This is an armillary sphere (from latin “armilla” – a bracelet).
A tool for teaching (and in somecases observing) the movement of heavenly bodies, in use in Ancient Greece & Rome and at least up until the late medieval period.
It’s a model of the universe with the earth at the centre of things and rings reflecting the equator,tropics and the passage e.g. of the signs of the zodiac (at an angle to these). That is, a model of the universe as understood and observed at that time.
While it made enough sense and fitted reality well enough for many generations, it came to represent the old view of how things are and that of those with a vested interest in keeping new observations and newer theories from the population.
Brecht’s Galileo uses it to teach his housekeeper’s son politics as well as physics: “it’s because the way things are, that things cannot stay the way they are” he notes.
While for “a thousand years, priests and superstitions” have kept us in our place with the fixedness of the world, now that we see how things really are, how people really behave and what underpins their behaviour , “everything’s in motion again”
Think I’ll be using armillery spheres on Tuesday in talking to some of advertising’s finest young minds. Why not? It’ll give them something to interact with each other around, won’t it?