Since archaeological optics is not a familiar subject, it is appropriate first to provide a definition of archaeology: “1) The scientific study of historic or prehistoric peoples and their cultures by analyses of their artifacts, inscriptions, monuments and other such remains, especially those which have been excavated. 2) Rare: Ancient history, the study of antiquity.” Anthropology, a somewhat related science, deals with the origins, development, races, customs, and beliefs of mankind. Modern archaeology has evolved into an increasingly sophisticated science. The archaeologist has access to modern dating techniques, remote sensing devices, and more precise analyses of the nature and contents of objects considered (metallic, crystal, rocks and soils, fibers, grains, vegetable, animal and human remains, etc.). Archaeological optics is the application of archaeology to optics and vision science. Note that in recent years the term “vision science” has been substituted for what had been known as “physiological optics.” This newer term is more inclusive and more readily understood.
Here, early history of optics is considered. The writer obviously must struggle with the questions, where does one start, what does one include, and where does one end? Such choices are somewhat arbitrary, and only limited issues can be addressed in one chapter. An attempt to present a coordinated whole has been made. There is some repetition of points in order to maintain continuity.
Modern civilization, as we know it, evolved largely from groups of peoples located in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin, including Egypt, and in the Middle East. Important civilizations also developed in the Indus Valley and in the Far East. As these peoples evolved, they exhibited growing sophistication, obtained sufficient resources, skills, and organizational structures to pursue development of new and necessary technologies. Even in relative antiquity, trade was greater than one might have anticipated. And warfare among emerging societies was a common occurrence.Warfare as well as trade served as means for technology transfer. The reader will realize that those contributing actively to optical developments in antiquity exhibited surprising knowledge and skills. Sadly, we do not know their identities.
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