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Investigating the Invisible Color that Ancient People Couldn’t See

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posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 01:36 PM
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Russians have the same word for vodka and water.
Is it possible they can't distinguish the difference between the two?




posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 02:13 PM
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originally posted by: toms54
Investigating the Invisible Color that Ancient People Couldn’t See

No one could see the colour blue until modern times

"Until relatively recently in human history, “blue” didn’t exist.

As the delightful Radiolab episode “Colours” describes, ancient languages didn’t have a word for blue — not Greek, not Chinese, not Japanese, not Hebrew. And without a word for the colour, there’s evidence that they may not have seen it at all.
How we realised blue was missing

In the Odyssey, Homer famously describes the “wine-dark sea.” But why “wine-dark” and not deep blue or green?

In 1858, a scholar named William Gladstone, who later became the Prime Minister of Great Britain, noticed that this wasn’t the only strange colour description. Though the poet spends page after page describing the intricate details of clothing, armour, weaponry, facial features, animals, and more, his references to colour are strange. Iron and sheep are violet, honey is green.

So Gladstone decided to count the colour references in the book. And while black is mentioned almost 200 times and white around 100, other colours are rare. Red is mentioned fewer than 15 times, and yellow and green fewer than 10. Gladstone started looking at other ancient Greek texts, and noticed the same thing — there was never anything described as “blue.” The word didn’t even exist.

It seemed the Greeks lived in murky and muddy world, devoid of colour, mostly black and white and metallic, with occasional flashes of red or yellow.'

"Gladstone thought this was perhaps something unique to the Greeks, but a philologist named Lazarus Geiger followed up on his work and noticed this was true across cultures.

He studied Icelandic sagas, the Koran, ancient Chinese stories, and an ancient Hebrew version of the Bible. Of Hindu Vedic hymns, he wrote: “These hymns, of more than ten thousand lines, are brimming with descriptions of the heavens. Scarcely any subject is evoked more frequently. The sun and reddening dawn’s play of colour, day and night, cloud and lightning, the air and ether, all these are unfolded before us, again and again… but there is one thing no one would ever learn from these ancient songs… and that is that the sky is blue.”

There was no blue.'

"Geiger looked to see when “blue” started to appear in languages and found an odd pattern all over the world.

Every language first had a word for black and for white, or dark and light. The next word for a colour to come into existence — in every language studied around the world — was red, the colour of blood and wine.

After red, historically, yellow appears, and later, green (though in a couple of languages, yellow and green switch places). The last of these colours to appear in every language is blue.

The only ancient culture to develop a word for blue was the Egyptians — and as it happens, they were also the only culture that had a way to produce a blue dye."

"Was blue invisible to the ancients?

Not having words for blue, scientists had to consider that maybe ancient people didn’t see the color, thus not having descriptors for it. Were ancient people’s eyes different from ours? Why didn’t people see blue? It is not known exactly what was going through Homer's mind when he described the “wine-dark” sea, but ancient people definitely had the same optical biology and capability to see blue that we do today. But do we really ‘not see’ things if we don't have words for them? The answer is no. Because there was no ‘blue’ as a category of color in the way that we define it, the color wasn't distinguished from green."

"So before we had a word for it, did people not naturally see blue?

This part gets a little complicated, because we don’t exactly what was going through Homer’s brain when he described the wine-dark sea and the violet sheep — but we do know that ancient Greeks and others in the ancient world had the same biology and therefore, same capability to see colour that we do.

But do you really see something if you don’t have a word for it?

A researcher named Jules Davidoff traveled to Namibia to investigate this, where he conducted an experiment with the Himba tribe, who speak a language that has no word for blue or distinction between blue and green.
Blue squaresVidipedia/Himba colour experiment
Namibian tribe member participates in a research project.

When shown a circle with 11 green squares and one blue, they couldn’t pick out which one was different from the others — or those who could see a difference took much longer and made more mistakes than would make sense to us, who can clearly spot the blue square."



"But the Himba have more words for types of green than we do in English.
When looking at a circle of green squares with only one slightly different shade, they could immediately spot the different one. Can you?"


"For most of us, that’s harder.

This was the unique square:"



"Davidoff says that without a word for a colour, without a way of identifying it as different, it’s much harder for us to notice what’s unique about it — even though our eyes are physically seeing the blocks it in the same way.

So before blue became a common concept, maybe humans saw it. But it seems they didn’t know they were seeing it.

If you see something yet can’t see it, does it exist? Did colours come into existence over time? Not technically, but our ability to notice them may have…"





Why was lapis lazuli used extensively in ancient Egyptian art if they couldn't see blue? Not having a word for a colour doesn't equate to not being able to see it. Orange didn't have a name for a long time but we could perceive it.



posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 02:38 PM
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Blue Yellow color-blindness could account for their inability to distinguish blue as a unique color, however in modern times this malady is quite rare.


Tritanopia (less than 1% of males and females): Lacking the short-wavelength cones, those affected see short-wavelength colors (blue, indigo and a spectral violet) greenish and drastically dimmed, some of these colors even as black. Yellow is indistinguishable from pink, and purple colors are perceived as various shades of red. This form of color blindness is not sex-linked.


This is an interesting thread. I've never heard of this theory before. Though I do find it a little hard to believe that our ancient ancestors could not distinguish blue from other colors.

-dex



posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 02:43 PM
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The sky is actually a different colour you cant see yet. You just think its blue, like the ancients thought it was dark wine.



posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 03:05 PM
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While my vision isn't very good for afar and even same for near , i can see colors okay.

I thought most people could see the different shade of green. When you look at it its like lime vs the others unripe lemon.

Training can help see shades better , if you look at many angles of different leavss and shouts of different plants , you can see many shades of green , at fist they all look like a confusing continuum , but enough comparisons between them can make them discrete.

I don't buy the "can't see blue line" , they didn't have a word for alot of things they can perceive and understand.

The word consciousness is even newer , and there are many others.



posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 03:10 PM
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This old nonsense again. Notice zero replies to Djarums mention of tekhelet.

The sky used to be purple so colors were categorized differently until AD. But blue was always a color. So was pink. And transparent. And sparkley.



posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 03:11 PM
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i saw the different green, i didnt believe they didnt see blue.



posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 03:15 PM
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“Speak unto B’nei Yisrael, and bid them that they make them throughout their generations fringes in the corners of their garments, and that they put with the fringe of each corner a thread of blue.” Numbers 15:38 (The Israel Bible™)

Ancient Snail Shells Used for Making Sacred Dye Found at Temple Mount Dig

www.breakingisraelnews.com...

I think they saw blue,

as far as the sea being the color of wine, it is actually sometimes various colors
edit on 20-9-2018 by Stormdancer777 because: (no reason given)



posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 03:25 PM
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This reminds me a lot of Julian Jaynes' bicameral theory of human consciousness. Of course it's been largely disproven at this point but still a very interesting read.



posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 03:34 PM
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originally posted by: bigfatfurrytexan
a reply to: toms54

Without words to describe them, how would you describe them?

Cultures that have no word for zero...how do they describe zero?


Do you not recognize it because there's no word or is there no word because you don't recognize it?

These authors suggest the latter.



posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 03:37 PM
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originally posted by: Butterfinger
a reply to: Wrapscalllionn

From what Ive been told, the Chickasaw and Choctaw languages were formed well before De Soto recorded his experiences, 2 centuries before the removal.

Some others I'm noticing with my limited knowledge
"Oka" means Water
"Okti" is Snow
The Ok brings it to relation with water, some root word in ancient Muskogean?


These Chickasaw and Choctaw languages sound very interesting. I would like to see a thread on just that.



posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 03:44 PM
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originally posted by: kelbtalfenek
a reply to: toms54

This is interesting. I wonder if they saw the sky as shades of grey. Is there evidence for indigo paints in ancient caves? If so, it might render the argument invalid. Or are there descriptions of rainbows without blue?

Perhaps humans eyesight was improved through an evolving process which allowed a deeper color perception?


The authors of these articles say their eyesight was biologically the same as today. They believe it was a cognitive thing. For some reason, ancient people were unable to see blue or at least describe it as a separate color.



posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 03:46 PM
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Much of the sea is green and not blue.

If they did not see blue then why did they not describe the sea as being green?



posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 03:48 PM
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Yeah, color is a spectrum. Different societies divide the spectrum up differently. And the way our brains perceive color is hugely dependent on context.



posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 03:48 PM
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a reply to: toms54

Interesting read

I vaguely remember hearing something about that we in the future wont be able to se the color red (i think it was red, not sure) because we are moving through the universe, and will in time reach other wavelengts (or something) that wont allow us to see it anymore, and there also was something about that some colors we might not always have been able to see, could become visible.

This is really long time ago i heard about this, so unfortunately i cant remember the details, so i could be totally wrong here, but it might be worth looking into that, as it relate to this.
Did a quick search and couldnt find anything about it though, but others may be more lucky

Do you remember the fuss a couple of years back, about a picture of a dress, where people saw two different colors. Some saw a blue dress, others saw a golden color i think it was. The mind got tricked somehow, and some people could reverse it and suddenly see the other color.


edit on 20-9-2018 by IAMNOTYOU because: (no reason given)

edit on 20-9-2018 by IAMNOTYOU because: spelling



posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 03:48 PM
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originally posted by: Athetos
Black then white are all I see
In my infancy.
Red and yellow then came to be,
Reaching out to me,
Lets me see.

Tool- Lateralus

Released May 15,2001

Some pretty curious lyrics if you ask me.
m.youtube.com...


Great album. I forgot all about it. Thanks.



posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 03:54 PM
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Funny how blue tiles appear throughout the pyramids in Egypt.

I wonder if there are text that describe the colors used on the tiles from way back.



posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 03:56 PM
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originally posted by: dug88

originally posted by: toms54
Investigating the Invisible Color that Ancient People Couldn’t See

No one could see the colour blue until modern times

"Until relatively recently in human history, “blue” didn’t exist.

As the delightful Radiolab episode “Colours” describes, ancient languages didn’t have a word for blue — not Greek, not Chinese, not Japanese, not Hebrew. And without a word for the colour, there’s evidence that they may not have seen it at all.
How we realised blue was missing

In the Odyssey, Homer famously describes the “wine-dark sea.” But why “wine-dark” and not deep blue or green?

In 1858, a scholar named William Gladstone, who later became the Prime Minister of Great Britain, noticed that this wasn’t the only strange colour description. Though the poet spends page after page describing the intricate details of clothing, armour, weaponry, facial features, animals, and more, his references to colour are strange. Iron and sheep are violet, honey is green.

So Gladstone decided to count the colour references in the book. And while black is mentioned almost 200 times and white around 100, other colours are rare. Red is mentioned fewer than 15 times, and yellow and green fewer than 10. Gladstone started looking at other ancient Greek texts, and noticed the same thing — there was never anything described as “blue.” The word didn’t even exist.

It seemed the Greeks lived in murky and muddy world, devoid of colour, mostly black and white and metallic, with occasional flashes of red or yellow.'

"Gladstone thought this was perhaps something unique to the Greeks, but a philologist named Lazarus Geiger followed up on his work and noticed this was true across cultures.

He studied Icelandic sagas, the Koran, ancient Chinese stories, and an ancient Hebrew version of the Bible. Of Hindu Vedic hymns, he wrote: “These hymns, of more than ten thousand lines, are brimming with descriptions of the heavens. Scarcely any subject is evoked more frequently. The sun and reddening dawn’s play of colour, day and night, cloud and lightning, the air and ether, all these are unfolded before us, again and again… but there is one thing no one would ever learn from these ancient songs… and that is that the sky is blue.”

There was no blue.'

"Geiger looked to see when “blue” started to appear in languages and found an odd pattern all over the world.

Every language first had a word for black and for white, or dark and light. The next word for a colour to come into existence — in every language studied around the world — was red, the colour of blood and wine.

After red, historically, yellow appears, and later, green (though in a couple of languages, yellow and green switch places). The last of these colours to appear in every language is blue.

The only ancient culture to develop a word for blue was the Egyptians — and as it happens, they were also the only culture that had a way to produce a blue dye."

"Was blue invisible to the ancients?

Not having words for blue, scientists had to consider that maybe ancient people didn’t see the color, thus not having descriptors for it. Were ancient people’s eyes different from ours? Why didn’t people see blue? It is not known exactly what was going through Homer's mind when he described the “wine-dark” sea, but ancient people definitely had the same optical biology and capability to see blue that we do today. But do we really ‘not see’ things if we don't have words for them? The answer is no. Because there was no ‘blue’ as a category of color in the way that we define it, the color wasn't distinguished from green."

"So before we had a word for it, did people not naturally see blue?

This part gets a little complicated, because we don’t exactly what was going through Homer’s brain when he described the wine-dark sea and the violet sheep — but we do know that ancient Greeks and others in the ancient world had the same biology and therefore, same capability to see colour that we do.

But do you really see something if you don’t have a word for it?

A researcher named Jules Davidoff traveled to Namibia to investigate this, where he conducted an experiment with the Himba tribe, who speak a language that has no word for blue or distinction between blue and green.
Blue squaresVidipedia/Himba colour experiment
Namibian tribe member participates in a research project.

When shown a circle with 11 green squares and one blue, they couldn’t pick out which one was different from the others — or those who could see a difference took much longer and made more mistakes than would make sense to us, who can clearly spot the blue square."



"But the Himba have more words for types of green than we do in English.
When looking at a circle of green squares with only one slightly different shade, they could immediately spot the different one. Can you?"


"For most of us, that’s harder.

This was the unique square:"



"Davidoff says that without a word for a colour, without a way of identifying it as different, it’s much harder for us to notice what’s unique about it — even though our eyes are physically seeing the blocks it in the same way.

So before blue became a common concept, maybe humans saw it. But it seems they didn’t know they were seeing it.

If you see something yet can’t see it, does it exist? Did colours come into existence over time? Not technically, but our ability to notice them may have…"





Why was lapis lazuli used extensively in ancient Egyptian art if they couldn't see blue? Not having a word for a colour doesn't equate to not being able to see it. Orange didn't have a name for a long time but we could perceive it.


The articles do mention the Egyptians but, as some have pointed out, not the Peruvians. Also, no mention is made at all of orange or purple. I wonder how far back we started to see colors like teal.



posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 04:03 PM
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originally posted by: DexterRiley
Blue Yellow color-blindness could account for their inability to distinguish blue as a unique color, however in modern times this malady is quite rare.


Tritanopia (less than 1% of males and females): Lacking the short-wavelength cones, those affected see short-wavelength colors (blue, indigo and a spectral violet) greenish and drastically dimmed, some of these colors even as black. Yellow is indistinguishable from pink, and purple colors are perceived as various shades of red. This form of color blindness is not sex-linked.


This is an interesting thread. I've never heard of this theory before. Though I do find it a little hard to believe that our ancient ancestors could not distinguish blue from other colors.

-dex


Extends right up to today if you include that tribe from Namibia. Probably more isolated peoples experience this that we don't realize yet. How about the Amazon or the Pacific? Lots of places not too well explored that we could look.



posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 04:05 PM
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originally posted by: visitedbythem
The sky is actually a different colour you cant see yet. You just think its blue, like the ancients thought it was dark wine.


The gods keep changing it. Trying to scare us.



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