Music of the Olmec Heads

Seventeen colossal carved heads are known, each made out of large basalt boulders. The heads shown here, from the city of San Lorenzo [1200-900 BCE], are a distinctive feature of the Olmec civilization of ancient Mesoamerica. In the absence of any evidence, they are thought to be portraits of individual Olmec rulers but here I propose the heads represented musical ratios connected to the ancient Dorian heptachord, natural to tuning by perfect fifths and fourths. In the small Olmec city of Chalcatzingo [900-500BCE] , Olmec knowledge of tuning theory is made clear in Monument 1, of La Reina the Queen (though called El Rey, the King, despite female attire), whose symbolism portrays musical harmony and its relationship to the geocentric planetary world *(see picture at end).

* These mysteries were visible using the ancient tuning theories of Ernest G. McClain, who believed the Maya had received many things from the ancient near east. Chapter Eight of Harmonic Origins of the World was devoted to harmonic culture of the Olmec, the parent culture of later Toltec, Maya, and Aztec civilizations of Mexico.

Monument 5 at Chatcatzinga has the negative shape of two rectangles at right angles to each other, with radiating carved strips framing the shape like waves emanating from the space through which the sky is seen. The rectangles are approximately 3 by 5 square or of a 5 by 5 square with its corner squares removed.

Monument 5 at Chalcatzingo is a framed hollow shape. The multiple squares have been added to show that, if the inner points are a square then the four cardinal cutouts are described by triple squares.

The important to see that the Olmec colossal heads were all formed as a carved down oval shape, that would fit the height to width ratio of a rectangular block. For example, three heads from San Lorenzo appear to have a ratio 4 in height to 3 in width, which in music is the fourth (note) or subdominant of our modern diatonic (major or Ionian) scale.

Even narrower is the fourth head at San Lorenzo, whose height is three to a width of two. This is the ratio of the perfect fifth, so called as the fifth note of the major scale.

And finally (for this short study), the ratio 6/5 can be seen in Head 9 of San Lorenzo and also at La Venta’s Monument 1 (below).

MUSICAL RATIOS

If the heads were conceived in this way, the different ratios apply when seen face on. The corners of the heads were probably rounded out from a supplied slab with the correct ratio between height and width. The corners would then round-out to form helmets and chins and the face added.

And as a group, the six heads sit within in a hierarchy of whole number ratios, each between two small numbers, different by one. At San Lorenzo, Head 4 looks higher status than Head 9 and this is because of its ratio 3/2 (a musical fifth or cubit), relative to the 6/5 of Head 9. We now call the fifth note dominant while the fourths (Heads 1, 5 and 8) are called subdominant. These two are the foundation stones of Plato’s World Soul {6 8 9 12}, within a low number octave {6 12} then having three main intervals {4/3 9/8 4/3}* where 4/3 times 9/8 equals 3/2, the dominant fifth.

*Harmonic numbers, more or less responsible for musical harmony, divide only by the first three primes {2 3 5} so that the numbers between six and twelve can only support four harmonic numbers {8 9 10}

San Lorenzo existed between 1200 to 900 BCE, and in the ancient Near East there are no clear statements for primacy of the octave {2/1}, nor was it apparent in practical musical instruments before the 1st Millennium BCE, according to Richard Dumbrill: Music was largely five noted (pentatonic) and sometimes nine-noted (enneadic) with two players. However, the eight notes of the octave could instead be arrived at, in practice, by the ear, using only fifths and fourths to fill out the six inner tones of a single octave; starting from the highest and lowest tones (identical sounding notes differing by 2/1). A single musical scale results from a harp tuned in this way: the ancient heptachord: it had two somewhat dissonant semitone (called “leftovers” in Greek), intervals seen between E-F and B-C on our keyboards (with no black note between). Our D would then be “do“, and the symmetrical scale we today call Dorian.

The order of the Dorian scale is tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone, tone {T S T T T S T} and the early intervals of the Dorian {9/8 S 6/5 4/3 3/2} are the ratios also found in these Olmec Heads*. The ancient heptachord** could therefore have inspired the Olmec Heads to follow the natural order tuned by fourths and fifths.

*I did not consciously select these images of Heads but rather, around 2017, they were easily found on the web. Only this week did I root out my work on the heads and put them in order of relative width.

**here updated to the use of all three early prime numbers {2 3 5} and hence part of Just Intonation in which the two semitones are stretched at the expense of two tones of 9/8 to become 10/9, a change of 81/80.
(The Babylonians used all three of these tones in their harmonic numbers.)

To understand these intervals as numbers required the difference between two string lengths be divided into the lengths of the two strings, this giving the ratio of the Head in question. The intervals of the heptachord would become known and the same ratios achieved within the Heads, carved out as blocks cut out into the very simple rectangular ratios, made of multiple squares.

The rectangular ratio of Head 4, expressed within multiple squares as 3 by 2.

The early numbers have this power, to define these early musical ratios {2/1 3/2 4/3 5/4 6/5}, which are the large musical tones {octave fifth fourth major-third minor-third}. These ratios are also very simple rectangular geometries which, combined with cosmological ideas based around planetary resonance, would have quite simply allowed Heads to be carved as the intervals they represented. The intervals would then have both a planetary and musical significance in the Olmec religion and state structure.

Frontispiece to Part Three of Harmonic Origins of the World: War in Heaven
The seven caves of Chicomoztoc, from which arose the Aztec, Olmec and
other Nahuatl-speaking peoples of Mexico. The seven tribes or rivers of the old world are here seven wombs, resembling the octaves of different modal scales, and perhaps including two who make war and sacrifice to overturn/redeem/re-create the world.

A Musical Cosmogenesis

Everything in music comes out of the number one, the vibrating string, which is then modified in length to create an interval. Two strings at right angles, held within a framework such as Monument 5 (if other things like tension, material, etc.were the same) would generate intervals between “pure” tones. However Monument 5 is not probably symbolic but rather, it was probably laid flat like a grand piano (see top illustration). Wooden posts could hold fixings, to make a framework for one (or more) musical strings of different length, at right angles to a reference string. This would be a duo-chord or potentially a cross-strung harp. Within the four inner points of Monument 5 is a square notionally side length. In the image of Monument 1, and variations in height and width from the number ONE were visualized in stone as emanating waves of sound.

The highest numbers lead to the smallest ratio of 6/5 then the 6/5 ratio of Head 9 can be placed with five squares between the inner points and the 3/2 ratio of Head 2 then fills the vertical space left open within Chalcatzingo’s Monument 5.

Monument 5’s horizontal gap can embrace the denominator of a Head’s ratio (as notionally equal to ONE) so that the inner points define a square side ONE, and the full vertical dimension then embraces the 3/2 ratio of the tallest, that of Head 2.

It may well be that this monument was carved for use in tuning experiments and was then erected at Chalcatzingo to celebrate later centuries of progress in tuning theory since the San Lorenzo Heads were made. By the time of Chalcatzingo, musical theory appears to have advanced, to generate the seven different scales of Just intonation (hence the seven caves of origin above), whose smallest limiting number must then be 2880 (or 4 x 720), the number presented (as if in a thought bubble) upon the head of a royal female harmonist (La Reina), see below. She is shown seeing the tones created by that number, now supporting two symmetrical tritones. The lunar eclipse year was also shown above her head (that is, in her mind) as the newly appeared number 1875, at that limit. This latter story probably dates around 600 BCE. This, and much more besides, can be found in my Harmonic Origins of the World, Chapter Eight: Quetzcoatl’s Brave New World.

Figure 5.8 Picture of an ancient female harmonist realizing the matrix for 144 x 20 = 2880. If we tilt our tone circle so that the harmonist is D and her cave is the octave, then the octave is an arc from bottom to top, of the limit. Above and below form two tetrachords to A and D, separated by a middle tritone pain, a-flat and g-sharp. Art by by Michael D Coe, 1965: permission given.

The Megalithic Pythagoras

Pythagoras of Samos (c.600BC) very likely gleaned megalithic number science on his travels around the “Mysteries” of the ancient world. His father, operating from the island of Samos, became a rich merchant, trading by sea and naming his child Pythagoras; after the god of Delphi who had “killed” the Python snake beneath Delphi’s oracular chasm, now a place of Apollo. The eventual disciples of Pythagoras were reclusive and secretive, threatening death on anybody who would openly speak of mysteries, such as the square root of two, to the uninitiated. It can be seen from the previous post that many such “mysteries” were natural discoveries made by the megalithic astronomers, when learning how to manipulate number without arithmetic, through a metrological geometry unfamiliar to the romantic sacred geometry of “straight edge and compass”.

As previously stated, the vertex angles of right triangles whose longer sides are integer in length, are angular invariants belonging to the invariant ratio of their sides. To create a {11 14} angle one can use any multiple of 11 and the same multiple of 14 to obtain the invariant angle whereupon, the hypotenuse and base will shrink or grow together in that ratio: any length on the “14” line is 14/11 of any length below it on the “11” base line and visa versa.

If one enlarges the base line to being 99 then the diagonal of the square side length 99 will be 140, which is 99 times the square root of two. In choosing, as I did, to enlarge 91 (the quarter year) to 9 x 11 = 99, I encountered the cubit of the Samian (“of Samos”) foot of 33/35 feet, as follows. When Heraclitus, also of Samos, visited the Great Pyramid he gave its southerly side length as 800 “of our feet” and 756 English feet (the measured length) needs to be divided by 189 and multiplied by 200 to obtain such a measurement, giving a Samian foot of 189/200 (=0.945 feet) which is 441/440 of the Samian root foot of 33/35 feet. 33/35 x 3/2 = 99/70 (1.4143) feet but its inverse of 35/33 x 4/3 = 140/99 feet.

There is then no doubt about Samos as being a center in the Greek Mysteries since, the form of the Greek temple seems first to evolve there. For example, 10,000 feet of 0.945 feet equal 945 feet, the number of days in 32 lunar months. The Heraion of Samos (pictured above) has been shown to have had pillars around a platform (a peristyle), and an elongated rectangular room (a cella), involving megalithic yards and a 4-square geometry cunningly linking lunar and solar years, to alignments to the Moon’s minimum using the {5 12 13} second Pythagorean Triangle. (diagram at top is from figure 5.9 of Sacred Geometry: Language of the Angels).

The reason for the Samian (lit. “of Samos”) foot being 33/35 feet appears to be that as a cubit of 99/70 feet, or √2 =1.4142, it is the twin of 140/99 as 1.41. In the geometrical world such foot ratios were exact, relative to the English foot; which is the root of the Greek module and of all other rational modules, such as the Royal of 8/7 feet. Such cubits could measure across the diagonal the same number as the side length in English feet. Such measures became essential for building of rectangular temple structures in Greece and further east, but when the metrological geometry, of square and circle in equal perimeter, was the focus, 140 in the diagonal can use 99 in the base (or side-length of the square).

If we remember that the 99 length must be rooted from the shared center of the square and equal circle then, the side length of the square must be twice that, or 198. This means that the perimeter of the square must be 4 times that, equal to 792, at which point readers of John Michell’s books on models of the world will recall that the diameter of the mean earth can be presented, within an equal perimeter design, if each unit is multiplied by 720 units of 10 miles, my own summary being in my recent Sacred Geometry book , chapter 3 on measuring the Earth. This model Michell called The Cosmological Prototype, where the mean earth diameter is (quite accurately) 7920 miles.

If the square of 198 feet is rolled out into a single line, it “becomes” the mean diameter of the Earth in units of 10 miles. For this sort of reason, my 2020 book was called Language of the Angels, since this model looks like a first approximation of the mean earth size which a later Ancient Metrology would improve upon as to accuracy, by a couple of miles! That is, that the earth’s dimensions follow a design based upon metrological geometry and the properties of numbers.

John Michell finalized his Cosmological Model in an Appendix to The Sacred Center, and in his text on “sacred Geometry, Ancient Science, and the Heavenly Order on Earth” called The Dimensions of Paradise, both published by Inner Traditions.

The Best Eclipse Cycle

The anniversary of the Octon (4 eclipse years in 47 lunar months) did not provide similar eclipses and so, by counting more than four, the other motions of the Moon could also form part of that anniversary. This is especially true of the anomalistic month, which changes the changes the apparent size of the Moon within its phase cycle, recreate the same type of lunar eclipse after nineteen eclipse years. This 18 year and 11 day period is now taken as the prime periodicity for understanding eclipse cycles, called the Saros period – known to the Babylonian . The earliest discovered historical record of what is known as the saros is by Chaldean (neo-Babylonian) astronomers in the last several centuries BC.

The number of full moons between lunar eclipses must be an integer number, and in 19 eclipse years there are a more accurate 223 lunar months than with the 47 of the Octon. This adds up to 6585.3 days but the counting of full moon’s is obviously ideal as yielding near-integer numbers of months.

We noted in a past post that the anomalistic month (or AM), regulating the moon’s size at full moon, has a geometrical relationship with eclipse year (or EY) in that: 4 AM x pi (of 3.1448) equals the 346.62 days of the eclipse year as the circumference. Therefore, in 19 EY the diameter of a circle of circumference 19 x 346.62 days must be 4 x 19 AM so that , 76 AM x pi equals 223 lunar months, while the number of AM in 223 lunar months must be 239; both 223 and 239 being prime numbers.

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Vectors in Prehistory 2

In early education of applied mathematics, there was a simple introduction to vector addition: It was observed that a distance and direction travelled followed by another (different) distance and direction, shown as a diagram as if on a map, as directly connected, revealed a different distance “as the crow would fly” and the direction from the start.

The question could then be posed as “How far would the plane (or ship) be, from the start, at the end”. This practical addition applies to any continuous medium, yet the reason why took centuries to fully understand using algebraic math, but the presence of vectors within megalithic counted structures did not require knowledge of why vectors within geometries like the right triangle, were able to apply vectors to their astronomical counts.

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Gavrinis 1: Its dimensions and geometrical framework

This article first appeared in my Matrix of Creation website in 2012 which was attacked, though an image had been made. Some of this material appeared in my Lords of Time book.

photo For Wikipedia by Mirabella.

Gavrinis and Tables des Marchands are very similar monuments, both in the orientation of their passageways and their identical latitudeGavrinis is about 3900 metres east of Tables des Marchands but, unlike the latter, has a Breton name based upon the root GVR (gower). Both passageways directly express the difference between the winter solstice sunrise and the lunar maximum moonrise to the South, by designing the passages to allow these luminaries to enter at the exact day of the winter solstice or the most southerly moonrise over many lunar orbits, during the moon’s maximum standstill. Thus both the monuments allow the maximum moon along their passageway whilst the winter solstice sunrise can only glance into their end chambers.

From Howard Crowhurst’s work on multiple squares, we know that this difference in angle is that between a 3-4-5 triangle and the diagonal of a square which is achieved directly by the diagonal of a seven square rectangle.

Figure 1 The essence of difference between the winter solstice sunrise (as diagonal of 4 by 3 rectangle) and southerly maximum moonrise (as diagonal of a single square), on the horizon, is captured in the diagonal of a seven squares rectangle.
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The Roof Axe as Circumpolar Device

This article explores the use of axe motifs within a form of carved schematic art unique to the megalithic monuments near Carnac, southern Brittany, France. First published in February 2014.

A diagram found on the underside of the capstone of a chambered dolmen called Kercado (see figure 1) appears to hold metrological and astronomical meanings. Classified as a type of AXE, local axe motifs are said to have three distinct forms (a) triangular blades, (b) hafted axes and (c) the Mane Ruthual type [Twohig, 1981[1]]. 

Figure 1 Well preserved sculpted-stone axe-head motif in Kercado dolmen

Types b and c are often found in the singular on the undersides to roof slabs and in the case of form (b), the hafted axe, I have attributed its display below the roof slab of Table des Marchands at Locmariaquer (inset right) as being used to represent the north pole between 5000 and 4000 BC, at a time when there was no star near to the pole itself. The abstract point of the north pole, the rotational axis of the earth, is shown as a loop attached to the base of the axe haft, whilst the axe head then represented a chosen circumpolar star, as this rotates counter-clockwise in the northern sky, at the fixed distance of the haft from the pole itself. Note how compatible this idea of an axe ploughing the northern skies is to our own circumpolar constellation, The Plough. Note also that the eastern horizon moves through the equatorial stars at the same angular rate as the marker star moves around the north pole.

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