by James P. Scherz
For Meeting of Ancient Earthworks Society (AES), Madison, Wisconsin
As early as 1990, our maps of the layout of Indian Mounds in the area of Madison and Aztalan indicated the strong possibility of long-range alignments encoded within the geometry of sites and between distant sites. What we noted in this area of southern Wisconsin was not just long range alignments between inter-visible sites, but that these alignments were in the form of Golden Ratio spirals, which in the ancient Old World was said to have been the highest expression of the geometry of nature (being in the construction of the Conch Shell, etc.).
As reported in various AES articles, there are such long-range alignments between the mounds at Aztalan and the mounds atop of Christmas Hill, and to where the sun will rise on the winter solstice. The layout of the mounds on Picnic Point also create a spiral following the natural land form of the point to extend across Lake Mendota to the giant mound group that once existed at Maple Bluff. And Native American stories about Spirit Rock in the swamps of the University Arboretum said that it was tied somehow to the giant Chamberlain Rock atop Observatory Hill in some strange ancient system of long range alignments set up by ancient honored men to tie different sites together. Other stories, such as those told by Pamita, trained in the Menominee Medicine Lodges, said that these so-called Thunderbird Lines from organized rocks in Madison extended to Rock Lake, Sheyboygan, and across Lake Michigan to Beaver Island. Odowa Indians on Beaver Island said that two such ancient Thunderbird lines crossed on Beaver Island, one tying it to Isle Royal where the ancient copper mines are located.
These stories were intriguing. But there was an obvious problem: We can imagine ancient Native American surveyors with range poles and knotted cords laying off long range alignments, even spirals, as modem ,surveyors lay out spirals for railroads, between inter visible points. But the long-range Golden Ratio alignment between Spirit Rock and Chamberlain Rock went not only to the highest mound across Lake Mendota at the Mendota Site, but also to other important sites many miles north towards the ancient copper mines. Laying out such extremely long cords of the spirals (although not impossible) would hardly have been done by ancient surveyors with range poles and knotted cords, traveling through the woods. Some other ancient surveying method, similar to what we used in the 1800s between distant triangulation hills would have been a possible method. We handle such problems today with values of latitude and longitude, originally set up in this country in the 1800s to control our USGS Topo Quad Maps. Values of latitude and longitude are then calculated by Spherical Trigonometry, invented in about AD 1000 by the Persian genius Al-Biruni, and used ever since.