The Size of the Inhabited World


A new version of my article titled “What is the Size of the Inhabited World” is available

The extract speaks about ancient and medieval estimation of the length of the “human planet”, especially its west-east extent. At the end of the fifteenth century, one of dominating approaches was to enhance the land span to unrealistic proportions implying that the circumference of the Old World was not such a crazy idea.

How to Measure the Earth’s Circumference


A chapter from my second book focuses on ancient and medieval endeavors to calculate the world’s circumference. The representatives of the two scholarly trends, of the “big” and “small” earth, offer their assessments, sometimes correcting their previous estimations. In spite of a great deal of mathematical geography, the extract puts forward a new proposal concerning the comparison between various standards of measurement and makes unusual conclusions. The article is embellished by the images of Eratosthenes, Posidonius, and al-Farghani.

There will be two more publications from Unit I, titled “The Miraculous Revival or the Painful Discovery”, of my second manuscript. The common thread is the reemergence of interest to geography throughout the European Middle Ages and the reanimation of classical knowledge, often rhymed with the “ancient wisdom”. Also, the first attempts to look at the real world and the classical traditions without blurring spectacles of prejudice.


Yelu Dashi


One of the aims of my study on Prester John is to find out about numerous prototypes of this mysterious character. This week I was collecting data about one of them, Yelu Dashi, the founding father of the Kara Khitai steppe empire. Forced to flee from his Manjurian homeland, a talented military commander managed to consolidate a throng of adherents who praclaimed him the Gurkhan (the supreme ruler). Later in his reign, he interfered with the struggle between the Seljuk Sultan Sanjar and one of his vassals which led to the confrontation of the Muslim and Kara Khitai armies in the Qatwan steppe outside Samarkand. The overwhelming victory of Yelu Dashi expanded his empire which encroached into Muslim lands. His wealth came from foreign trade with China on the one hand and the Islamic states on the other.

His character became epitomised by the German chronicler Otto von Freising who tells a fascinating tale about an Oriental emperor of the Three Indies, a Christian though of the Nestorian creed, who crushed a formidable Muslim army and plans to march to Jerusalem to assist his crusading brothers to wipe off the followers of the crescent from the Holy Land.

What if the Earth is the Sphere?


I published a new version of my article at

This is my maiden article from a new project. The proposed title of my second book is The Enchanting Encounter with the East. The current extract is taken from Unit I titled “THE MIRACULOUS REVIVAL OR THE PAINFUL RECOVERY”.

Every intellectual in the Middle Ages featured the earth as the sphere immovably placed at the heart of the Universe like a diamond set between the breasts. Western scholars featured the globe in a number of images: as an apple, a ball, or the yolk of an egg. On the other hand, the earth was believed to be immovable which was “proved” experimentally.

The article is supplemented with four illustrations, a table, and endnotes. This is one of the images.

File:John Gower world Vox Clamantis.jpg

Bethany Beyond the Jordan


In the article penned by Rami Khouri, Where John Baptised, published in the book “Exploring Jordan: the Other Biblical Land” (BAR, 2008), the archaeologist journalist cites the data conforming the location of the baptism site on the eastern bank of Jordan. In both cases, when this location is mentioned in the Gospel of John (1:26-28 and 10:40), we encounter visitors from Jerusalem. Facing from the “holy city”, the site is indeed beyond the Jordan. On this spot, along the Wadi el-Khurra, Helena, the mother empress of the Roman Empire set up the church of St. John the Baptist in the early IV century CE. Later, here rose a monastery complex containing several churches, the caravanserai to accomodate pilgrims on their way to Mount Nebo, and a cave of John the Baptist.

The alternative site is depicted on the Madaba map of the VI centiry CE where it is placed on the western side of the Jordan. The legend runs that it is Beth Abara (Hebrew: “House of Crossing”), “the place of the baptism of St. John.” The artist was likely facing the site from Madaba and might misunderstood the meaning of “beyond the Jordan”.

The further research, in my view, should be devoted to the bedrock of the Jordan. The author refers to the fact that the river shifted its course many times and that until the mid-20th century it would expand, when flooded, to nearly a mile in width. The bare statement is not covered by the data necessary for the evaluation of this statement. The counter argument says that both sites could function in different times according to the shift of the river. A new challenge for explorers.

Chalcolithic Settlement


An ancient settlement has been found within the municipal area of Jerusalem. It dates from the Chalcolothic period, about the fifth millennium BCE. The dig is rich in findings of life in the thriving settlement whose dwellers engaged in agriculture. Sickle blades for harvesting cereal crops and grinding tools were discovered as well as the bones of sheep and goats. A carnelian bead hints on foreign exchange. As far as I know, the precious stone can be traced to India. Further research should estimate whether this piece of jewellry was locally produced or imported.

For further details see

Sailing Rings of the Western Indian Ocean


Over a year, I have been following Julian Whitewright, a maritime archeologist from University of Southampton, UK. I used his comparison of the efficiency of square and fore-and-aft sails while navigating in the Mediterranean in my own paper-still unpublished-which is devoted to medieval sailing. His research focuses on the Indo-Roman trade throughout the first two centuries CE. The author asserts that the whole assortment of the sailing rig rather than only the shape of a sail should be taken into consideration. He concludes that initially Indian sailors used the square rig which started to give in to a lateen rig from the 9th century CE. This happened under the influence of the Muslim traders who transferred this rig from the Mediteranean. The lateen rig started prevailing in the Mediterranean from the 5-6 centuries CE.