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The Crystal Sun: Rediscovering a Lost Technology of the Ancient World: The Most Secret Science of the Ancient World [Mass Market Paperback]

Robert K.G. Temple
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Feb 2001
Archaeologists have always insisted that ancient lenses never existed. Robert Temple's work began when he discovered an ancient artefact in the British Museum, believed to be rock crystal. He proved it had been ground to form a lens. This was the beginning of a real-life detective story.

Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 653 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow Books Ltd; New edition edition (1 Feb 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099256797
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099256793
  • Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 11.2 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 211,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Lying unnoticed in many museums around the world are large numbers of ancient artefacts fashioned out of rock crystal or glass; lenticular in shape, they are habitually described by archaeologists and cataloguers as decorative in purpose; in short, as costume jewellery. To Robert Temple, however, who bolsters his classical and linguistic erudition with expertise in the field of optics, they are obviously and self-evidently lenses. As such, they form the starting point for The Crystal Sun, his wide-ranging and provocative investigation into the existence of an ancient science of optics. There is much to amaze here, not least the sheer volume of evidence that Temple is able to amass (and the seemingly even greater volume to which, for various tiresome reasons, he was unable to gain access). It is this density of proof, and the hardness of the science involved, that tend to dispel suspicions that we are entering Jesus-was-an-astronaut territory.

The narrative of Temple's discoveries is cast almost as an intellectual detective novel. (A characteristic recurring motif is his exasperation with the small-mindedness and intellectual prejudice endemic in the archaeological profession.) From the physical lenses we move to the scattered descriptions of lenses, telescopes and their use by the Greeks and Romans, the destructive use of burning-mirrors by Archimedes at the siege of Syracuse, and the true role of Prometheus, who brought fire to man from heaven. A review of ancient optical theory takes the argument deep into esoteric realms of Gnostic and alchemical thought. Stonehenge as astronomical instrument is discussed--including the startling proposal that the great circle was originally roofed with a dome. Inevitably, perhaps, the argument eventually makes its way to Egypt, real or imaginary home of all mysteries. Here, in the long final section of the book entitled "The Eye of Horus", Temple excels himself. The scale and precision of Egyptian monuments require sophisticated surveying techniques and a supporting mathematics. Temple finds these hidden in myths, partially disguised in tomb paintings embodied in the very structure of the buildings themselves. Above all, it seems, the Egyptians used light and shadow with great virtuosity. The Pyramids themselves, once clad in smooth, reflective white marble, and casting precise shadows across each other, are characterised as mystical surveying instruments on the hugest possible scale.

Temple is an engagingly garrulous and eccentric narrator, constantly interrupting himself, leaping forwards and back, starting hares he cannot pursue, pausing for personal paranormal reminiscences, but his passion and erudition are never in doubt. And is it true? Few readers can be in a position to decide. Reserve judgement, then, and enjoy an exhilarating intellectual adventure. --Robin Davidson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"The focus is as wide, and as deep, as civilization itself." - "Sunday Times""Robert Temple's fascinating book should be read by all who have an interest in the history of science, and may well cause a revolution in this subject." - Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it 26 Dec 2000
By A Customer
Scholarly, annotated, appendixed and indexed - and riveting! Staring us in the face for centuries, and Temple gives us permission to see. Absolute cracker.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting new ideas on lens in antiquity 20 Mar 2001
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Robert Temple's new book sheds interesting new light on the subject of lens' in antiquity. I was disappointed however, that this version of the book does not contain a full review of the lens he has found in the course of his research. That the work is painstakingly researched is not in doubt, but it seems that Temple takes delight in alienating the one group of people who would truely appreciate his dedication - other historians - by denigrating them as blinded and against new ideas. One cannot help but feel that if Temple presented his work in a less popular more scholarly fashion his ideas would be more readily accepted. On the whole this book is interesting and does help to resolve general unanswered questions about lens' in antiquity - the evidence for the use of corrective lens' is around us everyday in the form of modern lens wearers, a group of people who would not exist without intervention in the past. Whilst his review of useful lens' exising in antiquity is excellent, Temple's other remarks on theory and religion should be taken with a pinch of salt, too much is left out for the average reader to be able make an imformed choice. This is a difficult subject tackled in a format that makes it accessible to many, however I feel that Temple lets himself down by his anti-historian stance and the inclusion of too much subjective theorising.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Book 11 Nov 2013
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
I love a good read, and this is just that. Nothing is like opening a new book - e-readers eat your heart out! Will be added to my bookcase to be read again and again.
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