmology," likely based on her supposed knowledge of precessional mythology. She had no wide knowledge/expertise on the history of science. Fünfzig Jahre Habilitation von Frauen in Deutschland by Elisabeth Boedeker and Maria Meyer-Plath (1974) "Folk-Narrative Research ... 1966 Spezielles Lehrund Forshungsgebeit: Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Archaische Kosmologie und Astronomie." [= In 1966 she was appointed the title of extraordinary professor.] (2) Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Volumes 2-3, 1979 "Lehrgebiet: Frühgeschichte der Naturwissenschaft; Forschungsschwerpunkt: archaische Kosmologie." (3) Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, [Volume 41, Issues 7-12, Page 634], 1990 "Gestchichte der Naturwissenschaften, Archaische Kosmologie." Several sources state/claim she was Professor of the History of Science at the University of Frankfurt. This is a mistaken shortening of "Gestchichte der Naturwissenschaften, Archaische Kosmologie." It would be interesting to know exactly how her title of "Professor of History of Science, Ancient Cosmology" was established.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA 1970s Visiting Professor After the publication of Hamlet's Mill in 1969 and the death of Giorgio de Santillana in 1974 she continued to visit MIT and hold/teach seminars (on ancient cosmology). ("Introduction to Ancient Cosmology," 1976/1977 winter semester, MIT.) In, Report of the President and the Chancellor 1978-79 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (page 35) under Visiting Faculty, Visiting Professors, (Personnel Changes) appears: "Hertha von Dechend Program in Science, Technology, and Society." Note: Two categories are applicable to Hertha von Dechend at MIT. Firstly, "research associate" (the designation that applied to her during the 1960s); secondly, "visiting professor" (which applied to her during the 1970s). Basically, (present-day) a research assistant at MIT is a member of a research group in a Laboratory or Project who works closely with a faculty supervisor and with other graduate students on a sponsored research project. In the current (2016) MIT policy on research appointments the category "senior research associate" (Academic Research Staff Appointments, Section 5.3) is included, but this is not relevant to von Dechend. For leads to relevant sources for early MIT policies and procedures (i.e., 1960s) see: Academia's Golden Age: Universities in Massachusetts, 1945-1970 by Richard Freeland (1992).
Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Frankfurt am Main (= Institute for the History of Science, Frankfurt am Main) = IGN 1971 Professor for Life It was not until 1971, 9 years before reaching retirement age, that she was given "Professor for Life" ("Professor auf Lebenszeit"). During this time she held each semester break from lectures, associated seminars when not engaged with such at MIT in the USA.
Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Frankfurt am Main (= Institute for the History of Science, Frankfurt am Main) = IGN 1980 Emeritus Emeritus since 1980. She retired from the University of Frankfurt am Main, becoming a Professor Emeritus (Archaische Kosmologie) in 1980?/1982. Hertha von Dechend retired in 1982 on a modest pension (enabled by her having secured a permanent teaching position with the university). Without the pension her retirement would have been rather precarious. After her retirement in 1980 she continued to hold seminars in private premises for a small group of about 8 participants. The location for these seminars was often the living room of the home of the Volhard family. It appears she would also meet with Prof. Mayama in a room at IGN. Also, once a week she would travel from Kronberg to visit the library to receive material or to use materials from the library.

Achievements of von Dechend as professor at IGN

According to Uta Lindgren, von Dechend's career in Frankfurt was unspectacular. From at least 1979 von Dechend had the title of Professor of History of Science, Ancient Cosmology. Willy Hartner was still alive (he died 16 May 1981) with the title of Professor Emeritus of the History of Science. It would be interesting to know if he had been influential in the establishment of von Dechend's professorship title. It is an interesting comment but it is not elaborated by Lindgren. One wonders if von Dechend's teaching methods played a part in this. She was a trenchant proponent of her ideas. If she repeated her MIT style of lecturing at IGN then I think student difficulties in understanding her ideas would have resulted. I have never seen any information regarding hours a week she lectured for. I envisage approximately 10-12 hours per week.

Von Dechend, once she had decided on an astronomical interpretation/explanation of world mythology, proceeded to take many key ideas from Panbabylonism and created a complex fantasy. After being given a teaching platform at MIT for over a decade, beginning in 1961 - even though not appointed to the title of professor at IGN until 1966 - and then becoming Professor of Archaic Cosmology at IGN for some 2 decades, she achieved virtually nothing (i.e., student accomplishments) and established nothing permanent (i.e., the position of Professor of Archaic Cosmology is defunct), and made no impact on the academic study of mythology (i.e., there is no academic acceptance of her ideas). This has no impact on uninformed proponents/devotees of Hamlet's Mill who simply opine "There will always be people who understand nothing." They miss the point that this applies to themselves. Their good impressions of the book are supported by there own ignorance of the issues.

Questions can be divided into 2 sets. Set 1: (1) How was von Dechend's title of "Professor of History of Science, Ancient Cosmology" established? (2) By whom was it established and why? (3) What were the teaching expectations for this title? (4) Was there a period of some independence in the teaching structure at IGN? (5) Why was she not succeeded by another person holding the same title? (To some extent she was succeeded by Walter Saltzer.) Set 2: (1) Who were her students at IGN? Did she have any doctoral students at IGN? (2) Did any student at IGN produce a doctoral thesis on "archaic cosmology"? A source of information may be: "Erinnerungen an die Frühzeit des Instituts." [Memories of the Institute's early days] by Hertha von Dechend (Pages 3-12(13?), part of: "Das Institut in Eigener Sache" [The Institute in its own right]) In: Ad Radices: Festband zum fünfzigjährigen Bestehen des Instituts für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften der Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main [The Roots: Festive book on the fiftieth anniversary of the Institute for the History of Natural Sciences at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main] edited by Anton von Gotstedter (1994). I have not seen it indicated that von Dechend had any PhD students. It appears that at IGN von Dechend produced no graduate students. (The question is: Was IGN a research institution?) I have not seen it indicated that any doctorial thesis originated from von Dechend as a supervisor, especially any on "archaic cosmology." No details of her courses or students seem readily available. A source of information is: "Promotionen zum Dr. phil. nat. am IGN 1943-1993." (Pages 29-34), In: Ad Radices: Festband zum fünfzigjährigen Bestehen des Instituts für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften der Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main edited by Anton von Gotstedter (1994).

Yearbook details (page 16) of colloquium (academic conference/seminar) for Hertha von Dechend. No conference publication seems to have resulted.

Von Dechend's relationship with the Volhard family

In 1939 von Dechend was recognised as a tireless assistant of Ewald Volhard (a son of the famous internist and nephropolgist Franz Volhard), at the Institute for Cultural Morphology. (See: "Geleitwort des Herrausgebers" in Kannibalismus by Ewald Volhard (1939).) Ewald Volhard (1900-1945) was a German ethnologist. Volhard studied German Literature in Halle, where he received his PhD in 1927. In 1933 he became assistant at the Institute for Cultural Morphology (today: Frobenius-Institut) at Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt a.M. During the 1930s he participated in several research expeditions  of the D.I.A.F.E. (including Transjordan and Libyan desert, Southern France and Eastern Iberia). Volhard was considered to be one of Frobenius' 'crown princes.' His habilitation thesis Kannibalismus (University of Berlin) was completed in 1939 and published. It was an extensive study on the worldwide practices of cannibalism. During WWII, Volhard served in the German army as a soldier and was killed in February 1945, in the battle for Cleves. Volhards family remained cordially related with the Frobenius-Institute. Volhard’s obituary article "Leo Frobenius." (Paideuma, Volume 1, 1938, Pages 41-44) mentions Hertha von Dechend. An obituary of Ewald Volhard written by A E. Jensen was published in Paideuma 3, Volumes 3-5, October 1948, Pages 191-193. The Frobenius Institute in Frankfurt continued the work of Leo Frobenius through the magazine "Paideuma," edited from 1946 to ? by A. Jensen, a scholar of Indonesian and African peoples. For von Dechend's continuing association with the Frobenius Institute see the uncritical biography, Leo Frobenius, anthropologue, explorateur, adventurier by Hans-Jurgen Heinrichs (1999).

It appears von Dechend contributed to Paideuma. It is indicated she contributed to: Paideuma: Mitteilungen zur Kulturkunde, Volumes 36-37, 1990. On page 361: "Prof. Dr. Hertha von Dechend, Kronberg im Taunus." Contributors are listed as: Universität Frankfurt am Main. Frobenius-Institut, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Kulturmorphologie, Frobenius-Gesellschaft.

Hertha von Dechend as an ethnologist

She was not a fieldworker. She basically worked from secondary sources. She was a hyperdiffusionist. The results of modern archaeology give no support to this position as a suitable explanation of culture.

Von Dechend believed the so-called Bushmen of the Kalahari (San or Basarwa) are the best witnesses of the earliest known culture of homo sapiens. (Introduction to Cosmology (1979).) The San/Basarwa are the original modern inhabitants of southern Africa. For over half a century scholars have argued there is a cultural continuity between the San/Basarwa and African peoples living 30,000 or 40,000 years ago. (See: Anthropology and the Bushman by Alan Barnard (2007).)

Hertha von Dechend's influence on Giorgio de Santillana

There is little doubt that de Santillana's existing beliefs concerning the origins of intelligence and early science predisposed him to readily accepting von Dechend's ideas. De Santillana was keen to introduce revolutionary ideas, such as an early (Neolithic period) date for the establishment of scientific (astronomical) knowledge, into the history of science. Manfred Pokert, The theoretical foundations of Chinese medicine (1974), Page xi, mentions a seminar of Giorgio de Santillana's in existentialism which was centred on the beginnings of scientific thought.

The scope of the Hamlet’s Mill project

The Hamlet’s Mill project was more inclusive than just comparative mythology or a claim for cosmological mythology. It embodied a theory of human development. It was an attempt to sustain the view that ancient people were: (1) capable of meticulous and accurate astronomical observations, and (2) were capable of complex thought. The authors of Hamlet’s Mill advocated an early and advanced lost civilization (possessing at least a sophisticated but now lost astronomical knowledge). This particular lost civilization originated a single archaic system comprising an astronomical monomyth that prevailed throughout most of the civilized and proto-civilised world from circa at least 4000 BCE to circa 100 CE. The supposed monomyth is reflected in mythical, legendary, and historical narratives world-wide. For the authors and supporters of the book these assertions remain correct for all time. All of this is pure fantasy. Supportive archaeological evidence by way of possible astronomical and mathematical features of the design of ancient monuments is not forthcoming.

De Santillana did not view cultural history as a process of gradual evolution. Rather he regarded civilisation had appeared quite suddenly. See: Hamlet's Mill, Pages 69-71.

Modern ideas on the origin of intelligence

Supporters of Hamlet’s Mill almost uniformly claim that 'academic experts' are convinced a priori of the scientific ignorance of our presumed 'savage' prehistoric ancestors. Though Paleolithic people were the first modern humans in the evolutionary sense, they were viewed during the pioneering period of anthropology brutish hunter-gatherers largely incapable of advanced thinking (i.e., record keeping). However, almost uniformly, no modern 'academic experts' support the viewpoint of the scientific ignorance of, and savage nature of, Palaeolithic and Neolithic people. The assertion seems to originate from the discarded early ethnological theories of pioneers such as the 19th-century British researcher Edward Tylor (privately educated, self-trained, pioneering anthropologist). Major works authored by Tylor include: Researches into the Early History of Mankind (1865), Primitive Culture (2 Volumes, 1871), and Anthropology (1881). Also, James Frazer, the Scottish social anthropologist and author of The Golden Bough (3rd edition: 12 volumes, 1906–1915; 1936), generally followed Tylor's ideas. Interestingly, Tylor believed that cultural resemblances revealed processes of diffusion. He proposed the axiom: The more sophisticated an innovation, the more likely it originated in diffusion. (Frazer's mentor was Robertson Smith.)

There is no convincing reason to believe that modern language (and associated sophistication in human thought) arose in Europe at the end of last Ice Age. "As an archaeologist I find it unreasonable to demand archaeological proof of modern consciousness and modern thought processes in order to accept the notion of modern language forms at an earlier time." (Early Humans and Their World by Bo Gräslund (2005, Pages 110).) Archaeological finds (such as tools and weapons made with an evident degree of high technical precision) suggests that this capacity for modern language is far earlier than the end of the last Ice Age.

Modern humans who colonised the earth in the past 100,000 years had intellectual abilities and cultural sophistication similar to present-day people. Di Santillana and von Dechend are likely correct in stating (Hamlet's Mill, Page 71): "Mistaking cultural history for a process of gradual evolution, we have deprived ourselves of every reasonable insight into the nature of culture." Cultural development can proceed with great rapidity. There has been episodes of rapid cultural development in the recent past. Cultural evolution occurs faster than genetic change. The origin and spread of agriculture was a key trigger. Vastly larger population were able to be supported by agriculture than by hunting and gathering.

A comprehensive and more recent approach to the prehistory of human intelligence and the origin of science than that undertaken by Giorgio de Santillana is: The Prehistory of the Mind by Steven Mithen (1996). Steven Mithen has a BA (hons) in Prehistory & Archaeology from Sheffield University, an MSc in Biological Computation from York University and a PhD in Archaeology from Cambridge University. Between 1987 and 1992 he was a Research Fellow at Trinity Hall and then Lecturer in Archaeology at Cambridge. After moving to the University of Reading, he was promoted to Senior Lecturer (1996), Reader (1998) and then Professor of Early Prehistory (2000). In August 2002 he was appointed as the first Head of the School of Human & Environmental Sciences, formed by the Departments of Archaeology, Geography, Soil Science and the Postgraduate Institute of Sedimentology, a post he held until August 2008 when be became Dean of the Faculty of Science. He was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy in 2004. See also the modern discussion: "The Evolution of Intelligence" by Liane Gabora and Anne Russon. in: The Cambridge Handbook of Intelligence edited by Robert Sternberg and Scott Kaufman (2011, Pages 328-350).

Recent archaeological work is establishing the early use of symbols of a linguistic nature. There is recent (clear) evidence for early visual symbol systems that were not writing but did comprise a highly developed symbolic literacy, and demonstrate early imaging and abstracting capacities.

Evolutionary forces are open-ended. Evolutionary development in humans took the form of great intelligence. The evolutionary development of bigger and better brains in humans resulted in the increasing capacity for cleverness. The human brain became a 'learning machine.'

There was more than one "Out of Africa" dispersal of hominids. (It is also argued that there were also some dispersals into Africa during the early Pleistocene period by some human species.) By the late 20th-century a combination of genetic and paleontological techniques allowed scientists to confirm that our own peculiar species originated in Africa. Anatomically-modern representatives of Homo Sapiens originated in Africa about 200,000 years ago, and populations of our species began to disperse out of Equatorial East Africa by circa 70,000 years BCE. Much remains to be discovered about human evolution during the past 500,000 years. Modern evidence indicates that multiple human lineages left Africa and dispersed throughout Europe and Asia. A combination of fossil and genetic data has given significant support to the theory that many of these disparate populations interbred with each other. The earliest remains of modern humans in Europe date to circa 45,000 BCE. The single skullcap (dated circa 55,000 BCE) evidence from the Manot Cave (discovered 2008) in northern Israel indicates that humans left their evolutionary cradle in Africa and passed through the Middle East on their way to Europe. Prehistoric humans left Africa far earlier than circa 70,000 BCE but these migratory populations appear to have eventually become extinct. (Circa at least 250,000 BCE small groups of Homo heidelbergensis, an early human species, migrated across Africa and into Europe. Neanderthal and modern human lineages diverged from a common ancestor circa 270,000 BCE to circa 440,000 BCE. Neanderthals were a population that rose circa 150,000 BCE and persisted in parts of Europe until circa 25,000 BCE.) Note: Recently discovered (from 1961 onwards) human fossils from the Jebel Irhoud site in Morocco may have added 100 000 years to the history of homo sapiens. The interpretation of the fossils finds is still controversial.

At the Qafzeh cave in Israel ochre was used by hominins there circa 80,000 BCE. (Hominins = members of the human clade/species (all the evolutionary descendants of a common ancestor).) The recently found Qesem Cave teeth (4 of) in Israel and the identification and origin of the Quesem Cave humans remains unclear. The teeth are presently dated to circa 300,000 BCE.

Genetic studies relating to the evolution of Homo sapiens are summarised in "A new view of the birth of Homo sapiens." by A. Gibbons (Science, Volume 31, Pages 392-394). The ancestors of modern humans emerged in Africa circa 200,000 years  BCE. Some migrated from Africa. Later, Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa several times in the past circa 100,000 years BCE. A substantial dispersal of Homo sapiens occurred circa 50,000 BCE. Homo sapiens interbred with Neanderthals and also with Denisovans in Asia. (Denisova hominin is an extinct species of human in the genus Homo that lived in eastern Eurasia.)

The enormous amount of stunning artwork in the Paleolithic European caves of France and Spain indicate a fully formed modern intelligence. The evolutionary breakthrough had been thought to occur in Europe circa 40,000 BCE. The Chauvet caves in France have artwork dated to circa 30,000 BCE; the Grotte du Renne has Neanderthal ornaments (including perforated teeth presumably worn as a necklace) dating to circa 40,000 BCE; and the El Castillo cave in Spain has potentially Neanderthal cave paintings dating to circa 40,000 BCE. However, it has been thought that the non European predecessors of these Paleolithic cave artists lacked the capacity for any kind of abstract or symbolic thought.

A series of recent art and artefact finds in the Blombos cave and Diepkloof rock shelter in South Africa have provided evidence that our common ancestors had developed the capacity for abstract and symbolic thought prior to leaving Africa. Circa 70,000 BCE the homo sapiens comprising the small coastal cave communities of South Africa show evidence of rapid intellectual development (the clues comprise the attainment of symbolic thinking). The evidence at Blombos Cave comprises the decoration of small hematite nodules with geometric designs (cross-hatchings). (Hematite is a type of iron rock.) (The use of pigment in the Blombos cave is dated to circa 100,000 BCE.) In the Diepkloof rock shelter (a South African cave complex) almost 300 fragments of ostrich egg shells decorated with precise cross-hatched designs have been found, dating to circa 60,000 BCE. According to one source, the Diepkloof rock shelter artefacts comprising ostrich shells engraved with 5 geometric patterns are dated to circa 50,000 (perhaps 60,000) BCE. This may indicate that the earlier Blombos Cave cross-hatchings actually have meaning. Collections of seashells in the Qafzeh cave in Israel, and in the Grotte des Pigeons in Morocco provide evidence that modern humans were collecting these for personal ornaments circa 80,000 BCE. It is expected that further work will show that the origins of human cognition is complicated - not simple. The examination of geometric symbols on artefacts and cave walls suggests perhaps their use as clan and territorial markers. (See: "The Origins of Intelligence." by Alison George (NewScientist, 23 November, 2013, Number 2944, Pages 36-40).)

The results (2016) of the most recent DNA research/genetic analysis - involving samples collected from cultures around the globe - is the evidence suggests that the ancestry of all non-Africans can be traced back to a single population migration out of Africa between 50,000 and 80,000 years ago. Modern humans evolved in Africa approximately 200,000 years ago.

Hertha von Dechend at MIT

De Santillana's advice enabled Hertha von Dechend to receive a Sloan Foundation grant for post-graduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he lectured. He also assisted her to become a research associate (within the Humanities Department) at MIT. (Within a university the title research associate is given to post-doctorates who are conducting post-doctoral research. Hertha von Dechend's research would have been leading towards the book Hamlet's Mill.) It would also appear that Hertha von Dechend remained a research associate at MIT throughout the 1960s and between 1960 and 1969 either stayed in the USA or made regular (annual) lengthy research and teaching visits to MIT. During this period, with leave-of-absence from Frankfurt University, she apparently resided in the USA for at least a considerable number of years on one visit. Some sources hold she resided in the USA from 1960 to 1969. (Yet another source suggests she was a research associate at MIT for 5 winters from 1962 to 1967. Who's Who in Germany 1990 (Part 1, Page 254) states von Dechend "Spent 6 winter terms in visiting capacity at MIT." This is likely accurate. For 5 years from 1962 to 1967 von Dechend was associated with one of the research laboratories at MIT. It appears de Santillana was for many years also associated with a research laboratory at MIT. (See: La Fondation du monde by Michael Demion (2011, Page 263.) This was obviously the Neurophysiology Laboratory. The Neurophysiology Research Group (Neurophysiology Laboratory) was formed within the Research Laboratory of Electronics. Its concept was an extension of the Research Laboratory of Electronics (and its investigations used Research Laboratory of Electronics equipment). Both the Research Laboratory of Electronics and the Neurophysiology Research Group were located in Building 20.) The most reliable source states that 1960-1969 she made regular research and teaching visits to MIT. (This period was her only break with her otherwise continuous employment, since November 1943, at the Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, in Germany (founded by Willy Hartner).) In 1969 she returned to the University of Frankfort and her post as Professor of the History of Science (and Emeritius from 1980). (The Wikipedia article on Hamlet's Mill (January, 2010) erroneously identifies her as a scientist.)) (According to one source at the Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften her regular research and teaching visits to MIT spanned 1960-1969. According to another source she was a research associate at MIT for five winters spanning, 1962-1967. Naturwissenschaftliche Rundschau, is now perhaps the best guide. Naturwissenschaftliche Rundschau, Volumes 16-17, 1963, Page 458, has Hertha von Dechend as: Priv.-Doz. (Privatdozent (= holding all formal qualifications (both doctorate and habilitation) [unsalaried lecturer if a formal position not held?]) researching at MIT for winter semester 1964/1965 (... wird im WS 1964/65 zu Forschungszwecken am Massachusetts Institute of Technology ....). According to Who's who in Germany 1990: Part 1, A-L, Page 254: "Dechend ... spent six winter terms in visiting capacity at MIT, Cambridge, Mass., USA. 1960-1967 ...." (Once again, other sources give 1960-1969.) (See also: (MIT) Technology Review, Volume 62, 1960, Page 76, for mention of "Herta von Dechend, Germany, protohistoric material of myths and legend ...." ) It is not evidence from MIT reports (i.e., Report of the President and the Chancellor) I have so far seen that von Dechend was there in 1967.

In summary, von Dechend attended MIT regularly for 3 reasons: (1) Her involvement with projects at the Neurophysiology Research Group (Neurophysiology Laboratory), (2) her involvement with de Santillana and his Humanities students in the Hamlet's Mill research project, and (3) presenting seminars (in conjunction with other MIT staff) on Ancient Cosmology.

In, Report of the President and the Chancellor 1978-79 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (page 35) under Visiting Faculty, Visiting Professors, (Personnel Changes) appears: "Hertha von Dechend Program in Science, Technology, and Society."

Abe Aronow recollects that people at MIT treated Hertha von Dechend with great respect. Harald Reiche was very courtly with her.

MIT policies and procedures

Two categories are applicable to Hertha von Dechend at MIT. Firstly, "research associate" (the designation that applied to her during the 1960s); secondly, "visiting professor" (which applied to her during the 1970s). Basically, (present-day) a research assistant at MIT is a member of a research group in a Laboratory or Project who works closely with a faculty supervisor and with other graduate students on a sponsored research project. In the current (2016) MIT policy on research appointments the category "senior research associate" (Academic Research Staff Appointments, Section 5.3) is included, but this is not relevant to von Dechend. For leads to relevant sources for early MIT policies and procedures (i.e., 1960s) see: Academia's Golden Age: Universities in Massachusetts, 1945-1970 by Richard Freeland (1992).

Excursus: Jayant Shah and Emma Duchane

In a letter to Abe Aronow dated July 22, 1991, Hertha von Dechend writes: " ... If all goes well I will stay in Cambridge from October 10 to December 3 (44 Kirkland St., Cambridge 01238 ...." This spacious property was built in 1902.

In late 1991 at least Hertha von Dechend stayed with the mathematician Jayant Shah and his physicist wife Emma Duchane (also known as Emma Buchane and Emma (Shah) Duchane) at their residence at 44 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts. (A 10 room, 5 bedroom house with upper storey and basement. The house is/was owned by Jayant Shah and Emma Duchane.) The previous address for Emma Duchane was 18 Tremont Street, Boston, MA. Jayant Shah obtained his PhD, MIT, 1974, and is a mathematics professor (currently 2013? Professor of Mathematics at Northeastern University (College of Science). His area of expertise is computer vision. Emma Duchane was a physics major at MIT in the 1950s (graduated 1957). As a graduate student she worked in the MIT Neurophysiology Laboratory with Jerry Lettvin and Walter Pitts, at least 1957-1958. As a graduate student she helped Jerome Lettvin measure the visual system of the frog (at least circa 1958). This assistive work by Emma Duchane may only have been done during the summer. (See the MIT Neurophysiology Laboratory Report for 1958.) (Throughout its history, graduate students play a central role in all of the Institute's wide-ranging research activities, making both an important contribution to the educational experience of students, faculty and to the success of the research itself.) In 1965 at least Emma Duchane worked for Arthur D. Little, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02140. It appears she also worked for Westinghouse Science Talent Search (STS) in Washington, DC. It appears that in 1953 she was a participant at the Science Talent Institute Week (also known as the Westinghouse Science Competition). Westinghouse conducted a yearly science talent search (Westinghouse Science Talent Search). Among her publications: User's Manual, Advanced FORTRAN IV Utilities for Data General Computers edited by Emma Duchane (1980). In 2015 both Emma and Jayant donated to The Conservancy for the Charles River parklands.

Recent photograph of 44 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Note: According to one source von Dechend most often stayed with Mrs Reiche. Von Dechend was the only person she ever allowed to smoke in her home.

Hertha von Dechend's MIT seminars on archaic cosmology

It presently still remains difficult to establish exactly what was being done. Memories of several past students differ. It is not exactly clear whether the seminars were deemed undergraduate seminars or graduate seminars. Likely they were deemed undergraduate seminars. (It is usual to consider a degree an undergraduate qualification.) It is still diificult to establish when MIT had formally established an undergraduate seminars program. By at least the late 1970s MIT had formal administrative processes for student seminars.

In 1958 when von Dechend first met de Santillana she was not yet a Professor. A year after being appointed a Professor in 1960 she was teaching - in some form - her ancient cosmology ideas at MIT. It is perhaps an indication of how few constraints were placed on MIT faculty members. 

It would appear that Giorgio de Santillana organised the two seminars on archaic cosmology at MIT (in 1961 and 1966) that Hertha von Dechend lectured at. (It also appears that de Santillana was reliant on Lettvin for advice on organising seminars.) Von Dechend presented, at least in 1966, the topic titled "Introduction to Ancient Cosmology." It also appears that at these seminars Giorgio de Santillana actually gave most of the presentations. (According to Jerry Lettvin, Hertha von Dechend, though considered an excellent presenter and able to demonstrate enormous learning, was not comfortable speaking in English - her lack of fluency in English was a major barrier. However, Abe Aronow vaguely recollects: ". …. I believe the seminars started in 1960 or 61 and lasted long after I left for Hanover, New Hampshire, in July of 1962. The ones I attended were run by von Dechend. ... She was soft spoken but not shy.) On several occasions Jerome Lettvin presented (at least in 1966 but I am not sure about other year(s)). Von Dechend mentions in the early pages of the 1966 student notes that Lettvin would later address the participants (on early Medieval history of science issues?). (See his articles: "The Use of Myth." in Technology Review, Volume 78, Number 7, 1976, Pages 52-57, 63; and "The Gorgon's Eye." in Technology Review, Volume 80, Number 2, 1977, Pages 74-83. Technology Review is an MIT publication.) (See also: Technology Review, Volumes 80-81, 1977, Pages 100.) The core persons for the two seminars in the 1960s were undoubtedly Giorgio de Santillana, Hertha von Dechend, Harald Reiche, Jerome Lettvin, and Philip Morrison. In her 1961 seminar notes Hertha von Dechend refers to seminar speakers (plural). The language of some parts of the 1961 seminar notes indicate that sometimes it is Giorgio de Santillana that is presenting. This leads to the conclusion that her seminar notes reflect what was jointly presented by multiple presenters. (The collection of essays comprising the book Astronomy of the Ancients edited by Kenneth Brecher and Michael Fiertag (1979) was published in the same year as the last MIT seminar on ancient astronomy given by Hertha von Dechend. Both editors were MIT staff and 3 of the 8 essays were by MIT staff. Many of the essays in it can be considered an extension of Hamlet's Mill.)

Jerome Lettvin (telephone conversation, 15/9/2006) recollected - though not with certainty - that there were 5 or 6 (likely 6) seminars per term. By this I presume he meant that a seminar on ancient cosmology comprised some 6 meetings for its complete presentation. It is indicated as certain that the format of a seminar comprised a series of weekly lectures/presentations. The length of each presentation comprising the complete seminar was (likely) 2 hours = a each seminar on ancient cosmology comprised a total of some 12 hours.

Lettvin was one of the few academic supporters and exponents of the views of Hertha von Dechend. See: "The Use of Myth: The tales of the Makers are the first language of science." by Jerome Lettvin (Technology Review, June, 1976, Pages 52-59).

No syllabus for any of the Archaic Cosmology/Ancient cosmology seminars appears to have survived. No evidence of a syllabus exists in her course notes. A syllabus is an outline or a summary of the main points of a text, lecture, or course of study. A reference to "Hertha von Dechend, syllabus for a course in ancient cosmology, MIT, spring, 1966, pages 38, 40.6." is somewhat cryptic. The seminars were likely held in the early evenings.

Unfortunately, the nature of von Dechend's involvement with the [Introduction to] Archaic Cosmology seminars at MIT, though mentioned by both herself and Uta Lindgren, are not clearly explained. (The seminars are nowhere mentioned in The Tech, MIT's oldest and largest newspaper, established in 1881.) However, (apparently) Technology Review, Volume 67, Number 1, November, 1964, Page 64, has a short article mentioning a 1964 (?) MIT seminar on "antiquity of science" (ancient cosmology) conducted by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend. Both are identified with the Department of Humanities. (Note: Volume 66 of Technology Review concluded with Number 9 published in July 1964.) A 1964 seminar is not indicated in other literature - the reference needs to be fully checked. Some excerpts obtainable through Google: "The search for regularity in the universe, a characteristic of modern science, began long before men learned to write, Professor Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend of the Department of Humanities have been pointing out in an M.I.T. seminar. The earliest science they say was archaic cosmology. It preceded the achievements of the Egyptians [!?] and the Greeks, and it was born even earlier than any … [other recorded civilization]. … The great creative period seems to comprise the span between 6000 and 2000 B.C. Psychological interpretations of documents found by archaeologists have misled us, Professor de Santillana thinks. From a re-examination of the findings of Nineteenth Century scholars, he and Dr. von Dechend have concluded that astronomy is an even older science than we have been taught, and was effectively diffused long before letters were invented."

In his book The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light (1996, Page 268) William Thompson states that Hertha von Dechend was [at least 1966-1967] part of the Department of Humanities at MIT. In his book The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light (1996, Page 268) William Thompson writes: "... Hertha von Dechend's syllabus for her course in "Ancient Cosmology" given at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1966-67." (At this time William Thompson (a cultural historian) was Associate Professor of Humanities (i.e., Associate Professor of Literature) Department of Humanities, MIT, and a colleague of Hertha von Dechend. According to William Thompson, in 1966 he was working as an instructor at MIT, in the Humanities. William Thompson's description of himself: "William Irwin Thompson (born July, 1938) is known primarily as a social philosopher and cultural critic, but he has also been writing and publishing poetry throughout his career and received the Oslo International Poetry Festival Award in 1986. He has made significant contributions to cultural history, social criticism, the philosophy of science, and the study of myth. He describes his writing and speaking style as "mind-jazz on ancient texts". He is an astute reader of science, social science, history, and literature. He is the founder of the Lindisfarne Association." In 1974 the occultist David Spangler (who was connected with the Findhorn Foundation) helped William Thompson found the Lindisfarne Association. The Findhorn Community is comprised of committed spiritual seekers (whose god is the biblical Yahweh). The Lindisfarne Association (1972-2012, now defunct) for the "study and realization of a new planetary culture." It was inspired by the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead's idea of an integral philosophy of organism, and by Teilhard de Chardin's idea of planetization.

It is indicated by some sources that the MIT seminars were not student seminars but seminars specifically convened for specialist academics. However, this may not be quite correct. The neurologist and psychiatrist Jerome Lettvin, a former professor at MIT and close associate of both Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, recollects that each year the seminars were held there were a series of 5 or 6 seminars that would span a single term (or per each term for the year?) and the duration of each seminar was around 2 hours. (The organising of the seminars by way of fixing the dates was sporadic.) Circa 1967 Jerome Lettvin was focused on teaching the "History of experimental approaches to epistemology." Hertha von Dechend's lecture notes for the 1966 seminars are marked "Autumn, 1966, Introduction to Ancient Cosmology." For the 1979 seminars her lecture notes are simply marked "Fall, 1979." (The seminar title seems to have consistently been: Introduction to Ancient Cosmology. This was the exact title used for the 1966 seminar.) The seminars were open to everybody - students, faculty, and the public. Abe Aronow believes the seminars were likely held in the Humanities building. The seminars were possibly held in the Charles Hayden Memorial Library Lounge (Hayden Library Lounge, Room 14E-310 (also written as 14-E310)). (The starting time was likely 5.00 pm and the finishing time was likely 7.00 pm.) This room was frequently utilised by Giorgio de Santillana, and also other Humanities Department staff, when organising the presentation of lectures by visiting academics. (It was located on level 4 mezzanine?) It was the Humanities Library (built 1950), and Giorgio de Santillana was in the Humanities Department. The American Historical Association Newsletter, Volume 6, 1967, noted de Santillana's retirement in that year. The (3-hour) colloquium to honour Giorgio de Santillana on his retirement was held in the Hayden Library Lounge (in May, 1967) which comfortably seated two hundred attendees. (The exact location of 14E-310 is a little confusing. Building 14E is described as being located near the Hayden Library. The address for 14E-310 appears as 160 Memorial Drive, Cambridge.) During 1961 at least Giorgio de Santillana was teaching the course "The Origins of Scientific Thought." Immediately before his retirement he was focused on teaching Greek and Renaissance scientific thought. At the time of his death in 1974 Giorgio de Santillana was Professor Emeritus, History and Philosophy of Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

According to Phil Norfleet, a student of de Santillana at MIT during the 1960s, de Santillana's seminars were usually reserved for graduate students. "The capstones of the new Course XXI are the special senior seminars which will be offered for the first time in 1957 and for which Professor Karl W. Deutsch and Professor Giorgio D. de Santillana are already preparing materials." (Massachusetts Institute of Technology Bulletin, Volume 92, Number 3, November 1956, President’s Report Issue for the Year Ending October 1, 1956, Page 112.) The organisation of these senior/graduate seminars were likely the basis for the later "Ancient Cosmology" seminars.

The clarifying answer comes from: Astronomy and Mythological Cosmology and Cosmogony in the Midrash Rabba and Zohar by Abraham Aronow (May 12, 1962, Department of Humanities, Course XXI-B, Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, June, 1962 [103 Pages]). Extracts: "Acknowledgements [Page 3]. I would like to thank Dr, Hertha von Dechend and Professor Giorgio de Santillana for their inspiration and assistance. I would like, also, to thank Miss Susan B. Chase and Miss Barbara R. Leopold for their technical assistance." "Preface [Page 4, 2/6/62] In the very recent past I have been a small part of a large inquiry into the similarities that existed in many diverse ancient cultures. The inquiry has been mainly concerned with the astronomy, the cosmology, the cosmogony, and the accompanying mythological accounts of "the Creation" in the early civilizations of this planet. The prime movers of this project, my advisors and my constant inspiration, are Dr. Hertha von Dechend and Prof. Giorgio de Santillana. It is my hope that my small contribution will be of use to them in the later, correlative aspects of their study." "Second Preface [Pages 5-6, 4/21/62]. In the course of writing the body of my thesis, I have been very apprehensive, for I feared that 21.85 might be a necessary prerequisite for a lucid reading of this paper. 21.85 is catalogued as "Introduction to Cosmology" and is a seminar designed to perform a preliminary reconnaissance into cosmological patterns, both ancient and modern. The purpose of this reconnaissance is to establish a basis for a school of comparative celestial culture. This new field is an interesting synthesis of: astrology, mythology anthropology, and history of science. The seminar (1961-62) was composed of students of varied background and divergent interests. The lack of homogeneity in the group was the key to its great success. Prof. de Santillana and Dr. von Dechend gave preliminary lectures and a reading list and then each individual selected the corridor of research which most suited his abilities and interests. At one meeting, Prof. de Santillana named the group, "the crazy cosmology club"; the name has stuck. This name seems to typify the average outsider's attitude towards the seeming lack of rigour in out investigative techniques. I shall try, in the following introduction, to dispell some of the reader's fears concerning the apparent investigative randomness of this research technique, and to delineate clearly the exact aims, boundaries and goals of my own contribution. I would strongly recommend that the reader secure and read a copy of An Introduction to Cosmology by Dechend and de Santillana prior to reading this paper. I choose to investigate Hebrew literature because I am fortunate enough to be fairly facile in that language. Prior to the organization of the cosmology seminar I had several occasions to be of assistance to Prof. de Santillana and Dr. von Dechend because of my Hebrew. Several other students in the seminar also chose topics which were related to a Foreign language in which they could read primary source material." The seminars were connected with the "project group," an undergraduate group of students enrolled with de Santillana's humanities course, and doing course work connected with the preparation of Hamlet's Mill.

Jerry Lettvin told Abe Aronow that he substituted for von Dechend on some lectures.

Presently the critics at the time regarding lack of methodological rigour remain unidentified (forgotten with the passage of time). It is likely the MIT critics of von Dechend's methodology expressed their views at the regular social/interactive meetings at Lettvin's Research Laboratory of Electronics in Building 20.

An article in Technology Review, Volumes 80-81, 1977, makes a reference to a Santillana?/Dechend seminar at MIT. This may have clarifying information. The puzzle presently remains. Ernest McClain (Bibal (Bibal Study Group, December 6, 2006) identifies MIT seminars and at least 1 presentation event at Boston, whilst Yas Maeyama (Obituary for Hertha von Dechend, UniReport 5, 2001) mentions special yearly symposiums in Boston to which people were invited. According to Yas Maeyama von Dechend was invited each year to a special symposium in Boston (on archaic cosmology?). Hertha von Dechend's papers from a 1976/1977 seminar on ancient cosmology are available.

Ernest McClain (1918-2014) (2 personal communications, May 6, 2012): [Regarding MIT.] "Reiche invited me to lead one evening discussion for about 3 hours, as I remember, perhaps 6:9 p.m. or thereabout, around 1980 [perhaps 1977?]. I talked, there was very little discussion, and none with her except for a few minutes in his office. They were intent on giving me a chance to explain myself to their own total bewilderment, I believe in the interim between two essays that Reiche himself published on Atlantis. [Regarding Boston.] Ernest McClain (e-mail, 6th November 2011) has given more details: "Forty years [ago], and at M.I.T. where I led a 3-hour seminar with zero understanding from the professor who invited me; he could not imagine "a musical fifth" as part of an octave." About 1992-3 Jon Polansky [Dr. Jon Polansky, Research Scientist, Associate Professor, University of California, San Francisco], then editor of ESOP [Epigraphic Society Occasional Papers], invited me to a week- long conference in Boston, putting up those of us from out of town up in a hotel where we met all morning and afternoon for a serious (sic) [series] of many presentations and vigorous discussion, and at lunch and dinner. That was an extremely valuable experience for me, but I cannot remember if she [Hertha von Dechend] actually made a presentation, which seems likely. We were each given perhaps an hour or more followed by detailed scrutiny. But I cannot add any detail to what happened at M.I.T. I never met de Santillana whose feeling for Pythagoreanism was deep and articulate. [Note: Galileo held Pythagorean convictions.] HAMLET'S MILL was clearly her work, he makes clear, completely ignoring his own brilliant introduction. It was NOT possible to discuss music or math with Reiche and von Dechend. Unfortunately, it took me another 30 years to discover the overlap between us concerning Holy Mountain Meru, twin-peaked within 60^5=777,600,000, that I had mishandled at every effort within THE MYTH OF INVARIANCE. ... It [MIT] was in the process of disengaging from a 1950s effort to integrate other humanist studies. .... [Note: In the 1960s MIT was given a grant from the Carnegie Corporation to design new courses in the humanities for scientists and engineers. William Thompson, who stayed 3 years at MIT, was involved in this. He designed a particular new course.] As I remember me (sic) [my] one appearance at M.I.T. there may have been 20 or 30 listeners. There was no pointed questioning of assumptions, data, or conclusions. It was a "non-event." At the Boston conclave under Polansky, there were about a dozen of us, and the interchange was considerable and people were gracious. He belonged at M.I.T." (Note: Polansky, a cultural diffusionist, at that period of time was an associate professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center and the director of the laboratory that first isolated and cloned the gene responsible for glaucoma; he was a student of Barry Fell's at Harvard in the 1960s.)

It would appear that Reiche and von Dechend held another MIT (ancient cosmology ?) seminar in 1977 (or thereabouts) which was entirely focused on the ideas of McClain, and at which he was the sole presenter. Then circa 1992-1993 both McClain and von Dechend were invited attendees and presenters at annual conference organised by the Epigraphic Society (on ancient cosmology ?). To my question whether the composition of the MIT audience of 20-30 persons were professionals or students, or both, Ernest McClain emailed (8/5/12): "I took them to be students. The Boston conference was private to ESOP members and guests." The claim by Leroy Ellenberger (e-mail post Friday, 2 September, 1994 to talk.origins) in which he wrote that "McClains lifework is held in the highest regard by ... Hertha von Dechend ... [and] Herald (sic) reiche (sic) ...." is at odds with McClains statements that neither could understand his arguments. In 2006 McClain wrote that he was "NO fan of von Dechend."

Excurcus: William Thompson

William Thompson (born 1938) is known primarily as a social philosopher and cultural critic. He has also written poetry throughout his career and in 1986 received the Oslo International Poetry Festival Award. He has also written a novel about the legendary Atlantis. He describes his writing and speaking style as "mind-jazz on ancient texts." Thompson was born in Chicago and grew up in Los Angeles. Thompson received his B.A. at Pomona College and his Ph.D. at Cornell University. He was a professor of humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and then at York University in Toronto. He has held visiting appointments at Syracuse University, the University of Hawaii, University of Toronto, and the California Institute of Integral Studies. Interestingly, when at MIT, Thompson could not identify any scientists he felt would openly embrace and deeply comprehend the contemplatively-grounded and cosmologically-oriented tradition of what he deemed as authentic Western science which stemmed from the mystically inclined and musically adept Pythagoras. In 1973, he left academia to become the founding director of the Lindisfarne Association, an international community and educational centre in Southampton, New York. (The Lindisfarne Association is a group of scientists, poets, and religious scholars who met in order to discuss and to participate in the "emerging planetary culture." Thompson claimed that this so-called planetary culture was energetically emerging in numerous marginal places in our midst in salient contrast to the powerful-appearing but actually declining urban-industrial civilization of militarized nation-states. (Thompson categorised WWII and the organised movement of armies across the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean as an example of a 'planetary system of coordination.') With his background as a cultural historian, student of Kriya yoga and professor of the humanities, Thompson pointed to such cultural figures of the 1970s as the Californian poet Gary Snyder, the architect Paolo Soleri from Arizona, the British author Doris Lessing and the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen as artistic harbingers of this new planetary sensibility. In 1976 the Lindisfarne Association moved from Long Island to Manhattan.) According to Wikipedia: "Thompson is influenced by British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, Swiss cultural historian Jean Gebser, mystic Rudolf Steiner, the Vedic philosopher Sri Aurobindo Ghose, the famous Kriya Yoga proponent Paramahansa Yogananda with his introduction of Hindu Vedic principles and practices (such as yoga) to the Western populace, and media ecologist Marshall McLuhan. Thompson engages a diverse set of traditions, including the autopoetic epistemology of Francisco Varela, the endosymbiotic theory of evolution of Lynn Margulis, the Gaia Theory of James Lovelock, the complex systems thought of Ralph Abraham, the novels of Thomas Pynchon, and mystic David Spangler." The Lindisfarne Association brought together people whose beliefs in common were either deriving considerable inspiration from the 20th-century seers who first claimed to have discerned an evolutionary shift toward supramental mystical consciousness and the planetization of human culture, namely Sri Aurobindo from the East and Teilhard de Chardin from the West, or were devoted to a spiritual practice rooted in one of the great contemplative traditions, such as Zen Buddhism or Sufism. In the 1980s Thompson took up lengthy residence in Switzerland. Thompson is (2015) in "retirement" but still actively writing, working with the Ross school as an educational consultant, and is back in Southampton, New York again. His early concern about bringing science and religion together on behalf of the global environment was taken up in 1990 by the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders.

William Thompson falls within the category of a 'New Age' activist and has some unusual beliefs. Thompson writes that ancient Atlantean civilisation was the impetus for Sumerian civilisation. See his book: At the Edge of History and Passages about Earth: A Double Book, Pages 164. Also, "repetition-compulsion" indicates that the catastrophe that ended Atlantis, though suppressed in history, has remained in "memory traces" of the collective unconscious. See: At the Edge of History and Passages about Earth: A Double Book, Pages 165.

Some presentations given by Giorgio de Santillana prior to publication of Hamlet's Mill

Date Location Topic Comments
1961 University of Oxford, England "On Forgotten Sources in the History of Science" It would seem, however, that the ideas of Hamlet's Mill were first publicly put forward by de Santillana in an address given at a 1961 symposium in England. (See his presentation: "On Forgotten Sources in the History of Science" In: Crombie, A. (Editor). Scientific Change (1963), Pages 813-828, with participant commentary in succeeding pages. The book comprises the Symposium on the History of Science at the University of Oxford, 9-15 July, 1961. In the content of the book he acknowledges his great debt to Hertha von Dechend (who declined to be acknowledged as a joint author) and considers it a joint paper. Interestingly, Hertha von Dechend is listed as a member of the 1961 Symposium - but Giorgio de Santillana is not. (Amongst the listed papers of Joseph Needham held at Cambridge (England) the following record appears: Title: Joseph Needham's notes from a talk on 'astral myths' by Herta (sic) von Dechend at a Symposium in Oxford; Reference: SCC2/69/1/28; Covering Dates: 13 July 1961; Extent and Medium: 1 document; Paper.)
1963 Turin, Italy "Fato antico e fato moderno" ("Ancient and Modern Ideas of Fate") The committee of the Associazione Culturale Italiana invited de Santillana to give a lecture in Turin in March, 1963, entitled "Fato antico e fato moderno" ("Ancient and Modern Ideas of Fate"). This lecture is overlooked, but is of some importance. One of the major points of the lecture was the idea that "the great cosmological myths both preceded and had been the equivalent of modern science." ("When lecturing in Italy in 1963 Giorgio de Santillana restated the theory that a scientific hypothesis precedes the formulation of a myth." (Understanding Italo Calvino by Beno Weiss (1993, Page 95).)) The lecture originally given in 1963 was first published as a short essay in 1968. (There appears to be some confusion whether it is a short essay or an uncommon book.) It deals with the history of science and mythologies and mimics themes in Hamlet's Mill. It views ancient myths as the first attempts at scientific thinking and practice and the ancient practice of measuring and numbering physical reality as an effort to create meaning and make the world/universe accessible. According to de Santillana the ancient concept of fate implied a precise comprehension of physical reality and how we are influenced by it. Myth has a cosmological dimension and humankind's oldest myths derive from celestial observations.
1966 MIT, Massachusetts "Archaic Cosmology in Renaissance Literature"

In 1966 MIT hosted the yearly New England Renaissance Conference (NERC). The 1966 conference dates were Friday April 29 and Saturday April 30. During the morning of the Saturday program Giorgio de Santillana presented the 2nd and last paper – "Archaic Cosmology in Renaissance Literature" – for around 1 hour and 15 minutes. (Though the paper may now be lost the type of content may perhaps be gleaned from his book review of Yate's work on Giordano Bruno where he pointed to certain problems presented by the "churning turbid flood" of Hermetic, Cabalistic and other esoteric literature.) The venue for the presentation of the conference papers was the Library Lounge, Hayden Library Building (on Memorial Drive), MIT.

1967 Paris, France "The Great Cosmological Doctrines" "The Great Cosmological Doctrines." by Giorgio de Santillana. In: Science and Synthesis: An International Colloquium organized by Unesco on the Tenth Anniversary of the Death of Albert Einstein and Teilhard de Chardin [1967]. (1971, Pages 37-45, Page 43). In his presentation to the International Colloquium organized by UNESCO on the Tenth Anniversary of the Death of Albert Einstein and Teilhard de Chardin, de Santillana presented on the themes of Hamlet's Mill. De Santillana presented on modern cosmologies within the historical perspective of the ancient cosmological doctrines: "The Great Cosmological Doctrines." He also voiced his support for James Frazer, Jane Harrison, Arthur Cooke, and the Myth and Ritual School. Interestingly, de Santillana states his belief that the source of the "universal mythical language" was proto-historic Mesopotamia and that he is unable to offer an explanation for how this astronomical code code travelled by diffusion. In mentioning "the Ecliptic and its constellations" de Santillana obviously (and erroneously) believes in a very ancient zodiac.
1968 Rome, Italy "Sirius as a Permanent Center in the Archaic Universe" The last joint publication by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend was a conference paper that appeared in 1970. I am not aware of who presented the paper. (See: "Sirius as a permanent center in the archaic universe." by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend. In: Enrico Castelli (Editor). Eternità e storia (1970). (Pages 235-263). The publication in which the paper appears is a collection of 1968 conference papers presented in Rome. Other details: I Valori Permanenti nel Divenire Storico. Atti del Convegno Internationale promosso delT Istituto Accademico di Roma, Roma 3.-6.10.1968.)

Table of MIT course/seminar notes on ancient cosmology by de Santillana and/or von Dechend (and others) pre-1969 and post-1969

Year Title Author(s) Purpose
1961. (1961-1962 according to Abe Aronow.) Introduction to Cosmology: A Preliminary Reconnaissance. [No date, but 1961.] Note: It is indicated that supplementary pages were regularly issued (at least for 1961-1962). The MIT course notes with the title, Introduction to Cosmology: A Preliminary Reconnaissance by H. von Dechend [and] G. de Santillana, originally issued in 1961 as 152 pages of notes for the topic "Ancient Cosmology" within the regular Humanities course (XXI-B), enable some insight. These notes supported the course topic "Ancient Cosmology" which ran at least 1961-1962 and was presented by de Santillana and von Dechend. It appears that eventually some 100 supplementary pages were issued. The overall purpose of the course was to establish a basis for a school of comparative celestial culture, and also establish a student Hamlet's Mill project group. Material from Abraham Aronow's Bachelor of Science research project on the Kabbalah - when still in progress and uncompleted - was incorporated into Introduction to Cosmology: A Preliminary Reconnaissance. Hertha von Dechend and Giorgio de Santillana. MIT seminar on "antiquity of science" (ancient cosmology) conducted by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend. It would appear that Giorgio de Santillana organised the 2 seminars on archaic cosmology at MIT in 1961 and 1966 that Hertha von Dechend lectured at. It appears the 1st seminar at least was run by Hertha von Dechend. It seems indicated that the topic of Ancient Cosmology was taught for a year or two as a subject of the regular Humanities course. Connected at least with Department of Humanities, Course XXI-B. This seminar was designed to perform a preliminary reconnaissance into cosmological patterns, both ancient and modern. The purpose of the reconnaissance was to establish a basis for a school of comparative celestial culture. This new field is a synthesis of: astrology, mythology anthropology, and history of science. The seminars were connected with the "project group," an undergraduate group of students enrolled with de Santillana's Humanities course, and doing course work connected with the preparation of Hamlet's Mill. In her 1961 seminar notes Hertha von Dechend refers to seminar speakers (plural). The language of some parts of the 1961 seminar notes indicate that sometimes it is Giorgio de Santillana that is presenting. This leads to the conclusion that her seminar notes reflect what was jointly presented by multiple presenters. Note: My early copies of 3 sets of Hertha von Dechend's MIT course notes are not be entirely complete, at least regarding the "cover pages." Only 2 course codes are given. One set - from 1961 (a footnote on page 152 indicates the date for this set is definitely 1961) - is untitled. (Regarding the 1st set of notes - some figures are missing. Pages 109-114 are missing. Pages 135-140 are also missing (and preceded by pages 134A and 134B). The last page is 247 with no clear indication if this is indeed the final page for the notes. (There is reason to believe that page 152 was originally the final page but supplementary pages were later issued.)
1964? Unknown for certain. However, the MIT course notes, Introduction to Ancient Cosmology by Hertha von Dechend, issued in 1966, also enables some insight. Introductory comments strongly imply the course had also been presented 1964-1965. Also, these are new course notes with a different approach to presenting the material, to enable better understanding by students of the theme being promoted. It appears that from 1961 to 1965 Humanities students undertaking the "Ancient Cosmology" module were experiencing difficulty in comprehending the ideas being promoted. Hertha von Dechend and Giorgio de Santillana (if presented in this year). Apparently, Technology Review, Volume 67, Number 1, November, 1964, Page 64, has a short article mentioning a 1964 (?) MIT seminar on "antiquity of science" (ancient cosmology) conducted by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend.
Spring 1966. (1966-1967?) Introduction to Ancient Cosmology. (Hertha von Dechend's lecture notes for the 1966 seminars are marked, "21.93 T Autumn, 1966, Introduction to Ancient Cosmology.")  These are new course notes with a different approach to presenting the material, to enable better understanding by students of the theme being promoted. It appears that from 1961 to 1965 Humanities students undertaking the "Ancient Cosmology" module were experiencing difficulty in comprehending the ideas being promoted. In the latter pages von Dechend several times writes of the 'Essay' by de Santillana and her that is being prepared for publication. Hertha von Dechend. Ancient cosmology seminar. Von Dechend presented, at least in 1966, the topic titled "Introduction to Ancient Cosmology." It also appears that at these seminars Giorgio de Santillana actually gave most of the presentations. Course code: 21.93 T, Autumn, 1966. ([Course] 21.93 T, Autumn, 1966, Introduction to Ancient Cosmology.) The number 21 identifies Course XXI (= Humanities) that was begun in 1952 at MIT. This identifies that the seminars were conducted as part of (or under the auspices of) Course XXI (Humanities). STS is the MIT abbreviation for: Science, Technology, and Society. The seminars (or at least the latter 2) would seem to be presented as part of the Independent Activities Period (IAP) which is a special 4-week term held each year that runs from the first week of January until the end of January. The IAP provides members of the MIT community (students, faculty, staff, and alumni) with the opportunity to organise, sponsor, and participate in a wide variety of activities, including forums and lecture series that are not possible during the semester. All of these short courses of one term duration, were, and still are, open to the MIT university community. (It appears that for "Ancient Cosmology" there were 6 seminars per term of approximately 2 hours each.) Judging by recent examples a seminar series conducted during this short term would, and still do, usually consist of a weekly evening lecture of 2-3 hours (by one of more presenters), some expected core reading, and some minor essays/projects. (An IAP could also occur during the Spring.) Strictly speaking Winter (89 days) begins on December 21. Autumn/Fall (90 days) begins on September 22. The nature of the seminar coding, however, seems to clearly support this type of identification of von Dechend's seminars. The appendices of Hamlet's Mill were largely comprised of the chapter end notes accompanying the text of her seminar notes.
1976-1977. Introduction to Ancient Cosmology. (The essays-presentations are German-language Presumably the presentations were given in English (if presented at MIT and not at Frankfurt). The essay-presentations are different in style and content to her Spring/Autumn 1966 lecture notes.) Available - through the effort of Franz Krojer - is the book containing her presentations for her 1976/1977 seminar: Einführung in die Archaische Kosmologie. Vorlesungen im Wintersemester 1976/77 (Differenz-Verlag, München 2011). (Details: Hertha von Dechend, Einführung in die Archaische Kosmologie [Introduction to the Archaic Cosmology] Vorlesungen im Wintersemester 1976/77 [Lectures in Winter Semester 1976/77] Herausgegeben von Rainer Herbster [Edited by Rainer Herbster] Oder an: Differenz-Verlag Franz Krojer Postfach 90 03 15 81503 München.) Hertha von Dechend. It would appear that Harald Reiche and Hertha von Dechend held another MIT (ancient cosmology ?) seminar in 1977 (or thereabouts). According to one source it was entirely focused on the ideas of Ernest McClain, and at which he was the sole presenter. This source, however, appears to be incorrect. (An article in Technology Review, Volumes 80-81, 1977, makes a reference to a Santillana?/Dechend seminar at MIT. De Santillana was of course deceased by this time.)
1979.

For the 1979 seminars von Dechend's lecture notes are simply marked "Fall, 1979" and include course code: 21.965 J = STS 630 J, (The seminar title seems to have consistently been: "Introduction to Ancient Cosmology." This was the exact title used for the 1966 seminar.) Also, The collection of essays comprising the book Astronomy of the Ancients edited by Kenneth Brecher and Michael Fiertag (1979) was published in the same year as the last MIT seminar on ancient astronomy given by Hertha von Dechend.

Various. Both editors were MIT staff and 3 of the 8 essays were by MIT staff. Course code: 21.965 J = STS 630 J, Fall, 1979. ([Course] 21.965 J = STS 630 J, Fall, 1979, untitled.) Note: Many of the essays in the book Astronomy of the Ancients can be considered an extension of Hamlet's Mill.

 

Regarding the 1976-1977 Winter Semester Seminar

Unfortunately the book of the Winter Semester 1976-1977 really only contains her 16 seminar essay-presentations (Vorlesungen im Wintersemester 1976/77 (Lectures in Winter Semester 1976/77)) in the German-language. It does not contain any details about the seminar. Also, there appears to be no seminar participant notes. The format is apparently a straight series of presentations.

Seminar topics

Year Title Author(s) Content (Major heading and sub-headings)
1961. (1961-1962?) Introduction to Cosmology: A Preliminary Reconnaissance. [No date but 1961.] Note: It is indicated that supplementary pages were regularly issued (at least for 1961-1962). The MIT course notes with the title, Introduction to Cosmology: A Preliminary Reconnaissance by H. von Dechend [and] G. de Santillana, originally issued in 1961 as 152 pages of notes for the topic "Ancient Cosmology" within the regular Humanities course (XXI-B), enable some insight. Note: I possess 2 sets of notes. Both sets are have incomplete pages but between both sets it is indicated that I have all pages. There seems to be 247 pages when complete but the page numbering is erratic (typist errors?). Hertha von Dechend and Giorgio de Santillana. 1) Spontaneous Generation or Diffusion

2) The Chief World Figures

3) Tangaroa

4) The Fabric of the World

5) The Time Machine

6) An Unearthly Nut to Crack

7) The Roundness of Heaven

8) Measure Against Confusion

9) The Discovery of Precession

10) On Staking Out a World Age

11) Technology and the Appearance of Alternating Motion

12) The Planets and Causality

13) Variations on a Theme by Tinguely or, is There a Philosophy of History

14) Stretching the Cord and Dividing the Time

15) The Bow and Arrow in Heaven

16) The Weighted Star

17) Search for Sirius on Several Byways

18) The Golden Rope

19) The Honeybee

20) World Ages and New Orders

21) Divine Language and the Loci

22) The Table Motif

23) Troy and the Hill of Thorns

24) Omphalos and Ball Court in Mexico

25) Return Trip via Cgygia

26) Tritogeneia: Ogygia and the Pattern of Three

1964? Unknown for certain. However, the MIT course notes, Introduction to Ancient Cosmology by Hertha von Dechend, issued in 1966, also enables some insight. Hertha von Dechend and Giorgio de Santillana (if presented in this year). Not sighted.
Spring 1966. (1966-1967?) Introduction to Ancient Cosmology. (Hertha von Dechend's lecture notes for the 1966 seminars are marked, "21.93 T Autumn, 1966, Introduction to Ancient Cosmology.") Note: I possess 2 sets of notes. It is indicated that I have the complete pages for both sets. There seems to be approximately 240 pages plus pages of illustrations when complete but the page numbering is somewhat erratic (typist errors?). Hertha von Dechend. There is almost a complete absence of headings. Except for an enigmatic XII no major headings exist. Some minor headings appear in the latter pages. Some minor/subheadings:

1) XII

2) Depth of the Sea

3) Minima about Ursa Major

4) Bow and Arrow

5) Appendix

1976-1977. Einführung in die Archaische Kosmologie. Vorlesungen im Wintersemester 1976/77 (Differenz-Verlag, München 2011). (Details: Hertha von Dechend, Einführung in die Archaische Kosmologie [Introduction to the Archaic Cosmology] Vorlesungen im Wintersemester 1976/77 [Lectures in Winter Semester 1976/77] (The 16 essays-presentations are German-language.) I cannot presently access the Report of the President and the Chancellor 1976-1977 Massachusetts Institute of Technology to identify whether she visited that year i.e., .July 1, 1976 to June 30, 1977. Hertha von Dechend. 1) Einführung: Begriffsbestimmung und Methode (Introduction: Definition and Method)

2) Kulturhistorische Ethnologie und vergleichende Mythologie (Cultural-historical Ethnology and Comparative Mythology)

3) Die Felsbilder und ihre möglichen Interpretationen (The Rock Paintings [Petroglyphs] and Their Possible Interpretation)

4) Sterne und Sternbilder bei Jägervölkern (Stars and Constellations of Hunting Peoples)

5) Die Herren der Tiere (The Masters of the Animals)

6) Der Kosmos als Uhr: Planetenzyklen und Präzession (The Cosmos as a Clock: Planetary Cycles and Precession)

7) Das Gründen der Erde und Aufhängen des Himmels (The Grounds of the Earth and the Hanging Sky [Heavens])

8) Die Seelenwanderung als eigentlicher Grund, den Kosmos zu ermessen (The Migration of Souls as the Real Reason to Measure the Cosmos)

9) Zur Fachsprache des Mythos: Die Trennung der Welteltern (The Technical Language of Myth: the Separation of the World Parents)

10) Weltzeitalterkrisen (World Age Crises)

11) Weltenbäume (World Trees)

12) Grundstein und Weltnabel (The Foundation Stone and the World Navel)

13) Sintflut und Arche (The Flood and the Ark)

14) Erzeugen des Feuers (Generating [Creating] the Fire)

15) Mühle und Feuerdrill (Mill and Fire Drill)

16) Das Spiel als Abbild Kosmischen Geschehens (The Game as an Image of Cosmic Events)

1979.

For the 1979 seminars von Dechend's lecture notes are simply marked "Fall, 1979" and include course code: 21.965 J = STS 630 J, (The seminar title seems to have consistently been: "Introduction to Ancient Cosmology." Also, The collection of essays comprising the book Astronomy of the Ancients edited by Kenneth Brecher and Michael Fiertag (1979) was published in the same year as the last MIT seminar on ancient astronomy given by Hertha von Dechend. Their content is separate to the content of von Dechend's 1979 seminar. Note: I possess 1 set of notes. It is indicated that I have the complete pages for this set. There seems to be approximately 110 pages plus numerous pages of illustrations when complete but the page numbering is somewhat erratic (typist errors?). The text makes the occasional reference to Hamlet's Mill. There is also a discussion of diffusion which repeats the "Spontaneous Generation or Diffusion" section in the 1961 seminar notes.

Various. Both editors were MIT staff and 3 of the 8 essays were by MIT staff. No content headings are apparent but during the photocopying process the tops of the pages have been consistently lost. Some discernable themes include:

1) The Meaning of History

2) The Age of Constellations

3) Animal Star-Souls

4) Bear Rites

5) Kaggen

6) Archaic Measures

7) Prehistoric Science

8) Time Measures

9) The Galaxy/Milky Way

10) The Entrance to the Underworld

11) Diffusion

12) Snaring the Sun

13) Earth-Diving

14) World Shell

15) Troy//Labyrinths

16) Horses/Danicing

17) Omphalos

Book chapters

Hamlet's Mill (1969) Die Mühle des Hamlet (1993)

1) Introduction

2) The Chronicler's Tale

3) The Figure in Finland

4) The Iranian Parallel

5) History, Myth and Reality

6) Intermezzo - A Guide for The Perplexed

7) The Unfolding in India

8) Amlodhi's Quern

9) The Many-Colored Cover

10) Shamans and Smiths

11) Amlodhi the Titan and His Spinning Top

12) The Twilight of The Gods

13) Samson Under Many Skies

14) Socrates' Last Tale

15) Of Time and The Rivers

16) The Whirlpool

17) The Waters from The Deep

18) The Stone and The Tree

19) The Frame of The Cosmos

20) The Galaxy

21) The Fall of Phaethon

22) The Depths of The Sea

23) The Great Pan Is Dead

24) The Adventure and The Quest

25) Gilgamesh and Prometheus

26) Epilogue - The Lost Treasure

27) Conclusion

1) Einleitung (Introduction)

2) Bericht des Chronisten

3) Die Figur in Finnland

4) Die iranische Parallele

5) Geschichte, Mythos und Wirklichkeit

6) Intermezzo: Ein Führer für die Verirrten

7) Die Entfaltung in Indien

8) Amlodhis Mühle

9) Der bunte Deckel

10) Schamanen und Schmiede

11) Amlodhi der Titan und sein Kreisel

12) Die Götterdämmerung

13) Samson unter vielen Himmeln

14) Sokrates’ letzte Erzählung

15) Über Zeit und die Flüsse

16) Der Wasserstrudel

17) Die Wasser aus der Tiefe

18) Der Stein und der Baum

19) Das Gerüst des Kosmos

20) Die Milchstraße

21) Der Sturz des Phaethon

22) Die Tiefe des Meeres

23) Der Große Pan ist tot

24) Das Abenteuer und die Suche

25) Gilgamesch und Prometheus

26) Epilog: Der verlorene Schatz

27) Schlußbemerkungen zur deutschen Ausgabe (Concluding Remarks to the German Edition)

Von Dechend's command of the English-language

From the content of a 3-page letter (from West Germany) dated Christmas, 1962, it is indicated that Hertha von Dechend had a strong command of the English-language (and could read English-language books). Abe Aronow recalls that: Hertha von Dechend's English was excellent, spoken and written. She spoke with a charming and cultured accent.

However, given circumstances, von Dechend would converse in German. Abe Aronow recalls that "Although, I'm not sure of the year (mid-1980's) I had a wonderful lunch with HATOR and HvD at a German restaurant in Harvard Sq. ... It was fun to be with the two of them switching among several languages. My German is pretty poor, so they would look at me and return to English."

Health issues affecting Hertha von Dechend

In a letter to her friends ("within the realm of 14N-4 ..." [= likely MIT building and room designation]), dated Christmas, 1962, Hertha von Dechend writes from Taunus-Sanatorium about her treatment and progress with being cured of Tbc (= tuberculosis). She writes of being constantly tired. Indicated is the costs were covered by the University, and the matter of her illness was discretely handled by the University. The renowned Taunus-Sanatorium for consumptive diseases is situated 980 metres above sea-level on the south side of the climatically ideal Taunus hills near the village of Naurod (6.5 kilometres from the city of Wiesbaden) in southwest Germany. The Sanatorium has magnificent views over the Rhine and Main plains. Von Dechend states that she has a constant flow of visitors and telephone calls from colleagues. Interestingly, she remarks that she is continuing to receive "books from Antiquarians and the like." After being cured she did not give up smoking.

Von Dechend's aim at MIT

It would seem that Hertha von Dechend (and also Giorgio de Santillana) ultimately hoped/intended to establish a 'school of comparative celestial culture.' A new field comprising a synthesis of: astrology, mythology, anthropology, and history of science. This ambition may have been connected with the 1960s MIT grant from the Carnegie Corporation to design new courses in the humanities. Whatever, it is likely that the combination of the poor reception of Hamlet's Mill and the death of de Santillana several years after its publication put an end to such hopes on the part of von Dechend.

Interestingly, von Dechend may have begun teaching her views on ancient cosmology at MIT before she did so at the Institute for the History of Science, Frankfurt am Main. De Santillana had offered her an audience of students, perhaps her first time opportunity to teach her ideas on ancient cosmology. Von Dechend's student seminars were taught as dogma. This is simply evident from reading the student notes for the seminars.

The book Hamlet's Mill is obviously not what was planned as an outcome. It was not the master work it was perhaps intended to be. For whatever reasons it was, in the end, de Santillana's inadequate editing of von Dechend's disorganised 'project group' seminar notes. Obviously no 'file card' system of notes had been implemented to help sort and manage accumulating information. Rather surprisingly, there is no indication that material from any undergraduate thesis arising out of the 'project group' was used. (Abe Aronow recollects that there was some of the student material, without attribution, in the early manuscript of Hamlet’s Mill.) The fate of these theses is not known.

Rick Flavin, Flavin's Corner, 5-4-01, The Woman Who Wondered: "Frau Von Dechend may well have been inspired by Frobinius (sic), however the direction and method of her work was entirely her own. … Her major publications were few …. … Hamlet's Mill deserves more than a concise treatment. Much more. Frau Von Dechend undertook a revised, second edition in (Die Mühle des Hamlet. Ein Essay über Mythos und das Gerüst der Zeit, Berlin: Kammerer und Unverzagt, 1993), but a possible English translation is still being considered. … The book needed a copy-editor and should have been longer. At issue is Hamlet's Mill as a usable text. The wonder remains for all to enjoy; unfortunately Hamlet's Mill provides little beyond serving as a template for further research …. That they wrote too fast and loose is only acknowledged by those who want more. … Indeed, the authors often do not distinguish with scholarly prejudice between primary and secondary sources, nor do they appear to differentiate between attested early traditions and later ones. These are serious, but not fatal, flaws in the authors' presentation and methodology." Note that even the sympathetic Richard Flavin notes that all that was achieved was a 'template.'

After de Santillana's death, even with Reiche being in charge of the School of Humanities, the nature and purpose of the 'ancient astronomy/cosmology' seminars was likely different. There is no indication that the undergraduate 'project group' approach was maintained once Hamlet's Mill was published.

Also, the subject matter of de Santillana's course kept changing. H73 & H74 were Science and Philosophy.

Von Dechend's interpretation of myth likely predetermined

Von Dechend was imaginative. Also, she basically claimed that her insights enabled her to pioneer the correct interpretation of mythology. (See her comments in: Introduction to Ancient Cosmology (1966).)

It is difficult to believe she had not considered an astronomical interpretation prior to her study of Polynesian mythology. Von Dechend appears to have believed it was possible - through the remnants of mythology - to conduct "mental archaeology" of ancient preliterate cultures. In their book, A Sumerian Observation of the Köfels' Impact Event (2008) the authors Alan Bond and Mark Hempsell make it clear that prior to tackling the translation they had already decided on the type of information recorded on the tablet (i.e., an asteroid hit with earth). (Quite fantastically Mark Hempsell has several times claimed their translation success was enabled by their knowing the content of the tablet prior to making the translation!) It is likely that the same reasoning impelled von Dechend. Von Dechend's preoccupation with mythology reduced it to precessional language. This is linked to the Panbabylonian obsession of von Dechend.

Also, a tantalising clue was perhaps revealed by Jerry Lettvin in his article, "The Use of Myth." (MIT Technology Review, June 1976, Pages 52-57) when he wrote "You can't even guess what is meant [in myth] unless you know what is meant."

Hertha von Dechend's MIT course notes

My copy of Hertha von Dechend's MIT course notes (purchased from a bookseller in France) may not be entirely complete, at least regarding the "cover pages." (The bookseller received 3 sets of von Dechend's MIT course notes from Harald Reiche (because of mutual interest in the subject matter).) Only 2 course codes are given. One set - from 1961? - is untitled. (Regarding the 1st set of notes. A footnote on page 152 indicates the date for this set is definitely 1961. Some figures are missing. Pages 109-114 are missing. Pages 135-140 are also missing (and preceded by pages 134A and 134B). The last page is 247 with no clear indication if this is indeed the final page for the notes. When time is found, a reread of the other 2 sets may locate the missing pages.) The other have course codes and year. These course codes are: (1) 21.93 T, Autumn, 1966; and (2) 21.965 J = STS 630 J, Fall, 1979. ([Course] 21.93 T, Autumn, 1966, Introduction to Ancient Cosmology; and (2) [Course] 21.965 J = STS 630 J, Fall, 1979, untitled.) These course codes, even given my remoteness in time and space and familiarity, help to identify the nature of her MIT seminars. The number 21 identifies Course XXI (= Humanities) that was begun in 1952 at MIT. This identifies that the seminars were conducted as part of (or under the auspices of) Course XXI (Humanities). STS is the MIT abbreviation for: Science, Technology, and Society. The seminars (or at least the latter 2) would seem to be presented as part of the Independent Activities Period (IAP) which is a special 4-week term held each year that runs from the first week of January until the end of January. The IAP provides members of the MIT community (students, faculty, staff, and alumni) with the opportunity to organise, sponsor, and participate in a wide variety of activities, including forums and lecture series that are not possible during the semester. All of these short courses of one term duration, were, and still are, open to the MIT university community. (It appears that for "Ancient Cosmology" there were 6 seminars per term of approximately 2 hours each.) Judging by recent examples a seminar series conducted during this short term would, and still do, usually consist of a weekly evening lecture of 2-3 hours (by one of more presenters), some expected core reading, and some minor essays/projects. (An IAP could also occur during the Spring.) Strictly speaking Winter (89 days) begins on December 21. Autumn/Fall (90 days) begins on September 22. The nature of the seminar coding, however, seems to clearly support this type of identification of von Dechend's seminars. (According to William Thompson (The Time Falling bodies Take to Light) Hertha von Dechend (Spring, 1966) issued a detailed syllabus for "... her course in "Ancient Cosmology" given at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1966-67." From memory this is the only reference to one of her MIT seminars extending across 2 years.)

Problems with the seminar methods

"In the last two years we did try to skip any kind of theoretical introduction, jumping instead right into the middle of explaining cosmological myths. But this procedure turned out to be bewildering, particularly our 'habit' of comparing items from civilizations coming from the farthest away from each other parts of our globe without visible restraint." (Introduction to Ancient Cosmology by Hertha von Dechend (1966, Page I.).

Hertha von Dechend's unpublished lecture notes

Her unpublished lecture manuscripts (described as 15 typed, bound volumes, averaging 120 pages in length, of her Frankfurt University lectures) are now in the Renaissance Institute at the University of Frankfort. David Ulansey posted to The Mithras List (February 3, 2002): "… A number of years ago I had lunch at M.I.T. with Hertha von Dechend and her friend Harold Reiche (an M.I.T. professor). After lunch, Reiche took me back to his office and showed me an entire shelf of DOZENS of thick volumes of bound, typed manuscripts. These, he told me, were the UNPUBLISHED writings of von Dechend on astral mythology. I mention this because some of you … who are interested in diving deeper into the whirlpool of the pre-history of precession and astral myth in general might be interested in going to M.I.T. and tracking down these manuscripts (Reiche died several years ago, but they must be somewhere)...." This description - at variance with those given by others - raises questions regarding accuracy. What is the exact number that 'DOZENS' means; what exactly is meant by thick volumes of bound, typed manuscripts;' what does UNPUBLISHED writings mean? There is no reason to believe the number could exceed 2 dozen; there is no reason to believe any exceeded 120 pages (or that double spacing was used, which would increase the number of pages); the claim for bound volumes seems odd for what is likely lecture notes but Reiche may have had his copies bound; and there is no reason to believe 'UNPUBLISHED writings' infers completed manuscripts, not lecture notes. As I discuss below, von Dechend's lecture notes were simply 'a mess' and not coherent. There is no evidence that any of these manuscripts were published. Interestingly, it appears that Ulansey made no attempt to look inside any of these manuscripts. I certainly would have, We do not know what they actually contained. We do not even know if the manuscripts were in German or English. From at least circa 1970 von Dechend was lecturing on archaic cosmology at the University of Frankfurt. She retired circa 1980. The 'revised' edition of Hamlet's Mill in German was published 1993. There is no indication it contained any material from her lectures at the University of Frankfurt. It is puzzling that over 2 decades of additional material is ignored..

It would appear the intention of Harald Reiche to edit Hertha von Dechend's extensive German-language lecture notes, from lectures and seminars at Frankfurt University beginning 1970, was never fulfilled. He did make use of her unpublished material in at least one of his essays. It has been stated that Harald Reiche borrowed heavily from Hertha von Dechend. (Von Dechend appears to have left material from her MIT visits in Lettvin's care. What this might consist of is unknown. It appears likely that von Dechend left her lecture notes (and other similar papers?) to Jerome Lettvin as executor. (Von Dechend told Abe Aronow that she had left her [MIT] papers to Jerome Lettvin as executor.) These lecture notes have, to my knowledge, never been translated or made generally available.

Available - I think through the effort of Franz Krojer - is the brochure of her 1976/1977 seminar: Einführung in die Archaische Kosmologie. Vorlesungen im Wintersemester 1976/77 (Differenz-Verlag, München 2011). (Details: Hertha von Dechend, Einführung in die Archaische Kosmologie [Introduction to the Archaic Cosmology] Vorlesungen im Wintersemester 1976/77 [Lectures in Winter Semester 1976/77] Herausgegeben von Rainer Herbster [Edited by Rainer Herbster] Oder an: Differenz-Verlag Franz Krojer Postfach 90 03 15 81503 München.)

The library of Giorgio de Santillana also passed to Jerome Lettvin. (It would be interesting to know the content and size of the library he inherited.)

Hertha von Dechend's unfinished book

From the time of publication of Hamlet's Mill in 1969 (or, as one informed source indicates, even prior to its publication) Hertha von Dechend already had plans for a 2nd book and was busily collecting materials for it. The themes for the 2nd book involved/included the astro-mythological interpretation of the Pyramid Texts, the Amduat, and the Book of the Dead. (The ancient Egyptian Amduat or 'Book of What is in the Underworld' is the oldest of several funerary texts depicted on the walls of the pharaohs' tombs (i.e., in the tomb of Pharaoh Tuthmose (Tuthmosis) III) in the Valley of the Kings during the New Kingdom, on the burial chamber wall in the tomb of Tuthmose (Tuthmosis) II (near Thebes). (It has been claimed on Hastro-L (2012) that the manuscript is with the German publisher, Springer.) ) The Amduat was one of the first completely illustrated texts that defined what the Egyptian underworld was imagined to look like, and depicted the nightly journey of the sun god, Re through the twelve hours of the underworld.) Von Dechend believed that the astronomical knowledge and contributions of ancient Egypt had been under-estimated and up to her death was particularly interested in Erik Hornung's publication Das Amduat oder die Schrift des verborgenen Raumes (3 Band, 1963-67). However, it appears she only had 4 chapters completed (and ready for printing) by 1998. She procrastinated and never got around to completing the (final) 5th chapter (for MIT Press). (It appears she had an English title Archeoastronomy for the title of the draft manuscript. It also appears it was dated 1997. In 1998 she had delivered 4 completed chapters, ready for printing, to MIT Press but procrastinated over the 5th chapter on the constellation Sagittarius.) It appears she gave a lot of time to mythological material relating to the constellation Sagittarius. She also intended to continue with her particular philological approach - this time focusing on what she believed were deficiencies and false interpretations in the translations of the Gilgamesh epic and the Rig Veda.

Miscellaneous associates of Hertha von Dechend

From George Mason University's History News Network (http://hnn.us/roundup/54.html): "William H. McNeill is Robert A. Milikan Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Chicago. He taught at the university from 1947 until his retirement in 1987. McNeill is also a past president of the American Historical Association (1984-1985). McNeill has authored over thirty books ...." ... [McNeill writes (The Pursuit of Truth: A Historian's Memoir (2005)] "In 1955, Gustav von Grunebaum invited me to join him in a seminar at the University of Frankfurt, Germany. The seminar was conducted in German so I had to learn the language as never before, and during the three months I spent in Frankfurt a learned teaching assistant, Fraulein von Dechend guided me through pre-war German scholarship about pre-history and the history of steppe peoples." (McNeill is a Canadian-American historian. Life dates: 1917- .)

In the Preface to the 1993 edition of Hamlet's Mill Hertha von Dechend thanks, for their strong support and encouragement, Emma Duchane, Jayant Shah, Jerome Lettvin, Philip Morrison, and Harald Reiche. All were students/academics at MIT. (Hertha von Dechend occasionally spoke of Emma Duchane to Abe Aronow.)

Hertha von Dechend's written estate

Hertha von Dechend's written estate comprises some 40 hand-manageable boxes of papers kept at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität. No real work of investigation and analysis has yet commenced with these papers. See: Archivdatenbank, Frobenius-Institut: http://archive.today/e3KdJ

The support for Hamlet's Mill limited to MIT colleagues

The only real support for the book Hamlet's Mill came from certain faculty members of MIT who were associated with Giorgio de Santillana. One supporter reviewer described the book as "A brilliant speculative inquiry into the origins of scientific thought ...." See the sympathetic (English-language) book reviews by Philip Morrison (who described the book as Polemic) in Scientific American, Volume 221, Number 5, November, 1969, Page 159 (at which time he was the book review editor); and by Harald Reiche in The Classical Journal, Volume 69, Number 1, October/November, 1973, Pages 81-83; and by Carroll Quigley (historian and polymath; Professor of History at MIT) in The Washington Sunday Star, 25 January, 1970 ("Delving Into Linguistic Archaeology."). Harald Reiche was one of Hertha von Dechend's few academic exponents. (Giorgio de Santillana and Harald Reiche had previously jointly-authored the book Aristotle and Science: A Critical Controversy which was published in 1959. It also appears that they worked at least on the draft of an essay titled: "A Memorandum on Greek Science.") Philip Morrison (who also wrote the Introduction to Astronomy of the Ancients edited by Kenneth Brecher and Michael Feirtag (1979), was Professor of Physics at MIT, and Harald Reiche was Professor of Classics and Philosophy at MIT. ("A Clue to the Atlantis Myth?" by Harald Reiche included in Astronomy of the Ancients, a volume of essays by various (mostly MIT) authors, on mythology and ancient astronomy, is an updated version of an article originally published by Reiche in Technology Review (an MIT periodical).) (See also the (English-language) book review by Arthur Meadows (University of Leicester) in Ambix, Volume XIX, 1972, Page 220. Further, see the sympathetic (Estonian-language) book review by Heino Eelsalu in Akadeemia [an Estonian journal], Number 6, 1995 Pages (Columns?) 1300-1301. Heino Eelsalu (Life dates: 1930-1998) was an astronomer.) A sympathetic book review by Bernard de Voto appeared in Saturday Review, Volume 53, 1970, Pages 102-105. After the retirement of Giorgio de Santillana his history of science classes at MIT were continued by Harald Reiche, a Professor of Classics and Philosophy at MIT, who was an avid supporter of Hamlet's Mill. In 1960 Harald Reiche was promoted to Associate Professor, Department of Humanities. He stayed at MIT and progressed through to Professor and then Professor Emeritus. (After his retirement it appears Giorgio de Santillana continued to lecture at MIT until he became seriously ill.)

Regarding "A Clue to the Atlantis Myth?" by Harald Reiche, in Astronomy of the Ancients edited by Kenneth Brecher and Michael Feirtag (1979); see the earlier explanation in "Atlantis and Its Institutions." by Robert Brumbaugh in his book Plato's Mathematical Imagination (1977, Pages 47-59). In this same book Jerome Lettvin analysed the myth of Perseus as a multi-levelled narration transmitting not only knowledge of the marine fauna of the Mediterranean but also astronomical information.

Harald Reiche was perhaps the most able supporter of Hamlet's Mill. Once Reiche reached the USA he spent most of his time at MIT. Some considerable time after his death his copy of Robert Eisler's, Weltenmantel und Himmelszeit was able to be purchased by myself from a specialist dealer in used German-language books. It is clear that this book was a strong influence on Reiche. He frequently annotated the pages. Hamlet's Mill mentions the book in high regard. Eisler's book, however, is somewhat messy.

Harald Reiche promoted Hamlet's Mill and its method. However, Harald Reiche's astronomical interpretation of the Atlantis myth is anything but convincing. Reiche argued that the Atlantis myth is an astronomical allegory and that the topography of Atlantis needs to be transferred to the sky to be understood. Writing in 1994 the ex-Velikovskian catatastrophist Leroy Ellenberger stated: "Had it not been for the masterful hegemony of Harald A. T. Reiche, Classicist at M.I.T., who impressed me with the validity of the wisdom revealed in HAMLET'S MILL, I would not be a "player" today; but I refuse to acquiesce to the Saturnists' delusion now that I see what the REAL possibilities are. Milton Zysman deserves credit for organizing a conference in Toronto in 1990, where Victor Clube, as the keynote speaker, put fire and brimstone into his "puny meteor shower model" making it a viable alternative to "right-running" Velikovskians ...." Since 1990 Leroy Ellenberger has actively promoted the comet catastrophism (Taurid Complex) model of Clube and Napier (first proposed in the early 1980s), which is now named "coherent catastrophism." The astronomer David Morrison has noted that the Clube/Napier model of catastrophism has attracted many people who were once impressed by Velikovsky's model of catastrophism.

Philip Morrison (1915–2005, a professor of physics at MIT) held continually to the views expressed in Hamlet's Mill. See: "Dissonance in the Heavens." by Philip Morrison in Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Volume 30, Number 2, November, 1976, Pages 26-36.

Others include: William Thompson (born 1938; academic; New Age proponent and 'alternative' thinker; mystic/occultist); Seyyed Nasr (born 1933 in Iran; academic; student of de Santillana; a prominent Islamic philosopher/mystic; currently Professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University); and Philip (Phil) Norfleet (born 15 August, 1941; now retired; student of de Santillana; a devotee of the nonsensical teachings and hilarious cosmology of George Gurdjieff (George Georgiades, 1872?-1949) and his disciple Petyr Ouspensky (1878-1947); mystic/occultist; in the late 1960s failed to complete his PhD in Computer Science and Business Administration at University of Colorado). (For a reasonable critique of George Gurdjieff as guru see: Feet of Clay by Anthony Storr (1997). Both Gurdjieff and Ouspensky and emerged from the folds of Helena Balavatsky's Theosophy movement. The Russian occultist, medium, and fraudster Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891) originated the Theosophical Society in New York in 1875.)

The later efforts by the British mathematician Richard Thompson to support the ideas in Hamlet's Mill is set out in the book Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy (1996). The book is weird. At present I have not seen his later book The Cosmology of the Bhagavata Purana (2007).

John Major Jenkins, a supporter of alternative history, is also a supporter of Hamlet's Mill, which he classes as archaeoastronomy. In attempting to support the book he writes (http://edj.net/mc2012/mill1.htm): "Although it [Hamlet's Mill] tottered on the edge of oblivion for years, it has reemerged as the fundamental inspiration for many progressive researchers who find the precession of the equinoxes lurking within ancient creation myths around the world."

Later support for Hertha von Dechend

After the death of de Santillana and the eventual cessation of visits to MIT by von Dechend, support for her ideas came from several academic colleges in Frankfurt. (Mainly, it appears, Walter Saltzer and Yas Maeyama.)

After the death of Giorgio de Santillana a staff member of Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Professor Dr Walter Saltzer, became a colleague of Hertha von Dechend. Walter Saltzer's key area of interest is the genesis and development of scientific ideas. Saltzer is the deputy-director of the Institute for the History of Science. See his slim book Theorien und Ansatze in der Griechischen Astronomie (1976, Pages viii, 162, Figures 38).

Draft translation of a comment by Prof. Yas Maeyama (a Professor in the Institute for History of Science, Goethe University, Frankfurt (Germany).): "As a senior member of the Institute of History of Natural Sciences, University of Frankfurt ... she [Hertha von Dechend] obtained an insight into the world of archaic myth previously not glimpsed by any human ...."

Von Dechend's contact with layperson proponents of Hamlet's Mill

Sepp Rothwangl, a German forester, was in occasional postal contact with von Dechend. The subject matter is unknown to me. (Copies are likely to be found in her archival material.)

Florence Wood and Kenneth Wood (the authors of, Homer's Secret Iliad: The Epic of the Night Skies Decoded (1999), based on possession of unpublished papers left by Edna Leigh, a school teacher, personally visited von Dechend in Germany to discuss their ideas. In August 1996 they visited the University of Frankfurt and met with von Dechend and 2 of her professional colleagues and gave them a preview of their claims for Homeric astronomy. A later letter of support and encouragement was received from von Dechend and Saltzer. In the Acknowledgments (Page ix) to their Homer's Secret Iliad they acknowledge their "appreciation of the interest and encouragement of Dr Hertha von Dechend ... and that of her colleague Dr Walter Saltzer."

Biography of Harald Reiche

Harald Anton Thrap Olsen Reiche, Department of Humanities, MIT: Carnegie Fellow 1953; Assistant Professor of Classics and Philosophy 1955-1960; Associate Professor 1960-1966; Professor 1966-1991.

Harald Reiche (people often mispronounced his name) was born in Germany in February,1922 and died in Boston (USA) in July, 1994, aged 72 years. He studied in Switzerland before he emigrated to the USA in 1938. He obtained his AB, AM, and PhD, all in Classics, from Harvard University. His PhD was received in 1955. He was Professor of Classics and Philosophy at MIT from 1955 to 1991. He was a specialist in Greek philosophy and the Church fathers. (See the short obituary notice in Klio, Volume 83, Number 2, 2001, Page 467; also, The Tech, Volume 114, Number 32, 1994, Page 6.) His focus was Greek philosophy and cosmology and myth. His research and publications were chiefly in the area of Greek philosophy and science and their interface with mythology. At the time of his death he was Professor Emeritus, School of Humanities and Social Science, History Faculty, MIT. The Harvard Alumni Bulletin, (Volume 54, Issue 2, 1951, Page 91) mentions: "Mr. and Mrs. Boris G. Bojenko of Paris and New York have announced the engagement of their daughter, Miss Irina Bojenko, to Harald AT Reiche, AM '44. Miss Bojenko [properly, Vojenko] is an alumna of Mauris Barres College [properly, Collège Maurice Barrès] in Paris." However, an obituary for Irene Reiche states they were, at the time of his death, married for 45 years. This gives a date of 1949. At least one biographical entry states they moved to Boston, and lived in Concord MA. Harald and Irene Reiche were Housemasters of Baker House, MIT, for 1980-1989. Victoria Reiche Gaar wrote: "Irene loved her years at Baker House and continued contact with many of the students throughout the years." After Harald Reiche's death Irene Reiche had moved to the Forum at Brookside in Louisville to be close to her daughter Victoria (Gaar). It appears that at the time of her death she was living at 46 Commonwealth Avenue, #8, Boston, MA. Irene Reiche, was born in France in 1927 and died in the USA on March 30, 2012, aged 85. The Reiche's are survived by 3 daughters, Elizabeth Reiche, Katharine Bigel and Victoria Gaar. (Note:: Elizabeth Joan Reiche (born in July 1954), known as Tita, died aged 61 years in November 2015, from a rare nasopharyngeal cancer that had metastasized. She was 61 years. Tita studied in the USA, Europe, and in Oxford, England where she learned to talk like a British teenager. Tita is survived by her two sisters, Victoria Gaar, of Louisville, Kentucky, and Katherine Bigel of Los Angeles, California, and brother Chris's widow, Lisa Deschenes of Arlington, Massachusetts.) There was a memorial service in Boston or Cambridge for Irene in early June 2012; her ashes are interred next to Harald's at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. Some of his 'forgotten' books and articles include: Empedocles' Mixture, Eudoxan Astronomy and Aristotle's Connate (1960) (See the (English-language) book review by George Kerferd (University College, Swansea) in The Classical Review, (New Series), Volume 12, Issue 1, 1962, Pages 93-94); translator, 1953, Tragedy is not Enough by Karl Jaspers; and "Myth and Magic in Cosmological Polemics: Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius." in Rheinisches Museum, N.F., Band 114, 1971, Pages 296-321 (a study of astral myths in cosmological polemics). In the early 1960s Harald Reiche was one academic who advised Life magazine on the content  for its new series of articles on ancient Greece, beginning with Volume 54, Number 1, January 4, 1963. Reiche was tending to make astral interpretations of material by the late 1940s. Reiche believed the earliest royal genealogies of, for example, Babylon, and Denmark, and the Greek kings of prehistory were astral and planetary in human pseudohistorical guise. Kings were in charge of their national calendars and so were 'influential' in celestial movements. He also located Atlantis high in the sky. He surveyed Greco-Roman traditions of decline and end – which he believed were based on the mythic patterns of the end of the world in prehistoric cultures and early ancient civilizations, involving notions of declining world ages - in "The Archaic Heritage: Myths of Decline and End in Antiquity." In: Visions of Apocalypse: End or Rebirth? edited by Saul Friedlander, Gerald Horton, Leo Marx, and Eugene Skolnikof (1985).

Also, Harald Reiche had a nice sense of humour. It also appears that - unlike de Santillana, von Dechend, and Lettvin - he was a non-smoker.

Obituary, August 17, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 39, Number 2).: "Professor Harald Reiche dies. August 17, 1994. Services were held at Mount Auburn Cemetery July 29 for Professor Emeritus of History Harald A.T.O. Reiche, 72, who died on July 25. A classical scholar, Professor Reiche was the author or co-author of several books and many articles on classical history and thought. He became particularly interested in Greek cosmology and astronomy and wrote and lectured widely in that relatively unexplored field. Professor Reiche was born in Germany in 1922 and studied in Switzerland before emigrating to the United States where he was graduated from Phillips Academy. After service in the US Army during World War II, he received the AB degree in classics from Harvard in 1943. where he also received the AM (1944) and PhD (1955) degrees. He was appointed assistant professor of classics and philosophy at MIT in 1955 and helped to organize, design and teach the introductory humanities program. He also taught electives in Greek philosophy and language, ancient history and Roman political thought. He was promoted to associate professor in 1960 and to professor in 1966. He retired in 1991. In addition, from 1980-90, Professor Reiche and his wife were faculty residents in Baker House, where they hosted Sunday evening suppers and symposia famous on the campus for good food and stimulating conversation. Professor Reiche held a Carnegie Fellowship in humanities when he was first at MIT. Later he held a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in Athens and a Ford Foundation visiting professorship at the Technical University of Berlin. For many years he was also a lecturer in humanities and philosophy at Suffolk University. Professor Reiche is survived by his wife, Irene Vojenko Reiche of Boston; a son, Christopher Reiche of Arlington; three daughters, Elizabeth Riddle of Syracuse, NY, Katharine Bigel of Seattle, WA, and Victoria Reiche of Geneva, Switzerland, and three grandsons. Remembrances may be made to the Baker House Fund, c/o Treasurer's Office, 238 Main St., Suite 200, Cambridge 02142."

Obituary in The Boston Globe, April 1, 2012: "REICHE, Irene B. Of Boston's Back Bay, passed away in Louisville, Kentucky, surrounded by her loving family, on March 30, 2012, age 85, after a long struggle with pancreatic cancer. Irene Reiche (born in France) moved to Boston as a young bride to Prof. Harald Reiche of MIT (deceased). They lived in Concord, MA and brought up 4 children; Christopher Reiche (deceased), Elizabeth (Tita) Reiche of White River Junction, VT, Victoria Gaar of Louisville, KY, and Katharine Bigel of Marina del Rey, CA. They moved to Cambridge, MA, and served as Housemasters of MIT's Baker House for 10 years. They retired to Back Bay where Irene lived until 2011. [Her final residence was a Townhouse.] She was a loving grandmother to 4 grandsons and an active member of the First Church of Boston, Unitarian Universalist. Irene was a familiar figure walking her little white dog, "Mr. Bobby", in Boston Public Garden." Also, obituary published in The Boston Globe on 3/1/2009: "REICHE, Christopher G.T. Age 56 of Arlington, passed away peacefully at home after a valiant battle with cancer. Beloved husband of Lisa Deschenes, cherished son of Irene Reiche & devoted father to Derek. He was preceded in death by his father Harald Reiche. Also lovingly survived by his sisters Tita Reiche and her husband Bruce Riddle, Victoria and her husband Dr. Earl Gaar and Kate and her husband Jordan Bigel. Devoted uncle to nine nieces and nephews who adored their "Uncle Chris". A memorial service will be held March 7th at 5 pm First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, MA 02476. In lieu of flowers donations can be made in Chris' honor to the United States Tennis Association's Foundation USTA Serves www.foundationgiving.usta.com. Online guestbook at savilleandgrannan.com."

Reiche seems to have mostly published articles, and only one monograph, Empedocles' Mixture, Eudoxan Astronomy and Aristotle's Connate (1960). He was co-author of several books.

Harald Reiche's written estate

Richard Flavin informs me that Harald Reiche has an archive box Collection Number MC480 – held at the (MIT libraries) Institute Archives & Special Collections (likely Hayden library). Presently the contents are a matter of speculation but perhaps contain unpublished articles (including unpublished co-authored articles).

Harald Reiche's position on ancient mythology

Harald Reiche was one of the few academic supporters and exponents of the views of Hertha von Dechend. There is every reason to believe he followed her ideas in his own publications.

As example of Reiche's position on mythology see further the article summary: "Epigraphic Society Occasional Papers, Table of Contents, Volume 24, 2004, Article: The Language of Ancient Astronomy – A Clue to the Atlantis Myth? (21 pp) Harald A. T. Reiche 24-p 245. It is clear that Stone Age man lacked our mathematical systems and computational techniques and the knowledge of writing. It is equally clear, however, that he was able to raise Stonehenge and similar structures which involved precise measurements and celestial alignments. Reiche seeks to explain how they did it –what they used in lieu of technical language. He finds his answer in the vast storehouse of formulaic phrases (illustrated in the works of Homer). It is suggested that the form in which Neolithic and Bronze Age astronomers explained and transmitted knowledge was rhythmic (i.e., metric and versified speech), perhaps coupled with melody and elaborately styled pantomime. Reiche draws heavily on the work of Hertha von Dechend. He identifies 4 corollaries which define the method: 1) the mythological motif of successive world ages; 2) the mythological motif of monstrous deeds followed by "catastrophes," usually floods or fires or both; 3) the association of each world age with a planetary ruler (i.e., one of the naked-eye planets); and 4) the consensus, virtually universal among ancients that the "true" identity of a foreign deity can be deduced from its attributes. In the remainder of the article, the author reconsiders Plato's Atlantis myth in the light of the above corollaries. He identifies Plato's Atlantis myth as a piece of sacred cosmology deliberately expressed in pseudohistorical and pseudogeographic terms familiar from "mythic" language in its ancient capacity as a technical shorthand for astronomical systems"

Harald Reiche, in the last article in the special issue of Technology Review that was devoted to archeoastronomy pursues a similar theme to Lettvin’s concept. Harald Reiche also supported the idea that what we now express in technical, scientific language was once conveyed by myth, perhaps including melody, stylized pantomime and dances. (See: Technology Review, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Volume 80, Number 2, December 1977.)

For Reiche, as well as de Santillana, and von Dechend, the language of myth is technical and thus accurate language. Reiche also supported early knowledge of precession before Hipparchus. According to Harald Reiche, the iconography of Iranian vases from 4000 BCE is demonstratively unintelligible except in terms of quasi-precessional phenomena. (See: Harald Reiche, "The Archaic Heritage: Myths of Decline and End in Antiquity." In: Saul Friedlander et. al. (Editors). Visions of Apocalypse: End or Rebirth (1985, Pages 21-43).

Reiche and Eisler's, Weltenmantel und Himmelszelt

Reiche was perhaps the most able supporter of Hamlet's Mill. Following his death his copy of Weltenmantel und Himmelszelt: Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zur Urgeschichte des Antiken Weltbilds by Robert Eisler (1910, 2 Volumes) was able to be obtained by me. The authors of Hamlet's Mill held it in high regard. It is clear that this book was also a strong influence on Reiche. Copious handwritten notes are frequently scribbled on the page margins, as well as frequent underlining of text. It is undoubtedly an interesting collection of material. Eisler's two volumes have been called "highly valuable as phantasmagorias of uncritically used material." The entire volume 1 contains a great mass of material for the heavenly garment (i.e., astral symbols on garments) worn by royalty in ancient and medieval times, as well as by a great number of gods in ancient religion and on into Christianity. Volume 2 presents a similar body of material from sources of all sorts on the vault of heaven as a religious symbol. See the (English-language) book review by Francis Burkitt in The Classical Review, Volume XXV, 1911, Pages 145-147; and the (French-language) book review by Ed[?]. L[?]. in L'Année Sociologique, Tome XII 1909-1912, 1913, Pages 260-266.

The impact of Hamlet's Mill on the teaching of Polynesian studies

Hamlet's Mill had an impact on the teaching of Polynesian studies. The influential figure Rubellite Johnson incorporated belief in the themes of Hamlet's Mill into her courses and writings. From 1967 to 1993 she was on the faculty of the University of Hawaii-Manoa (Department of Indo-Pacific Languages) and helped establish its Hawaiian studies program. On retirement she became Professor Emeritius of Hawaiian Language and Literature and continued to publish. She researched the history of the Kumulipo, a sacred chant of Hawaiian mythology, and early newspapers in the Hawaiian language. See her course study book MO'OLELO HAWAI'I, WORLD OF THE HAWAIIANS (1993), page 116. In it she misidentifies the authors of Hamlet's Mill. On page 116, when discussing Hamlet's Mill, she mistakenly writes: "*Note: Hertha von Dechend was science historian at Harvard University; Giorgio Santillana (sic) was mathematic professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology." See also her book The Kumulipo Mind: A Global Heritage In The Polynesian Creation Myth (2000), page 179. In her book with John Mahelona, Na Inoa Hoku: A Catalogue of Hawaiian and Pacific Star Names (1975) the authors attempt to gather together the fragmentary record of Oceanic star knowledge. The main body of the book comprises 3 annotated lists of star names: Hawaiian, Pacific, and Indo-European. The authors are out of their depth when dealing with Egyptian, European, and Near Eastern star lore. In these areas they can be completely unreliable through uncritically accepting dated popular material.

The influence of Hamlet's Mill on student studies at MIT

Sally Weber, in her thesis (Sunlight and the Use of Holographic Diffraction Grating: An Environmental Perspective) for the degree of Master of Science in Visual Studies at MIT, June 1983, uses fanciful astronomical ideas from Hamlet's Mill in the confidence they are reliable. Earlier, Elizabeth Cavicchi, in her thesis (Arethusa: A Fountain through Sculpture) for the degree of Master of Science in Visual Studies at MIT, June 1980, writes approvingly (pages 11-12) of the ideas in Hamlet's Mill.

The disappearing influence of Hamlet's Mill

Giorgio de Santillana died in 1974. Harald Reiche died in 1994. Hertha von Dechend died in 2001. Jerome Lettvin died in 2011. The last MIT seminar given by Hertha von Dechend was in 1979. In the last 3 decades of her life von Dechend lectured in Frankfurt, and published almost nothing. After her retirement in 1980?/1982 she continued to hold seminars in private premises for a small group of about 8 participants. The location for these seminars was often the living room of the home of the Volhard family. At Frankfurt she had her ideas on ancient cosmology supported by Walter Saltzer and Yas Maeyama. There is really no active inheritance of her ideas remaining within the university system. Some academics in isolation use variations of the ideas in Hamlet's Mill but they are perhaps closer to the ideas of the German star myth school. The ideas of Hamlet's Mill are perhaps to be seen as an academic anomaly fuelled by particular chance circumstances.

Part 2: The Basic Argument: A Critical Overview

Key claims include: (1) All the world's mythologies are drawn from a common historical source; (2) This cultural source had a sophisticated knowledge of astronomy, including precession; (3) The myths originally drawn from a common historical source (somewhere in the Near East) contained a common body of astronomical knowledge; and (4) The zodiac as we know it originated circa 5000 BCE. The authors of Hamlet's Mill are not: (1) Particularly concerned with trying to date the original discovery of precession, but consider 5000 BCE to be the most likely date; or (2) Particularly concerned to try and identify the culture which originated the astronomy and mythology. Their concern was to establish historical evidence of a monomyth and its astronomical nature. Broadly, there was a complex culture invented only once, "somewhere in the Near East," and spread from there.

Key issues are: (1) How can diffusion be distinguished from independent invention? (2) How can the astronomical content of mythology (if it exists) be identified?

According to Hamlet's Mill an early intellectual elite in the Neolithic Near East, through their astronomical rigor, experienced the cosmos as unstable; they identified the precession of the equinoxes as disturbing its order. The anxieties created by this realisation, or rather interpretation, were expressed in myths of inevitable cosmic catastrophes (loss of order, i.e., shifting north pole star) and restorations of order. This is similar to Eduard Stucken (Astralmythen) maintaining that an astral theory of the universe is not the outcome of popular thought, but the result of a lengthy process of speculative reasoning carried on in restricted learning circles.

The basic argument is myth was the technical language of the archaic period 4000-3000 BCE, primarily for precessional phenomena. Based on her Polynesian studies, Hertha von Dechend interpreted early world-wide myths as having 3 rules: (1) animals are stars, (2) gods/goddesses are planets, and (3) topographic references are metaphors for locations - usually of the sun - on the celestial sphere. (See, for example Hamlet's Mill, Pages viii, and 62-65.) For Hamlet's Mill the Neolithic Period is both an age of mystery and an age of greatness during which formidable intellectual ability was demonstrated by a small group of people in the Near East by their establishment of mathematical calculus, careful observation of stellar movement leading to their discovery of precession, establishment of the equally divided 12-constellation zodiac, and development of a network of myths with common features. At the core of Hamlet's Mill is the claim that precession was not even an independently discovered and shared experience amongst cultures but discovered by a particular group of intellectuals ("Protopythagoreans") the Neolithic Near East and the discovery transmitted by them, coded in the 'technical language' of myth, over vast geological distances, before the establishment of writing. However, the primary centre of invention was not identified and proved by the authors and is yet to be proved by proponents of the ideas in the book. Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend believed they had found (and demonstrated) an underlying coherence behind hundreds of apparently chaotic sagas and myths. (Their focus was on cultural (i.e., mythological) material.) In order to do this they assume an historical relationship between world-wide myths. They make no attempt at all to demonstrate this assumption. They proposed a single astronomical origin in the ancient Near East for the entire global corpus of mythologies, including those of the Americas. Their basic method is to present comparative motifs between myths. This parallels/copies Eduard Stucken's method underlying his Astralmythen (5 parts) which was to define myths by their motifs, not by persons or types, and maintained that as it was motifs that were passed from people to people then only motifs could be used for the purposes of comparison. The method makes it easier to claim parallels and as such lacks rigour.

A motif is a small narrative unit recurrent in tales. The same motif in different cultures may hold vastly different meanings.

The authors promote the concept of an archaic high culture in the Near East. "The main thesis of the book is that at a remote period [preceding the civilizations of Babylonia, Egypt, India, and China] a few men discovered the precession of the equinoxes (usually attributed to Hipparchus, ca. 120 B.C.) the obliquity of the ecliptic, and the shifting of the Celestial Pole. Four points of reference (equinoxes and solstices) form the frame or true ground of all myth. In particular, all Flood, world destruction, and succession type myths are seen as due to the shifting of this frame (as the vernal equinox enters a new zodiac sign precessing along the ecliptic). The authors further contend that this essentially scientific information was put into the preliterate code language (p. 344) of myth which then made its way about the earth apparently from "that 'Proto-Pythagorean' mint somewhere in the Fertile Crescent. (p. 311), ... completely unaffected by local beliefs and customs (p.345)." (Gerald Gresseth in Journal of American Folklore, Volume 84, Number 332, April/June, 1971, Pages 246-247.) (The foundation of the theory of Panbabylonism was the claim for an early date for scientific astronomy in Babylonia. This entailed knowledge of precession of the equinoxes and a system of astronomical/astrological 'World Ages.') This point goes to the heart of the credibility of Hamlet's Mill. It is assumed by the authors of Hamlet's Mill that this diffusion of coded astronomical knowledge successfully proceeded, literally world-wide in a standardised manner, without continual contact and interaction by the originators, to more distant cultures! Also, there were no problems with the precessional knowledge being understood by any of these ancient cultures world-wide, even when they lacked the observational experience or framework of thinking! There are no examples of confusion (misinterpretation) or rejection.

Geometry and Algebra in Ancient Civilizations by Bartel van der Waerden (1948, 1983), and the critical book review "The Geometer and the Archaeoastronomers: On the Prehistoric Origins of Mathematics." by Wilbur Knorr (The British Journal for the History of Science, Volume 18, Number 2, July, 1985, Pages 197-212). Waerden (influenced by Abraham Seidenberg (1916-1988), Professor of Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley, retired 1987) speculates that the primary tradition arose within the Neolithic culture of Indo-European peoples who migrated into Central and Northern Europe in the 4th- and 3rd-millennium BCE. Specifically, a single Indo-European group, the so-called 'Beaker people' in the 3rd-millennium BCE, were the primal source for the geometric and ritual traditions, extending from Europe and the Near-East to India and China. In an article in ANTIQUITY (1997) Euan MacKie again argued for his long-standing belief that there existed in later Neolithic Britain and Ireland theocractic elites who possessed precise and sophisticated astronomical and mathematical knowledge. However, see the capable critique, "Cosmology, calendars and society in Neolithic Orkney: a rejoinder to Euan MacKie." by Clive Ruggles and Gordon Barclay (ANTIQUITY, Volume 74, Number 283, 2000, Pages 62-74); and "Will the data drive the model? A further response to Euan MacKie." by Gordon Barclay and Clive Ruggles (ANTIQUITY, Volume 76, Number 293, 2002, Pages 668-671).

See also the recent (ultimately) speculative article: Kainzinger, Albert. (2011). "The mathematics in the structures of Stonehenge." (Archive for the History of Exact Science, Volume 65, January, Issue 1, Pages 67-97). [Note: Abstract: "The development of ancient civilizations and their achievements in sciences such as mathematics and astronomy are well researched for script-using civilizations. On the basis of oral tradition and mnemonic artifacts illiterate ancient civilizations were able to attain an adequate level of knowledge. The Neolithic and Bronze Age earthworks and circles are such mnemonic artifacts. Explanatory models are given for the shape of the stone formations and the ditch of Stonehenge reflecting the circular and specific non-circular shapes of these structures. The basic mathematical concepts are Pythagorean triangles, thus adopting the construction procedures of the Neolithic circular ditches of Central Europe in the fifth Millennium bc and later earthworks and stone circles in Britain and Brittany. This knowledge was extended with new elliptical concepts. Approximations for the values of π and the square root of 2 are encoded in the henge. All constructions were performed using a standardized "Babylonian" metrology that shows a remarkable consistency and comprehensible development over some 14 centuries."] This paper is an extension of what may be termed the Waerden/Seidenbery thesis. See: "The Ritual Origin of Geometry." by Abraham Seidenberg (Archive for History of Exact Sciences, Volume 1, 1962, Pages 488-527); "The Ritual Origin of Counting." by Abraham Seidenberg Archive for History of Exact Sciences, Volume 2, 1962, Pages 1-40); "The Origin of Mathematics." by Abraham Seidenberg (Archive for History of Exact Sciences, Volume 18, 1978, Pages 301-342); "The Ritual Origin of the Circle and Square." by Abraham Seidenberg (Archive for History of Exact Sciences, Volume 25, 1981, Pages 269–327); and "A Neolithic Oral Tradition for the van der Waerden/Seidenberg Origin of Mathematics." by Jerold Matthews (Archive for History of Exact Sciences, Volume 34, Issue 3, 1985, Pages 193-220).

As stated above: The influence of Higgins' concept of an ancient world-wide secret religious order sharing knowledge, on the similar idea expressed in Hamlet's Mill that a secret world-wide net of scholars existed and shared coded astronomical information should not be overlooked.

According to de Santillana, throughout history the most advanced scientific knowledge is grasped only by a handful of people. My only comment is why didn't the channels of communication - whatever they supposedly were - also get used to carry other technical information such as metalworking. Why the ready diffusion of precession but not the diffusion of other more valuable and practical cultural items? Also, what was the rate and method of spread? (Salt and tobacco are 2 trade items that encourage diffusion. However, they are never mentioned. It is worth noting that tobacco use literally diffused around the world within 100 years of the European discovery of the American continent.)

"[I]t is claimed that the widespread symbol of the World Tree must be based on the 'world axis', while the two great circles of the equinoxes and the solstices are represented by the image of the World Mill. Yggdrasil, Samson's pillar, the tree up which Mani climbs to heaven in the Polynesian story - all are reflections of man's early knowledge of the starry sky, based on a close and systematic observation of the movements of the heavens. The idea of a succession of worlds, of the destruction of the earth by Flood or fire, and many stories of the fall of great kings and heroes, are based on the disappearance of the Pole Star and its replacement by another, due to the phenomenon known as the Precession of the Equinoxes (described pp. 59 ff.)." (Hilda Davidson in Folklore, Volume CXXXV, 1974, Pages 282-283.)

Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend believed the astronomical content of myth preceded shamanism. Florence and Kenneth Wood, the authors of Homer's Secret Iliad (1999), mention that in the 1960s Edna Wood (who initially developed the idea of an astronomical code in the Iliad) received supportive letters from Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend at MIT, for her astronomical interpretation of the Iliad. Later (in 1996), Florence and Kenneth Wood mention that they visited Hertha von Dechend at the University of Frankfurt and received support for their ideas on Homeric astronomy from both Hertha von Dechend and Walter Saltzer. This enables some insight into what ideas and dates both de Santillana and von Dechend were prepared to accept. Though the book apparently lacks a wholly clear position on constellation origins (but the thrust is evident in Chapter 1 (see especially page 2) for implying a system of astronomy and constellations thousands of years prior to Homer) see page 244 regarding the suggestion for the origin of the constellations as early as the eighth millennium BCE. See also pages 207-208, 212, 217, & 220 for the reliance on a system of early zodiacal constellations stretching back to the eighth millennium BCE.

According to de Santillana and von Dechend (1) the scientifically accurate rate of the precession was known in the late Neolithic Period (circa 4000 BCE), (2) the precession is the main source of all the major myths of the world (and these myths spread from a common source in the ancient Near East), and (3) these myths represent preliterate science (are a preliterate scientific and technical language) and deal with the precession and the cosmology of celestial dimensions. They believed that all so-called 'high cultures' had myths based on precession. Changeovers in zodiacal signs, i.e., shift of vernal equinox due to precession, are described in terms of catastrophes. The astronomical phenomenon of precession was conceived as causing the rise and cataclysmic fall of the ages of the world.

De Santillana and von Dechend believed myth was the only technical language in archaic times. In seeking to uphold their explanation of the cryptic nature of the language of myths Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend claim that the language of myth was from the very beginning intended to be understood by initiates as compendia of cosmological teachings. "The main merit of this language is its ambiguity. Myth can be used as a vehicle for handing down solid knowledge independently from the degree of insight of the people who do the actual telling of the stories, fables, etc. In ancient times, moreover, it allowed members of the archaic "brains trust" to "talk shop" unaffected by the presence of laymen: the danger of giving something away was practically nil. (Hamlet's Mill, 1969, Page 312)." (Amazingly, the need for secrecy is simply assumed and never explained. No material/discussion in Hamlet's Mill concerned with the issue of religious/scientific secrecy in archaic societies. Also, the assumption of an 'international club' of people 'in the know' and storytellers who were not, but none-the-less ensured these particular myths dominated and never changed the essential structure of the supposedly coded information is simply assumed and never explained. Also, why the precessional knowledge set that was kept so secret was never again rediscovered in a repeat process by other persons, and again coded, is left in silence. The use of material from the literary period of China (by David Pankenier and Deborah Porter) as examples for verifying Hamlet's Mill remain late examples of astronomy being placed into myth (by only a few persons), and also culturally limited examples.)

The complexity of the 'code'

"And yet: this shell trumpet is one tiny 'subject', one among hundreds and thousands of the 'code', and one about which we could know something, if we only really wanted to know." (Introduction to Ancient Cosmology by Hertha von Dechend (1966, Page 139.) There is no mention of code within the Index of Hamlet's Mill (1969). It is puzzling why no attempt was made to straightforwardly list some of the content of the supposed 'code.' Also, any discussion about its supposed complexity is not attempted. The attempts to explain aspects of numerology as code have been unsuccessful/unconvincing.

In her 1966 student notes (Page VI) for Introduction to Ancient Cosmology, some clarification is given. "[The code] formulae ... cover[s] facts, astronomical, arithmetical, geometrical, alchemical, metrological, and harmonic facts."

The authors of Hamlet's Mill make no concerted attempt to gather in a single chapter all that they believe they have uncovered of the supposed content of the complex monomyth and how they believe its explanative form was originated. The whole focus of the book is mainly a scattered attempt across the book to claim what they believe are its adaptions/remanants/corruptions. But nothing about the believed structure and believed content of the monomyth is gathered together in a summary form in a single chapter.

A complicated system of astral mythology is simply Panbabylonism.

Oral transmission of a complex 'code'

The assumption is made by the authors of Hamlet's Mill - through a basic comparative method underpinned by the concept of stimulus diffusion - that oral tradition can be and is a trustworthy carrier of ancient beliefs and customs, and knowledge. The issue of the dependability of oral transmission is never really discussed. The issue of transmission errors is not discussed. Can a complex astronomical code be successfully transmitted across time and space between different cultures? Neither do the authors concern themselves with the mechanisms of oral transmission. They simply isolate a number of themes - or make an interpretation - and argue they are remnants of more ancient themes forming a complex code. There is also lack of discussion of degeneration or preservation theories of oral transmission. Those persons who uphold the theory of degeneration and those persons who emphasise the reliability of oral transmission are basically in opposing camps. The debate still exists and is an important one. The trustworthiness of oral transmission affects how successfully a complex astronomical code can be transmitted over time. It puts their ideas to the test.

Apparently the monomyth is never rejected, nor does it have any competition with other tales.

An imagined example of unchanging oral transmission from the Paleolithic period

"Twentieth-century literary critic Roland Barthes (as cited in Czarniawska-Joerges, 2004) observed that "narrative is present in every age, in every place, in every society; it begins with the very history of mankind and there nowhere is nor has been a people without narrative" (p. 1). Given movie depictions of Cro-Magnons as linguistically challenged savages, it may be hard to imagine the Stone Age men who walked across the Bering land bridge to populate North America during the last ice age as tellers of stories. But evidence in support of Barthes' claim might be found in the stars. Bradley Schaefer's grandfather taught him to identify the "big bear" constellation, Ursa Major, in the Colorado sky, no doubt setting the stage for his career in astronomy. Now, Schaefer (2006) argues that the history of Ursa Major can only be explained with reference to "a chain of grandfathers stretching from Paleolithic Siberia to the mountains and plains of the New World and eventually to modern Colorado, telling about the Bear in the sky" (p. 97). The story of constellations, as we have come to understand it, begins in the Fertile Crescent (stretching across Iraq, Syria, and adjoining lands). Thousands of years before humans walked to the New World, our ancestors lived by farming along the banks of great rivers—the Tigris and the Euphrates. From time to time the river would flood, washing away possessions and jeopardizing lives, but also depositing nutrient-rich silt that would support crops. Hardwired to identify patterns, humans eventually noticed that the movements of stars across the sky could be used to predict the coming flood. As is so often the case with great discoveries, this insight probably did not arrive as a single "aha!" moment, more likely occurring to several people in different locations at different times. Each one developed a method for recognizing the stars and each one developed a story to help identify those stars and describe their movement to younger generations. The easiest way to describe a cluster of stars was to point up and say, "See those stars that look like a big ladle, like a Big Dipper? Now see how these other stars trace the outline of a bear followed by three hunters?" So it is not surprising that the humans who made their way to the New World took with them their most memorable stories. And it is therefore not surprising that, as Schaefer and others have observed, the stars that make up Ursa Major are described as a bear by Old World traditions of Greek, Basque, Hebrew, and Siberian tribes as well as the New World cultures of the Cherokee, Algonquin, Zuni, Tlingit, and Iroquois. The history of constellations is the history of man's earliest storytelling, and it illustrates the life-giving role that stories play in the transfer of knowledge." (Barusch, Amanda. (2012). "Narrative Gerontology Coming Into Its Own." (Journal of Gerontological Social Work, Volume 55, Number 1, Pages 1-4; Pages 1-2.)

The collapse or end of the claimed universal system

How and when this world-wide common technical language eventually lost its use and fell into disuse (i.e., became simply debris) is not adequately discussed in Hamlet's Mill. They do write, however (Page 345): "With the remnants of the system scattered all over the world, abandoned to the drift of cultures and languages, it is immensely difficult to identify the original themes that may have undergone so many sea-changes." Their basic position is that ancient myths are the remains of preliterate astronomy that became lost (at least in Western Europe) with the rise of Greco-Roman civilisation. Perhaps their perception was that since the Greeks the language we commonly use for science and scientific description, and mythology, have developed separately. However this viewpoint was not true for George St. Clair. He upheld that astronomical mythology was quite evident during the duration of Greco-Roman civilisation. "Mr. George St. Clair challenges every attempt ever made to explain the mythology of Greece and Rome, and he offers an explanation of his own. He does not take the myths literally; nor does he believe in the human explanation of Euhemerus, nor again in the explanation identifying the myths with the phenomena of the natural world, nor in Andrew Lang's folklore theory. Mr. St. Clair believes that Greek and Roman mythology was based upon astronomy and the calendar. The signs of the zodiac, the planets, the Pleiades, and the stars generally are in it." (The Ecclesiastical Review, Volume 31, 1904, Page 624 (637?).)

The authors of Hamlet's Mill claim (Page 347): "It would be possible, for example, to prepare a most informative edition of the Romance of Reynard Fox illustrated entirely with reproductions from Egyptian and Mesopotamian ritual documents. For it is likely that these documents represent the last form of international initiatic language, intended to be misunderstood alike by suspicious authorities and the ignorant crowd.” It is another interesting claim that has no examples and/or references given for it. In an exchange on Hastro-L in June 2013 one Hamlet’s Mill enthusiast successfully wrote: (1) "HVD is alluding to Brunelstraat (Milky Way) and the myth of a fox stealing corn from a mill. Think also of Fernis wolf. of (sic) his mouth comes a river of slobber forming milky way." (2) "HVD is alluding to Brunelstraat (Milky Way) and the myth of a fox stealing corn from a mill. PS: and (sic) of corse (sic) to the jackal-headed God Anubis. you (sic) find the jackal also at the center of the round dendera (sic) zodiac." (3) "… you will find in Hamlet's Mill at least four times the word jackal: e.g. p. 406. Particularly obvious is the case in Egypt, where we learn from H. Kees (Der Gotterglaube im Alten Agypten [1956J, p. 193, n. 3): "wtw means 'jackal' and 'the eldest,' " and it happens that Kees made this remark when dealing with a classical case of cheating: when Geb/Kronos declared Horus the eldest, cutting out Seth/Typhon completely, as reported in the Shabaka Inscription. "Actually Geb claims Horus to be Upuaut, the Opener of the Way - Upuaut being the Upper Egyptian Jackal or Wolf." also (sic) app 2. p 358: but there the arrow is shorter and aims at Sirius, the celestial Jackal, whereas the same Egyptian arrow is aimed at the star on the head of the Sothis Cow, as depicted in the so-called "Round Zodiac" of Dendera-Sirius again. and (sic) see also the image on p 216: Drawing the bow at Sirius, the celestial jackal." 

My response (Hastro-L, 19-6-2013): "I think you mean to say the authors - like yourself - offer no examples/references for the claim: "It would be possible, for example, to prepare a most informative edition of the Romance of Reynard Fox illustrated entirely with reproductions from Egyptian and Mesopotamian ritual documents." You are [effectively] claiming page 347 is alluding partly to page 248: "... the old Dutch name for the Galaxy, "Brunelstraat." Brunel, Bruns, Bruin (the Brown) is the familiar name of the bear in the romance of Reynard the Fox, and is as ancient as anything that can be traced." In the reinvention of history by Dean Clarke (Archaeo-Astronometria; 2008, Page 56) he states: "The ancient Dutch call the Milky Way Brunelstraat, after Brunel, a thieving fox." (You have the same on your website and in your book. You give Hamlet's Mill as your reference, but no page.) Nothing here that involves "reproductions from Egyptian and Mesopotamian ritual documents." Also, I expect you will give the exact details for "Brunel, a thieving fox." The myth of the fox stealing corn from a mill. Which Old World myth specifically? Will it involve: "reproductions from Egyptian and Mesopotamian ritual documents."? So far, nothing. I am familiar with New World versions of a dog or a wolf stealing corn from a mill. The word "jackal" does not appear in the Index of Hamlet's Mill. No matter, a jackal is not a fox. See, for example: http://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-fox-and-vs-jackal/. The medieval tale is the Romance of Reynard the Fox, not the Romance of Reynaud the Jackal. So, this is definitely not evidence of any merit. Also, once again, nothing here that involves "reproductions from Egyptian and Mesopotamian ritual documents." Presently you have not been able to provide any Egyptian or Mesopotamian example. Nor does Hamlet's Mill."

For interest see: Kolb, Hugh. (2013). Foxes from the Gods: The Mythology and Symbolism of the Fox in the Middle East and Europe Over the Past Five Thousand Years. See especially: 2. Foxes in the Sky (i.e., Foxes in Mesopotamian astronomy) The author graduated in biology and is an eminent naturalist. Also, the excavation reports of Gobekli Tepe record there are numerous depictions of foxes on the T-shaped pillars in the 'Mesolithic' settlements. (See: Nico Becker, Oliver Dietrich, Thomas Götzelt, Çigdem Köksal-Schmidt, Jens Notroff, and Klaus Schmidt. "Materialien zur Deutung der zentralen Pfeilerpaare des Göbekli Tepe und weiterer Orte des obermesopotamischen Frühneolithikums." Zeitschrift für Orient-Archäologie, Volume 5, 2012, Pages 14-43.; Page 37 Abbildung (Illustration) 24.)

The claim for a monomyth

The central claim of Hamlet's Mill is precession was known some 5000 years before Hipparchus' discovery and this knowledge was disseminated throughout the world in a monomyth.  However, de Santillana and von Dechend were not concerned with attempting to date their claim for the original discovery of precession. Nor were they concerned with attempting to assign their claim for the original discovery of precession to a lost civilization (known or unknown). They indicated their belief that all myths by at least the Neolithic period (or earlier Paleolithic period) were shared across the continents. had a common historic origin in a monomyth originating in the Near East. Their focus was their claim that all the world's mythologies originated from a common historical source – a monomyth – which contained a body of astronomical information centred on knowledge of the precession of the equinoxes. Mundane adventure stories are the coded means for transmitting information concerning the precession of the equinoxes. (Also, produced within this coded story was a sign code for the stars i.e., the stars of Ursa Major became a team of oxen.) The term monomyth originated with Joseph Campbell and means a single mythic tradition underlying all the known discrete mythic traditions.

Note: The authors of Hamlet's Mill argue for the existence of a global human culture in prehistoric times. For some this means the Palaeolithic world of 50,000 years ago.

The idea of a monomyth contradicts what is evident about mythology. That is myths carry a tremendous amount of cultural content. The entire worldview of a society, its values and highest aspirations, are encoded in myth. This value-content is unique to each culture's mythology. Simply focusing on the things that are similar between all cultures involves ignoring the specific and unique cultural content of myth.

David Leeming identifies 3 main types of myths: (1) Creation, (2) Deities, and (3) Hero. Perhaps Trickster myths could have been included as a 4th type.

Part of the issue is whether ancient myths are based on observations of natural phenomena (as opposed to psychological observations), are easily invented, and whether oral myths can change quite quickly. (Interestingly, the later (literate) Romans abandoned their Etruscan heritage and adopted Greek mythology. Greek mythology is a 'local mythology' in its geographical setting and time-wise is set in the period of Mycenaean Greece circa 1550-1060 BCE; but its themes originated approximately 2000 years earlier. On the whole, Greek mythology had little connection with the celestial bodies.)

Also, did nearly every ancient culture around the planet really care about specific celestial movements of the kind posited in Hamlet's Mill? Was precession really the most important thing for so many ancient cultures? Why the claimed Neolithic precessional monomyth  readily diffused around the world has not been explained.

Another issue: According to the authors of Hamlet's Mill myth/folklore descends from the 'intelligentsia' to the 'peasantry.' The oddness is: What existed in the way of stories before the supposed acceptance of the monomyth?

The term monomyth

The term monomyth does not appear in Hamlet's Mill. However, it is appropriate to use the term monomyth when discussing Hamlet's Mill. The term 'astronomomical monomyth' to describe a key theme of Hamlet's Mill was introduced by Albert Friedman in his 1972 review of the book. The term monomyth was originated/developed by the Jungian mythologist/folklorist Joseph Campbell. The concept of the monomyth was introduced by Joseph Campbell in The Hero With a Thousand Faces (1949; 1968). Campbell coined the term 'Monomyth' from James Joyce's novel Finnigan's Wake (published in its entirety in 1939). The Canadian literary critic and literary theorist Northrop Frye later developed his own version of the monomyth. Originally Frye conceived of the monomyth as "the cyclic quest of the hero" but then elaborated it differently with what is known as archetypal literary criticism. For example see his : The Great Code: The Bible & Literature (1982). The popularity of archetypal literary criticism has waned since the 1940s and 1950s and it is no longer widely practiced.

The concept of a monomyth theory is ultimately traceable to Max Müller.

Campbell's concept of monomyth refers to the theory that explains all mythic narratives as variations of a single great story. The theory is based on the observation that a common pattern (a classic sequence of actions) exists between the narrative elements of most great myths/stories, regardless of their place of origin or time of creation. There is a universal story, told with the same basic pattern, by every culture, about the journey of the hero. Campbell often referred to the ideas of the 19th-century German ethnologist Adolf Bastian and his distinction between what he called 'folk' and 'elementary' ideas, the latter referring to the prime matter of monomyth while the former to the multitude of local forms the myth takes in order to remain an up-to-date carrier of sacred meanings. The central pattern most focused on by Campbell is what is referred to as the hero's journey, a cyclical journey or quest undertaken by a mythical hero. The concept of the monomyth is an attempt to provide a key to all mythology. There is not a lot in common between Campbell's concept of a monomyth and the concept of a monomyth in Hamlet's Mill.

The distribution network for the monomyth

According to Hamlet's Mill there was point in time marking a single, unique beginning for the transmission of astronomical knowledge, and associated knowledge, around the world. This was somewhere in the ancient Near East circa 4000 BCE. There is no suggestion that the astronomical knowledge comprising the monomyth package encountered any difficulty in being understood, even by cultures without any developed astronomical knowledge. Hamlet's Mill implies that without prior instruction regarding the coding, the content of the monomyth was easily grasped, implemented, and passed on to other (nearby) cultures.

The nature/structure of the supposed ancient distribution network is never really discussed. A centralised distribution network from the ancient Near East - via intellectual elites - is posited. However, the concept of a decentralised network is not considered. A decentralised distribution network involves diffusion of knowledge to hubs which then function as further centres of diffusion. Both networks involve culture contacts. Also, how exactly an extensive network would be established and how it would function is not discussed. The authors of Hamlet's Mill imply it was used for the dissemination of intellectual ideas only. How the important matter of language differences were overcome is also not discussed. The content of the monomyth would need explaining - otherwise it would remain mythology (and poorly understood as mythology).

Excursus: Greek mythology

In Greek mythology stories of the Olympian gods/goddesses (and those preceding them) focus a lot on dysfunctional behaviours, cruelties, orgies, misdeeds, and foibles that also had counterparts in human behaviour. In their approach to stories about the Olympian gods/goddesses taken by the authors of Hamlet's Mill they interpret these stories to be a clear indicator of astronomical language. Examples of dysfunctional behaviours: 1. (pre-Olympian) The god Cronus (who ruled the pre-Olympian Titans) eating his children to ensure none of them would grow up and overthrow him. Through a trick by Cronus' wife Rhea, Zeus avoided being eaten and overthrew his father Cronus. Zeus also made Cronus vomit up the rest of Zeus's siblings and these offspring became the first of the Olympian gods/goddesses. Cronus had come to power by castrating his father Uranus (Ouranos). 2. (Olympian) The Greek myths of sexual assault by the Olympian god Zeus against mortal women and goddesses. See the Index of Hamlet's Mill for discussions of Cronus and Zeus.

The ancient texts containing the Greek myths are mostly from the period of classical Greece, circa 500 BCE. The stories behind the myths are from a much earlier period but written versions did not exist before the Classical period. The theology of the ancient Greeks was developed by the poets, not by a priestly class. The oldest Greek myths can be traced to three main sources: Homer, Hesiod and The Homeric Hymns, circa 800 BCE. (Circa 1200 BCE the inhabitants of the Greek mainland and Asia Minor shared a common belief in a group of gods/goddesses that came to be known as The Olympians.) The oldest sources of Greek mythology are the 2 epic poems written by Homer: the Odyssey and the Iliad. "The Iliad, named after Ilium, the alternative name of Troy, describes a short but vital 2-month period in the tenth year of the siege of that city by a Greek expeditionary force. The Iliad covers only 2 months of the 10-year war with Troy. [However, it is primarily about Achilles, set in the context of the Trojan war.] The Odyssey is the story of the homecoming of Odysseus from the Trojan War. Thus both poems are set in the same period, and at a great remove from the date of their composition." (The Mycenaean World by John Chadwick.(1976, Page 180).) The oldest attempt to explain the nature Greek mythology itself are the texts of Hesiod, especially Theogony. Theogony is still considered to be the source for the basis of the Greek mythology. Hesiod's Theogony describes the birth of the Greek gods/goddesses. Later, hymns, poems, tragedies, plays, arts, artists attempted to explain and reproduce the myths about the gods/goddesses, about heroes such as Hercules and Thiseas, about important kings, such as Minos, about the wars of the gods, the wars of the people. It is indicated that in Greek mythology myth and history are so artistically interwoven that at times it is not possible to separate one from the other.

Most Greek mythology can be traced back to Mycenaean Greece of the Late Helladic Bronze Age. There are definite connections between Mycenaean portrayals of gods/goddesses and their later appearance in archaic (post Dark Age) Greece. The Mycenaean civilisation circa 1650-1100 BCE - named after the ancient city of Mycenae - originated on mainland Greece and was the first great civilisation on the Greek mainland. The Mycenaean colonisation of Crete lasted from 1400 to 1100 BCE. The centre of Mycenaean power on Crete was Knossos. Crete is intimately associated with much of Greek mythology. It was the Mycenaeans who introduced the new Greek gods/goddesses Zeus, Hera, and Athena. Homer and Hesiod were considered great authorities on the gods/goddesses. According to Herodotus, Homer and Hesiod were thought to have a special ability to describe the gods/goddesses. In their epic poetry Homer and Hesiod consolidated for the Greeks who the main gods/goddess were. Both Homer and Hesiod carefully avoided references to local cults, legends, and traditions. They instead described to all Greek-speakers how the gods/goddesses related to one another on Mount Olympus, under the rule of Zeus. (The Olympian element of Greek religion precedes Homer and Hesiod. See: The Mycenaean World by John Chadwick.(1976, Page 85).) The gods/goddesses of Greek mythology were geographically local and that Zeus expulsed Cronus from Mount Olympus. The terrestrial Mount Olympus - whose summit is often covered by clouds - was believed to be the 'celestial' home of the major gods/goddesses. But the terrestrial connection was the gods/goddesses were on top of Mount Olympus. With the belief in gods/goddesses residing on Mount Olympus it took on an imaginary aspect in mythology. Hardly an astral setting. In ancient Greece, the personality of each god/goddess emerged from several sources. There were the local cults and their rituals and also the stories and poems and these elements combined and recombined in many different ways across the Greek world. In his writings, Plato rejected the description of the gods/goddesses presented by Homer and Hesiod. Instead, Plato took an intellectual/philosophical approach (devoid of feelings/emotions) that amounted to a rejection of traditional Greek polytheism. Plato often reworked traditional Greek religious beliefs/myths with the intention of dismantling the popular conception of the gods/goddesses. It is difficult to see how an astronomical theme unifies this kind of diversity. (See: The Gods of Olympus by Barbara Graziosi (2014).)

Note: Plato's writing's have little value as a source for myth (perhaps except in relation to the mythology of the underworld and afterlife). However, Plato's writings contain numerous mythological allusions and contain distinctive philosophical myths of Plato's own invention.

An example of a modern geological interpretation of aspects of Greek mythology: "The Greek myths of the cosmic wars between Zeus and the Titans, Cyclopes, and Typhoeus as described in Hesiod's "Theogony" were scientifically analyzed in 1992 by historian of geology Mott T. Greene. Hesiod's poem contains some very old oral stories that date to the second millennium BC. Greene demonstrated that the violent battle with the one-eyed Cyclops can be matched to anciently observed volcanic phenomena associated with the solitary Mt Vesuvius and the solfataric gas emissions in the fields of fire near Naples, Italy. In contrast, the god’s conflict with Typhoeus and the Titans represents Mt Etna's multiple cones, and the hissing and roaring features, lava flows, and deep tectonic earthquakes. Moreover, the details of Hesiod's poem suggest that it forms a chronological record of datable major eruptions of Mt Etna in about 1500 BC and in 735 BC, and the Plinian eruption in 1470 BC on the island of Thera-Santorini which destroyed the Minoan civilization." ("Geomythology" by Adrienne Mayor. In: Encyclopedia of Geology edited by Richard Selley et al. (2004, 5 Volumes).)

For a modern interpretation of Greek mythology in natural phenomena and travel journeys (mostly by sea) see: Travelling Heroes: Greeks and Their Myths in the Epic Age of Homer by Robin Fox (2008). The basic theme is Oriental cultural interaction; particularly the travels of Greeks of the 8th-century BCE east and west around the Mediterranean, and how their journeys and colonisations shaped their ideas of their gods/goddesses and heroes/heroines. Robin Fox attempts to put the Euboean Greeks (and Phoenicians) at the centre of early iron-age Greek history, the 9th and 8th centuries BCE. According to Robin Fox, traders, pirates and colonists from the Greek island of Euboea travelled to, and settled in, specific places both in the Near East and in Italy and took the stories that they heard from the diverse peoples with whom they came into contact and the unfamiliar landscapes that they encountered, and used them to help shape their own distinctive myths. Whilst it is apparent that the author is engaging in specialist speculation - the whole thesis is constructed with terms such as "may," "might," and "surely" - the erudite use of material remains of interest. He deals with the issues that mythic themes passed between cultures and were adopted with local adornment, and the myths were being developed during the height of the Greek Bronze Age, circa 1600-1100 BCE - long after the Greek Neolithic Period circa 6800-3200 BCE.

Interestingly, there was no canonical set of Greek myths. Wherever several versions of a myth exist there may be some variations in the basic form of the story but also there may be substantial differences between the variant versions which render them completely incompatible with one another.

Part 3: Postings by Ernest McClain to Bibal Elucidating Hamlet's Mill

Postings by Ernest McClain to Bibal (Bibal Study Group) are illuminating regarding Hamlet’s Mill. Relevant snippets include:

(1) (December 4, 2009): "… the book that follows is von Dechend's not his, and ignores quantification. He was dying at that time, and succeeded in ensuring a hearing for her."

(2) (September 21[20?], 2009): "… I never met this brief and brilliant essay of de Santillana from his paperback of 1983 because in 1972-3 I had to buy the hardcover first edition of 1969 to learn why my editors at MAIN CURRENTS IN MODERN THOUGHT were so excited about HAMLET'S MILL, in which he loaned his name to Hertha von Dechend to get her book into print. She shared none of his Pythagorean interest in quantification, but he recognized generously the significance of her recognition of pattern. (I was never aware of the paperback with his new essay.) I struggled to get my work in decent shape to present to him before he died in 1974, but failed to my own very great loss, because I thought him the only man then alive who could understand me properly (as I wanted to be). [That turned out not to be true, because Patrick Heelan, S.J., who edited my book with ease for publication in 1976] produced a brilliant summary of his own in "Music as basic metaphor and deep structure in Plato and in ancient cultures." (J. Social and Biological Structures, 1979-2, pp. 279-291.)] Amlodi's Mill at the bottom of the sea is Iceland's variation on the Holy Mountain which is the subject of my book. …"

(3) (December 20, 2007): "… Hamlet's MIll (sic) was published in '69 and I believe von Dechend's contributions were developed earlier before should (sic [she] could have met Palsson's work. [Icelandic scholar Einar Pálsson (1925-1996), whose 11-volume opus entitled Rætur íslenzkrar menningar (Roots of Icelandic Culture) published between 1969 and 1995 is based on the author's research over 5 decades into the imagery of Iceland's ancient poetic and saga literature. Most of his numerous speculations - 'landscape-cosmogram theory' apply to the medieval period – continue to be untested.] Her interests and de Santillana's were very different. …" (4) (July 28, 2007): "… My only problem with von Dechend was her total disinterest in the quantitative. To her, music was "off the wall." There was nothing to talk about. …"

(4) (January 3, 2007): "… I do NOT believe that "acceptance of the Precession" as verified for the ancients is by any means "a done deal." Your statement is mainly an excuse to stop thinking about some difficult problems. As I see it, your intuition may prove correct, but the argument ignores a substantial amount of counter evidence. People explain the "unknown" in highly imaginative ways. I often inveigh against the conservatism of scholars, but it is instructive to follow their arguments closely when they make them. This argument merely jumps to a conclusion that allows mind to rest. That's how we help to choose our own fates. It's everybody's privilege. Precession is a very intricate idea.   "Appearances" can be accepted without being explained. I see NO evidence for a doctrine of professional secrecy except from practitioners of a craft trying to protect their own income. The old scribes were very proud to be serving the crown. …"

(5) (January 1, 2007): "This woman [von Dechend] apparently never suspected how very late her "precessional" documentation is, and was incapable of handling quantification of any kind whatever. Santillana's introduction to her book is one of the finest pieces of "Pythagorean" exposition. Her book that follows is totally fraudulent (but innocent) scholarship that has intoxicated thousands (including some of my own friends) and greatly encouraged nonsensical theories. Her failure to understand her OWN material means that the stone circles and monuments that have surfaced in many places on the globe can NOT be explained by HER evidence, and so the question as to whether ANYBODY actually recognized "precession" before Hipparchus remains wide open, and needs to be studied anew with an open mind. I no longer have time to pursue that line of thought. I'm simply warning a few of you to trust nothing you have borrowed from her as "evidence." And while you are at it, you'd better ignore me also. She has misled many people since 1969, including some who are otherwise very intelligent. I rejected her work at first glance about 1973-74, but without recognizing where the Kalevala material came from. I missed the brilliance of Homeric allegory until reading his work again with Augusta as she was failing after 2001. She loved the old classics--and drew me more deeply into them as we read to each other. I'm still betting on Hipparchus--which of course leaves quite a lot to be explained by somebody else. The old monuments, after all, do "exist" in substantial numbers."

(6) (December 26, 2006): "… I am NO fan of von Dechend whatever. However the question here is when does evidence of precession surface in the literature. So far it cannot be proved by circular artifacts, however subtle. For one thing, the ancients are tracking the moon for lunar Sabbaths in the middle of the month, and to them lunar motion was highly elusive, measurement could only be approximate, and perfect regularity in moon behavior was NEVER assumed until the synodic lunar year eventually was recognized (when is unclear). Thus in the third millennium when this literary description surfaces there was apparently no theory that would have been surprised by "precession." Temples might have been reconstructed as you describe quite without such a theory. Once Greek reasoning postulates "perfect circles forever," however, there is now an "idealist" assumption that CAN be questioned, and it was immediately in the centuries following Plato as his model was touched up repeatedly before Ptolemy arrives to make explicit Pythagorean MUSICAL assumptions. At which point he applies precession casually to the double octave of 9/8 wholetones (and unspecified semitones). His monochord of 120x3600=432,000 hypothetical units thus "cuts off" the accuracy of the 13th pitch class in Spiral 5ths, and leaves us (me) wondering why he didn't integrate Hipparchus value for the precession instead of accepting Plato's 60^4=12,960,000 cosmology. (If you think I've got this wrong please correct me.) There is no evidence whatever in the Osiris mythology as I read it for precession: the twin mountains of sunrise and sunset are taken for granted, and so is the underground return nightly through the Underworld from West to East (viz. there is NO "celestial rotation"--only the "rotation of the model itself."… I also fault von Dechend for her attacks on reputable scholarship--which has become rampant since (as it had been before). …"

(7) (September 11, 2006): "… Hamlet's Mill opens with de Santillana's exquisite presentation of Pythagorean structuralism, one of the finest ever composed, but he is generously lending his name to ensure a hearing for von Dechend's work which suppresses all mathematical structuralism. [Note: In the preface to the book, de Santillana claims he is barely deserving of senior authorship of the book. This also has to do with the fact that the material comprising the book is basically von Dechend's.] And she has inspired many people, two of them notably (in my experience). Her book became famous while I was working hard on Plato, and I refused to read it until far along, with a draft of Pythagorean Plato behind and some initial work on The Myth of Invariance. And at that point she had nothing to teach me, I thought. When I presented my work to her seminar at M.I.T. (and drafts of my papers) she had ZERO response to anything at all. Ten years later I sat for two long days of seminar discussions with her and 4 or 5 others, and her inability to make the slightest sense of anything I said or thought was perfect. …" [According to Pythagorean doctrines music is the essence of all things. This was realised by de Santillana but not followed as a way to explain so-called precessional numbers.]

(8) (December 3, 2005): "… My "Marduk Universe" is the inspiration for von Dechend's "World Tree" with its "hour-glass drum" shape, but her own disinterest in "quantification" blinds her enthusiasts to the fact that de Santillana's brilliant opening essay on Pythagoreanism is merely a "come-on" for her quite "un-Pythagorean" fantasy that follows. That opening essay remains a great introduction to my own work, but Santillana never knew the work of Kilmer, Crocker and Brown that documents musicology to "Old Babylon" (2000-1600 BC)--a thousand years before Pythagoras (who I regard as pure fiction, that is, a convenient Greek gloss on what it inherited sans detail that is still only now coming to light). And von Dechend never learned to handle quantitative material. … You and others who are curious about the failure of von Dechend and myself to reach any understanding at all (when we finally met a second time in the 90's--ten years after I presented my findings to her seminar at M.I.T) will have to judge us for yourselves. I found it impossible to have ANY coherent conversation with her. My own digging still continues and is far from finished; she had no concept of the mastery of "quantification" that PRECEEDED the events that attract her attention. …"

Bibel.net is The Berkeley Institute of Biblical Archaeology & Literature. McClain has carried out his investigations in relative obscurity.

Newsgroups: talk.origins Subject: [Leroy] Ellenberger Replies to Cochrane and Talbott (1/2) Date: 20 Jun 1994 16:12 MST Organization: University of Arizona Lines: 590 Distribution: world Message-ID: <20JUN199416124123@skyblu.ccit.arizona.edu> Ellenberger Contra Cochrane: The Second Reply & Talbott, Too: "... I have also been actively engaged in advancing research by facilitating the interaction between and/or among A.D. Kilmer, H.A.T. Reiche, H. von Dechend, O. Gingerich and E.G. McClain. ...  Also, Leroy Ellenberger (14-July-1994, http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/cle/cle-talbott.txt) asserted: "While McClain works in obscurity, he has always had academic allies and recently H. Reiche, H. von Dechend and A.D. Kilmer recognized the vast possibilities inherent in his insights, while S. Parpola is favorably disposed to this work." The above identifies the claim that von Dechend recognised the insights of McClain to be in error.

Ernest (Ernst) McClain (1918-2014) propounded the thesis that archaic mythology was to be interpreted as musical cosmology. See his book, The Myth of Invariance (1976). Ernest Glenn McClain was professor emeritus of music at Brooklyn College. The ethnomusicologist Marius Schneider (1903-1987) was an influence on McClain. See the essay by Schneider in Cosmic Music (1989), and the (English-language) book review by Douglas Leedy in Notes, Second Series, Volume 48, Number 1, September, 1991, Pages 58-60. The importance of music in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia is perhaps still unappreciated today. When the Assyrians sacked a city and masacred its inhabitants, amongst the booty they took back to Assur included precious metals, jewels, and musicians. In his book, Kingship and the Gods (1948), Henri Frankfort points out that a principle in ancient Egyptian art is that the pharaoh dominates the scene. However, in the tomb painting of Ramses III (shown on the cover of Scientific American (September 1994)) the 21-string harp is depicted larger than the pharaoh. The text contains a 2nd picture in which an 11-string harp is depicted bigger than the pharaoh.

Part 4: The Basic Problem: A Critical Overview

The Primary Sources

Simply checking the primary sources makes the book dubious and unconvincing. (1) Discredited 19th-century philology underpins the book's argument. (In the 19th-century Andrew Lang criticised the notion that myths could be easily compared through merely textual methods and showed that the philological approach to mythology by Müller and Schmidt was unreliable, being merely a form of armchair anthropology. However, Max Müller was not wholly mistaken on solar and elemental aspects of Sanskrit myth.) (2) Discarded anthropological/ethnological ideas of the Austrian-German diffusionist school are influential within the book. (3) Authors influenced by the discredited ideas of the Panbabylonian/Star Myth School are used. (4) The discussion of Near Eastern (Mesopotamian) astronomy relies on outdated publications. (5) Modern approached to mythology are ignored/rejected in favour of discredited 19th-century interpretations.

Neolithic Mesopotamia not a homogeneous unit

The inhabitants of early Mesopotamia were not a homogeneous cultural unit. During the Neolithic period Mesopotamian cultures were not united and harmonious. The geographical area comprising Mesopotamia was divided into a number of small kingdoms and independent city-states. Warfare was a rather constant activity. Also, knowledge of Assyro-Babylonian religion still remains on many points incomplete and provisional.

No knowledge of Neolithic mythology

Hamlet's Mill is based on beliefs about Neolithic mythology. Almost nothing is known about Neolithic mythological beliefs. We do not have any mythology that dates back to the Neolithic period. Much of what is stated about mythology in Neolithic societies is simply conjecture. In the absence of written evidence we have no examples of Neolithic mythology. There are no extant textual sources from the Neolithic period, the most recent available textual sources date from the Bronze Age. All statements about any belief systems that may have been possessed by Neolithic societies are glimpsed from archaeology. Greek traditions indicate prehistorical material but working through such is fraught with difficulty. Were there myths in the Neolithic period? We simply do not know. Attempts to reconstruct Neolithic myths from much later material (such as done by John Grigsby) - that could have been finally written down in the Medieval period - is an exercise in speculation. There is no reason to believe that any existing Neolithic mythology was passed down - if indeed it was - without being altered.

See for example: The Lessons of Nature in Mythology by Rachel McCoppin (2015).

The Neolithic period saw an increase in the permanency of settlements and the growth of agriculture. There is archaeological evidence for greater mobility and transfers of cultural ideas and knowledge on a macro-scale (supra-regional scale and long-term). This is the best that can be done prior to writing. The concept that early people choose to share certain practices in order to serve particular social purposes is not raised by the authors of Hamlet's Mill.

Hamlet's Mill and archaeoastronomy

It has been mistakenly claimed several times that Hamlet's Mill is archaeoastronomy. The claim the Hamlet's Mill is linked to archaeoastronomy is interesting. According to Wikipedia (26/1/2013): "Von Dechend is best known for her collaborative work on Hamlet’s Mill: an Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time, co-authored with Giorgio de Santillana, an Italian-American philosopher and historian of science on the faculty at MIT. Hamlet's Mill is a study of history, mythology, and specifically archaeoastronomy." In one of his articles Roopa H. Naragan has stated that investigating knowledge of astronomy in mythology is part of the discipline of archaeoastronomy.

Obviously there is a clear failure to understand that archaeoastronomy combines the workings of archaeology with astronomy to gather more information about a site or culture. Hamlet's Mill is primarily an exercise in out-dated 19th-century philology. The beginning of archaeoastronomy (and the beginning of the movement to interconnect archaeology and astronomy) is usually considered to be the publication of Dawn of Astronomy by Joseph Lockyer (1894) by However, Lockyer's method of investigation did not include the use of archaeology. Archaeology was entirely ignored. Lockyer attempted to use only astronomical data to date structures. A more legitimate candidate is the eminent French amateur pre-historian Marcel Baudouin (1860-1941) who argued for the existence of a Paleolithic stellar-solar cult. Formally trained in medicine, he later became an outstanding amateur pre-historian and archaeologist. Baudouin has never became as widely known as Lockyer. Worth noting is L'Abbé Jean Lebeuf (1687-1760), a renowned French historian, folklorist, musicologist, and archaeologist, is a forgotten pioneer of archaeoastronomy and ethnoastronomy.

Lockyer's work and its lack of scientific data drew a great deal of criticism. It was the later - but also unreliable - work of Gerald Hawkins that helped to establish archaeoastronomy as a legitimate and reputable field of study. In 1968, Stonehenge Decoded by Gerald Hawkins was published.

Archaeoastronomy has largely dealt with celestial alignments. In doing so it has also attracted more than just scholars. Alternative historians have become enamoured with the subject and published speculative and sensational theories where rigorous proof is not emphasised. Once again. slowly, the field of archaeoastronomy is regaining its reputability as more scholars get involved, and it becomes easier to distinguish credible work from other unfounded sources.

The treatment of mythology

In his 1970 book review of Hamlet's Mill, Jaan Purvel wrote "... it does attempt to explain at one stroke all of man's myth and must thus be held accountable as a treatise on mythology."

The origins and wanderings of themes in myths, sagas, and fairy tales is a notorious problem (and likely to remain so).

The authors of Hamlet's Mill argue for the astronomical interpretation of literally all myth. Supporters hold that no further work on the interpretation and meaning of world-wide myths is required. Hamlet's Mill has been misdescribed as a work in cultural anthropology. Much of its content is too vague for this. Despite its vagueness Hamlet's Mill is essentially a book on comparative mythology. Hertha von Dechend has been described as a specialist in comparative mythology. Hertha von Dechend has also been described as a pioneering archaeoastronomer, but this description is not justified. The Frobenius-Institut lists her as an ethnologist and archaeoastronomer. Such descriptions are rather incredible, and distortive. Surprisingly, Patrick Heelen (Space-Perception and the Philosophy of Science (1980, Page 99)) mistakes von Dechend as a classicist. It is evident that the parallelomania of Panbabylonism underpins Hamlet's Mill. Von Dechend spent her academic life reinterpreting ancient myths as a scientific code for astronomical events. She believed there was a world-wide cultural homogeneity in myths. Within Hamlet’s Mill there is an assumption that mythology was once complete and rational. In their book Hamlet's Mill Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend claim there is a profound coherence behind the many thousands of seemingly chaotic myths, legends, and stories. Ancient myths can be interpreted as a code language for the precessional cycle. However, the comparative method is inevitably full of uncertainties, and still not well developed. The German Protestant theologian Hans Schaer, following the ideas of Carl Jung, has set out that people, ancient and modern, have common patterns of thinking. This works against diffusionism as a necessary answer for cultural similarities.

How and exactly why the supposed Near East monomyth was carried to new places and why its pre-literate form remained largely stable are issues ignored in Hamlet's Mill. If other cultures were aware of precession then why would the particular Near East precessional monomyth matter? If other cultures were not aware of precession then, again, why would the particular Near East precessional monomyth be relevant? Also, were certain feature change in some cultural locations and also were there places and cultures the supposed monomyth did not get carried to (or were rejected by)?

It has been stated that Hamlet's Mill is thematically similar to The Masks of God (4 volumes, 1957-1968) by Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God is also concerned with demonstrating the similarities between myths. The wide range of influences in addition to Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, included the Dutch-born British biologist and ethologist Nikolaas Tinbergen (1907-1988) and the Austrian zoologist, ethologist, and ornithologist Konrad Lorenz (1903-1989), both credited as the founders of modern ethology. (Joseph Campbell often referred to physiological bases of mythological materials.) Whilst working on his first book Joseph Campbell had attended the lectures of Heinrich Zimmer (1890–1943), a German Indologist at Columbia University. Shortly after Zimmer died, Campbell devoted the next 12 years editing (almost coauthoring) Zimmer's lecture notes into 4 books: Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization (1946), The King and the Corpse (1948), Philosophies of India (1951), and The Art of Indian Asia (1955). Joseph Campbell was born in 1904, in New York City. After seeing Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, at Madison Square Garden, as a child he developed an interest in Native American mythology and history. From 1921 to 1922 he attended Dartmouth College. He then transferred to Columbia University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1925 and a master's degree in medieval literature in 1927. During the next 2 years, he studied French and German medieval literature in Paris and Munich, as part of working towards a doctorate degree. He abandoned his plans to complete a PhD when informed that mythology was an unsuitable topic for his thesis. Campbell returned to the United States in the early 1930s and was unable to find immediate employment. He spent several years reading at a cabin in Woodstock, New York. In 1934, Joseph Campbell obtained a teaching position at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. He remained there until his retirement in 1972, teaching comparative mythology and literature. He died in 1987. "In The Hero with a Thousand Faces he described the monomyth (or the hero's journey), a narrative cycle that can be found embedded in all legends in whole or in part, and linked this to psychological roots. In his epic four-volume work The Masks of God, he explored the specific cultural variations of these commonalities from an anthropological perspective. The guiding idea behind these books followed Adolf Bastian's concepts of "elementary ideas" (elementargedanken) and "folk ideas" (volkergedanken), which also influenced Carl Jung's concept of "archetypes of the collective unconsciousness". The idea was that there are common elements ("elementary ideas") to all our mythologies which are wrapped up in local, cultural baggage ("folk ideas"). (Chris Batema: http://onlyagame.typepad.com/only_a_game/2009/06/what-did-joseph-campbell-believe.html)"

The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell is built on the work of the 19th-century German Polymath Adolph Bastian (1826-1905) who was a key contributor to the establishment of the modern disciplines of ethnology and anthropolgy. Bastian's theory of the Elementargedanke, led to Carl Jung's development of the theory of archetypes, and in turn this influenced the work of the Jungian comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell. Adolf Bastian first proposed the idea that world-wide myths appear to embody the same "elementary ideas" (= monomyth)." The Swiss occultist and mystic Carl Jung (1875-1961) adopted this theory and named these elementary ideas "archetypes." Jung held that these "archetypes" were the building blocks not only of the unconscious mind, but also what he termed the "collective unconscious." Jung believed that every person in the world is born with identical basic subconscious modes of constructing stories (story structure is part of a "hard-wired" mental "operating system"). Jung's developed his theory of archetypes with the purpose of using it as a tool to find meaning in the dreams and visions of mentally ill persons. Joseph Campbell used Jung's theory of archetypes to identify what he believed were common underlying structures underpinning all religions and myths across time and space. Interestingly, the ultimate source for the contents of Campbell's chapter "Circumpolar Cults of the Master Bear" (Pages 147-151) in his The Way of Animal Powers: Historical Atlas of World Mythology. Volume 1 (1983) may have been Geographische Kulturkunde by Leo Frobenius (1904).

Also, Hamlet's Mill interprets sexual and other oddities by the gods/goddesses (such as sexual mutilation and cannibalism) as astronomical. As example: "... the emasculation of Ouranos stands for establishing the obliquity of the ecliptic: the beginning of measurable time. (Page 135)" But see the totally different discussion and interpretation of odd sexual and other behaviour by god/goddesses by Carolina López-Ruiz in her book When the Gods Were Born (2010, Chapter 4: Orphic and Phoenician Theogonies). She discusses such behaviour within the framework of a cosmic scheme of power.  

In their introduction to Hamlet’s Mill the authors state they are well aware of modern interpretations of myth and folklore but they find them shallow and lacking insight: "...the experts now are benighted by the current folk fantasy, which is the belief that they are beyond all this - critics without nonsense and extremely wise." The authors instead prefer to rely on the work of "meticulous scholars such as Ideler, Lepsius, Chwolson, Boll and, to go farther back, of Athanasius Kircher and Petavius." Throughout the book the authors give reasons  for preferring the work of older scholars (and the early mythologists themselves) as the proper way to interpret myth. The basic procedure of de Santillana and von Dechend copies from (mostly) from the amateur German philologist Edward Stucken (Astralmythen, 5 Parts, 1896-1907) and also the German assyriologist Peter Jensen (Das Gilgamesch-Epos in der Weltliteratur, 2 Volumes, 1906-1928). (Peter Jensen propounded that the Gilgamesh epic was the source of all mythological patterns in world-wide literature.) They compare motifs. Stucken's method was to identify motifs within Mesopotamian stories and then identify correspondences. Stucken based his theory on certain similar features of narratives/myths. Whilst he collected a huge number of parallels from all over the world they largely remain unconvincing. (Stucken was criticised for knowing no restraint.) As example, Stucken was unconcerned when matching motifs whether certain features of a historical tale were analogous to certain features of a mythical story. De Santillana and von Dechend claim analogical features. They also looked for similarities in iconography.

In his Blog article, "Hamlet's Mill: Precession or Solar Symbol." (4/12/2012), Jason Colavito states: "Almost all modern alternative claims derive from the work of Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend in Hamlet's Mill (1969), which argued that "measures and counting," specifically as related to astrology, were "the frame on which the rich texture of real myth was to grow." That phrase—real myth—gave the authors license to selectively choose which myths were "real" based on how closely they conformed to an imagined prehistoric knowledge of precession."

Numerous examples discussed in Hamlet's Mill actually date to the Medieval period, not earlier e.g., (1) the figures Hamlet, Kullervo, and Amlodhi, (2) Firdausi's epic Persian poem Shahmana [the Shāh Nāma by Firdausi is a pseudo-history of the early kings of Persia], (3) the depiction of 'The Churning of the Milky Way' at Angkor Wat, and (4) the architectural depiction of the '7 planetary spheres' at Borobudur temple. Also, the Pythagoreans and Platonic ideas and myths have a pivotal role in their interpretations.  

No attempt is made to create a chronology and no attempt is made to identify the specific cultures that have common motifs. Broadly, in the ancient world, from Hesiod (Greek poet, circa 8th-century BCE) to St Paul (Roman citizen, 1st-century CE, a convert from Judaism to Christianity), the idea of things 'running down' ('entropy') is a dominant theme in ancient mythology.

Excursus: The Amleth (Amlodhi) Story

"The late versions of the Amleth story which Gollancz published in 1898 do not offer much help in deciding what the original form of the tale could have been, or how far it was a popular Danish legend." Saxo Grammaticus: History of the Danes by Peter Fisher and Hilda Davidson (2 Volumes, 1979-1980, Volume 1, Page 68.) It is worth noting the stories which Saxo Grammaticus tells are often chaotic and difficult to follow. Also, the bulk of his material comprised West Norse tradition.

Saxo Grammaticus (circa 1150–circa 1220 CE) (also known as Saxo cognomine Longus), was a Medieval Danish historian, theologian and author, between Norse and Latin culture. His is thought to have been a secular cleric within the archbishopric in Lund. A clerk or secretary to Absalon, Archbishop of Lund, foremost advisor to Valdemar I of Denmark. Saxo Grammaticus is the author of the first full history of Denmark. At that period Denmark was the dominant power in the North, and Saxo celebrated it in a work of 16 books divided into groups of 4, the first 3 of which end with a major event: the first with the birth of Christ; the second with the coming of Christianity; the third with the establishment of the archiepiscopal see in Lund; the last group treats the period 1104-1187. It is thought likely that Saxo Grammaticus studied abroad. The greatest influence on his style was Valerius Maximus.

See the recent modern edition: Saxo Grammaticus. Gesta Danorum: The History of the Danes edited by Karsten Friis-Jensen (translated from Danish into English by Peter Fisher), (2 Volumes, 2015). (The best translation of Gesta Danorum; aided by commentary/discussion of time of composition, title of the work, structure, themes, language and models, poetry and poets, sources, and influences.)

Mythology as astronomical language

Hamlet's Mill is an amazing exhibition of academic narrow-mindedness, unrestrained speculation, and lack of expert knowledge, on the part of its authors. Within the framework of the book recent scholarship is ignored or dismissed. Modern anthropological research is mostly ignored (and indeed distrusted). The authors maintain that they are correct and everybody else (with their non-astronomical interpretation of mythology) is wrong. For the authors of Hamlet's Mill myth is an astronomical code language. Ancient myths (all) have no historical or factual basis other than a cosmological one encoding astronomical phenomena, especially the precession of the equinoxes. An ancient ur-myth encrypting sophisticated astronomical knowledge - to enable ease of transmission and maintain secrecy within world-wide groups of recognised intellectual elites - was hyperdiffused by migration from the Near East. Trust is given to older authorities - such a Rydberg and his fantasies concerning a 'world-mill' - even when genuine modern scholarship has shown them to be out of date and misleading. The 'monomyth theory' - traceable all the way back to Max Müller - is revived, despite its absurdity. Max Müller reduced all mythology to sun-worship. (Max Müller was not wholly mistaken on solar and elemental aspects of Sanskrit myth.) The authors of Hamlet's Mill associate all myth with astronomy. In Hamlet's Mill myth is promoted as the early language of science - not a form of fiction opposed to science. Their claim that all myths are strictly astronomical and all trace back to a single unidentified Neolithic civilization, located somewhere in the Near East, is unsustainable.

The use of the tem 'elites' is used in modern historical discussions and has caused much recent discussion regarding what can reasonably be meant. 'Elites' are best defined as people who held and exercised power. They are small group of people that wield much of the power to to influence people and make decisions. An example would be rulers (i.e., kings, pharaohs, chiefs). Elites, by pursuing their own (economic) interest (and change and innovation), bring cultural ideas, technical innovation, and knowledge, at least as a by-product. This modern explanation for the use of the term is different to how it is used in Hamlet's Mill.

Hamlet's Mill is far from being a demonstration of how the language of ancient stories can be simultaneously poetic and scientifically/technically precise/accurate. It is certainly a demonstration of how obscurantism can win wide and uncritical admiration. One supporter of Hamlet's Mill writes that ancient myths encode a vast and complex body of accurate astronomical information (scientific data of the highest level and greatest precision)! Another supporter of Hamlet's Mill writes: "An exhaustive look at the astronomical themes and terminology in myths worldwide."

According to de Santillana and von Dechend, the great strength of myths as vehicles for specific technical information is that they are capable of transmitting that information independently of the knowledge of the story tellers. They also state that technical terminology has its own laws and is not subject to the jurisdiction of linguists. However, issues connected with these assertions are not investigated.

If the astronomical information contained in the code (myth) is not recorded elsewhere then how is the benchmark for accuracy of content established? If the same system of astronomical ideas, expressed in the same symbolic language, existed across the pre-literate geographic/cultural blocks comprising Near East, Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Orient, Oceania, and Mesoamerica – as claimed by the author’s of Hamlet's Mill – then what were the processes enabling this astonishing diffusion of coded astronomical ideas across cultures, oceans, and continents? Why is there a lack of other 'traceable' types of information? If there is a coded precessional monomyth widely distributed over the globe then: (1) how did this occur? (2) why did this occur? How was this new type of myth unfailingly introduced across the globe with consistency retained?

Between the end of the Neolithic period and the time of the pre-Socratic Greek philosophers there was evidently a loss of understanding (world-wide) of the supposed astronomical content of myth.

It has been incorrectly suggested by one person that von Dechend brings Jungianism into the book. 

Hamlet's Mill is an extension of earlier attempts to establish an astronomical interpretation of mythology. Their treatment of major myths as astronomical systems having a word-wide basis mimics the German star-myth school of the late 19th-century and early 20th-century. Advanced astronomical information had been gathered before the invention of writing and transmitted through myth (an archaic technical language). Specifically, precession was the fundamental focus of archaic astronomy. Astronomical interpretations of mythology (often incorporating precession as the "key") have been extensively promoted in numerous books published between circa 1880 and 1930. Historically, proponents of a scheme of astronomical mythology (nearly always based on an equally divided 12-constellation zodiac) have ceaselessly demonstrated that it is possible to incorporate a diverse and differing range of astronomical data into their interpretations. Almost all the authors interpret the same mythology or epics with different astronomical data i.e., identify different astronomical phenomenon. Simply, an "astro-mythic" scheme can bear several interpretations. (It is also interesting to see the apparently Jungian "astro-mythic" slant given to Hebrew mythology by Tom Chetwynd in his The Age of Myth (1991).) Such multitude of divergence indicates that the methodology is flawed or that the interpretations are forced. In a nutshell: The problem is no "astronomical key" has been identified - as is evidenced by the diverse astronomical methods of interpretation. This facilitates the criticism that often the method(s) of "astro-mythic" interpretation is perhaps not a method after all. A reasonable analogy would perhaps be the elaborate "Bacon is Shakespeare" ciphers that have been "discovered". What stands out is the fact that the coding systems and underlying identification messages are never the same. The 2 volumes by Ignatius Donnelly titled The Great Cryptogram (1888) are a prime example. John Nicolson's book No Ciphers in Shakespeare (1888) showed that the cipher scheme "discovered" by Ignatius Donnelly can be used to produce any required result. Likewise, elements within a single scheme of astronomical mythology can produce several variant interpretations.

The problem is illustrated by two "recent" publications using the same tale in the context of Hamlet's Mill (1969). They are Heavens Unearthed in Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales by Matt Kane (1999) and Imaginary Landscapes: Making Worlds of Myth and Science by William Thompson (1989). Both authors refer to Hamlet's Mill: An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time. In "Chapter 5: Rumpelstiltskin" of Kane's book he interprets the tale as a lunar myth. In "Chapter 1: Rapunzel: Cosmology Lost" of Thompson's book he interprets the tale as involving the sun and moon and the planetary motion of Mercury, Venus and Mars. There is hardly a sense of reliability in interpretation here. (William Thompson was a colleague of Hertha von Dechend when she was at MIT. Both were in the Department of Humanities. He was at MIT from 1965 to 1968; Associate Professor of Humanities (i.e., Associate Professor of Literature) from 1966. At his current website (2010) he states that Hertha von Dechend discussed her ideas on ancient mythology and astronomy with him at their lunches in the student cafeteria. However, in a slide set (Journeys of the Goddess) William Thompson states: "My reading of myth owes everything to my faculty lunchtime discussions with Giorgio di (sic) Santillana and Hertha von Dechend at MIT in the 1960s." The version by John Ebert in his book Twilight of the Clockwork God 1999) is distortive. It is set out by William Thompson that von Dechend's ideas helped him to develop one level of his multi-layered reading of the Rapunzel story.) Interestingly, William Thompson has adopted the technique of using zodiacal timing (= 'zodiacal age') to frame historical research. A successful theory is such because it can best fit all the known facts. Also, within each of the sciences a single controlling theory tends to dominate. Two opposing theories which can use similar starting points but arrive at different explanative outcomes to fit the facts need to be given further investigation before one is accepted (with or without modification) or neither is accepted. It is also really up to the proponents of an idea to reasonably establish their case - including answering all reasonable criticisms raised.

Regarding: Kane, Matt. (1999). Heavens Unearthed in Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales. Involved with speculative arguments that nursery rhymes and fairy tales were closely connected to solar and lunar activity. See the (English-language) book review by Gail de Vos (Storyteller, University of Alberta, School of Library and Information Studies) in The Journal of American Folklore Volume 114, Number 451, Winter, 2001, Pages 112-114.

Note: Thompson (The Time Falling bodies Take to Light, Pages 107-110) claims that a 'primitive' zodiac is depicted within the Lascaux cave paintings.

Presently (circa 2015) there seems to be an (ongoing) enthusiasm for 'finding' astronomical content in mythology. To boldly claim, as Matt Kane does, that Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, and other fairy tale persons are actually mnemonic tales of celestial cycles dating back to the Ice Age, is simply fantasy. The earliest known mention of Rumplestiltskin occurs in Johann Fischart's Geschichtklitterung, or Gargantua of 1577 (a loose adaptation of Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel) which refers to an "amusement" for children named "Rumpele stilt or the Poppart".

The content of the speculations of the above-mentioned authors, however, apart from the premises which enable them, are essentially in conflict. Relative harmony would be a better indicator of the reliability of the "astro-mythic" method. What perhaps would also be more credible is an astronomical interpretation that did not incorporate a scheme of ancient zodiacal constellations to prop the "precession in mythology" approach. The nature of the claims for precessional mythology (invariably based on a conjectured ancient 12-constellation zodiac of 12 equal divisions) require that any difficult facts arising from such need to be critically discussed and myopic approaches avoided. We need to separate conviction from science and to ensure we satisfactorily do such we should not disable our skepticism.

Coded astronomy or astronomy coded for secrecy?

In reply to the proposal posted on Hastro-L that the approach of the authors of Hamlet's Mill is not new; that it is the "Secret Doctrine" approach ("myth contains deliberately coded information"), the German academic Franz Krojer contributed the interesting reply (Hastro-L, January 27, 2003): "I had and have also much difficulties with this book. I contacted therefore H. v. Dechend two years ago, before her death, and some of that correspondence will be in my book about (against) the medieval "fictious" (sic) time Illig's (but only in German). I can't follow the "Secret Doctrine" connected with v. Dechend. As far as I understand v. Dechend, the myths do not contain "deliberated (sic) encoded information", but they were simply the "open" scientific language (at least for the priests) to express scientific insights at that time. (I don't know, if this differentiation is too scholastic, but I see here two standpoints.) ...." Mythology, whether or not the "open" lingua franca of ancient priests and scholars in the Near East, presents problems. Simply, how did this particular cultural/regional lingua franca become known and used world-wide?

In the Index of the original edition of Hamlet's Mill the words "code" and "lingua franca" do not appear.

It seems indicated by the authors of Hamlet's Mill that mythology was the lingua franca of priests/scholars and its use as a technical scientific language only understood by persons instructed in this particular usage. Otherwise the language had the appearance of simply being stories.

"Today's children, that impassive posterity to whom all reverence is due, know where to look for myths: in animal life, in the Jungle Books, in the stories of Lassie and Flipper, where innocence is unassailable, in Western adventures suitably arranged by grownups for the protection of law and order. Much of the rest sedulously built up by mass media is modern prejudice and delusion, like the glamor of royalty, or the perfection of super-detergents and cosmetics: super-stitio, leftovers. So one might feel tempted to say actually, however, no particle of myth today is left over, and we have to do only with a deliberate lie about the human condition. Tolkien's efforts at reviving the genre, whatever the talent employed, carry as much conviction as the traditional three-dollar bill. The assumed curious child would have been pleased only if he had been told the "story" of the engine just as Kipling tells it, which is hardly the style of a mechanical engineer. But suppose now the child had been confronted with the "story" of a planet as it emerges from the textbooks of celestial mechanics, and had been asked to calculate its orbits and perturbations. This would be a task for a joyless grownup, and a professional one at that. Who else could face the pages bristling with partial differential equations, with long series of approximations, with integrals contrived from pointless quadratures? Truly a world of reserved knowledge. But if, on the other hand, a person living several thousand years ago had been confronted with cunningly built tales of Saturn's reign, and of his exorbitant building and modeling activities-after he had separated Heaven and Earth by means of that fateful sickle, that is, after he had established the obliquity of the ecliptic. If he had heard of Jupiter's ways of command and his innumerable escapades, populating the earth with gentle nymphs forever crossed in their quest for happiness, escapades that were invariably successful in spite of the constant watchfulness of his jealous "ox-eyed" or sometimes "dog-eyed" spouse. . . If this person also learned of the fierce adventures of Mars, and the complex mutual involvement of gods and heroes expressing themselves in terms of action and unvarying numbers, he would have been a participant in the process of mythical knowledge. This knowledge would have been transmitted by his elders, confirmed by holy commands, rehearsed by symbolic experiences in the form of musical rites and performances involving his whole people. He would have found it easier to respect than comprehend, but it would have led to an idea of the overall texture of the cosmos. In his own person, he would have been part of a genuine theory of cosmology, one he had absorbed by heart, that was responsive to his emotions, and one that could act on his aspirations and dreams. This kind of participation in ultimate things, now extremely difficult for anyone who has not graduated in astrophysics, was then possible to some degree for everyone, and nowhere could it be vulgarized That is what is meant here by mythical knowledge. It was understood only by a very few, it appealed to many, and it is forever intractable for those who approach it through "mathematics for the million" or by speculations on the unconscious. In other words, this is a selective and difficult approach, employing the means at hand and much thought, limited surely, but resistant to falsification. How, in former times, essential knowledge was transmitted on two or more intellectual levels can be learned from Germaine Dieterlen's Introduction to, Marcel Griaule's Conversations with Ogotemmêli, which deals with Dogon education and with the personal experience of the members of La Mission Griaule, who had to wait sixteen years before the sage old men of the tribe decided to "open the door." [n3 M. Griaule, Conversations with Ogotemmêli (1965), pp. xiv- vii.] The description is revealing enough to be quoted in full: In African societies which have preserved their traditional organization the number of persons who are trained in this knowledge is quite considerable. This they call "deep knowledge" in contrast with &quo