Hamlet's Mill - Background


Santillana had previously published, in 1961, The Origins of Scientific Thought which greatly influenced Hamlet's Mill - indeed, it could be considered a sequel or elaboration of the 1961 work; further influences can be found in the work of Leo Frobenius (Leach 1970 mentions particularly the 1900 Die Mathematik der Oceaner and the 1904 Das Zeitalter des Sonnengottes).

The proposed interpretation is that:

  1. "Our ancestors of the high and far-off times were endowed with minds wholly comparable to ours, and were capable of rational processes-always given the means at hand"
  2. That they were particularly fascinated by astronomical observations, and that they made many discoveries, particularly:
  3. The precession of the axis was discovered long before the accepted date of the Greek discovery, and that this was discovered by an ancient (perhaps as late as 4000 BCE) civilization of unsuspected sophistication (per #1).
  4. This civilization believed that the world passed through cyclical & Zodiacal stages based on the precession, and that myths which encode this astronomical knowledge symbolically transmit this belief, typically through a story relating to a millstone and a young protagonist - the title, "Hamlet's Mill", comes from a prototype of the Shakespearean Prince Hamlet, the Scandinavian Amlodhi of Saxo Grammaticus or Snorri Sturluson.
  5. And indeed, the majority of myths have to do with astronomy, and are not principally related to sex or the weather.

Careful examination of the "relics, fragments and allusions that have survived the steep attrition of the ages" permit reconstruction. In particular, the book reconstructs a myth of a heavenly mill which rotates around the pole star, and grinds out the world's salt and soil, and is associated with the maelstrom. The millstone falling off its frame represents the passing of one age's pole star (symbolized by a ruler or king of some sort), and its restoration and the overthrow of the old king of authority and the empowering of the new one the establishment of a new order of the age (a new star moving into the position of pole star). The authors attempt to demonstrate the prevalence of influence of this hypothetical civilization's ideas by analysing the world's mythology (with an eye to revealing mill myths) using

"cosmographic oddments from many eras and climes...a collection of yarns from Saxo Grammaticus, Snorri Sturluson ("Amlodhi's mill" as a kenning for the sea!), Firdausi, Plato, Plutarch, the Kalevala, Mahabharata, and Gilgamesh, not to forget Africa, the Americas, and Oceania..."

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