Why people have not seen the blue color until recently

Until recently in the history of mankind such a color as blue, simply did not exist. There is no word defining this color in such ancient languages ​​as Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew. Not only that there is no word, there is evidence that the ancient people did not see this color at all.

How do we know that there is not enough blue?

It all started with ancient works. In the Odyssey, Homer compares the color of the sea with the color of the dark wine, but why does not it mention blue or green?

In 1858, a scientist William Gladstone noticed that this is not the only strange description of color in this work. Homer also describes the details of clothing, weapons, armor, facial features, animals, and colors, which he attributes to many things, extremely strange. For example, iron and sheep are violet, and honey is green.

Gladstone decided to calculate how many times there is a mention of flowers in the Odyssey. Black approximately 200 times, white about 100, red 15 times, and yellow and green less than 10 times.

Then he began to study other ancient Greek works and noticed an interesting regularity: nowhere was the blue color mentioned. There is not even a hint of it. It seems that the Greeks lived in a dark and muddy world, devoid of bright colors. There were only white, black and color of metal with rare inclusions of red and yellow.

Gladstone suggested that it was a common feature inherent only to the Greeks, but the philologist Lazarus Geiger continued his work and came to the conclusion that this is true for other ancient cultures.

He studied the Icelandic sagas, the Koran, ancient Chinese history and the Hebrew version of the Bible. Here, for example, what he wrote about the Hindu Vedic hymns:

These hymns consist of more than 10 thousand lines, where a lot of times there is a description of the heavens. Hardly anything is described more often than heaven. The sun, sunsets, day and night, clouds and lightnings and much more. But there is one thing that can not be learned from these descriptions. This is what the sky is blue.

Lazarus Geiger

In ancient times there was no blue color, it did not differ from green and dark shades.

Then Geiger began to dig further and find out when the blue color appeared. And revealed another interesting pattern. In each language, there were first definitions for dark and light shades, then the word “red” appeared – the color of blood and wine, but only then yellow and green. And at the very end, many years later, finally appeared blue.

The only ancient culture that distinguished the blue color was the Egyptian one. The Egyptians even had a blue paint.

If you think so, then blue is not so much in nature. There is, of course, the sky. But is it really blue? As we see from the works of Geiger, even the sacred writings, which often describe heaven, do not necessarily see it as such.

Why people have not seen the blue color until recently
djgis / Shutterstock.com

One researcher, Guy Deutscher, author of “Through the Mirror of the Language”, conducted a curious experiment. He knew that one of the first questions asked by many children is “Why is the sky blue?”. So he raised his daughter, trying not to describe the color of the sky to him, and once asked her what color she sees when she looks at the sky.

The girl could not answer. The sky was for her first colorless. Then she decided that it was white. And only after some time came to the conclusion that it was blue.

The blue color was not the first for her, which she saw. He was the last.

Can people see colors that do not yet have a definition?

The answer to this question is difficult to give, because we do not know what happened in Homer’s head when he described the sea of ​​dark wine and purple sheep. But we know that the ancient Greeks and representatives of other ancient cultures had the same biological structure and the ability to perceive colors, just like we are with you.

But can you really see what has not been described yet?

Scientist Julie Davidoff (Jules Davidoff) specially traveled to Namibia to find out. There he conducted an experiment in the local tribe Himba, which speaks a language where there is no definition of blue and there is no difference between blue and green.

color experiment
Experiment with the Himba tribe

He showed them a circle with 11 green squares and one blue. Members of the tribe could not show which one was different.

But the hemb has more words describing the green color in the reserve than we are. When they looked at a circle of green squares, where one was a little shade, they immediately pointed to it.

Can you?

Experiment with the Hibma tribe
Experiment with the Himba tribe

For most of us it is difficult.

Here it is, another square.

Experiment with the Hibma tribe
Experiment with the Himba tribe

Julie Davidoff concluded that without a word that defines color, without a way to identify it, it’s very difficult for us to see any difference, although our eyes physically perceive them.

So, before the blue color became a common standard, people could see it, but did not understand what they saw.

It turns out that new colors gradually appear in our world. Not actually (they already exist in nature), simply over time people develop the ability to see and distinguish them.

I wonder if you see anything now that others do not yet see? And does this really exist?