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Investigating the Invisible Color that Ancient People Couldn’t See

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posted on Sep, 21 2018 @ 03:28 PM

originally posted by: trollz
I could see the different green square. Could anyone else?

A little...other ones are slightly different as well...a poor example really.

posted on Sep, 21 2018 @ 04:06 PM
Not haveing a word can infuence the attention and thought clarity , even if you what it is about.

For example happiness often use to mean a mood or feeling , rather then meaninfullness ; but because modern use of the word emphasize the mood and feeling , it can skew same people into thinking that happiness as a goal have to do with having a certin feeling rather then other meaninfullness.

you can see that when translating to other languages.
happiness in China used three different words in surveys and interviews, “xingfu for a good life, you yiyi for meaning and kuaile for a good mood.”
the hebrew word came from the word for aproval or confirmation.
the english word originaly mean being lucky.

If you search for happiness in the sense of meaninfullness , but only know happiness as a feeling , it can effect your clarity thinking about happiness.

posted on Sep, 21 2018 @ 04:13 PM
Bees can see ultraviolet light.
Glass absorbs ultraviolet light.
Does this mean bees can't see through glass?

posted on Sep, 21 2018 @ 04:31 PM
There is a nice theory where the natives of america couldn't see the ships of the conquistadores.
They probably saw something but only shapes or reflection. In theory.

So when we see ufo's or orbs ... they just seem blue or orange

posted on Sep, 21 2018 @ 04:31 PM
a reply to: bigfatfurrytexan

About your son, I wonder if he could sniff something so unique and unprecedented to his pallette--an unlearned smell. I would think he could.

This is essentially the argument for blue, yes?

Although I guess since vision is linked with light and smell isn't, it's an apples and oranges analogy.

posted on Sep, 21 2018 @ 04:56 PM

off-topic post removed to prevent thread-drift


posted on Sep, 21 2018 @ 08:34 PM
a reply to: ParasuvO

It might have something to do with how bright your monitor screen is or some other setting.

posted on Sep, 21 2018 @ 10:20 PM

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…"

Very interesting and intriguing, one worth pondering over.

posted on Sep, 21 2018 @ 10:58 PM
It really makes sense that there is a shifting frequency sensitivity at hand. In the sound world, Frequencies of Musical Notes, A4 = 444 Hz - but many argue that A4 was once 432 Hz. I guess one of those things where you just had to be there...

posted on Sep, 21 2018 @ 11:26 PM
It would be cool if there was a fundamental in a
ratio and proportion between the 2.

432 is to 444 as x is to 100
500nm (5.6x10^14 Hz) is to 578nm (6.6x10^14 Hz) as x is to 100

432 X
--- ---
444 100


500 X
--- ---
578 100


5.6 X
--- ---
6.6 100


Close in ratio. An indicator of correlation in the rate of change. I know, off the wall, but ratio in seemingly unrelated phenomena over the (roughly) same period of time are some cool statistics.

edit on 21-9-2018 by charlyv because: spelling , where caught

posted on Sep, 21 2018 @ 11:29 PM
a reply to: toms54

That's somewhat like what I'm trying to say.

Invisible is a strong word though, as you said the trees were not invisible and if you observed and took the time to study these unknown trees you'd find their uniqueness.

But to you it was just a tree, it served no purpose to you. The potential to know more existed, demonstrated by the sharing of knowledge by your friend.

Another angle I left out of my post is the effect of language on the brain, different languages bring their own mindset, affecting how we think, interact and learn... Funny how civilizations often come to the same conclusion via radically different paths, but that's for another thread.

My point being, humans are curious little critters. Generally we love to observe, find the meaning or reason. We love to question. So with that said I can't bring myself to say the sky might have been "invisible" due to no word for blue. They knew of blue, the colour has been used for a very long time, I can only assume they used other words.

Plus the sky isn't just blue, it varies. Sometimes it's black, blue, purple and red. Again I can't bring myself to say those of the past didn't question such things because they did, they questioned why winter has little light and summer has little night.

I guess the evolution I'm talking about is of the mind not the eyes. The ancients were no different than us, physically or mentally. Granted not everyone questions, but many do. I'm not of the belief our ancestors were idiotic or blind.

Far from it really and yes, they were well aware of blue.

It's a question of cognition. You can see or hear something your entire life and never notice it unless someone points it out to you. Then it becomes real. 

I like this, a perspective thing. Woe onto them that look with two eyes yet never see a thing. The glory of creation is infinite and all is unique... Care to notice?

posted on Sep, 22 2018 @ 12:06 AM
a reply to: toms54

I could also, but I have been told I have a keen eye for colors and whatnot

posted on Sep, 22 2018 @ 03:08 AM

originally posted by: Madrusa
a reply to: toms54

More a curious phenomena of the actual evidence being invisible to some.

Some of the color words preserved in the earliest Semitic languages (e.g., uqnu, “lapis lazuli” or “dark blue”) are loanwords for materials from other unknown older languages. Other terms – later shared in different languages – were possibly words (but certainly not the corresponding category “abstractions”) corresponding to “red” and “green” which may have existed in the early Neolithic of the Near East, perhaps 10,000–12,000 years ago, prior to the documentation of language [10]. In Akkadian (uqnu) and Egyptian (xsbdj), terms for lapis lazuli designated “dark blue.” In Greek, a term (kyaneos) for blue appearances is derived from the Akkadian. In Egyptian, turquoise (mfkāt) denoted “light blue.” Akkadian used several terms for “light blue” (including ḫasˇmanum, possibly from the Egyptian word for amethyst, ḥsmn, which was not used as a color word in Egyptian). Chinese lán is a term for “blue” colors but appears quite late (in comparison to, e.g., “red,” “white,” “black,” “yellow”). As a category, the modern English term “blue” evolved to ultimately eclipse the distinction (still preserved in Russian) between light and dark blue. Through the second millennium BC, color terms are mostly rooted in materials – most of which were later eclipsed with abstract words.

Ancient terms for colour

In modern Greek, we have two words for what an Anglophone would consider blue.

Γαλάζιο, the color of the sky, the color of some people's eyes, the color of the best or second best Gatorade flavors (depending on if I am in the mood for it or for grape at the moment), etc. That's ΓΑΛΑΖΙΟ galazio (gah-LAH-zee-oh).

Μπλε is the other or mple (ble), pronounced blay (which begins with an M in Greek since the Greek alphabet (which unlike the fraternity letters used strangely by American colleges is actually alfa veeta gamma thelta epseelon zeeta eeta theeta yota kappa lamtha mee nee ksee omeecron pee ro seegma taf eepseelon fee chee psee omega) creates more complex sounds by combining their parts and when you look at the tongue, throat, muscles used, positioning of the tongue and all that, B as it is pronounced in English, is actually just combining a P sound connected to the M sound's position. Say it out loud an M then a P in one sound. See? So things look strange especially when taken from another language. Boobies written in the Greek alphabet would be mpoumphs or mpoumpis ΜΠΟΥΜΠΗΣ μπουμπης. Donald duck, because the English D sound is a T sound built off an N. Say an N and T combined. ΝΤΟΝΑΛΝΤ ΝΤΑΚ Ντοναλντ ΝΤΑΚ (yes a lower case v is an n because v is the letter B and B is MP.). This color occurs less in nature I would have to say. It is the color of the Greek flag, the American flags blue, or the color of Pepsi cans.

I can't think of any time these two colors would be considered the same. In Greek speaking countries, Greece, Cyprus, and Mount Athos (more or less), the people see these as two different things. In the US though, people would call them blue no matter how different the two are. It is more definite than if an American were to call violet, purple, and magenta purple or blue and indigo blue. The mathematical division of the color spectrum agreed too since these two colors make their own piece of pie in the chart where say, purple and magenta are located in the same piece of pie.

The color of the sky, ουρανός (Ouranos or Uranus) is galazio and therefore associated with the Titan Uranus. Some say etymologically, Ouranos comes from όρος/oros pl. οριά/Otis like ΦΤΑΝΩ ΣΤΑ ΟΡΙΑ ΜΟΥ!! Ftano sta oria mou (kinda, I've had it up to here!) And then the other part, the word or prefix άνω or ano, up/upwards thus Ouranos being the upper limits. This may have a relation with the Sumerian/Babylonian god Ano/Any who was also the god of the sky.

In the oldest forms of the Greek language though, as another user pointed out, there was no distinction of blue and black. Both were just called dark.

Boy am I getting off track now. I am sure any of this is the last thing you really give a darn about so before you all ftanete sta oria sas, I will SKASE! (SKAH-say! Shut up!)

posted on Sep, 22 2018 @ 05:50 AM
a reply to: RAY1990

"They knew of blue, the colour has been used for a very long time, I can only assume they used other words.' Some of the others have also suggested things like this. These articles say there was very little blue in the ancient world. Sky, water, and a mineral (lapis lazuli) that only came from one mountain in Afghanistan. While I do know that most all blue flowers sold commercially are bred artificially, there must be some blue wildflowers, not to mention blueberries and we know the ancients were very familiar with plants and herbs. I was looking through another place and came upon an article about sapphires in ancient times. So yes, I think maybe they did recognize some blues. Maybe they called the color of sapphires "sapphire."

posted on Sep, 22 2018 @ 06:12 AM
a reply to: AlexandrosTheGreat

There are several things in your post I find fascinating. The idea of two blues. Maybe the world is about to differentiate another color. I've been seeing many things about how other cultures perceive color that I was totally unaware of before.

Also, your linguistic points like how mp make b. Shows how words changed spelling from one language to another.

Maybe when Homer described the sky as wine colored he was talking about a sunset. Or an event that put a lot of particles in the air like a distant, giant forest fire or volcano that the sailors couldn't see. It's been so long since I read it, I can't recall actually where in the poem that comes from.

posted on Sep, 22 2018 @ 07:26 AM
a reply to: Nightwalk

To the Hebrews Blue was a sacred color

The robes of the priests were blue

Blue threads were used in the fringes of the prayer shawls

Known as Tekhelet

Of the precious stones in ancient world, one of the most prized was Lapis Lazuli - which was a deep blue

Turquoise from the Sinai was also highly prized

If unable to see blue why was all the precious objects blue??

posted on Sep, 22 2018 @ 08:44 AM

originally posted by: firerescue
a reply to: Nightwalk

To the Hebrews Blue was a sacred color

The robes of the priests were blue

Blue threads were used in the fringes of the prayer shawls

Known as Tekhelet

Of the precious stones in ancient world, one of the most prized was Lapis Lazuli - which was a deep blue

Turquoise from the Sinai was also highly prized

If unable to see blue why was all the precious objects blue??

The premise is, that all blue things were perceived as a different color. Just as striking, but different from what we perceive today.

posted on Sep, 22 2018 @ 09:17 AM
a reply to: toms54 Bluebells
Cow parsley
Deadly nightshade
Dog rose

There's a list of some wild flowers, that's just the UK. I'll save you a list of animals and insects that are blue here.

And yes, someone mentioned earlier how many of the words we now know as colours originated from actual things in the world around us, Magnolia is an example of that. Plenty more exist.

Ultimately as I mentioned our languages have become more complex, in some cases we can have 10's of words just for one object or entity. Sometimes 100's... Like dogs, maybe our ancestors just called them all dogs (their breeds varied too) yet these days we know them all individually and the breeds are well researched.

Personally I find the idea of "no knowledge of blue" kind of ludicrous, based on what? A poem and anecdotal evidence. In my eyes the whole premise holds no water against the clear evidence that exists of utilizing things of the colour blue. Seems blue was a highly valued colour amongst many people's of the ancient world.

posted on Sep, 22 2018 @ 09:31 AM
a reply to: charlyv

Yet it was still a colour that was easily defined in of itself. Let's say brown became orange tomorrow for us. It'll still be recognisable and distinct from any other colour.

Point being we know of the colour and how it's different from all other colours.

We start chasing our tail eventually... Just going round in circles. Maybe it was a different colour for them but it's not like we could ever truly know. The colour, whatever it's name, was recognized. You brought up interesting points in earlier posts though, made me think of how the brain adapts to eye trauma or the onset of blindness. I have an aunt who's going blind. It's fascinating how she sees things and learned to deal with that. She doesn't really see colour yet can detect them via the contrast.

I'm going to be thinking on this a while

posted on Sep, 22 2018 @ 10:30 AM
a reply to: RAY1990

I knew I had seen some blue flowers. I hear what you are saying. This idea was new to me when I saw it but now, I can say there is quite a bit of materiel out there to back this up. Especially in art history books but also some work just on the history of color. I'm not sure it's even possible to determine the truth even with experiments. Being raised and communicating in this culture and time has trained us to see it, now we can never unsee it. We would have to travel the world finding isolated peoples to test.

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