- continued -
Space as a human system of control and orientation has been greatly neglected by
conventional theories of culture. It was assumed as an apriori category in the modern
sense of physics, geometry and astronomy. However recent studies have shown that
the human perception and organisation of space has evolved from early human settlement
conditions and that homogenous space is a modern development which in Europe began
with the 14th century (Bollnow 1963). Premodern space is not homogeneous, it is not
abstract, not independent from materia. It is closely related to the human cultural environment.
Research into space concepts of traditional societies shows clearly that "cosmic"
orders are related to polarities like mountains/ valley, upper/ lower valley etc. and that rivers were a primary factor in a basically local orientation.
Thus in the rural domain topological conditions provided axial systems of spatial
organisation primarily on the extensions of polarities (Upper/Lower Egypt). Later,
with extended space perception we find increasingly centralistic terms (Rome). Note
that primary rural polar systems survive into the modern world (Ganges).
In architecture and urbanism modernism has introduced the homogeneous space of physics,
resp. universal space from astronomy into our vital environments and has thus imposed
tremendous adaptations on the population. This is the basic problem of our urban
Note that the history of cartography speaks very clearly of this evolution of space
Even in early modern times there was initially no knowledge about the American continent.
America was discovered paradoxically on the Western way to India around the globe.
Kepler still used the Platonic spheres to explain the planets' movements. Galileo Galilei and particularly Tycho Brahe were the first to use instruments and exact
- Babylonian world maps had an extremely restricted geographic horizon.
- Egyptian history shows clearly that the Ancient and Middle Empires were entirely
focussed on the stretch of the Nile. Only in the New Empire perceptions extended
into the regions of the Ancient Orient (Near East).
- The Ptolemaic world map was still strongly centred on the Near Eastern Mediterranean domain. Very rudimentary
indications of India and China as well as Africa are shown. There is no indication
of the American continent.
- In Greece the word "cosmos" was used in an environmental sense. Like cosmetics it
implied a harmonious arrangement in the human domain.
- Romans had fairly elaborated topological road maps but a very limited knowledge of the globe.
- The Middle Ages were limited on what the Romans had conquered.
Still today we are on this extension of space perception: the universe may be endless.
But, what was at the beginning of this journey into space perception? With Bollnow
(1963) we would opt for the following hypothesis: the village, the primary settlement.
If we understand the beginnings of this journey into space, we will be able to become
aware of the projective character of our modern worldviews, even of its humanistically
questionable impacts. The technodreams of starwars destroy our human environments.
We will later deal with another important problem of space: the retroprojection of
evolved space concepts into early historical texts (myth problem).
The concepts of time too are basically structured by urban history. The historistic
outlook in urban history is definitely linear. It finds its expression in early monumentality
with its bold allusions to an eternal future as well as in the dynastic lists of kings and emperors in early empires. This linear consciousness of time has remained
dominant throughout history. Among the Greeks and Romans time was related to the
ancient cultures in the Eastern Mediterranean. Central and Northern Europe was considered barbarian. For the Romans, these barbarians had no time. In the Middle Ages written
history, in particular the Jewish scripts, became the basis of time concepts. Jerusalem
was considered the first city, Hebrew the first language and its writing the first script. The world was considered to be created about 2-3 thousand years ago. Science
as a continuous reaction against medieval scholastic absolutism questioned this historistic
concept on various levels. The history of creation broke apart into at least six scientifically supported histories. The history:
This is our modern outlook on time. However, the narrow historistic time concept of
the Middle Ages has not disappeared. It lives on in religion and was even imposed
in American schools recently as "creationism".
- of the universe (cosmology, origins estimated today about 15 billion years ago),
- of the earth (geology, about 2 billion years ago),
- of life (biology, about 1.5 billion years),
- of anthropoids (about 38 million years, hominisation about 4 million years ago),
- of 'culture' [tools] (prehistory, about 2 million years),
- of written sources (history proper, origins about 5000 years ago!).
However, these linear time concepts of the urban world cover up that there is another
type of temporal perception, namely cyclic time of the rural domain. This time concept
is very different. It is focussed on the present existence legitimated by its local beginnings and its cyclic reconfirmation as documented in cyclic cults. This cyclic
time finds its scale in the local festival calendar with its cults on various levels.
Cyclic time has no future to project its ideals. It is focussed on the present as
norm. The antithesis, the absolutely different dimension is included in the cycle
as festival, as cult, often as ecstatic condition. Consequently there are no dreams
of progress, of reaching better times. Time is not homogeneous, the cycle consists of norm
and its dissolved antithesis, and thus - in a humanistic sense - is complete.
Cyclic time can be reconstructed clearly in ethnology, but can also be shown in history and prehistory. It must have developed in Meso- and Neolithic
times with increasing territorial control and sedentarisation. In early empires of
Mesopotamia and Egypt it played a central role in very complex festival calendars
related to local, regional and imperial territories.
On the urban level this cyclic time scale is preserved as festivals (often degenerated
to amusement!), or institutional liturgy, but it has lost its fundamentally legitimating
importance. Legitimation has shifted to written myths. Rural cyclic time had its origins in the foundation of settlement. This was considered the creation, the creation
of the local world. Thus the traditional local 'myth' is factually existential: it
legitimates the present topospecific existence of the population and thus, in a scientific sense, is true.
In contrast to this, as we have mentioned, the urban historistic world translates
such 'creation myths' handed down in written form with its own evolved concepts of
universal space. Legal texts describing the local foundation of settlements, villages
or towns, thus are blown up into universal spatial dimensions. To say the least: historico-methodologically
Evidently, if we manage anthropologically to demonstrate that there is a developmental
relation between linear urban and rural cyclic time perception, we will become aware
of the projective character of our time systems. Time appears as a human construct.
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