At the dawn of the Common Era
One interesting thing is that the FOL symbol was extensively used by Jews, Greeks and Romans around the dawn of the new era, 100 BC – 200 AD [item 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21]. Especially mosaic floors pop up from the history using this theme often next to the Cow’s Nose decoration motif. Decorations in the temples of Herod and the religious center of Ephesus are one of the most beautiful and complete forms of the FOL. Intriguing question about the influence and usage of the symbol comes by its mathematical properties. This would warrant a separate article: were early Christians, Gnostics, middle Platonists and Neopythagoreans aware of the FOL? How about writers of the Gospels and the book of Revelation, did they know the meaning of it? Without going any deeper into the subject, it must be mentioned that Roman imperium was spread up to Thrace in 180 AD leaving behind a few floor mosaics with the FOL symbol [item 24]. These can nowadays be witnessed in the excavated sites in Bulgaria, even in Spain [item 17 and 37] and France [item 23a and 23b].
If I would really need to guess the origin of the geographical area, where the FOL was first used in its fullest magnitude, my bet would be on upper Mesopotamia. So rich is the tradition of using geometrical forms, especially usage of the six petal rosette and tradition has lasted long. Item 26 shows the painting of the wall (729 AD) in Syria desert which origin is highly interesting and urges deeper research. Wall is full of symbols of the FOL in different forms resembling figure settings in Abydos wall and on the other hand notes of Leonardo da Vinci.
1500 AC and still going strong
Much later geometrical patterns were used in the Arabic culture as an art itself. This is due to the fact that in their tradition God, prophets or even people and animals were not allowed to be drawn. For example, Ottomans used the FOL on cemetery works, sarcophagi and tombs [item 29a and 29b]. Orthodox christians in Patmos island applied geometry above the chapel door lunette [item 31a and 31b], thus appreciating the symbology behind the intersecting circles. You can see more complex figure on the lunette only when zooming in to the image, which just adds tickling enigma around the symbol. Multicolor opaque glass “Cosmati” pavement in the Westminster Abbey Gothic church [item 27] has the symbol. It is well known that Vesica Piscis (ladder of a fish) is the basis of the FOL geometry and used widely on iconography though in the Orthodox tradition it is rather called a mandorla (almond) or a nimbus. The FOL tradition can easily go to the beginning of the Christian church and it can also be traced far to the history before that, as it is possible to see now.
At this point is is good to lift up once more the speciality of the symbol and at the same time its undiscovered history. Serçe Limani in his Shipwreck -book lists several lead net sinkers that has the six petal rosette symbol on them and writes:
“regardless of its purpose, the rosette, rare among the Jewish remains of Greece and Rome, is a particularly eastern Jewish phenomenon… rosettes, used as ornament details on fifth- and sixth century churches, were a particularly eastern Christian phenomenon as well, being peculiar to northern Syria.”
So simple is the formation that E.R. Goodenough, the author of the monumental thirteen-volume work about the Jewish and Christian symbolism calls it “the most banal of all designs” as quoted by Limani. Neither Goodenough and Limani knows hardly anything about the FOL in its full pattern, or its six petal rosette form from much much older history like golden plates in Mycenae [item 1].
Finally, my historic survey ends at around 1500 AD, when Leonardo da Vinci used several pages on his sketchbook [item 30] to investigate the properties of the hexagonal net / grid when he studied the theory of lunes (Wolfram Science, page 872, note d). He was interested in the proportions of such a grid which can be found from nature, for example bumble bee cells, turtle’s carapace and snowflakes. The theory of lunes, ie. geometric figures formed by the intersection of two circular arcs, was invented by the Greek mathematician Hippocrates of Chios in 440 BC. Both Leonardo and Hippocrates were doing this to unveil the ancient “squaring the circle” enigma, which also is a topic worth another article.