Clear vision (cont.3) NOTES


[3] Yale foliation for the figure from the Voynich manuscript is fol.72r-2  and the Beinecke is “72v-part”.
[4] Achilles’ shield … Homer’s description of the shield speaks of the stars by which orientation and time-keeping were marked: “the earth, the heavens, and the sea; the moon also at her full and the untiring sun, with all the signs that glorify the face of heaven- the Pleiads, the Hyads, huge Orion, and the Bear, which men also call the Wain and which turns round ever in one place, facing Orion, and alone never dips into the stream of Oceanus.”  There not a single zodiac constellation mentioned and Homer never knew the Romans’ 12-figure zodiac, which nineteenth-century efforts to depict the Shield constantly presumed should be included – another example of what Needham called “the ecliptic pre-conceptions of the west” and which seems near-obsessive to the wider world, and in the wider history of native astronomies.  In this case “signs”  means marker-asterisms and constellations, indicators of  changes in time and position.
[5] .. star/shield.. as an aside: this is one of a few among these central emblems in Beinecke MS 408 which present in a way reminiscent of the earliest images on western playing cards and again in details of Abraham Cresques’ worldmap, where parallel astronomical and geographic reference is embedded in the forms.  Such cards are described at first in medieval Europe (c.1377) as the chartmakers game, and said to represent the relative position of all things in the world “status mundi”.  Among the Egyptian Arabs, however (as  Burton reports in relating the story from the Alf Layla wa Layla of a slave woman who used sets of cards as aids to memory) they were termed tars Daylani: Median shields. The language of the Medes is believed by some scholars to be preserved in “the modern [Iranian] languages of Azarbaijan and Central Iran” though the few examples of its script remain undeciphered. The former Elamite capital of Susa occupied a site close to where the Nestorians patriarchal seat lay in later times, and also where the great cross-cultural medical school was established at Jundishapur, though some believe it had been a centre of that sort before the Sassanid era. The wiki article ‘Median language’ offers some references. The slave woman appears to have been envisaged in the story as a former Christian, possibly Nestorian. A seventeenth-century Swiss pastor, who looked into the history of the oldest images on card concluded (rightly or wrongly) that they had come from a ‘little Phoenician book’ and that they described the Ages of Man. We do find such a legend among fragments  recorded from  Philo of Biblos’ Phoenician History but judgement is left to the reader.
[6]  The reference in E.J Chinnock’s translation of the Anabasis (1893) has it Book 8b § xli. Note that Smith and later authors speak rather of “Diridotes’ [Diridotis] all giving the reference as Arrian, Indike xii.
[7] The Greeks call wood vermin teredo (i.e. τερηδϖν)* because they ‘eat by grinding’ (terendo edere). We call them wood-worms (termes, i.e. tarmes). XII.v.10.
[8] Pliny’s Natural History, trans. by W. Rackham, Loeb Classical Library (Vol. 2).  The Loeb edition is a parallel translation, available through the internet archive.
[9Jens Jakobsson, ‘Seleucid Empire 306-c.150BC‘, History of Iran, Iran Chamber Society (2004)
[10] the source for the image is MUSA numismatic art, where the obverse is mistakenly described as representing “Apollo seated left on omphalos, holding arrow and bow set on ground.”
[11] Jean-Francois Salles, ‘The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea and the Arab-Persian Gulf’, Topoi, Vol. 3 No.4 (1993) pp. 493-523. (pp.494-5)
[12] On Characene and the naos to the Dioscuri at Tylos.  See Paul Kosmin, ‘Rethinking the Hellenistic Gulf: the New Greek Inscription from Bahrain’, Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 133 (2013), pp. 61–79.
[13] Jean-Francois Salles, ‘The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea and the Arab-Persian Gulf’, Topoi, Vol. 3 No.4 (1993) pp. 493-523. (pp.494-5)
[14] Clive Holes is the authority usually cited here.  See his Dialect, Culture, and Society in Eastern Arabia: Glossary‘(2001)  and his ‘Non-Arabic Semitic elements in the Arabic dialects of eastern Arabia’ in Otto Jastrow (eds.), “Sprich doch mit deinen Knechten aramäisch, wir verstehen es!”: 60 Beiträge zur Semitistik : Festschrift für Otto Jastrow zum 60. Geburtstag (2002) pp.270-279.
[15] Nearchus is reported as saying that “in the island of Tylos, situated in the Persian Gulf, are large plantations of cotton trees, from which are manufactured clothes called sindones, a very different degrees of value, some being costly, others less expensive. The use of these is not confined to India, but extends to Arabia.”  see e.g. Harriet Crawford, Michael Rice, Traces of Paradise: The Archaeology of Bahrain, 2500 BC to 300 AD (2005) p.132.
[16] “Cotton.. folio 52r”.  The content was reprised in a later post to Voynichimagery,  ‘Mnemonics, devices and pictorial annotations‘ (August 21 st., 2016).
[17]Jean Francois Salles, ‘Achaemenid and Hellenistic Trade in the Indian Ocean’ in Julian Reade (ed.), The Indian Ocean in Antiquity (1996) pp.251-268.



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