Archimedes found in the Shadows

This is a story of the the Archimedes Palimpsest.


A tale which I believe reveals much about how ancient wisdoms are still being found, earthed for the first time in modernity’s 24-hour white light gaze.  This is the stuff of ripping yarns, of details which bedazzle – this could be W.H.Smith pulp thriller fiction content.

Archimedes lived in the 3rd century, B.C. and is considered one of the greatest mathematicians of all time.  In his lifetime, he invented many incredible mechanical devices.  Archimedes proved that the volume and surface area of a sphere are two thirds that of the cylinder including its bases.


During his lifetime, he produced two works – the “Method” and “Stomachion” which until recently, were almost completely unknown.  However, copies were made in medieval times and one of this copies is at the centre of this post.  At the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, you can now see a 10th century copy of Archimedes’ original writings.

An exhibition about the work begins with a fragment of ruined and charred manuscript.  Scholars have found that three centuries after the copies were originally made, Archimedes’ work was scraped away from the parchment so it could be re-used: in this case, to inscribe prayer.  When the original text on parchment or papyrus has been removed or scraped away, the new work is referred to as a Palimpsest.  The damp and crumpled New York Times article which I found and make much use of in this post, talks of the “ghost of a diagram, a spiral” still visible, in reddish ink, beneath the more contemporary inscriptions of prayer.  See here, the blue shows through because of the Ultra-Violet they use to see the original copy.



The photograph above gives a clearer indication of the original work, underneath the more recent book of prayer.

Astoundingly, this book of prayer is believed to have been used for centuries at the Monastery of St. Sabbas, a Greek Orthodox Monastery east of Bethlehem shown here in 1900 and again more recently.



In the next instant, in this account of the ancient parchment’s brief chronology, was its discovery by a biblical scholar in 1844, at the Metochion of the Holy Sepulcher in Istanbul.  This is the only image I can find of the Sepulchre but do imagine its travels and in whose possession it was moved.


Then in 1906, when a Danish scholar and expert on Archimedes called Johan Ludvig Heiburg, saw the book in Istanbul and recognised the treaties by Archimedes underneath the prayer.


It was only then that the full significance of this particular palimpsest was realised.  Here was the oldest sources of Archimedes’ writings and the Palimpsest was understood to contain documents, foundational to Western science.  The Greek communities in Istanbul suffered greatly during the First World War, and many of the artifacts in possession were lost or ruined.  But in 1932, the Palimpsest had turned up in Paris and was being offered for sale by a Jewish dealer called Salomon Guerson.  He recognised its importance but no buyer was found.  Guerson lived until 1970 and it was 28 years before his daughter was able to sell the work.

So it was in 1998, an anonymous buyer bought the Palimpsest for $2 million at a Christie’s auction.  It was then the role of William Noel, the Curator of Manuscripts at the Walters Art Museum to convince the buyer to display the artifact at the museum where it was displayed between October 16th, 2011 until January 1st, 2012.


The buyer, in turn, agreed and continued to to fund the restoration and research into the book which enables us to see the whole picture today.

Rothstein, in the New York Times article I happened across, believed Archimedes “knew that the ideal world of straight lines and regular objects was only an approximation of of the real world’s curves and complexities“.  I relay all of this because I find this particular story, the geography and the centuries it encompasses, to my mind a thrilling prospect .  Consider Thomas Chatterton as a young man, searching the oaken chests in the muniment room of St Mary Redcliffe’s, Bristol, and finding forgotten documents some 300 years old.  So often are mystery and intrigue severed from our waking like, this story of the Palimpsest serves to reminds us of relics and artifacts.  Tablets of knowledge dating back to the worlds of antiquity might still be nestled in the dust and shadows of some obscure and far-flung architecture today.


Both quotes from Finding Archimedes in the Shadows.  Edward Rothstein.  The New York Times supplement. 30.10.2011.  

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

28, 1968, institutional decomposition and the LimaZulu Haircut

I broke my tooth last night.  Now my tongue runs along a jagged edge and it just doesn’t feel right.  Afterwards, my concentration was lost and I burned my arm against a scalding hot pan.  The burn overlaps a previous scar, from a previous accident.  I am thinking a lot about the marks the body acquires as it passes through time and space.  28 looms large.  I still have 4 limbs and am able to practice for hours a time.  Escaping serious injury, I have survived my time in London remarkably unscathed.

Maybe this due to my superior sword skills.  I am currently studying the Qing Ping system of swordspersonship.  LimaZulu scents the air with a heady but necessary dose of political correctness.   The tassel arrived for my sword today, it is Sky Blue.  A Sky Blue Life by Maxim Gorky still on the shelf.  Tomorrow, a pair of Vanilla Black-Outs will arrive for Onyeka.  They should enhance her game.  I use the tassel to wipe away the blood of my enemies.  Crimson blood and sky blue silk will make a suitably elegant and fitting end to life…

And so I notice a dark London shadow stalking my every footfall.  I spend a lot of time over on Northumberland Park.

Ricky Villa & Ossie Ardiles Parading Out Spurs Ground 1978

White Hart Lane, architects drawing 1934

Northumberland Park, Tyneside

Northumberland Northumberland, Morpeth, Postcard

You can see the tip of the Shard from Tottenham.  An altercation, he unsheaths his sword.  I grab the shard from the distance and ward off my detractor.

Increasingly, the residents of LimaZulu are being given the same haircut.  It is known as the LimaZulu Cut.  A likeness of outputs, I suppose is to be expected.  Into the mix we go and arrive out on Hermitage Road, fresh-faced and content but still angry with the world.   I wonder where the aforementioned hermitage was.  Certainly, I have been reading about the history of The Sheikh Nazim Al-Haqqani Sufi Mosque on St Ann’s Road, which was used as a training space for some serious Seni Silat Haqq Melayu back in the 1990s.  The other public spaces where this Silat was taught were Tottenham Green Leisure Centre and Palmers Green Park.  All of this from Douglas S. Farrar’s gorgeous Shadows of the Prophet: Martial Arts and Sufi Mysticism.  The building here became a traveller’s lodge (Zawiya) where a man called Pa’ Ariffin began teaching Silat.  From Farrar’s book: “Advertising was condemned as a ploy used by those who commoditised martial arts to make money.  There was an implicit critique of capitalism in the creation of a boundary between the alienated realms of commercial activity and the sacred realm of silat training,” (page 210).   Farrar describes the old convent as “a large Victorian building with dirty red brick walls… [a] maze of cold stone and hard wood, with multiple staircases and dozens of corridors giving access to halls, offices, apartments, and classrooms…” (page 200).  

I remember the old St Ann’s Convent in Stoke Newington, just over the road from the primary mystical experience…  This structure didn’t fare so well.

Though Chartered Town Planning and Development Consultants Brooke Smith Planning note that the “scheme required careful negotiations with English Heritage but has resulted in a stunning new flagship property…”  So that’s alright then.

I talked at Re-Drawing the Maps.  A presentation on Bagua Armswings on the Friday night.  I think that all who attended had a good time.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Ghost Orchid Declaration

I visited Glasgow in Scotland.

the boy was building a Scottish Zen Garden on the land outside the tenement

the plot was stripped








Where does a wren go in Glasgow?

off Sauchiehall Street, Keppie Henderson & Partners, 1970.

Scottish summertime ketamine grid-system topography breath…


Ross Brown concrete note Scottish modernism

Keeling House.

 tendrils of plant growing woven into the designs of the turn-of-the-century zeitgeist.

Glasgow Kelvingrove weight of British imperial upon British backs blackened buildings and lungs

restored Kibble Palace

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

UK got too hot. Ghost style, stepping through ashes

Now the ghost, back with a bang.  Meets London at an angle, spinning off its own axis.

Last Saturday, there were sirens screaming through the night.

Police vans, straight from other boroughs heading fast up Stoke Newington High Street.  Cabaret at the Rebel Dog, we knew that something was going on.  I get a text from Tamsin “Riots in Tottenham?! X“.

What’s happening tonight London?

The answer is stranger than anything anyone can muster.  Uptown, Urban Dusk was settling the next evening when I finally journeyed up the Road, a road I know very well.  Maybe the ravens at the Tower started to get restless.  I’d never seen what a lockdown looked like.

Smashed bricks still there on wet tarmac outside Chances.  A Peoples’ Assembly was being held on the pavement where the men normally drink too much stout.

Ahead of The Game.  Connections really running deep.  ATP in Whitechapel.  Syzygy Re-Productions at the Sydney Youth Project.

Now I have previously drifted through Tottenham Carnival.  No carnival, the chatter on the High Road this evening wasn’t too good.  The police had killed a man.  And the situation on the streets got so tense and heated, that it blew up.  Now some of Tottenham’s buildings lay smouldering.

They’d closed the whole Road and the police them there maintaining the line.

Haringey People.  I left as more and more police cars sped around the one-way system at Tottenham Hale to get over to Enfield, where there had just started looting.

The Shock.  The Horror.

Also just the rupture in the every day mundanity.  They were in Wood Green Shopping City for 4 hours before cops turned up.

The next day I was in the West End.  I was the final customer that morning at the bank in High Holborn which they were closing early having heard from their management that rioting was happening nearby.  An hour later, and this was the scene at the shops in the recently renovated Brunswick Centre:

What happened here?  The kids picked on a Vodaphone shop, and smashed the windows to get at the phones.

The spark had spread, from the High Street in Tottenham so that it lit up something in the kids in Gloucester who started doing the same thing.  London as Barometer.  London as Microcosm.  On the second night of rioting, the whole world starts watching.

Later that night, I was back in Whitechapel.

There were kids outside were getting restless.  A lot of flashing lights were going around Stepney but nothing was going to get on Sky News.  Smoke filled the air and a fire engine pulls into the carpark at O’Leary Square.  We hit the street and they’d set the bin on fire.

Easy to talk about Britain going up in flames.  It wasn’t.  It was a few select locations in London.  But Whitechapel Ghost Style, present but not always on hand.  I was there following up.  Things get too hot and then they catch a fire.  And it came from the next neighbourhood up from us.  My beloved Tottenham.  On the third night, I was staying out of the trouble.  Someone’s doing San Ti Shi on a comfortable lawn in an Essex suburb.  The rioting and looting spread like a fire and later that night, we watched from a helicopter on the television as parts of the city of London burned.

No-one knows what happened here in the capital city.

In Peckham the following day…

A week later, the violence had stopped and everyone is simply trying to work it all out…

The Ghost still flits around, visiting England.  Everywhere, the police are trying to clamp down on something.  It is ill-defined.  The political classes have no answers.  Everyone is angry with police.

I say, what a spectacle from the Bullring in Birmingham!  For it was here as well…

It is so easy to break a window.

Strange scenes from what a deadly boring corporatist-fascist state in Britain might look like.  See the ad-hoc police cinema screen in the middle showing grainy CCTV faces of urban youth.

See the screen in the middle, amid the logos and the spectacle.  “Do you know any of these people?” the police want to know.  Streets away, speculative capitalism leaves the shitty Birmingham office blocks of the 1970s empty – and – also – boarded – up.  Something is happening in the UK but I don’t know who is really winning or loosing.

The shattered glass of retail centres has all been swept up.  And the wooden boarding was still in the windows of the Argos in the Arena Shopping Centre on Green Lanes when I got back.  Only streets away from the new Birmingham Bus Station, and people have been busy, dismantling the future they had planned for us all.

But everyone is still shopping.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Enter the Horse Stance, final days




Rainbird, throwing up Illuminati sign




Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

“Biri Ka’m Biri” (live and let live)



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Films from the Abyss – the first outing


Come one, Come all.  Haste ye to Rebel Dog, this space of exotic fancies in Stoke Newington.  Over the road from the graves of the West Hackney Recreational, stacked up and waiting.  Finally, the weight and the need to anchor these strange ramblings to a given place and time has resulted in this Films from the Abyss; poster above.  Your attendence would be approved…

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized