Saturday, May 16, 2015

Geographic Information Cognition and Human Spatial Orientation and Navigation in an Age of GIS and Virtual Reality: Locomotion Wayfinding and Systems of Reference

One critical area of scientific inquiry that bears directly on our ongoing analysis of ancient rock art, megaliths, mounds, earthworks etc. as land survey markers sited by astronomy is the question of human spatial and geographic orientation in a given environment and the role of systems of reference used for this purpose. Far too little research has been devoted to this topic and it is the kind of thing that research foundations should be sponsoring and funding.

We refer here to fundamental articles in Robert B. McMaster & E.Lynn Usery (eds.), 2004/2005. A Research Agenda for Geographic Information Science, CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, 402 p., ISBN-13: 978-0849327285 ISBN-10: 0849327288, eBook ISBN 978-1-4200-3833-0

and especially to Chapter 3 by Daniel R. Montello and Scott Freundschuh on the Cognition of Geographic Information, where they write, inter alia:
"Cognitive research about space and place has focused on several issues:  the responses of sensory systems that pick up spatial information, the development of spatial knowledge from birth to adulthood (ontogenesis) and upon first exposure to a new place (microgenesis), the accuracy and precision of knowledge about distances and directions, spatial language, cognitive structures and processes used during navigation, and perceptual and cognitive issues in cartography, and very recently, GIS. With the advent of new technologies like GIS, new questions about spatial perception and cognition develop, and old questions (both basic and applied) become focused in new ways. 
One of the most basic concepts in this area is that of the cognitive map. Introduced by Tolman (1948) in his work with rat spatial behavior, the cognitive map is a mental representation, or set of representations, of the spatial layout of the environment. According to Downs and Stea (1973), “cognitive mapping is a process composed of a series of psychological transformations by which an individual acquires, stores, recalls, and decodes information about the relative locations and attributes of phenomena in his [or her] everyday spatial environment” (p. 9). The cartographic map thus serves as a metaphor for spatial and environmental knowledge. Other metaphors have been offered as well, from topological schemata to cognitive collage (see Montello & Freundschuh, 1995). GIS and virtual reality provide our latest metaphors for environmental knowledge. 
Cognitive researchers are interested in comparing various sources of geographical knowledge. Montello and Freundschuh (1995) review the characteristics of acquiring knowledge from direct environmental experience, static pictorial representations such as maps (see Thorndyke & Hayes-Roth, 1982), dynamic pictorial representations (movies, animations), and language (see Taylor & Tversky, 1992). Montello and Freundschuh listed eight factors that may play roles in differentiating these sources of geographic information: sensorimotor
systems involved, static vs. dynamic information, sequential vs. simultaneous acquisition, the arbitrariness of symbols, the need for scale translations and their flexibility, viewing perspective, precision of presented information, and the inclusion of detail varying in relevance.
It is commonly thought that spatial knowledge of the environment consists of three types of features: knowledge of discrete landmarks, knowledge of routes that connect landmarks into travel sequences, and configurational or survey knowledge that coordinates and metrically scales routes and landmarks. In fact, inspired by Piagetian theory, it has often been suggested that these features represent a necessary learning sequence (Siegel & White, 1975; for an opposing view, see Montello, 1998). Landmarks in particular are thought to play an important role as anchor-points or reference points for the organization of environmental knowledge (Sadalla, Burroughs, & Staplin, 1980; Couclelis, Golledge, Gale, & Tobler, 1987).

Spatial cognition researchers have studied human navigation and orientation (Golledge, 1999). Navigation is coordinated and goal directed movement through space. It may be understood to consist of both locomotion and wayfinding processes.

Locomotion refers to perceptual-motor coordination to the local surrounds, and includes activities such as moving towards visible targets and avoiding obstacles.
Wayfinding refers to cognitive coordination to the distant environment, beyond direct sensorimotor access, and includes activities such as trip planning and route choice. Humans navigate and stay oriented both by recognizing landmarks (piloting) and by updating their sense of location via dead reckoning processes
(Gallistel, 1990; Loomis, Klatzky, Golledge, & Philbeck, 1999). Some of these processes are relatively automatic (Rieser, Pick, Ashmead, & Garing, 1995), while others are more like conscious strategies (Cornell, Heth, & Rowat, 1992).

A fundamental issue about human orientation concerns the systems of reference that people use to organize their spatial knowledge. Various possible systems have been discussed, including those that encode spatial relations with respect to the body, with respect to an external feature with or without differentiated appearance, or with respect to an abstract frame like latitude-longitude (Hart & Moore, 1973; Levinson, 1996). Several researchers have investigated reference systems within the context of verbal route directions (Allen, 1997)."

Monday, May 04, 2015

Law, Antiquities and Discoveries in the Pickwick Papers of Charles Dickens

The "immortal antiquarian discovery" in the Pickwick Papers by that most incomparably descriptive fiction writer, Charles Dickens, gives us some interesting insights into the world of antiquities and discoveries, here excerpted by us from the Gutenberg edition. It was Dickens' first novel and for all of our law readers, the novel (not in this excerpt) also has quite a bit of law. ENJOY!

"It was at this moment that Mr. Pickwick made that immortal discovery, which has been the pride and boast of his friends, and the envy of every antiquarian in this or any other country. They had passed the door of their inn, and walked a little way down the village, before they recollected the precise spot in which it stood. As they turned back, Mr. Pickwick's eye fell upon a small broken stone, partially buried in the ground, in front of a cottage door. He paused.

'This is very strange,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'What is strange?' inquired Mr. Tupman, staring eagerly at every object near him, but the right one. 'God bless me, what's the matter?'

This last was an ejaculation of irrepressible astonishment, occasioned by seeing Mr. Pickwick, in his enthusiasm for discovery, fall on his knees before the little stone, and commence wiping the dust off it with his pocket-handkerchief.

'There is an inscription here,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Is it possible?' said Mr. Tupman.

'I can discern,'continued Mr. Pickwick, rubbing away with all his might, and gazing intently through his spectacles—'I can discern a cross, and a 13, and then a T. This is important,' continued Mr. Pickwick, starting up. 'This is some very old inscription, existing perhaps long before the ancient alms-houses in this place. It must not be lost.'

He tapped at the cottage door. A labouring man opened it.

'Do you know how this stone came here, my friend?' inquired the benevolent Mr. Pickwick.

'No, I doan't, Sir,' replied the man civilly. 'It was here long afore I was born, or any on us.'

Mr. Pickwick glanced triumphantly at his companion.

'You—you—are not particularly attached to it, I dare say,' said Mr. Pickwick, trembling with anxiety. 'You wouldn't mind selling it, now?'

'Ah! but who'd buy it?' inquired the man, with an expression of face which he probably meant to be very cunning.

'I'll give you ten shillings for it, at once,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'if you would take it up for me.'

The astonishment of the village may be easily imagined, when (the little stone having been raised with one wrench of a spade) Mr. Pickwick, by dint of great personal exertion, bore it with his own hands to the inn, and after having carefully washed it, deposited it on the table.

The exultation and joy of the Pickwickians knew no bounds, when their patience and assiduity, their washing and scraping, were crowned with success. The stone was uneven and broken, and the letters were straggling and irregular, but the following fragment of an inscription was clearly to be deciphered:—

          [cross]   B I L S T
                  u m
                   P S H I
                    S. M.

Mr. Pickwick's eyes sparkled with delight, as he sat and gloated over the treasure he had discovered. He had attained one of the greatest objects of his ambition. In a county known to abound in the remains of the early ages; in a village in which there still existed some memorials of the olden time, he—he, the chairman of the Pickwick Club—had discovered a strange and curious inscription of unquestionable antiquity, which had wholly escaped the observation of the many learned men who had preceded him. He could hardly trust the evidence of his senses.
The sun was shining brilliantly into his chamber, when he awoke, and the morning was far advanced.... After a hearty breakfast, the four gentlemen sallied forth to walk to Gravesend, followed by a man bearing the stone in its deal box....

It appears from the Transactions of the Club, then, that Mr. Pickwick lectured upon the discovery at a General Club Meeting, convened on the night succeeding their return, and entered into a variety of ingenious and erudite speculations on the meaning of the inscription.

It also appears that a skilful artist executed a faithful delineation of the curiosity, which was engraven on stone, and presented to the Royal Antiquarian Society, and other learned bodies: that heart-burnings and jealousies without number were created by rival controversies which were penned upon the subject; and that Mr. Pickwick himself wrote a pamphlet, containing ninety-six pages of very small print, and twenty-seven different readings of the inscription: that three old gentlemen cut off their eldest sons with a shilling a-piece for presuming to doubt the antiquity of the fragment; and that one enthusiastic individual cut himself off prematurely, in despair at being unable to fathom its meaning: that Mr. Pickwick was elected an honorary member of seventeen native and foreign societies, for making the discovery: that none of the seventeen could make anything of it; but that all the seventeen agreed it was very extraordinary.

Mr. Blotton, indeed—and the name will be doomed to the undying contempt of those who cultivate the mysterious and the sublime—Mr. Blotton, we say, with the doubt and cavilling peculiar to vulgar minds, presumed to state a view of the case, as degrading as ridiculous.

Mr. Blotton, with a mean desire to tarnish the lustre of the immortal name of Pickwick, actually undertook a journey to Cobham in person, and on his return, sarcastically observed in an oration at the club, that he had seen the man from whom the stone was purchased; that the man presumed the stone to be ancient, but solemnly denied the antiquity of the inscription—inasmuch as he represented it to have been rudely carved by himself in an idle mood, and to display letters intended to bear neither more or less than the simple construction of—'BILL STUMPS, HIS MARK'; and that Mr. Stumps, being little in the habit of original composition, and more accustomed to be guided by the sound of words than by the strict rules of orthography, had omitted the concluding 'L' of his Christian name.

The Pickwick Club (as might have been expected from so enlightened an institution) received this statement with the contempt it deserved, expelled the presumptuous and ill-conditioned Blotton from the society, and voted Mr. Pickwick a pair of gold spectacles, in token of their confidence and approbation: in return for which, Mr. Pickwick caused a portrait of himself to be painted, and hung up in the club room.

Mr. Blotton was ejected but not conquered. He also wrote a pamphlet, addressed to the seventeen learned societies, native and foreign, containing a repetition of the statement he had already made, and rather more than half intimating his opinion that the seventeen learned societies were so many 'humbugs.'

Hereupon, the virtuous indignation of the seventeen learned societies being roused, several fresh pamphlets appeared; the foreign learned societies corresponded with the native learned societies; the native learned societies translated the pamphlets of the foreign learned societies into English; the foreign learned societies translated the pamphlets of the native learned societies into all sorts of languages; and thus commenced that celebrated scientific discussion so well known to all men, as the Pickwick controversy.

But this base attempt to injure Mr. Pickwick recoiled upon the head of its calumnious author.

The seventeen learned societies unanimously voted the presumptuous Blotton an ignorant meddler, and forthwith set to work upon more treatises than ever. 

And to this day the stone remains, an illegible monument of Mr. Pickwick's greatness, and a lasting trophy to the littleness of his enemies."

Pale Moon "Your Browser, Your Way" as a Workable, Customizable, Efficient Alternative Browser Solution Forked from Mozilla Firefox for Windows, Android and Linux

Pale Moon might be an alternative browser solution for many users. We switched from our previous browser primarily because Pale Moon permits tabs underneath the rest of the toolbars at the top of the page, a feature that we need because it reduces "mouse miles" and speeds up our research work.

The whole philosophy of Pale Moon is what made Mozilla Firefox popular in the good old days -- USER customizability, not tyranny by software programmers or other company types trying to be important and pushing their ideas and preferences on others against their will. The USER is king.

PALE MOON is not only a brilliant "fork" of Mozilla Firefox 28 but constitutes a continued development which does not adopt "Australis", i.e. the ill-advised Mozilla Firefox 29 and subsequent versions, which have seen Firefox market share plummet. 

Here are some of the features which we pass on from the site, whose logo is ""Pale Moon -- Your Browser, Your Way"
  • You are able to import existing Firefox profiles with the migration tool
  • You have the option to put tabs not only above, but also BELOW the address bar -- this is working perfectly thus far
  • Under the Pale Moon "Status Bar" preferences at the tab option "Address Bar" you can click "Show progress in the Address Bar - and the line style that appears in that bar: none, bottom, top or fill -- try it out -- great!
Here is what Pale Moon writes at about "Your Browser, Your Way":
"Pale Moon is a free and open-source web browser based on Mozilla Firefox, available for Linux, Windows, and Android, developed and distributed by Dutch developer M.C. Straver. Pale Moon is a fork of Firefox, retaining the fully customizable user interface as seen in the previous era of the Firefox browser, and focusing on the core tasks of web browsing."

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Modern Archaeology and Astronomy Stagger Under the Thunderbird Challenge

The response to our Thunderbird Challenge for the world's archaeologists, astronomers and archaeoastronomers has been overwhelming, as modern students particularly, first as a trickle, and then in droves, having grown up in an era of instant answers via digital technology, the Internet and Wikipedia, Android and iPhones -- now via E-Mail, WhatsApp, PushBullet, Facebook, Skype and even via the antique SMS -- report to us of their experiences with the encrusted structures they are facing in academia at colleges and universities throughout the world, whose esteemed specialists have been unable to answer our two simple questions. No one out there has been able to answer both.

What goes on behind the scenes in campus life in the ivory towers of learning?

Two readers sent us their secretly taped sessions as examples, one with famed archaeologist Archie Digg and one with esteemed astronomer Astella Skop.

Archie Digg was met emerging from his walk-in private safe at the museum which he curates. In that safe he keeps his -- actually, the university's -- archaeological treasures under his personal lock and key. The museum has enough physical assets to make a banker's mouth water, with 90% of the holdings kept so deep in cellars, that they never have been and never will be exhibited. Indeed, much in the dungeons has never even been catalogued.

Even access to the library of ancient books and manuscripts requires Digg's special permission, seldom granted. Digg has a list of publications as long as his arm, writings based on those books and manuscripts. The last thing that interests him is giving others access to those treasures. It is like the Turin Canon viz. Papyrus which disintegrated over decades in an archaeologist's chest of drawers because the archaeologist thought he could decipher it ultimately himself, not wanting to give anyone else a chance. By the time others got their hands on it, it was in a thousand pieces. Have or not have.

Digg pointed out to the inquiring student that he was quite busy negotiating a contract with a major publisher, by which he would edit and supervise the publication of a series of volumes containing photographs of the archaeological treasures under his control together with his subordinates' commentary about them, from which he would make a nice profit, monetarily and professionally. Archaeology was a big business, and Digg had his hands at the controls.

Digg snorted upon being asked about the Thunderbird petroglyph and sneezed out a sincere professional answer in which he pointed out that the student completely misunderstood the nature of archaeological inquiry.

"Do you realize", Digg proclaimed, squinting through his glasses, "that our profession is at the forefront of trends in research? If you had done your homework you would know that Archaeology has kept in step with theoretical developments over past centuries."

"In the early years of Archaeology," said Digg, "excavations were oriented to the ruling classes, major cities, great temples, palace architecture, and fine arts. Collectionism and Orientalism prevailed." Digg thought about his many vaults, chock full of exotic artifacts from the eras of "get it while you can".

Digg continued in a nearly forced dignified and serious manner, as if to justify whatever had happened in the past, even if archaeology in its early stages was often nothing more than the looting of foreign lands. Digg emphasized: "Collectionism was  replaced subsequently in the course of time by an emphasis on science, which led to a methodological focus on cultural history, i.e. the creation of historical timelines based on artifacts previously obtained."

"What naturally followed," said Digg, "was the Processual Archaeology of the 1950s and 1960s, which used to be called the New Archaeology. After the artifacts had been timelined in the era of Scientifc Methodology, the focus turned to humans and their societies, and, let me quote my colleague, Colin Renfrew, things then turned to "the underlying historical processes which are at the root of change", for as Renfrew noted, Archaeology "has learnt to speak with greater authority and accuracy about the ecology of past societies, their technology, their economic basis and their social organization. Now it is beginning to interest itself in the ideology of early communities: their religions, the way they expressed rank, status and group identity."

"Of course," said Digg, "societal views are many and varied and Archaeology kept pace with those as well. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was an emphasis on Urbanism, with the attendant aspects of architecture, environmental considerations, populations, and political life. We thus saw Structuralist and Systems approaches, and even Marxist analysis." Digg knew his stuff.

"Today", mused Digg, as if exhorting in himself what he viewed to be inevitable, "Archaeology is right in the middle of applying post-modern and post-processual theory and examining phenomenological approaches. Phenomenology questions the often claimed objectivity of rational science and suggests that much in Archaeology is subjective.

Archaeologists are thus instead now looking to place themselves experientially in the shoes of ancient peoples to sense subjectively what it was like to be there in any given era, through this subjectivity thus making archaeology more real in its conclusions.  It is a form of archaeological existentialism, as in Johan Hegardt, The Existential Possibility: The relevance of archaeology and cultural heritage today, which writes in the Abstract:
"In this text it is stressed that rescue archaeology, archaeological education and research at the universities, and the cultural heritage management at large, is systematically obstructing the political and democratic agenda to make ... cultural heritage more pluralistic and multi-vocal. In this article I argue that the reason behind this political and social problem, can be found in laws and regulations, a methodological and epistemological canon, and in an essentialist perspective. This very complicated and complex situation is understood and analyzed in a historical and social context and through a discussion of the question of existence and Being."
"Assuredly", said Digg, closing the safe door on his treasures, "there are many advocates of Cartesian rationalism who chafe at the idea that there is no objective archaeological reality, but the trend is clear. In modern terms, there is a movement to make Archaeology relevant to real life. You can feel it."

Digg suddenly adopted an austere appearance, asking gravely: "And now, you want me to know something about petroglyphs and astronomy? My dear student, what does THAT have to do with our profession. You mean this Kaulins simply wants to know what really happened in our human past based on some indecipherable scribbles on ancient walls? Good grief. Do not waste my time! I must be going. I have an important group caucus appointment where we are discussing Stonehenge as an ancient Ayurvedic retreat, yoga inclusive!"

So now let us turn to astronomy. To realize how important astronomy is, or can be, one should ponder that "The Little Prince" (Le Petit Prince) by Antoine Saint Exupéry (the hyphen is not found in his birth documents), published "legally" first in 1946, our birth year, is said to be the world's second most widely read book, after the Bible, so Artcurial. We seem to be destined to follow in the track of Asteroid B612, the home of the hero of Exupery's book.

Spark Notes writes inter alia about the themes covered in the book:
"The little prince represents ... open-mindedness .... He ... asks questions .... The novel suggests that such inquisitiveness is the key to understanding and to happiness....

Saint-Exupéry shows that spiritual growth must also involve active exploration....

The narrator places drawings into the text at certain points ... his illustrations are simple, they are integral to understanding ..."
It is much like our own writings.

In "The Little Prince" a Turkish astronomer discovers a new asteroid, unveiling his discovery at an international astronomy conference, but no one believes him, because he is dressed as a Turk, gesticulating at a blackboard and pointing to mathematical equations -- just like astronomical drawings in our writings.

The Turkish astronomer attends a second conference later in the book, dressed as a Westerner, and his discovery is resoundingly accepted. Well, Andis Kaulins is not Turkish, but perhaps we should reveal to the world that the real name of yours truly is Harry Alnwick Potter, and that my friends just call me "Annick".

Now, what about the astronomers? The esteemed astronomer Astella Skop cordially received a student who wanted to know the answers to the questions presented in the Thunderebird Challenge. Astella was a distinct gender minority in astronomy, a profession ruled almost entirely by the male profession (ca. 96% of professors in astronomy are male).

"The problem with astronomy", said Skop, to the inquiring student, "is gender. We have known now from various studies for several centuries already, that the level of human civilization is directly proportional to the status of women. The higher their status, the higher the level of civilization."

She continued, "There is nothing surprising about this. The reason is provided by studies of guinea pigs. If all the guinea pigs in a birth cycle are male, then the "physically strongest viz. biggest" male is the chief of the group. If there is only one female in the birth group, then it turns out often that the "loudest" and not the strongest or biggest male is the chief. Women bring in a new component, so that things other than sheer brute force become important ... and that is the beginning of civilization."

"Wow" said the student, "so what led you to such a male-dominated academic discipline as astronomy?" 

"Well", said Astella Skop, "as a young girl I read ""The Little Prince" (Le Petit Prince) by Antoine Saint Exupéry and it seemed to me to be so right philosophically about humanity and the world, that I was drawn strongly to astronomy. In some way, we are all like the Turkish astronomer, just waiting for the right fashion in the right era, when our time to blossom has come. I have quite an exclusive status, and I like that."

"Right", said the student, being reminded of her purpose there. "What do you think of the Thunderbird Challenge? and can you answer the second question. If Kaulins is right, why have archaeologists and astronomers not discovered these things long ago."

Astella Skop laughed, "You will have trouble finding a modern astronomer who can answer that sky map question about visible stars in prehistoric days. There are very few astronomers who are interested in the history of astronomy or in simple planispheres, especially ancient ones. They really do not want to know that their profession's beginnings were humble, just as any technology.

And for God's sake, don't mention Archaeology. That's an "Earth" thing and these are "Sky" people. Most modern astronomers are "aeronautical" and think in terms of the cosmos. Just look at what has been in the astronomical news in recent days. It is all about a belching black hole in the middle of our galaxy that could eventually wipe us all out ... in billions of years. That is the kind of thing that interests modern astronomers. It has little relevance to life on Earth now or in the past. "History" is an undesired, too simplistic word, for astronomers.

Even the so-called archaeoastronomers reject the idea that they study the "history" of astronomy. Theirs is a cultural thing, and they like all kinds of mathematics, as if numbers were a safeguard against nonsense, which, of course, they are not. If you are merely trying to prove that something ancient shows stars in the sky, that is too simple for all of them, and they want to hear nothing of it. They prefer seeing a sun-dial and/or lunar calculator in every prehistoric garden, as if the ancients needed to constantly check the same solar or lunar alignment data they already had long ago. It is all rather wild."

Astella Skop continued, "The only real answer to your question is to read the works of Andis Kaulins in this field. He is simply interested in what really happened in the past and how the ancients viewed the skies. Having surveyed land in his youth, he is also interested to discover the degree to which primitive astronomy, viz. sky-gazing was used to conduct land survey. One does not have to agree with all of his conclusions, but one definitely should read what he writes. Most of my colleagues do not do so because they feel threatened by ancient astronomy as showing their high tech discipline to have primitive roots, which of course it has, and has to have. Everything started small, like a child. And, quite the contrary, it is rather amazing how much the ancients already knew about things like precession, the location of the ecliptic and celestial equator, and so on. The things that Kaulins produces are valuable. Read them."

For the World's Archaeologists, Astronomers and Archaeoastronomers: The Great Thunderbird Challenge

The Great Thunderbird Challenge for the World's Archaeologists, Astronomers and Archaeoastronomers is now underway.

If you are a student, teacher, researcher, or administrator at a college or university, but are not professionally active in those professions, ask your local archaeologist, astronomer or archaeoastronomer if they know the answers to either of the two questions below. Give them a chance to show their stuff.

What are the Questions for the Challenge?

My friends tell us that in our work we should give the alleged and so-called mainstream "experts" in the archaeological, astronomical and archaeoastronomical communities more of an opportunity to show their stuff.

Accordingly, before publishing our next bundle of postings on "The Great Mound, Petroglyph and Painted Rock Art Journey of Native America",
we have decided to give the mainstream experts a chance... before our next bundle of postings hits the press....

First, Question 1, we would like to know from the archaeologists where the petroglyph redrawn below is located geographically. We know, of course, where it is, and if you are in none of these professions, don't waste your time looking online. You won't find it there. This petroglyph thus far languishes in obscurity, but, to the credit of the archaeological profession, it IS published. Where is it?

Second, Question 2, to illustrate the essence of "The Great Mound, Petroglyph and Painted Rock Art Journey of Native America", which has appeared in 18 postings, with many more to come, but has similarly languished in undeserved obscurity, which we intend to remedy here, we now ask of the astronomers: 
"Is there a group of visible stars (star magnitude limit 6.0 or brighter) out there that looks EXACTLY like that petroglyph? 
Gee, astronomers, nothing familiar? Here is some assistance. 60 stars!

We are not interested in chance similarities. Rather, at a star magnitude limit of 6.0, the default setting at e.g. the top astronomy software program Starry Night Pro (, we expect that this group of stars -- if it exists, as we know it does -- should have EXACTLY the number of stars noted above in the image for the corresponding section of that image -- and note that those numbers reflect EXACTLY the number of cupules (cupmarks) on that petroglyph, a petroglyph probably 5000 years old. 60 stars! Is that astronomy?!! In any case, you can be sure that WE know the answer.

This challenge should be a piece of cake for the world's astronomers, who spend much of their lives observing the stars. Could they have missed something this obvious?

We will proceed shortly to our next bundle of postings on "The Great Mound, Petroglyph and Painted Rock Art Journey of Native America" and when you know our next destination, you will be close to solution of the "Challenge" in terms of a location for that petroglyph.

We repeat. The Great Thunderbird Challenge for the World's Archaeologists, Astronomers and Archaeoastronomers is now underway. If you are at a college or university, but are not professionally active in those professions, ask your local teaching archaeologist, astronomer or archaeoastronomer if they know the answers to our questions. Give them a chance to show their stuff.

Or, if you do not get the right answers, you can look at our coming postings.

Hat tip to Gert Meier for pointing out to me recently that your average human being on this planet, academic or otherwise, sees absolutely no connection between rock cupmarks (viz. cupules) and stars. We aim to change that quick!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

War and Armed Conflict as Questionable Solutions to Territorial Disputes: Is the Purchase of Disputed Lands More Sensible? The USA as an Example: Louisiana Purchase, Alaska, etc.

We do not post much on politics or religion because we think it is extremely difficult to change anyone's mind about political or religious questions. The best thing one can do, we have found, is simply to pose thoughtful questions. Two such questions surfaced in studying Territorial Acquisition by the USA as a reference for land survey and for current land disputes worldwide:
  1. Are War and Armed Conflict Sane Solutions to Territorial Disputes?

    Comment: Historically, in terms of the territorial integrity of peoples, war and armed conflict have been very UNSUCCESSFUL methods in the long-term, so that most nations of the Old World, for example, are still populated by the very same groups of people who populated them millennia ago. So, why war? why armed conflict? when contracts suffice?

  2. Is the Purchase of Disputed Land a More Sensible Solution? The USA is an example: Louisiana Purchase, Alaska Purchase, etc. Here is a map of U.S. Territorial Acquisitions from Wikimedia Commons:

    U.S. Territorial Acquisitions

    Page URL:
    File URL:
    Attribution: By United States federal government (en:User:Black and White converted it from JPEG to PNG and retouched it) (National Atlas of the United States [1]) [Public domain], <a href="">via Wikimedia Commons</a>

    Comment: Having once worked for the State Surveyor's Office of Nebraska, and now posting often about ancient land survey, maps and cartography, it still remains a marvelous revelation that a large share of the United States was purchased outright or obtained by treaty and payment of compensation to stop or reduce war or armed conflict. Without going into the question of the purchase or taking of Indian lands (Native American lands) per se, let us look at some famous purchases:
  • Thomas Jefferson's "Louisiana Purchase" in 1803 ( of the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon's France at ca. 4 cents an acre is seen as the greatest real estate deal in history (LOC). This was one of the major events in the making of the United States.

    It DOUBLED the size of the United States, and, as written at
    "President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the Corps of Discovery Expedition (1804-06), led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, to explore the territory acquired in the Louisiana Purchase, among other objectives."
    The Lewis & Clark Expedition, in turn, became a surveying landmark.

  • Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo 1848 (

    "With the defeat of its army and the fall of the capital, Mexico City, in September 1847 the Mexican government surrendered to the United States and entered into negotiations to end the war....

    "Under the terms of the treaty negotiated by [Nicholas] Trist, Mexico ceded to the United States Upper California and New Mexico. This was known as the Mexican Cession and included present-day Arizona and New Mexico and parts of Utah, Nevada, and Colorado (see Article V of the treaty). Mexico relinquished all claims to Texas and recognized the Rio Grande as the southern boundary with the United States (see Article V).

    The United States paid Mexico $15,000,000 "in consideration of the extension acquired by the boundaries of the United States" (see Article XII of the treaty) and agreed to pay American citizens debts owed to them by the Mexican government (see Article XV). Other provisions included protection of property and civil rights of Mexican nationals living within the new boundaries of the United States (see Articles VIII and IX), the promise of the United States to police its boundaries (see Article XI), and compulsory arbitration of future disputes between the two countries (see Article XXI)."

    [and, as for ancient surveying practices]

    To carry the treaty into effect, commissioner Colonel Jon Weller and surveyor Andrew Grey were appointed by the United States government and General Pedro Conde and Sr. Jose Illarregui were appointed by the Mexican government to survey and set the boundary. A subsequent treaty of December 30, 1853, altered the border from the initial one by adding 47 more boundary markers to the original six. Of the 53 markers, the majority were rude piles of stones; a few were of durable character with proper inscriptions."

  •  The Gadsden Purchase in 1853 more or less finalized the continental boundaries of the United States: As written at
    "The Mexican regime was urgently in need of money and for $10 million sold the required strip of territory south of the Gila River, in what is now southern New Mexico and Arizona. It was only a mere 30,000 square miles, about the size of Scotland, but it was the country through which the Southern Pacific Railroad would be built."
  •  Treaty with Russia for the Purchase of Alaska 1867 (, an area of land twice the size of Texas, the largest contiguous U.S. State
    "On March 30, 1867, the United States reached an agreement to purchase Alaska from Russia for a price of $7.2 million. The Treaty with Russia was negotiated and signed by Secretary of State William Seward and Russian Minister to the United States Edouard de Stoeckl."
    See the Alaska Purchase at the Encyclopaedia Britannica

    Text of the Treaty at, American Historical Documents, 1000–1904. The Harvard Classics.  1909–14. Treaty with Russia (Alaska Purchase) (1867)

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