Vision, Time, Light, and Space

The evolution of the eye, ancient astronomy, and Roden Crater

Space That Sees, James Turrell Credit: Xsteadfastx — Own work CC BY 3.0,

The Birth of Vision

Life has existed on Earth for close to 3.7 billion years. Within this staggering timespan, itself dwarfed only by the age of the Universe, organs that we would recognize as eyes have only existed for about 540 million years. But eyes did not just suddenly appear then and their evolution was not inevitable.

Eyes to the Skies

Sometime between now and five million years ago when self-consciousness began to arise in our distant ancestors, hominids started to see connections between the lights in the night sky and life here on Earth. Of the natural sciences, astronomy is the oldest. Evidence for this claim, among others, exists in a 32,000-year-old mammoth tusk showing a star chart of the constellation Orion. At this point in history, human cultures were still many thousands of years away from taking up the practices of settled agriculture that would drive the development of civilization and hence require the technical expertise of a calendar system for planting and harvesting.

Roden Crater

Writer. Poet. Maker. Permaculturist. Lover of remote places and dark skies. Contact:

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