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The Mysterious Stones of Bologna
October 17, 2011 11:55 AM   Subscribe

In 1602, a cobbler strolling outside of Bologna discovered a colorless stone with the curious ability to "accumulate light when exposed to the sun and to emit it in the darkness." His lapis solaris was to be the chemical sensation of the century.

Casciarolo's hunk of barite is not the only famous enigma to go by the name "Stone of Bologna." A Roman funerary slab engraved with a strange riddle had been discovered in the city a century before, and the solving of it occupied antiquaries and alchemists for centuries. Jung called the puzzle "a flypaper for every conceivable projection that buzzed in the human mind."
posted by Iridic (13 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Incidentally, "Stone o' Bologna" is the name of my new band.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:41 PM on October 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


This stone is the direct ancestor of the Cassette of TomPetty'sFirstAlbum, which was discovered in the Year of Our Lord 1976 to appear to have luminous and phosphorescent qualities when beheld in daylight by StupidusSexifusFlandorini, a humble 15 year old from a town in the Midwestern part of the Empire. His subsequent attempts at capturing the rays of a desk lamp within the very shell of the plastic itself, and thus afford a most awesome glowing of the cassette as it played within his "Realistic" Brand cassette deck, were met with much disappointment and tragedy as the cassette, after being placed upon the incandescent bulb, quickly transmogrified into a torrent of burning plastic and unspooling tape when the dilettante discoverer got distracted by something else for just a sec.

"You're Gonna Get It," indeed.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:16 PM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wonder what the thinking was behind grinding it up and mixing it with egg white.

not the only famous enigma to go by the name "Stone of Bologna."

See also: Anthony Bologna's heart.
posted by exogenous at 1:30 PM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Stone of Bologna." A Roman funerary slab engraved with a strange riddle had been discovered in the city a century before, and the solving of it occupied antiquaries and alchemists for centuries.

It's actually an alchemical formula for the perfect pepper spray. In the wrong hands it could be a devastating weapon.

On Preview: Damn you, exogenous!
posted by homunculus at 1:39 PM on October 17, 2011


I don't understand how the thing on the gravestone is a riddle and not a poem about the non-differentiation of reality.
posted by cmoj at 1:41 PM on October 17, 2011


Well, there were rather more Gnostics than Buddhists in 16th Italy.
posted by Iridic at 1:47 PM on October 17, 2011


16th century Italy, even
posted by Iridic at 1:49 PM on October 17, 2011


I wonder what the thinking was behind grinding it up and mixing it with egg white.

That's how they made paint.
posted by empath at 2:04 PM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, the riddle reminded me of Thunder Perfect Mind, and also Muslim negations of the attributes of god.
posted by empath at 2:07 PM on October 17, 2011


Bologna cobbler? Yuck.
posted by item at 3:46 PM on October 17, 2011


Related, somehow, to a book I just bought: Locus Solus,. which I have just started reading, in my endless admiration of the Surrealists, their dynamic predecessors, and their spotty record in the last fifty years.

Author: Raymond Rousell.

It's hard to keep up, even a hundred years later...
posted by kozad at 8:48 PM on October 17, 2011


Importantly, as an amateur alchemist he took what he found (BaS04) and experimented with it, heating/calcinating it with coal (says Britannica) or flour (says WP) to reduce it to the phosphor BaS.

From this powder various animals are formed in little boxes (pyxidiculum) which shine wonderfully in the dark.

After some digging, 'pyxidiculum' is a "genus of diatoms whose minute silicious shields present the appearance of a saucer-shaped box." (L. pyxidicula, a small box.) One wonders just which various animals were formed. Alas ... lost in the mists of time?
posted by Twang at 11:49 PM on October 17, 2011


I wonder what the thinking was behind grinding it up and mixing it with egg white.

Eggs were very potent symbols in alchemical structures, indicative of the transformative spark of life - transcending from inert dross object to living creature (with the yolk being associated with gold, considered the purest refinement of physical objects).

I don't understand how the thing on the gravestone is a riddle and not a poem about the non-differentiation of reality.

Alchemical art and writings were almost always composed as allegories and symbol-narratives, artistic structures which concealed a specific author's recipes and formulae for refinement and transformation. They ranged from the complex and detailed to the abstract and mystifying. (and sometimes eggy!)
posted by FatherDagon at 10:06 AM on October 18, 2011


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