History Revealed - - Q & A -

The mag­netic pointer that forever­more changed nav­i­ga­tion may go back as far as fourth or third cen­tury BC China, dur­ing the Han pe­riod. That said, it had noth­ing to do with get­ting around.

An early com­pass – a lump of pointed lode­stone hang­ing from a cord, which turned to­wards the mag­netic poles – would be used for div­ina­tion and other for­tune-telling prac­tices. Peo­ple be­lieved it helped find suit­able po­si­tions for build­ings and crops, and even lo­cate pre­cious stones. They de­vel­oped into elab­o­rate items, with some sur­viv­ing ex­am­ples boast­ing a pointer moulded in a shape re­sem­bling a la­dle.

The ear­li­est-known con­clu­sive de­scrip­tion of a nav­i­ga­tional com­pass, a mag­ne­tised nee­dle float­ing in a bowl of water, comes in a Chi­nese text from 1044. The Euro­pean equiv­a­lent is around a cen­tury older.

MISDIRECTION of a Con­fus­ingly, the han­dle south lode­stone spoon points

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