The cube’s prime virtues are its most economic expression of the 3 (spatial) dimensions and the unique uniformity of its pattern which is infinitesimally divisible or outwardly extendable to infinity. Yet the square is rarely exhibited in nature.
Off hand there are a few crystals such as table salt and Iron “fool’s gold” Pyrite. If some curious sharp-eyed early human hadn’t focused on the former or stumbled upon a prime specimen of the latter, where might he or she have gotten the idea of the cube? Did some long forgotten analytical genius abstract the form from the independent and mutually orthogonal directions of gravity, the poles, and relative ecliptic movement? Or did some clue pose itself from a portion of what was early on popularized as the constellation Orion?
Having lived outside during the dead of a few winters minus the burden of socially instilled interpretations, it seems plausible for some independent thinking non-conformist to have seen in the stars of Orion’s belt and sword the rudiments of 3D rectilinearly-ordered space – oriented in a way that is roughly similar to what is now termed orthographic projection. If so, perhaps the notion of dimensions themselves was conceptualized from such. If 2 dimensions had already been established by that time (from a plane tangent to earth’s surface), identification of a 3rd dimension corresponding to Orion’s sword must have been as far out then as discovery of the 4th (time) was recently.
A hypothetical abstraction of the cube from Orion’s armor would have been opposite in approach to how ancient astrologers projected familiar entities onto the stars and then ascribed power to them. As circumstantial as any celestial array may be from earth’s perspective, the ancient revelation may have been something akin to the monolith in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Today, the ubiquity of 3D rectilinear constructs is so taken for granted it is hard to visualize a time when it wasn’t.
Construction around 5 millenia ago presents the most popular ancient application of 3D rectilinear thinking with the building blocks of the great pyramids. Might an insight afforded by Orion have just preceded the undertaking? A case for that being so is advanced by the 26000-year cycle of the earth’s axial precession.
Because the spin of the precessional dynamic is opposite to earth’s rotation, looking to the future (east) yields a picture of the past. The brighter stars of Orion’s “belt” would have been aligned vertically when due south and at the apex of its nightly transit. Perhaps such bright perpendicularity (and parallelism) on display got someone to thinking, and reproduced the notion by chipping away on some rock
Nearly 2 millenia later, the Ark of the Covenant was specified in 3 rectilinear dimensions in the Book of Exodus. A few centuries later, when Orion’s alignment bore little directional bias and thus posed a general symmetry, the Ark’s home in the Oracle of Solomon’s Temple (Kings 1) was one of the first historical references to a perfect cube, if not the first. A half millenium later, with the rise of robust analytics among the Greeks, the cube was designated as one of the 5 platonic solids, and was associated with the earth.
After another half millenium, the Celestial City described in the Book of Revelations appears to infer a 1500 mile-sided cube. Having recently read that book amid an ongoing fascination with what I first regarded as a cosmic kite posed by Orion’s belt and sword, I strongly suspect that the 2 pictures helped spark the idea of appending celestial cubes to the geocentric cuboctahedron.
If so, that was elementary school stuff compared to what the cube’s early grapplers attained. So here’s to the unknown discoverer of the cube that the vast majority of us now live in; the cube that both largely frames our world today, and of which electrochemical manifestations often sprinkle our sustenance with crystals of salt.