Sunday, July 5, 2015

Madaba Map

Discovered in a church in Madaba, Jordan, in 1884, the Madaba Map is the oldest surviving cartographic depiction of the Holy Land. Created in the form of a mosaic it dates to somewhere between A.D. 560-565 and originally showed an area that stretched from southern Syria to central Egypt. By the time it was discovered much of the map was already gone, however its remains include a detailed depiction of Jerusalem. "The bird's-eye view shows an oval-shaped walled city in the very center of the map with six gates and twenty-one towers, the colonnaded main thoroughfare … and thirty-six other identifiable public buildings, churches and monasteries," writes Jerome Mandel in an article published in the book "Trade, Travel and Exploration in the Middle Ages: An Encyclopedia" (Routledge, 2000). At the time it was created the Byzantine Empire ruled the Holy Land. 

On the sixth-century mosaic map of Palestine that paved the floor of a church in Madaba in Transjordan, Jerusalem holds a dominant position (Avi-Yonah 1954: 50-60, plate 7, nos 52-3). The colonnaded main street of Hadrian's Aelia Capitolina, the cardo maximus, is clearly visible, running southwards from what is now the Damascus Gate in the direction of Mount Zion, which lay outside the southern city wall until changes brought to the line of the city wall at the time of the Empress Eudocia in the middle of the fifth century. In a distinguished central position on the west side of this street, breaking the colonnade, are the steps leading to the propylea of Constantine's basilica; its three doorways are clearly visible. The complex of buildings on Golgotha is the largest edifice depicted, and is clearly meant to be seen as the focal point of the city, culminating in the domed rotunda which by that date covered the Holy Sepulchre. The steps leading directly to the main entrance of the basilica off the street recall Eusebius' description of its fronting onto the main thoroughfare. 

The deliberate emphasis on the central position of the Constantinian buildings at Jerusalem on the Madaba map reflects the importance of the Constantinian foundations. If Jerusalem was for the Christians the centre of the world, then the centre of Jerusalem itself could only be the place of Christ's death and resurrection. By contrast with the church of the `Upper Room' where the Jerusalem community had worshipped down the ages, tucked away outside the city on Mount Zion, Constantine's Holy Sepulchre was on the site of the Hadrianic temenos, alongside the forum and near the central crossroads, approached by an impressive flight of steps from the main thoroughfare; the new Christian monuments, and no longer the pagan temples, were the highlights of the city. 

Thus fourth-century Jerusalem saw Christianity symbolically transported from its place outside the walls to the very heart of the city. Roman Aelia was now the Christian Jerusalem. It was Constantine's creation of the `new Jerusalem' of Rev 21:2 - `And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband' - which lay at the heart of the Holy Land's emergence as a goal of pilgrimage in the fourth century (Hunt 1982).

NOAA's Weather in Focus Photo Contest-Some Photos...

Freezing rain attempts to halt spring in this image captured by Mike Shelby, from Elkridge, Maryland, taking home second place in the "smartphone images" category. (Credit: Mike Shelby.)

With a Bang by Bob Larson, Prescott, AZ
NOAA describes this category: "Remember safety first, but sometimes weather can develop in the blink of an eye supplying amazing photographic opportunities. Images depict both the subtle and extreme power of weather and climate, including images of extreme drought, floods, thunderstorms, tornadoes as well as snowscapes and landscapes."

Proton arc over Lake Superior by Ken William, Clio, MI

 Stars behind the storm by Brad Goddard, Orion, IL

Spruce Gran Picea

Spruce Gran Picea #0909 – 11A07 (9,550 years old; Fulufjället, Sweden)

This 9,950-year-old tree is like a portrait of climate change. The mass of branches near the ground grew the same way for roughly 9,500 years, but the new, spindly trunk in the center is only 50 or so years old, caused by warming at the top of this mountain plateau in Western Sweden.

Rachel Sussman's work is equal parts art, science and philosophy, and with her images of 3,000-year-old lichen and 7,000-year-old trees, she draws poignant perspectives on the nature of time, life and humanity's place in it.

Sussman's work provides audiences with a way to understand ideas around deep time, and has served as a portal for connecting scientists from disparate disciplines, providing them with a platform to consider the intersections between their various specialties.

The artist has exhibited widely in solo and group shows at venues including the Berlin Botanical Museum, the Montalvo Arts Center, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, and the American Museum of Natural History. And this past April, University of Chicago Press published the monograph “The Oldest Living Things in the World“ You can read more about Sussman's work in her interview, view her work live at Pioneer Works Center for Art and Innovation in Brooklyn on September 13th, 2014, and see several of her images from her Oldest Living Things project in this gallery.

How Human Beings Almost Vanished From Earth In 70,000 B.C.

Add all of us up, all 7 billion human beings on earth, and clumped together we weigh roughly 750 billion pounds. That, says Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson, is more than 100 times the biomass of any large animal that's ever walked the Earth. And we're still multiplying. Most demographers say we will hit 9 billion before we peak, and what happens then?

Well, we've waxed. So we can wane. Let's just hope we wane gently. Because once in our history, the world-wide population of human beings skidded so sharply we were down to roughly a thousand reproductive adults. One study says we hit as low as 40.

Forty? Come on, that can't be right. Well, the technical term is 40 "breeding pairs" (children not included). More likely there was a drastic dip and then 5,000 to 10,000 bedraggled Homo sapiens struggled together in pitiful little clumps hunting and gathering for thousands of years until, in the late Stone Age, we humans began to recover. But for a time there, says science writer Sam Kean, "We damn near went extinct."

I'd never heard of this almost-blinking-out. That's because I'd never heard of Toba, the "supervolcano." It's not a myth. While details may vary, Toba happened.

Toba, The Supervolcano
Once upon a time, says Sam, around 70,000 B.C., a volcano called Toba, on Sumatra, in Indonesia went off, blowing roughly 650 miles of vaporized rock into the air. It is the largest volcanic eruption we know of, dwarfing everything else..

That eruption dropped roughly six centimeters of ash — the layer can still be seen on land — over all of South Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Arabian and South China Sea. According to the Volcanic Explosivity Index, the Toba eruption scored an "8", which translates to "mega-colossal" — that's two orders of magnitude greater than the largest volcanic eruption in historic times at Mount Tambora in Indonesia, which caused the 1816 "Year Without a Summer" in the northern hemisphere.

With so much ash, dust and vapor in the air, Sam Kean says it's a safe guess that Toba "dimmed the sun for six years, disrupted seasonal rains, choked off streams and scattered whole cubic miles of hot ash (imagine wading through a giant ashtray) across acres and acres of plants." Berries, fruits, trees, African game became scarce; early humans, living in East Africa just across the Indian Ocean from Mount Toba, probably starved, or at least, he says, "It's not hard to imagine the population plummeting."

Then — and this is more a conjectural, based on arguable evidence — an already cool Earth got colder. The world was having an ice age 70,000 years ago, and all that dust hanging in the atmosphere may have bounced warming sunshine back into space. Sam Kean writes "There's in fact evidence that the average temperature dropped 20-plus degrees in some spots," after which the great grassy plains of Africa may have shrunk way back, keeping the small bands of humans small and hungry for hundreds, if not thousands of more years.

So we almost vanished.

But now we're back.

It didn't happen right away. It took almost 200,000 years to reach our first billion (that was in 1804), but now we're on a fantastic growth spurt, to 3 billion by 1960, another billion almost every 13 years since then, till by October, 2011, we zipped past the 7 billion marker, says writer David Quammen, "like it was a "Welcome to Kansas" sign on the highway."
In his new book Spillover, Quamman writes:
We're unique in the history of mammals. We're unique in this history of vertebrates. The fossil record shows that no other species of large-bodied beast — above the size of an ant, say or an Antarctic krill — has ever achieved anything like such abundance as the abundance of humans on Earth right now.
But our looming weight makes us vulnerable, vulnerable to viruses that were once isolated deep in forests and mountains, but are now bumping into humans, vulnerable to climate change, vulnerable to armies fighting over scarce resources. The lesson of Toba the Supervolcano is that there is nothing inevitable about our domination of the world. With a little bad luck, we can go too.
We once almost did.

Radiolab regular Sam Kean's new book on genetics, The Violinist's Thumb, tells the story of Toba, the supervolcano, to explore how human genes record a "bottleneck" or a drastic narrowing of genetic diversity 70,000 years ago. David Quammen's new book Spillover is about people pushing into forests, swamps and places where viruses have been hiding. Those viruses are now beginning to cross over into horses, pigs, bats, birds and, inevitably, they threaten to "spillover" into us. For a virus, or bacteria, 7 billion potential hosts look like a fantastic opportunity.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Nepenthes attenboroughii digesting shrew on Mount Victoria, Palawan, Philippines

Nepenthes attenboroughii, or Attenborough's pitcher plant, is a montane species of carnivorous pitcher plant of the genus Nepenthes. It is named after the celebrated broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough, who is a keen enthusiast of the genus. The species is characterised by its large and distinctive bell-shaped lower and upper pitchers and narrow, upright lid. The type specimen of N. attenboroughii was collected on the summit of Mount Victoria, an ultramafic mountain in central Palawan, the Philippines.

Mount Victoria (1726 or 1709 m ), or Victoria Peaks, is a mountain in central Palawan, Philippines, that lies within the administrative Municipality of Narra. The mountain, which includes the twin peaks known as "The Teeth", as well as the single prominence known as "Sagpaw", form the largest contiguous land area and second highest portion of the Mount Beaufort Ultramafics geological region, a series of ultramafic outcrops of Eocene origin, that includes Palawan's highest peak, Mount Mantalingahan (2085 m).

The summit flora of Mount Victoria includes Leptospermum sp., Medinilla spp., Pleomele sp., Vaccinium sp., various grasses, as well as the sundew Drosera ultramafica, which grows at similar elevations to N. attenboroughii.

The pitcher plant is among the largest of all pitchers and is so big that it can catch rats as well as insects in its leafy trap.

During the same expedition, botanists also came across strange pink ferns and blue mushrooms they could not identify.

The botanists have named the pitcher plant after British natural history broadcaster David Attenborough.

They published details of the discovery in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society earlier this year.

Word that this new species of pitcher plant existed initially came from two Christian missionaries who in 2000 attempted to scale Mount Victoria, a rarely visited peak in central Palawan in the Philippines.

With little preparation, the missionaries attempted to climb the mountain but became lost for 13 days before being rescued from the slopes.

On their return, they described seeing a large carnivorous pitcher plant.

That pricked the interest of natural history explorer Stewart McPherson of Red Fern Natural History Productions based in Poole, Dorset, UK and independent botanist Alastair Robinson, formerly of the University of Cambridge, UK and Volker Heinrich, of Bukidnon Province, the Philippines.

All three are pitcher plant experts, having travelled to remote locations in the search for new species.
So in 2007, they set off on a two-month expedition to the Philippines, which included an attempt at scaling Mount Victoria to find this exotic new plant.

Accompanied by three guides, the team hiked through lowland forest, finding large stands of a pitcher plant known to science called Nepenthes philippinensis , as well as strange pink ferns and blue mushrooms which they could not identify.

As they closed in on the summit, the forest thinned until eventually they were walking among scrub and large boulders.

"At around 1,600 metres above sea level, we suddenly saw one great pitcher plant, then a second, then many more," McPherson recounts.

"It was immediately apparent that the plant we had found was not a known species."

Pitcher plants are carnivorous. Carnivorous plants come in many forms, and are known to have independently evolved at least six separate times. While some have sticky surfaces that act like flypaper, others like the Venus fly trap are snap traps, closing their leaves around their prey.
Pitchers create tube-like leaf structures into which insects and other small animals tumble and become trapped.

The team has placed type specimens of the new species in the herbarium of the Palawan State University, and have named the plant Nepenthes attenboroughii after broadcaster and natural historian David Attenborough.

"The plant is among the largest of all carnivorous plant species and produces spectacular traps as large as other species which catch not only insects, but also rodents as large as rats," says McPherson.
The pitcher plant does not appear to grow in large numbers, but McPherson hopes the remote, inaccessible mountain-top location, which has only been climbed a handful of times, will help prevent poachers from reaching it.

During the expedition, the team also encountered another pitcher, Nepenthes deaniana , which had not been seen in the wild for 100 years. The only known existing specimens of the species were lost in a herbarium fire in 1945.

On the way down the mountain, the team also came across a striking new species of sundew, a type of sticky trap plant, which they are in the process of formally describing.

Thought to be a member of the genus Drosera , the sundew produces striking large, semi-erect leaves which form a globe of blood red foliage.

Sima Humboldt and Sima Martel

Enigma of the mountain of Evil Spirit

"On the top of the grim, forest covered mountain, in a cave, there is living Evil Spirit, hunting for humans. Sometimes he is heard devouring human flesh and then a terrible sound "Sari... sari..." is heard."
This legend of Ye'kuana Indians gave the name to Sarisariñama tepui (1, 2) – a spectacular, forested table-top mountain in one of the most remote areas in South America - south-eastern Venezuela.
It was only on 25th November, 1961 (3) that a famous jungle pilot Harry Gibson happened to fly over this mysterious mountain and spotted something unusual – a carpet of beautiful green forest that was perforated by two enormous and apparently very deep holes – each having a patch of forest at their bottoms. In the fantasies of many people this unusual natural phenomenon promised exciting discoveries – may be prehistoric animals still be living there?

Forested tepui

Sarisariñama tepui is located in the middle of primeval forests with the closest road being hundreds of kilometres away. There are more than 100 tepuis (very impressive table-top mountains) in the southern parts of Venezuela and Guiana as well as in the bordering regions of Brazil. Tepuis consists of pink, arenitic Paleoproterozoan sandstone (quartzite) of Roraima formation and belong to the oldest exposed formations on Earth. Their age is approximately 1.8 billion years (4).
The summit area of Sarisariñama tepui is 546.88 km² and its slope area is 482 km² (5).
Most tepuis do not have forest on their tops but in this respect Sarisariñama tepui is not typical. The jungle on the top of this tepui is so dense that one can pass within 50 metres of the rim of both sinkholes, without noticing them.
In general tepuis in the eastern part of Guiana Highlands have some sparse and low forest and are comparatively poor in species diversity, but Sarisariñama tepui is an exception, having 15 – 25 metre high trees and being rich with varied species (5).
In total Sarisariñama tepui has got four biotopes represented (5):
  • tall, upland scrub on rock
  • tubiform, shrubby highland meadows on rock and peat
  • medium, evergreen upper-montane forest
  • medium, evergreen montane forest
Sarisariñama tepui is characterised by endemic species such as the frog Stefania riae Duellman&Hoogmoed, 1984.

First explorers - Indiana Jones style adventures

We know too little about the history of Indians in South America and can not be sure whether they have ascended the mountain and reached the sinkholes in the past.
The modern world had to wait for 1961 and a jungle pilot named Harry Gibson to spot both sinkholes or simas as they are called in South America.
The announcement made by Harry Gibson about the weird formations in Sarisariñama tepui was well known among specialists and adventurers. But walking hundreds of kilometres through impenetrable jungle to reach the base of Sarisariñama (one Norwegian expedition (2) in 1990ies made only 300 metres a day through this jungle), ascending many hundreds of metres of steep cliffs, going through jungle again an descending to an unknown depth required strong will, organisational and managerial capabilities and... a lot of money.
Only in 1974 was the first expedition to these sinkholes organised by explorers and adventurers David Nott and Charles Brewer-Carias, involving numerous specialists who used this lifetime opportunity to be the first in an unexplored area.
The expedition used a helicopter and thus did not have to spend too much time and effort to reach the summit of Sarisariñama. Groups of people were released into the jungle next to the largest sinkhole and three men descended on 7 ropes tied together, each 50 metres long.
As they descended, they realised that getting back was not going to be easy because the sinkhole down below was wider than above and rope was hanging free. Thus explorers were in a trap, as bugs in a jar. During the next few days a winch was arranged and a chainsaw and other supplies were lowered. The three men made a desperate attempt to cut giant trees to make an open space for the helicopter, living with the unpleasant exhaust of the chainsaw. This slaughter of unknown and most likely, very rare species of plants was unnecessary, as in the end they used cable ladders to get out of their trap.
During their stay the expedition looked for the underground river which had formed the sinkhole, but were without success: there was no water body below.
More thorough investigation of both sinkholes was done two years later, in 1976 by a joint Venezuelan – Polish expedition. They discovered one more sinkhole, Sima de la Lluvia. For some two decades it was the longest known quartzite cave (1.35 km) in the world and its exploration to a great extent solved the mystery of the formation of these sinkholes. In total there are four sinkholes known on Sarisariñama.

Sima Humboldt and Sima Martel

After some controversies, both sinkholes were named by a participant of the expedition from 1974, Eugenio de Bellard Pietri in the noble names of the explorer Alexander von Humboldt and the legendary speleologist Eduard Martel - Sima Humboldt and Sima Martel. Often the simpler names are used instead: Sima Major (Large Sinkhole) and Sima Menor (Small Sinkhole).
Sima Humboldt or Sima Major is the largest one. Its depth is 314 metres, with a volume of 21 million cubic metres. At the upper rim the sinkhole is a maximum 352 metres wide, but down below is up to 502 metres wide (7).
Sima Menor or Sima Martel is 248 metres deep.
Both sinkholes are roughly circular in form, but not exactly round. The distance between the rims of both sinkholes is approximately 700 m.
Sima Menor contains stalactites of exotic black mineral called litiophorite. In both sinkholes there are small stalactites, mats and coralloids of opal. The formation of opal has been initiated by bacteriological processes (8). In Sima Humboldt one can find gypsum crusts as well.
The vertical walls of both sinkholes have been insurmountable to plants and animals living on the bottom of both wells. Thus, over a long time there has developed a unique, small ecosystem with such species of plants and animals which are found nowhere else on Earth.

It takes some hundred millions of years and a bit of water...

Sarisariñama is not the only place having such sinkholes: there are similar formations in nearby tepuis; such as the breathtaking and deeper Sima Aonda (group of several simas) on Auyán tepui. Such sinkholes have formed through the following steps:
  • gradual chemical and mechanical erosion of the hard quartzite along the fissures
  • formation of voids
  • when the area of voids increases and ceiling becomes unstable: subsequent collapse of the ceiling until the surface of tepui has been reached
Both of the Sarisariñama sinkholes are located close to the rim of a tepui and there is not much doubt that here the process has been the same. This process has been very slow and a large stream was not needed to create these giant holes (9).
Such processes are unusual because the quartzite forming tepuis is impermeable and with exceptional resistance against water erosion. But tepuis belong to the oldest mountain formations in the world and here time is measured in many hundred millions of years. The sinkholes of Sarisariñama tell us: if there is enough time, water finds its way through the hardest rock.
The geological processes in the Sarisariñama tepui in resemble karst processes in many respects, which are typical for the much softer and more soluble rocks like limestone and dolomite, but are a lot rarer and take a lot more time.

Living legend

The legend about the Evil Spirit is alive up to this day and many Indians still are afraid of the jungle-covered tepui.
The entire Sarisariñama tepui and surrounding areas are included in Jaua-Sarisariñama National Park and the tepui is off limits to general tourists. Only researchers may get a permit to visit this unusual location: the unique nature of this site is too unique to afford risks created by tourism.
But it is also true that visits to this unusual site are offered by some adventure tourism companies – I am not sure who is cheating whom here.

Myths and truth

A wish to experience sensation and the "copy&paste" culture has created some myths about the sinkholes of Sarisariñama tepui. It is about time to dispel some of them:
  • Sinkholes of Sarisariñama are the largest/ deepest in the world. Not true: for example, Abismo Guy Collet in Brasil is even 671 metres deep and the Sima Aonda (Venezuela) is 383 metres deep.
  • Both sinkholes are perfectly round. Not true: both Sima Humboldt and Sima Martel are elongated and not even in form.
  • Mechanism of formation of these sinkholes is a total mystery to scientists. Not true: it has been pretty clear since the expedition from 1976.
  • Sinkholes were discovered only in 1974. Not true: they were discovered in 1961 and first accessed in 1974.

Book of Soyga

The Book of Soyga, also titled Aldaraia, is a 16th-century Latin treatise on magic, one copy of which is known to have been possessed by the Elizabethan scholar John Dee. After Dee's death, the book was thought to be lost until 1994 when two manuscripts were located in the British Library (Sloane MS. 8) and the Bodleian Library (Bodley MS. 908), under the title Aldaraia sive Soyga vocor, by Dee scholar Deborah Harkness. The Sloane 8 version is also described as Tractatus Astrologico Magicus, though both versions differ only slightly.

Elizabethan scholar John Dee.

Jim Reeds notes that the Bodley 908 MS consists of 197 leaves including Liber Aldaraia (95 leaves), Liber Radiorum (65 leaves), and Liber decimus septimus (2 leaves), as well as a number of shorter and unnamed works totaling approximately ten leaves. The final 18 leaves of the MS contain 36 tables of letters. The Sloane 8 MS consists of 147 leaves, mostly identical to the Bodley MS, with the exception that the tables of letters appear on 36 leaves, and the Liber Radiorum is presented in a two leaf summarized version.

Amongst the incantations and instructions on magic, astrology, demonology, lists of conjunctions, lunar mansions, and names and genealogies of angels, the book contains 36 large squares of letters which Dee was unable to decipher. Otherwise unknown medieval magical treatises are cited, including works known as liber E, liber Os, liber dignus, liber Sipal, and liber Munob.

Jim Reeds, in his short work John Dee and the Magic Tables in the Book of Soyga, notes a proclivity to record words backwards in the MS, citing as examples Lapis reversed as Sipal, Bonum reversed as Munob, and the title of the MS, Soyga, as Agyos, literis transvectis, revealing a practice which sought to obscure some of the works cited. 'Soyga' is ‘Agios’ (Greek for "Holy") spelled backwards.

Reeds writes:
    The Book of Soyga's preoccupation with letters, alphabet arithmetic, Hebrew-like backwards writing, and so on, is of course characteristic of the new Cabalistic magic which became popular in the sixteenth century, exemplified by the great compilation of Agrippa of Nettesheim (1486-1535), and borrowing authority both from the Renaissance humanist interest in the Kabbala expressed by such figures as Pico and Reuchlin and from the supposed Biblical antiquity of the Kabbalah."

Of the square tables that obsessed Dee, Reeds continued, "Although... not themselves a characteristic feature of the traditional Kabbalah, they had by Agrippa's time become an integral part of the Christian magical Cabala.

In 1556, Dee proposed the founding of a national English library to Queen Mary, but his plan was not implemented. In consequence, Dee amassed the largest library in England at the time using his personal funds, consisting of at least 3,000 printed volumes and a large number of manuscripts. The library was pilfered during Dee's six-year trip to the European Continent between 1583 and 1589, and Dee was forced to sell many more volumes upon his return due to penury. After his death in 1608 or 1609, the still-considerable remnants of the vaunted library were ransacked until nothing remained.

During Dee's long trip to the Continent, he sought to supernaturally contact angels through the services of a scryer, Edward Kelley. On the subject of the Book of Soyga, Dee claimed to have questioned the angel Uriel about the significance of the book and asked for guidance. The reply that Dee received was that the book had been revealed to Adam in Paradise by angels, and could be interpreted by the archangel Michael.

After Harkness rediscovered the two copies of the book, Jim Reeds uncovered the mathematical formula used to construct the tables (starting with the seed word given for each table), and identified errors of various types made by the manuscripts' scribes. He showed that a subset of the errors were common to the two copies, suggesting that they were derived from a common ancestor which contained that subset of errors (and thus was presumably itself a copy of another work).

Although Reeds deciphered the construction algorithm and the code words used in crafting the tables, the actual contents and significance of the tables remain mysterious. He writes, "The treatise in the Book of Soyga which discusses the tables, Liber Radiorum, has a series of paragraphs mentioning the code words for twenty-three of the tables, together with number sequences which stand in unknown relation to the words."


John Dee had been expecting a minor spirit from the great hierarchy of the heavens, and here he had before him an archangel, one who apparently had a direct line to Enoch and perhaps the Adamic language Enoch had recorded. His reaction was immediately to ask Uriel about the "Book of Soyga."

The Book of Soyga was particularly precious to Dee. His only mention of it before now was in a diary entry made earlier that year, where he reports having the volume fumigated to protect it from mildew.

 In 1583, the book went missing from Dee's library, but he managed to recover it a decade later. Following Dee's death, it passed into the collection of the duke of Lauderdale, but then this slippery text went missing once more. It was finally rediscovered in 1994 by the Dee scholar Deborah Harkness, who found it in both the Bodleian and British Libraries, but cataloged under an alternative title mentioned by Dee, Aldaraia. Both copies are anonymous sixteenth-century manuscript versions of a (presumably) lost original. It seems likely that the British Library copy was the one owned by Dee, the very work that was now in his study and the focus of his intense curiosity.

The book is full of lists and tables. There are lists of spirit names, of astrological conjunctions, of spells and invocations-the very sort of cabalistic codes that had filled Trithemius's Steganographia.

Dee's first question to Uriel, communicated via Talbot, was an anxious inquiry about the status of this work. "Is my Book of Soyga of any excellency?" he asked.

"That book was revealed to Adam in paradise by the good Angels of God,” Uriel replied. A revelation, and not just to Adam. Dee must have now dared to think that this book was of divine importance--perhaps a copy of the Book of Enoch mentioned by the Ethiopian priest to Postel. Perhaps its tables and lists were a coded version of the very language Adam had been given by God.

“Will you give me any instructions, how I may read those tables of Soyga?" Dee asked Uriel.

"I can," Uriel replies, tantalizingly. "But only Michael can interpret that book.”

Dee was desperate, but had probably expected the reply, as it was Michael he had previously attempted to contact in this stone through Saul. "What may I, or must I do, to have the sight and presence of Michael, that blessed angel?" Dee asked. "Summon and invoke our presence with sincerity and humility," Uriel replied, with what to Dee must have been maddening serenity.

"Michael is the angel who lights your way. And these things are revealed in virtue and truth, not by force.”

At that point, the conversation was interrupted by Talbot reporting the appearance of a new vision in the stone, a triangular talisman engraved in gold. Worn on the chest, Uriel promised, this device would protect its bearer "at every place and time and occasion."

There, the session ended. Dee spent the afternoon musing on what he had experienced. It was evidently a kind of communion that was very different from any he had experienced with his previous skryers. There was something compelling, convincing about the spirit this Talbot had summoned that morning. At five o'clock in the afternoon, the two of them were in Dee's study again. After saying their prayers, Talbot managed to summon Uriel back to the stone. Dee pressed to know more about the Book of Soyga. "Peace," Uriel replied, "you must use Michael." "I know of no means or order to use in the invocating of Michael,” Dee replied.

Uriel was obligingly specific in reply. He and Talbot must recite certain psalms, which will deliver them before the "seat and Majesty of God." They did as instructed, and a "rich chair" appeared briefly in the stone. "There must be conjunction of minds in prayer, betwixt you two, to God continually," Uriel added. "It is the will of God that you should jointly have the knowledge of his angels together. You had attained unto the sight of Michael but for the imperfection of Saul. Be of good comfort." In other words, Dee's failure to discover the secret of Soyga in the past had been Saul's fault. If he now stuck with Talbot, all would be imminently revealed.