Thursday, November 30, 2006

Flight of the Navigator Part III

(Cue music ) Alan Jackson, It's Five O'Clock Somewhere, "The sun is hot and that old clock is movin' slow. And so am I"

They say that timing is everything

Today's science columns are awash with the news that a team of scientists and engineers has "decoded" the object known as the "Antikythera Device".

Writing in Nature, the team says that the mechanism was 'technically more complex than any known device for at least a millennium afterwards'."

Ever since its discovery in 1900, the device has spawned speculation as to its real purpose. Now, an article in Nature declares it was used in part
, at least, to predict eclipses. This is a left handed admission that the ancients understood orbital mechanics far better than had previously been credited to them. The moon's eliptical orbit means that eclipes, while periodic, are not annual. So a simple calendrical device can not predict them accurately. The device has a specially offset gear mechanism that incorporates the moon's eliptical orbit. This is a practical device from about 150 bce that employs the orbital mechanics and calculus that history tells us wasn't invented until after Sir Isaac Newton got thumped on the head by a falling apple in the seventeenth century AD.

From BBC

"When you see it your jaw just drops and you think: 'bloody hell, that's clever'. It's a brilliant technical design," said Professor Mike Edmunds.

Planetary display

The team was also able to decipher more of the text on the mechanism, doubling the amount of text that can now be read.

"Combined with analysis of the dials, the inscriptions hint at the possibility that the Antikythera Mechanism could have also displayed planetary motions.

Reconstruction of the Antikythera Mechanism (Copyright of the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project)
A reconstruction of the rear gears reveals their complexity

"Inscriptions mention the word 'Venus' and the word 'stationary' which would tend to suggest that it was looking at retrogressions of planets," said Professor Edmunds.

"In my own view, it probably displayed Venus and Mercury, but some people suggest it may display many other planets."

One of those people is Michael Wright. His reconstruction of the device, with 72 gears, suggests it may have been an orrery that displayed the motions of the five known planets of the time.

"There is a feature on the front plate that could have made provision for a bearing with a spindle, that carried motion up to a mechanism used to model the planets of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn as well," he told the BBC News website.

"That's how I see it and my reconstruction shows it works well."

Intriguingly, Mr Wright also believes the device was not a one-off.

"The designer and maker of the device knew what they wanted to achieve and they did it expertly; they made no mistakes," he said.

"To do this, it can't have been very far from their everyday stock work."

The team speculates that the gear works was housed in a shoebox-sized wooden case and that the hinged lids or covers would have been illustrated with detailed instructions for the device's use. In other words, the making of this device was not some single use experiment, but was likely a "standard issue" part of ancient navigation and or astronomy. It was found with the wreck of a cargo ship, not some war galley or ship of exploration.It was also built two centuries or so after Archemedes first committed to script his early mathematical treatises on:
  • Equilibrium of Planes
  • Spiral Lines
  • The Measurement of the Circle
  • Sphere and Cylinder
  • On Floating Bodies
  • The Method of Mechanical Theorems
  • Stomachion
I could write several postings just on Archemedes' contributions to science, but those will have to wait. His verified work illustrates that there was ample scientific knowledge among the ancient Greeks to design and construct the Antikythera Device as an everyday instrument of astronomical prediction and celestial navigation.

The Archemedes connection goes quite a bit farther than that, however. He was a Grecian-born patriot of Carthage at a time when Carthagenian maritime society was at war with ancient Rome, a national and political affiliation that eventually led to his demise at the hands of a Roman soldier. That is a tale worthy of its own telling, but, again, I will save it for another post. Pursuant to this discussion, Archemedes was both a master of mathematical theory for his day and he was a third century BC analog of Thomas A. Edison, inventing or developing practical solutions to everyday needs.

Back to the device and its origins. About the same time it was built, another Greek, Hipparchus, was publishing his catalog of a thousand stars visible from Greece and throughout the Mediteranian.


"Hipparchus, who was Greek, was one of the greatest of the ancient astronomers and did his most important work between 140-125 BC. He calculated the length of the year to within six and a half minutes, developed a scale to rate the brightness of stars, was the first to record a nova, theorized on the motions of the Sun and Moon, provided high quality planetary observations and created the first ever catalog of 1,000 stars."

Hipparchus wasn't the first to compile such a star catalog, but his accuracy and scope was uncanny for a time when scholars believe there were no sophisticated instruments. The earliest extant star catalog was the work of an anonymous Assyrian in 1130 BC. The accuracy of Hipparchus' version is within 3.5 degrees. According to the latest findings, Hipparchus' work is actually slightly younger than the Antikythera device by a decade or so, but, and I'm speculating here, could have been related to researching a new and improved version. He worked in a time that histroy tells us he could not have used any sophisticated angular measurement or optical instruments. Yet, it seems to me that the Antikythera device is pretty darned sophisticated. He also probably had access to all of Archemedes' work. Then, as today, all "new" science grew from previous work.

Away from the Greeks for the moment and on to a much simpler device: No gears, no long list of instructions, no extensive star catalogs, and no math. In other words, something that an illiterate sailor could master.

Thanks to the work of Myron Paine, and with his permission, let me expound on one of the simplest navigational devices from antiquity, the Ki Mal.

Please refer to the image at top left of this post. (I will be contacting as to how to put images where they need to be instead of where blogger beta wants them). You can also read the entry at AAAPF.ORG


Myron Paine

In 1810 a “pendant” was found in Nova Scotia. A digital photo of that “pendant” is shown in the picture to the right with a simulated night scene in the background.

During the summer of 2005, the Museum of Modern art in Ottawa, Canada displayed about a dozen cruder versions “pendants” used by the Inuits. All “pendants” had the three-pronged base.

Were the “pendants” used to determine latitude?

The Arabs called similar devices "Al Kemal." The Vikings may have called their device simply a "Ki mal.,” meaning “peek picture.” The Kimal shown appears to be more precise and versatile than the Al-Kemal, which could only determine one preset latitude. (Slaughter, 1957)

The height of the North Star above the horizon varies with the latitude of the viewer. To measure the North Star’s height the viewer may have held a Kimal tethered to his head by two necklaces, which established a set distance from his eyeball. The angle seen from the eye to the Kimal is the same angle as from the eye to the distant horizon and the North Star.

The viewer may have rapidly scanned along the horizon until he saw the North Star in the slit. Then he may have lowered the Kimal until the North Star peeped through the hole. He may have moved a slender needle onto the notches until the needle looked as if it was on the horizon, which could be seen behind the Kimal. Then he may have clamped the needle with his thumb. While holding the needle in place, he may have moved to a fire to make an accurate count of the notches.

One necklace was secured to the top of the Kimal. During the day, the Kimal may have hung around the viewer’s neck.

A second necklace may have just hung loose around the neck. When the Kimal was being used, the second necklace was slipped up around the center prong of the three-pronged base. The two necklaces may have been tied together at a point determined by stretching the necklaces away from the Kimal. The knot may have been slipped over the viewer’s head to hold the Kimal at a set distance from his eye.

This Kimal was calibrated by adjusting the necklaces so that the distance from the star hole to the bottom of the solid crosspiece was the same as the distance as from the Kimal to the eyeball. Known measurements on the ship's deck and main spar may have created an equal sided triangle to verify that the Kimal was in calibration for 45 degrees latitude. The exact latitude, in degrees, was not always needed. The correct notch required to sail at a given latitude was easier to remember and simpler to determine.

The Kimal illustrated to the left indicates that the ship is south of 45 degrees latitude. The Captain will adjust course to the north. By taking repeated measurements with the Kimal, the ship will eventually arrive within 15 miles, north or south, of Nova Scotia.

The ancient, but real, pendant is now in the British Museum and is shown in the Beothuk chapter of the Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 15, p. 104, fig. 5, left.


After reveiwing Myron's analysis of this object, I can find no fault with his logic as he stated the use. However, I think there may be more to this ultra-simplistic latitude measurement device. The graduations that are etched into the edges of the grooves and the "splay" angle of the legs may serve a more utilitarian purpose, not be mere decoration. Over the coming weeks, I hope to make a reproduction of this device and conduct some experiments to see if it could also be used for crude longitude measurment.

Okay, that's a lengthy discussion of only two devices of the several (perhaps, many) used for navigation in antiquity, and still no maps, records of discovery, or hard evidence of pre-Columbian visitation. Partly because the "news worthiness" and timliness of the Antikythera device warranted that I devote most of this post to it. I promise to get back to Pytheas' sponsors and the maps (and Archemedes) in the next one.

Holy invisible ink, Batman!! What happened to the message?

Tune in next time to the Oopa Loopa Cafe

Friday, November 24, 2006

Flight of the Navigator Part II

Cue music: Dean Martin, That's Amore
"When the Moon hits your Eye like a big pizza pie, That's Amore"

In the last installment, I established that the pre-chronometer method of determining longitude was the "method of lunar distances" and that it was used by the major navies of the world up until the nineteenth century. Before that method could come into use, however, a comprehensive catalog of lunar, solar, and stellar observations bases had to be established and the mathematics of using that catalog had to be instilled in the sailors and navigators of those navies. That math was worked out in the twenty to seventy centuries before modern chronometers. So was the shorthand that made it possible to cram all that information into a concise form that a ship's navigator could take with him on a voyage. That shorthand and its rendering migrated to a small host of activities, both related and unrelated to navigation. Astronomers probably used it first, then sailors, and finally, astrologers and alchemists came long after the sailors got ahold of it. Both the math and the shorthand were lost and regained several times over that long period, but not necessarily both at the same time and also not necessarily by all users at once.

Throughout that time (and still today) the "back up" method for estimating longitude is "dead reckoning". That method depends on much simpler math than does lunar distances. It is also much more prone to error.

Also in the the last installment, I established that to the celestial navigator, the sky is pre-Copernican, that the Earth is the axis around which the heavens rotate.

Axis. Rotation. Wheel. Arcs. Spokes. .... all leading to geometry and trigonometry. And, more importantly within this discussion, leading to tools with which to measure angles.

I closed the last installment asking "Where are the tools? Who used them? And where did they use them?" I should have added two more questions: "Where did they get them?" and "How did they use them?"

First things first

The first thing we have to establish is that the ancients actually had these tools and knew how to use them. In order to do that I have to draw upon the work and accepted findings of history, archeo-astronomy, and archeology.

The star we call Polaris was not always our "pole" star. The Earth's axis "wobbles " over time (long periods in human terms, a mere blink in geologic time). In fact, Polaris is not a perfect match to the axis even today, but has a slight angle from "true" north. Four or five thousand years ago, Polaris was just another star, not "the" guiding light upon which all navigators depended. A different star served that purpose back then. For purposes of this discussion, it doesn't really matter which star it was, as long as there was one. And there definitely was one that sailors and land navigators alike used to orient themselves and to navigate to far flung places.


Enter Pytheas, the Ancient Greek Navigator.

"He traveled around a considerable part of Great Britain, circumnavigating it between 330 and 320 BC. Pytheas is the first person on record to describe the Midnight Sun, the aurora and Polar ice, and the first to mention the name Britannia and Germanic tribes. ... Pytheas estimated the circumference of Great Britain within 2.5% of modern estimates."

The estimate of circumferance of the British Isles being that close would be a pretty clear indication that Pytheas did not use dead reckoning. Furthermore, there is clear evidence in the ancient manuscripts of Pliny the Elder and others, that Pytheas navigated the far reaches of the North Sea and some indication he also ventured as far as Iceland or perhaps beyond it. His own account is lost, but the content was repeated by other writers for several centuries. He also recorded for the first time the name "Thule" as an island of the north. Some scholars speculate that it was Iceland. If that speculation is true, then Iceland was inhabited long before modern scholars think it was. He also may have visited Orkney, the Faroes, and Norway. All in the fourth century B.C.

At the time of Pytheas' voyage, Greece had a colony at present day Marseilles and the Strates of Gilbraltor was blockaded by the Carthegenians, so Pytheas either ran the blockade or first travelled overland to Marseilles to set sail from there. There was a real reason the Greece had a colony there: Tin.


"The first account of Cornwall comes from the Sicilian Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (c.90 BC–c.30 BC), supposedly quoting or paraphrasing the fourth-century BC geographer Pytheas, who had sailed to Britain:

[The inhabitants of that part of Britain called Belerion or the Land's End] from their intercourse with foreign merchants, are civilised in their manner of life. They prepare the tin, working very carefully the earth in which it is produced…Here then the merchants buy the tin from the natives and carry it over to Gaul, and after travelling overland for about thirty days, they finally bring their loads on horses to the mouth of the Rhône.

"Who these merchants were is not known. There is no evidence for the theory that they were Phoenicians."

"Caesar was the last classical writer to mention the tin trade, which appears to have declined during the Roman occupation"

I'll take to task the statement that "there is no evidence for the Phoenicians" in another installment, but this is about Pytheas' ability to navigate and the reasons for his voyage. Besides the indications of his travelling to the far north, he also seems to have sailed far into the Baltic. Could he have been trying to find another sea route to the tin mines, a way around the Carthegenian blockade? Or did he undertake such an adventure purely for exploration?

We may never know the answer to that one, but there are a few points worthy of review:
  1. Pytheas sailed into or at least interveiwed someone who had sailed into the Arctic Ocean (Midnight Sun, sea slush/polar ice, Aurora, etc.). The only thing missing is mention of white bears.
  2. Pytheas most likely followed the overland tin route from Athens to the coast of present day France. The tin route was millenia old on both land and sea in his time.
  3. Pytheas was able to estimate distances at sea and the extent of land masses with uncanny precision.
  4. Subsequent historians cited his work for several centuries to come.
Could Pytheas have sailed all those seas and recorded those travels with such precision without the tools of a navigator? Not likely. Even if he did so using only dead reckoning, then he was still a master navigator and had to understand the trigonometry. It's also interesting that the 2.5% error is roughly equal to the error between using plain trigonemetry versus spherical trigonometry to ascertain the circumference of the British Isles. Either way, he had to use one or the other form of the math to do it and he had to measure the angles. Even to dead reckon his way around Britain, he had to measure the angle from north, that is, from a pole star. To do that, he had to have the tools to measure the angles.

But Pytheas is only one historical figure!!

The point exactly. Or, at least, part of it. He was a verifiable figure from history who navigated well beyond the Mediteranean in a time when the "known world" was limited to a much smaller place than he travelled. There were others who undertook similar ventures at different times, but his is probably the best documented voyage (i.e., cited by later historians) in antiquity and his story contains the most verifiable information, free of any dissenting or contradictory claims. The rest of the point in citing his story is that he had to have the tools to navigate and had to understand their use. What tools, specifically, did he use? We have no evidence of a specific design, because his account, his " ship's logs", is lost, not available to us (it probably went "poof" with the rest of the library at Alexandria). And, although somewhat speculative, it seems quite likely that the voyage was initiated with some regard to the tin trade in support of the bronze industries of his time.

The only thing lacking, so far, in proving that Pytheas and other figures in antiquity had and used the tools to measure longitude is the maps they would have made. I'll come back to that and the shorthand that encoded those maps in the Part III.

Holy double crosses, Batman!! Who sent Pytheas on a slow boat? Or was that "goat"?

Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Flight of the Navigator

Flight of the Navigator was a Disney release back in the eighties about a pre-adolescent boy befriended by an autonomous, sentient extraterrestrial craft that took him back and forth in both space and time.

Space and time. Navigation. You probably already know where I'm going with this.

>>Cue Music: Cat Steven's: "I'm being followed by a moon shadow. Moon Shadow, Moon Shadow..."

As I indicated in Cast in Bronze, I think there is ample evidence of varying levels of accomplishment among ancient peoples for both land and marine navigation. Those skills would be dependent on a small set of "enabling technologies" and on basic trigonometry or, better yet, spherical trigonometry. Any viable ancient navigation tools of that long-ago time could have been developed in one of two ways:
  • trial and error-based correction, or
  • mathematical predictions based on observation (scientific method)

    Either course of development would likely have required refinements based on lessonlearned through initial trials. This is more or less how systems of all kinds are developed yet today.

Want to use the moon to determine your longitude, but you don't own a GPS receiver or even a sextant?

Use an Old Farmers Almanac and your watch. The tables of "regional corrections" for local (real) noon and moonrise times are accurate enough to get you within maybe one quarter a degree. Greater accuracy is possible, but requires more complex math and extremely careful observation.

What's that? You don't own a watch either? Not a problem, you can still get within about a half degree.

Read on, McDuff.

From: Bowditch -The American Practical Navigator, hosted on (I'd Rather Be Sailing)

"Nautical Almanac"
"The major portion of the Nautical Almanac is devoted to hourly tabulations of Greenwich Hour Angle (GHA) and declination, to the nearest 0.1' of arc. On each set of facing pages, information is listed for three consecutive days. On the left-hand page, successive columns list GHA of Aries(symbol not dispayable here), and both GHA and declination of Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, followed by the Sidereal Hour Angle (SHA) and declination of 57 stars. The GHA and declination of the sun and moon, and the horizontal parallax of the moon, are listed on the right-hand page. Where applicable, the quantities v and d are given to assist in interpolation. The quantity v is the difference between the actual change of GHA in 1 hour and a constant value used in the interpolation tables, while d is the change in declination in 1 hour. Both v and d are listed to the nearest 0.1'."

But wait a minute. That method requires a chronometer. And it sounds complicated.

Yes, it is a little more complicated than reading your location directly from the face of a GPS receiver.

Yes, it does now require a good chronometer, but the chronometer used by mariners before 1797 was built into the system.

(from the United States Naval Observatory)

"Initially the almanacs provided the data required for the method of lunar distances, a technically demanding and mathematically complex method of determining longitude before the invention of accurate clocks for shipboard use."

If you want to know the nuts and bolts of moontracking to tell time and determine longitude, go read Bowdatch. But for sake of this discourse, just take my (and the US Navy's) word for it, it works.

Local noon is easy to determine (short of being deep inside the polar circles). The argument that "ancients had no means of determining longitude because they had no chronometers" doesn't wash. We don't know whether they had man-made chronometers or not, but they were adept at discerning "noon" and, after about 3,000 bce, thet were pretty darn good at making sundials.

Apparent movement of the sun through the sky is one degree every four minutes. That is a stable, reliable external (daytime) chonometer that practically anyone can learn to use. Yes, I know there are exceptions to that stability, but a couple minutes in your time observation is not going to navigate you into the wrong hemispere.

Considerably more precise chronographic instruments, such as the Heliochronometer, followed in slightly less ancient times.

Portable sundials, suitable for use by long distance travelers, have come and gone in varying forms and configurations for a couple thousand years (that we know of). I'll get into specific types later.


"The first thing you have to know about celestial navigation is that its view of the heavens is pre-Copernican. That's right - you look at the earth as the unmoving center around which the sun, moon, stars, and planets turn. In other words, we deal with the heavens as if wysiwyg (what you see is what you get). "

The ancients, particularly the Mayans and quite possibly the ancient Egyptians and Sumerians, were quite accomplished at mathematical systems analysis, especially when applied to astronomy, particularly the sun, the moon and Venus. They understood quite well the nature of the "stable system" and they noted the exceptions (comets, planets, etc.).

It is a natural extension of this depth of observation to note differences in the "stable system" when the techniques are applied in a different terrestrial location than where they made their initial observations. They assembled moonrise, sunrise, planetary transit, and even precession tables at their observatories, if the interpretations by some in the Meso-American astro-archeology field are correct, and, quite possibly, used such tables as references to determine their geolocations while they were themselves in transit. Today, we can visit their observatories and see their tables inscribed in stone, but we don't know what tools (angular measurement tools or chronometric tools) they used. Those artifacts are long gone. The "evidence" is not the artifactual tools, but rather the written record. No one doubts they made detailed, sophisticated observations. In their scope (pun fully intended) and structure, the Mayan observation records bear more than a passing resemblence to the Nautical Almanac.

Can we doubt the Mayans and other ancient peoples were sophisticated enough to apply that accumulated knowledge in a similar fashion?

Modern Celestial Navigation

The Polaris Intercontinental Ballistic Missile navigation system, although the intricate details
of which are still classified since its implementation during the Cold War, is based on real-time celestial observation. It was, after all, a US Navy weapon system. A lens system and electronic "reference table" allows the guidance system to observe certain stars and determine exact geolocation (terminal accuracy within a few hundred meters, often better by an order of magnitude). Granted, this system benefits from and is dependent on a highly stable chronometer. Anything that moves at 17,000 miles per hour needs a good clock to keep track of its movement and calculate its location. The ancient navigators operated at a much more leisurely pace, by say, 4 or 5 orders of magnitude slower.

So, that should adequately establish that the ancients could have possessed the requisite skills to master the art of celestial navigation, at least, adequately for the rates of travel we percieve they went.

So where are tools? Who used them? And where did they use them?

Holy moonbeams, Batman!! Tune in the for next exciting episode of the Oopa Loopa Cafe to find out!!

Monday, November 13, 2006

12th Century Welsh Fortresses in Indiana?

Once in a great while one uncovers great treasure in the most unlikely of places: original Rembrandts in attics, an old ratty doll that turns out to be a priceless 16th century, European work of art, or, in this case, a ten dollar used, obscure local history book from a flea market.

Nineteen sixty eight, it turns out, was a banner year for the recurrent story of “Prince Madoc” having brought or sent Welsh colonists to North America.

As local southern Indiana rumors go, this one, also from that year, is a die-hard:
Dr. Barry Fell was lecturing at Indiana University regarding his research into epigraphic evidence of ancient Old World visitation and habitation in the New World. His audience consisted primarily of faculty and staff with only one or two students or other interested parties. Only about a dozen people in all attended. After the lecture, the senior members of the audience asked Dr. Fell if he would consider a side trip to examine an inscription in a cliff side written in a language that none of the Hoosier State academics had been able to identify. That inscription was at Clifty Falls at the mouth of Clifty Creek where it joins the Ohio River, near Madison, Indiana. The gist of what Dr. Fell found at that location was:
“I, Owan ap Zurinch, in the year of our Lord 1170, did bring to this place…” and goes on to list the number of people, cows, pigs, arms, tools and ships.

Nineteen sixty eight also saw the republication at private expense of a local history of the Falls of the Ohio, first compiled in 1882.

The following passages are excerpted from History of the Ohio Falls Cities and Their Counties with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches, Vol. I, Cleveland, O.: L.A. Williams & Co., 1882

A Reproduction by Unigraphic, Inc., 4400 Jackson Ave.,
Evansville, Indiana, 1968

From page 19

“But this tradition of the Delaware does not stand alone. That the prehistoric inhabitants of Kentucky were at some intermediate period overwhelmed by a tide of savage invasion from the North, is a point upon which Indian tradition, as far as it goes, is strong and explicit. It is related, in a posthumous fragment on Western antiquities, by Rev. John P. Campbell, M.D., which was published in the early part of the present century, that Colonel James Moore, of Kentucky, was told by an old Indian that the primitive inhabitants of this State had perished in a war of extermination waged against them by the Indian; and that the last great battle was fought at the Falls of the Ohio; and that the Indians succeeded in driving the aborigines into a small island below the rapids, ‘where the whole lot of them were cut to pieces.’ The Indian further said that this was an undoubted fact handed down by tradition, and that the Colonel would have proofs of it under his eyes as soon as the waters of the Ohio became low. When the waters of the river had fallen, an examination of Sandy island was made, and ‘a multitude of human bones were discovered’”.

Having been born and raised and living in southern Indiana all my life, I had heard variations of this story repeated many times. This book is the first time I’ve seen the story in print and it was first committed to print in the early nineteenth century (Campbell). But I had always heard more to the story, and, sure enough, it followed immediately in this flea market treasure.

“There is similar confirmation of this tradition in the statement of General George Rogers Clark, that there was a great burying ground on the northern side of the river, but a short distance below the Falls. According to the tradition, imparted to the same gentleman by the Indian chief Tobacco, the battle of Sandy island decided finally the fall of Kentucky with its ancient inhabitants. When Colonel McKee commanded the Kanawha (says Dr. Campbell), he was told by the Indian chief Cornstalk, with whom he had frequent conversations, that Ohio and Kentucky (and Tennessee is also associated with Kentucky in the pre-historic ethnography of Rafinesque) had once been settled by a white people who were familiar with arts of which the Indians knew nothing; that these whites, after a series of bloody contests with the Indians, had been exterminated, that the old burial-places were the graves of an unknown people; and that the old forts had not been built by Indians, but had come down from ‘a very long time ago’ people, who were of a white complexion, and skilled in the arts.”

The history has one further reiteration of the story, but no significant differences appear except these:
· A differentiation between “white Indians” and “black Indians” (as told by an Indian)
· And that the burial site, a short distance down river from Clarksville, was then (c. 1780) “covered with an alluvial deposition of earth six or seven feet deep”.

So we have at least three accounts of the genocide of the racially separate people who inhabited an area below the river. But the burial ground is either in the river on an island or is north of the river. And we have documentation of the Indians’ great leaders (Tobacco and Cornstalk) telling the same story, with the story ending in at least three different locations, Sandy Island, Corn Island, and a field down river from Clarksville. We have white accounts of bone fields being found in each of two of those locations. All we can conclude from the various differences is that the story was very old at the time it was related to the white settlers.

So who might have been these “white Indians”?
This history also contains one clue to that:

Page 35
“Mr. Thomas S. Hinde, an old citizen of Kentucky, neighbor and companion of Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton, wrote a letter in his old age from his home in Mount
Carmel, Illinois, dated May 30, 1842, to the editor of the American Pioneer, in which is comprised the following startling bit of information:

“It is a fact that the Welsh, under Owen ap Zuinch, in the twelfth century, found their way to the Mississippi and as far up the Ohio as the falls of that river at Louisville, where they were cut off by the Indians; others ascended the Mississippi, were either captured or settled with and sunk into Indian habits. Proof: In 1799 six soldiers skeletons were dug up near Jeffersonville; each skeleton had a breast-plate of brass, cast, with the Welsh coat of arms, the mermaid and harp, with a Latin inscription, in substance, “virtuous deeds meet their just reward”. One of these plates was left by Captain Jonathan Taylor with the late Mr. Hubbard Taylor, of Clark county, Kentucky, and when called upon by me, in 1814 for the late Dr. John P. Campbell, of Chillicothe, Ohio, who was preparing notes of the antiquities of the West, by a letter from Hubbard Taylor, Jr. (a relation of mine), now living, I was informed that the breast-plate had been taken to Virginia by a gentleman of that State – I supposed as a matter of curiosity.

“Mr. Hinde adduces other ‘proofs’ in support of his theory of the advent of his countrymen here half a millennium before La Salle came; but they are of no local importance, and we do not copy them. This may be added, however:”

‘The Mohawk Indians had a tradition among them, respecting the Welsh and of their being cut off by the Indians at the Falls of the Ohio. The late Colonel Joseph Hamilton Daviess, who had for many years sought for information on this subject, mentions this fact, and of the Welshmen’s bones being found buried on Corn Island; so that Southy, the king’s laureate, had some foundation for his Welsh poem.’
The editor of this history closed this passage with this statement:

“The story of the Jeffersonville skeletons, we hardly need add, is purely mythical. It is not probable that any pre-Columbian Welshman was ever at the Falls of the Ohio.”
Editorializing on the history one is compiling is what drove Napoleon to ask, “What is history but a fiction agreed upon?” and that quote appears at the bottom of the
”Prefatory Note” (Introduction) of this book.

The rest of the oral tradition version I have heard over the past forty years or so includes the existence of twelve cut stone fortresses spaced a days’ march apart and stretching all the way across Indiana from Clifty Creek on the Ohio to Merom Bluff on the Wabash. The history book only includes the one phrase “old forts” one time and offers no further details.

So there we have the bulk of the known evidence on this side of the Atlantic for the
Welsh having emigrated to what later became Indiana, and most of that evidence is documentation of oral tradition. And that, sadly, is not much to take to any university’s history and archeology departments.

So my quest now is to locate the “OLD FORTS”. I knew of three locations before reading this history:
· Clifty Creek, a bluff overlooking the Ohio on the Indiana side, now part of Clifty Falls State Park. According to the oral tradition in my lifetime, all the stones of this fortress were used to build a railroad trestle over the Ohio.
· Merom Bluff overlooking the Wabash River, but in an area of controlled access owned by a power utility. A few of the flooring stones of this site are supposed to be still in place, but since I can’t access the site easily, I am unable to verify that.
· And Five Points Trail aka Saddle Creek Trail in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area (National Park Service managed property). All the flooring stones and about half the stones of two walls remain intact at this site according to one witness I trust implicitly.
All these areas have some governmental or other factor restricting easy, on-the-ground research. So I set out to find one or more of the twelve that might be on real estate I could more easily access. I examined topographic maps and waterway maps. I used the idea that a “one day march” between the sites meant that all the sites were chosen using a military, defensive mindset. That mindset would include, as evidenced at the previously known sites, that the military planners wanted at least one side that could not be assaulted and that they therefore would not have to defend. They would also require easy access to water. That meant I needed to look for high, steep bluffs overlooking free-flowing rivers or tributaries. I think I found one, and I am now initiating conversations with the property owner for access. It is located in Lawrence County, very near Fishing Creek, and within a half mile of the East Fork of White River.

The locations of all twelve fortresses would have been in the territories of the Shawnee and at the edge of the affiliated Miami. Those were not tribes one would want as enemies. The chiefs Tobacco and Cornstalk relating the tradition in the history book were tribal chiefs of the Shawnee (Tecumseh was a war chief).
Note about my relationship to some of the figures associated with this article: Both General George Rogers Clark and Mr. L.A. Williams, publisher of the history, were distant relatives of mine. General Clark was the “hero of Ft. Sackville (Vincennes) and Kaskaskia” during the War for Independence and was elder brother of William Clark of the Corps of Discovery with Merriwether Lewis. The two had another brother, Robert, who was my direct ancestor via my paternal grandmother, Edith (Clark) Osmon. Mr. L.A. Williams, the publisher, was a cousin to my paternal great grandmother Maude Williams Osmon.

Cast in Bronze Part 2

Why would Michigan copper be so valuable as to entice miners and traders from the other side of the planet? Its purity was unmatched. Much of the float copper found there in the nineteenth century was 99% pure. And that was after it had already been “picked over” for millennia.

Old World Bronze

The Collossus of Rhodes would seem to be one example of extravagant use of resources. Or was it? Actually, it showed that that City-state was rich in resources as well as culture and refinement. It showed those attributes to anyone who sailed within sight of Rhodes. History tells us that the bronze and iron that went into the Collossus was the abandoned weapons and seige engines left behind when Demetrius chose the better part of valor and abondoned nearly all his army's gear in the face a major reinforcements.

In terms of the amounts of available ore in the Old World it would have been extravagant, but by virtue of its status as a major trading port and political center, and the way in which it gained the metal, Rhodes was perfectly comfortable in devoting that much of its collective wealth to providing such a signpost for the world at large. The Colossus was indeed one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient world, in part, because of how much “precious” metal went into it. I might equate it to using a Cray Supercomputer only for playing solitaire, just because you could. History also tells us the Colossus' beauty -- and its bronze-- was only skin deep (like Liberty). The amount of alloy in it had been enough to outfit a large army. Apparently, Rhodes had more of it than they truly needed. Like Bill Gates and money.

When one looks at the number and extent of the ancient mining sites so far identified in the Old World, there is the possibility that they provided just enough ore to produce the amounts of bronze sufficient to make the number of bronze artifacts that have been cataloged. So where did the ancient metal smiths get the materials for the rest of the artifacts that have NOT yet been found? And where is all the slag, the waste that always results from such smelting? Once the ore is smelted, the metal can be worked without producing slag, but smelting always produces copious amounts of the stuff; Unless, of course, only pure metal went into the process, and even then some small amount of slag occurs as a result of gasses becoming mixed in during the process and/or interactions with the smelting pot.

If millions of tons of high grade copper ore was removed from the Great Lakes region and taken to the Old World, then there should be at least hundreds of thousands of tons of slag somewhere. It’s not in Michigan. It’s never been identified in the Old World. But if only the purest of metals went into the mix, then the amount of resulting slag would be commensurately smaller, say tens of thousands of tons.

In the end, however, we are left with this: No pile of bronze artifacts weighing half a billion tons has ever turned up nor are we likely to find one, at least not on land. NASA has the capability to identify a pile that large from orbit using ground penetrating radar, even if it is submerged somewhere in an ocean, but they have to have a clue where to look.

If we ever find such a pile of bronze or an appropriately sized pile of slag, then it is likely we will answer most definitively all the questions of who, what, where, when, and how in one fell swoop.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Cast in Bronze

I've been reading (trying to read between income-based interruptions) my autographed copy -- thank you, Fred -- of Fred Rydholm's Michigan Copper, The Untold Story, A History of Discovery.

Fred makes the case that some ancient people mined many millions of tons of copper from Upper Michigan and from Isle Royale. Note that I didn't say he poses the argument. No, Fred makes the case quite definitively, I think. Most archeologists and historians completely discount or ignore the notion that there "was more copper used just to build the Great Pyramid than could be found in all the old world". But just how many copper chisels were turned to dust shaping over two million granite blocks? My guess is about two million.

As with anything, it boils down to: who, when, where, why

Only a couple tons of copper artifacts have been found in North America associated with indigenous peoples. Where did the rest of that ancient Michigan copper go? No, it wasn't abducted by aliens. The short answer is: Across the ocean. When did it go? A very long time ago. Who took it? Why would they take it from Michigan? I want to address each of those questions in a little more detail.

Across which ocean? Well, predominantly, the Atlantic. Fred's theory (shared by a lot of folks) is that Michigan copper was the prime source of copper for the "Bronze Age". "The Bronze Age" spanned all of Eurasia and at least the northern parts of Africa (southern Africa is generally considered as going directly from neolithic culture to iron age culture). And across the Atlantic was, seemingly, the shortest water route. But the Berring Straits is actually a much narrower body of water. It's dificult to see, however, how it would be more economical to transport all that copper overland to the shores of Alaska just to take advantage of the shorter sea voyage and then overland again all the way across Asia to power the Bronze Age in Asia, India, Europe and North Africa. And economics is what it was all about. As Fred says, copper was the Microsoft of the Bronze Age and whoever controlled it was that era's Bill Gates. And, I think, whoever transported it was that era's Intel.

When was the Bronze Age? Well, it depends on which Bronze Age you are considering. In the Near East, the Bronze Age is generally accepted as being divided into three stages:
* EBA - Early Bronze Age (c.3500-2000 BC)
* MBA - Middle Bronze Age (c.2000-1600 BC)
* LBA - Late Bronze Age (c.1600-1200 BC)

While in Scandinavia, the "Nordic Bronze Age" didn't begin until 1,500 BC and lasted until at least 500 BC.

In East Asia, bronze culture spanned 3,300 BC to 100 AD

So the "when" is a lot more telling for determining "the route."

But "the route" would be chosen by "the who". Who was the Bronze Age's Bill Gates? Or rather, who were "they" over a period spanning some 3,400 years.

Well looking at the dates, one who believes in cultural diffusion but also believes that the dates assigned to the "Bronze Age" would conclude that probably the Dynastic or late pre-Dynastic Eqyptians started it. Wrong. Thank your for playing. They merely continued after the previous board of directors met an untimely fate.

I think I can show that the transoceanic trade in copper and tin to make bronze probably goes back at least 7,000 to 10,000 bce.

We'll start with one of the most anomolous finds in copper country, in this case, Isle Royale. Thanks again to Fred for documenting it for this generation.

Imagine digging straight down through solid rock for twenty feet to retrieve a 5,000 pound copper boulder half the size of a Volkswagon. Now imagine that you had the digging done and were now raising the boulder on oak cribbing in preperation for transport. You have the boulder halfway to the surface and -- you quit and walk away.

This scenario was real. The site was on Isle Royale and we know the diggers used oak cribbing because the hewn cribbing became preserved by copper solution, in effect, becoming "petrified" -- but with copper, not stone replacing the cellular matrix of the wood. Any geologist will tell you that petrification takes tens of thousands of years. Well, I think in this case, once the abandoned pit filled with water, the process was probably accelerated by the reaction of the copper to the tannic acid in the oak. Never the less, it certainly didn't happen over night. Seven to ten thousand years may be more than required to complete the conversion, but certainly not a lot less time transpired before modern discovery of the site in the 1850's.

And while all these folks were working so diligently to extract these large copper boulders, some of there compatriots were off gathering and or growing food for them. Division of labor. Civilization. Culture. Bronze age culture.

"You have no supportive evidence". What I lack is definitive proof. There is quite a bit of evidence, actually.

The culture known as the "Red Paint People", although thought by professionals to be local to New England, Newfoundland, and Labrador, actually left their tracks all along the Atlantic coasts of Europe, the Americas, Greenland, northwest Africa, the Azores, etc. The non-Canadian sites are generally dated to seven to ten thousand bce. Only one skeleton has been associated with Red Paint sites outside of Canada and its state of preservation was not all that great. The skeleton may indeed have been insitu before the Red Paint culture occupied that particular site, since the midden is what preserved the skeleton. So we don't really know enough about them to assign a racial affiliation. Even the Canadian sites held relics that predated the burials by a thousand years.

We do know that they were truly ancient, that they practiced deep sea navigation, and they were transoceanic. No evidence of extensive metal relics have ever been associated with the Red Paint culture. They were subsistence hunters, primarily of deep sea mammals.

So what the heck does that have to do with a copper boulder on Isle Royale? Division of labor. Somebody was providing food for the diggers.

Somebody was also transporting the copper. The Red Paint culture definitely knew how to sail and probably, apparently knew how to navigate great distances. Seven thousand years ago.

More later. I have to go finish an article for Ancient American December issue.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Okay, what the heck is the Oopa Loopa Cafe? It is a place where I sit and drink coffee (or top shelf tequila once in a while), eat sweet stuff, and ruminate about artifacts found in places they shouldn't be -- Out Of Place Artifacts, OOPA, or OOPArts. These items might include Norse axes in Minnesota, Egyptian heiroglyphics in Australia, Roman Coins along the Ohio river, stone depictions of Templar Knights in New Hampshire, gold chains in coal seams, the Ica stones, or the Burrows cave artifacts. The physical Oopa Loopa Cafe, for now, is whatever computer I happen to be using at the time.

Although the Glen Rose, Texas dino and human tracks are not technically artifacts (at least the dino tracks aren't), that type of scenario is also something I contemplate under the general heading of OOPA.

Now, having set that premise, I have to say that I have reservations about some OOPAs. Some of them seem to be too convenient and, indeed, probably are fakes. Others have surfaced with undeniable provenance and the archeologists either ignore them, try to explain them away (usually as a hoax, sometimes as a misinterpretation), or sometimes even rebury them so they don't have to deal with it.

Prime examples of OOPAs would be the Burrows cave relics, the Michigan tablets, the Newark Decalogue, the Kennsington and Heavener stones, and the Ica stones, among others, all of which have been labeled as hoaxes by "expert" archeologists. Most of those relics were never examined first-hand by any credentialed archeologist, but rather simply pronounced as fakes because "they couldn't possibly be real" under the "no one before Columbus" doctrine that is so prevelent in professional archeology.

I hope to address the hoax allegations on a case-by-case basis, even for some cases where I think the experts may be correct. I would do this seemingly contradictive analysis because, in those cases, the reason and logic used by the experts is all wrong. Why would I do this? Because these cases show that the "expert line" is so entrenched that they use it automatically, not even considering the evidence or their own logic and how it applies to evidence, but rather applying the line to any and all evidence that doesn't fit their pre-defined doctrine.

In many cases, there are photos available on the internet of the OOPAs I talk about and, when available, I will post the link. For Burrows' Cave relics, many of these photos appear either on the Ancient American Artifact Preservation Foundation (AAAPF) website or on the Ancient American Magazine website. Other items appear other places.

But I want to start with Burrows' Cave (BC). Russ Burrows story is one of mystery and contradiction. A few bloggers have concentrated on the man and his character and found both wanting. I've never met the man, and I don't have any pre-conceived notions of him or his character. I will try to concentrate, instead, on the relics themselves. Having said that, some of the story is inseperable from the man and his character.

Many of the BC relics were gold. As OOPA relics, ostensibly created by some pre-Columbian, possibly Euro-African immigrants, they were priceless; So much so that Russ and his partner, Jack Ward, couldn't sell them. As gold bars without any distingishing marks, they became liquid assets. So the two supposedly made molds of the relics and reproduced them in lead, then melted the gold down and sold it as scrap. And they sold the lead copies, too, and those are now in the hands of collectors. Perfoming some very basic math based on the reports of the number of relics that met this fate, Russ and Jack should have been millionaires. Jack died several years ago and his widow would now qualify for medicare and other "entitlements", so I don't think any great wealth went that way. I don't know how much the pair made in reality, but Russ does a lot of travelling, and I may be wrong, but his supposed Army retirement wouldn't support it (there is also considerable debate as to his actually having served, but that's not my concern here).

In all, some 7,000 BC relics are now in the hands of various collectors and Burrows has said there are at least twice that many still in the cave. If they are hoaxes, then Russ and Jack working together would each have had to produce a "relic" every 3 minutes of every waking hour for weeks. Two guys, each producing an engraved stone tablet from a polished blank every three minutes for a sixteen hour day with no breaks comes to 640 items per day. I have used flint to inscribe the same kind of mudstone and shale as some of these relics. It is possible. Polishing the blanks while leaving no evidence of advanced machinery would take longer. I've tried that, too. Hours for each one, large ones take tens of hours. Okay, maybe it's not impossible, but it is certainly less plausible than having found them in situ. Just polishing 7,000 blanks could take a decade without machinery (many or most were polished on both sides). I may have missed something in my experiments, but I fail to see how it is possible to produce more than about one a day per side.

Some of the aforementioned bloggers that disected Russ' character also sliced and diced Frank Joseph (editor/contributor of Ancient American Magazine). I wish to sidestep that one. I can't altogether, but I'm really not into analyzing the people, just the OOPA's. I have met Frank Joseph, and I have the same impression of him that I have of anybody who won't look me in the eye during a conversation. And that is all I have to say about that.

Frank put forth the theory that the relics are the result of the court of Ptolemy having escaped the invading Roman Legions and transporting themselves and the treasury to southern Illinois. He actually made a pretty good argument. Many of the BC relics seem to point to such an origin in northwest Africa. Indeed, some seem to commemmorate Hannibal by including elephants in the motif.

These depictions of elephants are very interesting -- and may be very telling as to the validity of the relics and Frank's theory. Here is one example. This is one of the reproductions of a gold relic and it shows the profile of an Asian elephant. The shape of the head is distinctive between Asian and African elephants. This is an Asian elephant, no doubt about. So why would an Asian elephant show up in a bunch of relics supposedly produced by north African refugees? The professionals would cite this as poor planning on the part of the hoaxers and definitive evidence of the hoax. I would rebutt that the professionals haven't done their research. Hannibal used Asian elephants. Which, by itself is evidence of long distance sea voyages, albeit still along the coasts of the old world. But those same professionals are loathe to admit that the ancients had even that capability. The reality is that although the Romans traded goods with India, the Romans merely imported and exported without going there themselves. Alexander DID go there, but he went overland. The Roman - Indian trade was by sea, but not with Roman sailors. The sailors were north African. During the first Punic wars, Roman-Indian trade ceased. After the Roman defeat of Carthage, that trade resumed with the sailors being slaves of Rome. Without the north Africans, Rome had very limited seagoing capability. Before the Punic wars, the ships were called simply "galleys". The post-Punic name is "slave galley".

Given the number of relics produced combined with "unique identifiers", such as the Asian elephant depictions, makes it very dificult to concieve that a retired military guy (RB) and a life-long arrowhead hunter (JW) could come up with all this on their own.