Artist, Geometer and Author
'The Knap of Howar and the Origins of Geometry'
Nicholas Cope and Keith Critchlow
Nicholas Cope presents a summary of many years of research regarding the Knap of Howar, a remarkably well-preserved Neolithic stone built structure on the island of Papa Westray, Orkney, Scotland. This 5,500 year old structure is one of Europe's oldest dwellings.
His book is a sensitive and intelligent extension of the ideas put forward by both Alexander Thom, in his Megalithic yard hypothesis, and Keith Critchlow in his book 'Time Stands Still', which describes a collection of Neolithic stone spheres carved in Scotland with detailed Platonic symmetries. This suggests that the early peoples of Britain had a fundamental understanding of arithmetic, geometry and the universality of mathematics at least 2,500 years before the time of Plato.
The Golden Mean is not popularly considered to have been utilised by peoples from such a historically remote period as the Neolithic. The ramifications of this are far reaching, not just from the point of view of the history of mathematics but also of art and architecture. From the perspective of the prevalent view of modern culture, such knowledge is considered to have been received only from the classical world.
The geometry that has been universally utilised by human kind is intrinsic to the nature of order itself - therefore the relationship between geometry and human conciousness is inevitably integral. Geometry does not evolve but our relationship to it does.
In collaboration with this work, Keith Critchlow presents a detailed exploration of Leonardo da Vinci's famous drawing of Vitruvian Man c.1490, revealing the profound hidden aspects of symbolic geometry in Leonardo's work.
In 'The Knap of Howar and the Origins of Geometry' Nicholas Cope demonstrates with precise and exhaustive analysis that geometry, in particular the mathematical ratio we know as the Golden Mean, is a primary element within the architecture of the Knap of Howar. The book is illustrated with detailed drawings describing how the Neolithic builders unified ideas of geometry, proportion, mathematics and symbolism in a structure such as this early dwelling.
Paperback 108 pages,
Publisher: Kairos Publications,
Dimensions: 14.3 x 6.2 x 23 cm.
The book is temporarily sold out.
To enquire about any further copies please email the publisher at:
or Nicholas Cope at
"After having read The Knap of Howar and the Origins of Geometry for the second and third time, a quote by the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) came into my mind: 'If it is not true, then it is very well invented'. Or in my own words: so much can be said in favour of your cause and very little against it.
The analysis with the tools of what we call Euclidian geometry is sound, precise and exhaustive. And the way the mother-child relationship is explained is absolutely genius!
What is puzzling for me is the fact that here we obviously have an application of various elements of Euclidian geometry to what I would describe as a 'crude' building construction as far as the materials and craftsmanship is concerned - whereas up to now we have only met similar applications in culturally sophisticated buildings."
Ulrich Grevsmuhl (PhD University of Oxford), mathematician and physicist
"The book is just fabulous. The clarity of the layout and descriptions in the illustrations are so beautifully done that you manage to make the reader a participant in your investigative process. I felt I was involved in an entrancing game of revelation.
The point at which you superimpose the two buildings to propose the mother-child hypothesis is just magical.
The co-authorship too, results in a really valuable enhancement/enrichment of the subject matter."
Sheridan Quigley, artist and creative educator
From the Newsletter of the Network of Leyhunters, Issue 22 - Imbolc 2017
Copyright © N. Cope 2023
Nicholas Cope (RCA)
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