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The color blue: Ancient Origins

Gene LGene L Senior MemberPosts: 12,644 Senior Member
edited October 2021 in Clubhouse #1
It's everywhere, but apparently our ancestors couldn't see it.  And humans can see a million shades, just not blue.  In ancient languages, the color blue isn't mentioned; not in ancient Chinese, Icelandic, or Greek. Homer described the ocean as "the wine dark sea" and not "the deep blue sea."  (Wine dark sea actually sounds more poetic IMO.) No mention of blue in the original Hebrew version of the Bible. Some modern humans apparently can't see blue either.  And it's not just language, either. In one test, Herdsmen from Mumbai  were asked to pick out the blue square from 12 identical green squares which is obvious to us, but many of them could not tell the difference, and those who did had to ponder on it. Their language, like ancient ones,  has no word for blue.

I got this information from Ancient Origins, a website that deals with Ancient Subjects.  It's a good read if such things interest you.
Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.

Replies

  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,928 Senior Member
    General Motors brought us that color.
    :-)
  • Wambli SkaWambli Ska Posts: 3,498 Senior Member
    edited October 2021 #3
    Interesting article for sure.  The article is a bit at odds with the history of Laps Lazuli mining and use as a pigment, which dates back to about 7,000 BC in the Middle East.  If you really look around very few things in nature are a true blue outside of the sky and oceans, so I can understand where there were entire civilizations that would not bother with making up a word for it, even the omission of the color in writings about the Ocean are understandable since truly deep ocean waters looks purplish I can see where someone would have equated it to Wine.

    The article refers to “as late as 1800s” hinting that humans could not “see” the color.  Yet it is well known that during the Renaissance in Europe (when trade with the countries that produced the Lapis Lazuli was more commonplace) blue was a highly prized and EXPENSIVE pigment which was used in many of the masters paintings, usually on the robes/clothing of royalty or religious figures like Jesus and the Virgin Mary, and for the creation of expensive fabrics to dress royalty.

    The Adoration of the Magi - Giovanni di Paolo - 1460

    The Annunciation - Luca Giordano - 1672


    Salvator Mundi - Leonardo DaVinci - 1499


    By the way, great website, thanks for sharing.
    I’m baaaaaaaaack… 😬
  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 12,644 Senior Member
    edited October 2021 #4
    Lapis is mined in Afghanistan, believe.  While it existed in ancient (emphasis on ancient) times our ancestor possibly didn't see it in the same way we see it.  There was no word for it in ancient times.  Not saying the color didn't exist.
    Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.
  • Wambli SkaWambli Ska Posts: 3,498 Senior Member
    Gene L said:
    Lapis is mined in Afghanistan, believe.  While it existed in ancient (emphasis on ancient) times our ancestor possibly didn't see it in the same way we see it.  There was no word for it in ancient times.  Not saying the color didn't exist.
    Agreed.  And yes it comes from Afghanistan and there is some in South America too.
    I’m baaaaaaaaack… 😬
  • SpkSpk Senior Member Posts: 4,746 Senior Member
    The Egyptians knew about blue, alot of their statues and things were blue. I have to wonder then, maybe they had a different description of the same word.

    Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience -- Mark Twain
    How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and [how] hard it is to undo that work again! -- Mark Twain

  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 12,644 Senior Member
    I wonder, too.  I assume whomever wrote the article checked their information against reality, but who knows.  Most revealing to me is the modern herdsmen who mostly didn't know the difference in a test that was strictly visual.  I think I remember reading that some instance there was no difference between blue and green for them.  The AO article has a photograph of a dress with blue lines running across it and brownish in between...except some saw it as black lines and gold in between.  I'd seen this before and couldn't understand how blue/black and gold/brown could have been confused, but there it is.
    Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.
  • Some_MookSome_Mook Posts: 605 Senior Member
    I was listening to a radio lab program a few years ago, and a researcher who was discussed had raised his own daughter by deliberately never describing the color of the sky to her.  Then one day he asked what color she saw when she looked up - she had no idea, and did not see any color to the sky, and eventually decided that the sky was white.  Only later on did she start to describe the color of the sky as 'blue'




    "If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace." - Thomas Paine
    "I know my place in the world and it ain’t standing next to Jerry Miculek" - Zee
  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 12,644 Senior Member
    Here is the famous dress...what do you see?


    Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.
  • zorbazorba Senior Member Posts: 25,092 Senior Member
    I see both as they have multiple image files - and another image that switches between the two. Need to see this dress in person. Maybe it'll change color when I try it on?

    But this begs the old question: We look at the sky and we all say its "blue". BUT - what color do I really see vs Wambli (for instance)? Maybe he sees what I'd call pink, and I see what he'd call brown! In the meantime Gene might see what I call yellow and Wambli would call orange! We can't compare what's actually going on in our brains...

    My late father was partially color blind - and he was an electrician! He had REAL problems with greens, browns, and some reds.
    -Zorba, "The Veiled Male"

    "If you get it and didn't work for it, someone else worked for it and didn't get it..."
    )O(
  • SpkSpk Senior Member Posts: 4,746 Senior Member
    I'll have to consult the orange cat.

    Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience -- Mark Twain
    How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and [how] hard it is to undo that work again! -- Mark Twain

  • Some_MookSome_Mook Posts: 605 Senior Member
    Color Blindness aside, it may be that certain languages developed where there simply was no descriptive word for 'blue'.  The people could see the color but had no specific word for it, so because there was no word it is hypothesized that the people could not 'see' that color.

    There are languages spoken by people who would starve to death without access to rice, but they have no specific word for rice, instead the word they use for rice is the same word that they use for 'food'.

    I would see colors and describe them as brown or white, and then be informed that actually the colors were taupe or ivory.  I saw the colors but had never associated those specific words to describe them.  To me, taupe never existed and ivory was a material, not a color.

    The Japanese do not use the word 'No' in the same manner as westerners but they understand the concept of no, they just do not use that word.

    If you asked a western grocer if he had any bananas, he might reply "No, I do not have any bananas" where a Japanese grocer would reply "Yes, I do not have any bananas"
    "If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace." - Thomas Paine
    "I know my place in the world and it ain’t standing next to Jerry Miculek" - Zee
  • BigslugBigslug Senior Member Posts: 9,467 Senior Member
    I think to properly nail that down, you're going to have to look at ancient artwork to see if things that we currently call blue are represented by pigments we call blue.

    That still runs into a couple problems:

    1.  Conceptually a caveman probably doesn't have enough of whatever he's using to paint an elaborate background like the sky.  He's going to assume the viewer can fill that in for themselves - because "DUH! IT'S EVERYWHERE!" - and just put down the important subject matter.  You probably aren't going to see that kind of portrayal until more complex orders of societies emerged.  Also, in a more primitive mind with no understanding of air as matter, the sky might be "nothing" in their heads, and there's no reason to paint nothing.  That kind of "photo realism" came later.  You'd have to look for representations of blue plants, birds, or reptiles - if such existed in the area and if they thought those were important enough to paint.

    2.  Water is a bit of a problem.  While there are those postcard lagoons that are unquestionably "BLUE!", rivers, ponds, and lakes are often the color of whatever is suspended in them.  For a sea-based c

    3.  The pigment would have to exist where the art was painted.  Blue would probably be a toughie in a lot of places.

    4.  You can get a lot across without a big palette.  Just look at your daily black & white comic strips.  If the only crayon you had was a charred stick...
    WWJMBD?

    "Nothing is safe from stupid." - Zee
  • zorbazorba Senior Member Posts: 25,092 Senior Member
    Spk said:
    I'll have to consult the orange cat.

    Oooh! Bastet!
    -Zorba, "The Veiled Male"

    "If you get it and didn't work for it, someone else worked for it and didn't get it..."
    )O(
  • SpkSpk Senior Member Posts: 4,746 Senior Member
    zorba said:
    Spk said:
    I'll have to consult the orange cat.

    Oooh! Bastet!
    I figured you would recognize her.
    ;)
    Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience -- Mark Twain
    How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and [how] hard it is to undo that work again! -- Mark Twain

  • zorbazorba Senior Member Posts: 25,092 Senior Member
    Spk said:
    zorba said:
    Spk said:
    I'll have to consult the orange cat.

    Oooh! Bastet!
    I figured you would recognize her.
    ;)
    Yours?
    -Zorba, "The Veiled Male"

    "If you get it and didn't work for it, someone else worked for it and didn't get it..."
    )O(
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