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Topic: [HM] Platonic solids
Replies: 6   Last Post: Jun 18, 2004 9:03 AM

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James A Landau

Posts: 217
Registered: 12/3/04
Re: [HM] Platonic solids
Posted: Jun 17, 2004 9:36 AM
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In a message dated Wed, 16 Jun 2004 04:00:21 -0400 (EDT), John McKay
<MCKAY@vax2.concordia.ca> writes
>
> The so-called "platonic solids" are neither platonic nor Pythagorean.
> They were known to the inhabitants of North East Scotland in the
> late neolithic period. This is astonishingly little known.
> various collections in museums are found in UK. The Ashmolean has
> the 5 on display. See the picture in Atiyah/Sutcliffe in the
> preprint server www.arxiv.org . I would like to investigate further
> perhaps making them the subject of some video footage. Is anyone out
> there interested?


These prehistoric Platonic solids were discussed on the HM list in a thread
beginning:

>Subj: [HM] "Platonic Solids" - Paleolith. Scotland?
>Date: 99-08-15 20:00:59 EDT
>From: RTragesser@compuserve.com (Robert Tragesser)
>
> Browsing about on the Pythagorean shelf of a "New Age" book
>store, I flipped through an outsized book I believe was titled "Sacred
>Geometry" (published by something like Shambala Press). Therein it had
>photographs of a complete set of the Platonic Solids, carved from stone
>and were said to have been discovered in a paleolithic site in Scotland.
>They were not polyhedra, but rather stone figures that clearly had the
>symmetries of the Platonic Solids, but they were composed of demi-spheres.
>As usual with such books, it didn't (seem to) have a reference.


(An interesting disagreement: McKay says "late neolithic" and Tragesser says
"paleolithic".)

James Buddenhagen (5/23/00) added:
>Anyway, for those interested, here is a link to a picture of some of
>these objects:
>
>http://www.georgehart.com/virtual-polyhedra/neolithic.html


I would like to pose a question: were these prehistoric Platonic solids used
as dice?
One wants a die to roll freely in any direction, which implies that the die
has to be a regular polyhedron. Cubes are most common, but octahedra have been
used (I believe they were called "Egyptian dice" in the circa 1960 gambling
houses in Newport, Kentucky,although that may have been a purely local term).

A little off-topic: the science fiction writer (and patent attorney) Charles
Harness once wrote a science fiction novel _The Ring of Ritornel_ in which the
plot revolves around the properties of dodecahedral dice.

- James A. Landau






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