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by Archaeology Newsroom

How People Perceived the Earth’s Shape

The Earth’s size and shape have been perceived in many different ways throughout human history. Civilizations that developed over the centuries formed their own theories and perception about the dimension and the shape of the earth. In the preceding pages we attempted presentations of the various theories developed by the civilizations that flourished in the Eastern Mediterranean, including Persia, seeing that Greece was culturally affected by these parts of the world. Ideas about the shape of the earth ranged from the belief that it was a simple plane, to the cyclical or rectangular shape. In Egypt, for instance, our planet was thought of as a rectangular flat surface, in Mesopotamia – Persian and Judean tradition it assumed a cyclical shape while finally in Greece “volume” becomes an attribute of the earth. Contrary to Homer and Hesiod’s (8th century BC) belief that the earth is a simple flat surface, Anaximander (7th -6th century BC), thought of it as a cylinder, the Pythagoreans as a sphere, Plato (5th-4th century BC) as cubic and, finally, Aristotle as a sphere. During the period of Christianity, the earth was perceived as a simple flat surface. According to all theories mentioned above, the earth was considered as the centre of the universe, while since the Renaissance the sun has assumed its place as the centre of the universe. Thus, the transition from the geocentric to the sun-Centred universe came about.