Re: Cosmologies and City Plans

Sheldon Klein (sklein@CS.WISC.EDU)
Fri, 29 Sep 1995 01:20:51 -0500

John McCreery's comment was in response to a comment I sent him privately.
Now that its entered the larger forum of ANTHRO-L, a bit more context
may clarify my motivation for making it.

John McCreery asks the following questions:

>(1) There are circles and squares. Why are there no cities built to
>mirror other geometries: triangles, say, or hexagons?
>(2) Is there an evolutionary explanation for why the ideal is different on
>opposite sides of the boundary where the two regions abut each other in
>Southeast Asia, where Vietnam belongs to the Chinese oikumene and
>Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand to the Indian oikumene? To be
>more precise, are there evolutionary reasons over and above the
>accident of history in which two expanding civilizations collide in this
>(3) In traditional Chinese cosmology the square is earth, the circle is
>heaven. In contrast to Indic civilizations where rulers were conceived of
>as literally divine, in traditional China the ruler is only "the child of
>Heaven" who rules at Heaven's discretion. Can the Chinese plan be
>seen as a structural transformation of a pan-Asian (or pan-Human)
>pattern in which the squareness of the city plan reflects the more, shall
>we say, "down to earth" proclivities of traditional Chinese political
>institutions? If so, is it possible to explain this transformation in
>evolutionary terms?

In the Reply section of,

Klein, S. 1983. "Analogy and Mysticism and the Structure of Culture,"

a paper discussing the role of ATOs (Analogical Transformation Operators)
in culture systems, the author states (p. 178):

"4. The ATO model can be used as a heuristic device to sug-
gest cultural correlations that can be verified by other methods.
This approach might even extend to predictions about the
location of buildings with specific functions in archaeological
sites. Analysis of symbolic artifacts by ATO logic might help to
decode or unlock large systems of correlations.
"5. One might examine the possibility that ATOs can be
sources of social and cultural change. A large-scale classification
system can imply a structured universe which no participant in
a culture can contemplate as a whole. If a classification system
incorporates 50 features, it can imply a conceptual universe
with 2(exponent n) = 2(exponent 50) elements. ATOs that function in
a subset of the impllied universe can be uses as an exploratory tool
to extend knowledge by analogy. A sudden, externally caused change in
iconography (or mythology) would imply a new system of
correlations and would offer the potential for new analogies
about the structure of the world that might imply new patterns
of behavior. A test of such a possibility would require an ade-
quately documented historical situation. One would want to
distinguish it from cases in which changes in iconography took
place for internal reasons. One might expect, also, to find situa-
tions in which ATOs are out of phase with the contemporary
realities of a society, and in which a succession of changes takes
place, conditioned by ATOs which are, in turn, modified and
which then serve as a stimulus to further change."

I have some familiarity with philosophic, symbolic and material culture
aspects of the societies McCreery mentions, as well as others which seem
to promise test cases for my model. What are hard to find are studies
with sufficient detail to make it possible to formulate any test cases.

I would appreciate any advice, references, etc. ANTHRO-L list member
might provide. At this point, let me furnish the general readers
the list of relevant papers that I sent John McCreery privately:

Klein, S. 1983. Analogy and Mysticism and the Structure of Culture.
Current Anthropology 24:151-180.

Klein, S. 1985. The Invention of Computationally Plausible Knowledge
Systems in the Upper Paleolithic.
UWCS Tech. Report No. 628. Also in The Pleistocene Perspective,
Vol. 1, Proceedings of the World Archaeological Congress,
1-7 September 1986, Southampton and London. London: Allen & Unwin.

Klein, S. 1988. Reply to S.D. Siemens' critique of S. Klein's
'Analogy and Mysticism and the Structure of Culture' Klein 1983)'.
Current Anthropology 29:478-483.

Klein, S. 1990. Human Cognitive Changes at the Middle-to-Upper
Paleolithic Transition: The Evidence of Boker Tachtit.
The Emergence of Modern Humans: An Archaeological Perspective.
Edited by Paul A. Mellars, pp. 499-516,
Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Klein, S. 1991. The Invention of Computationally Plausible Knowledge Systems
in the Upper Paleolithic. [revised version of Klein (1985)].
The Origins of Human Behaviour. Edited by Robert A. Foley,
pp. 67-81, London: Unwin Hyman. [Paperback edition in press].

Klein, S. 1992. On Siemens' 'Three Formal Theories of Cultural Analogy
(JQA 3:229-250, 1991)'. Journal of Quantitative Anthropology 3:361-363.

Klein, S. (in press). Grammars, the I Ching and L/evi-Strauss: more on
Siemens 'Three Formal Theories of Cultural Analogy'.
Journal of Quantitative Anthropology.

Prof. Sheldon Klein

Computer Sciences Dept. Linguistics Dept.
University of Wisconsin 1163 Van Hise
1210 W. Dayton St. University of Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin 53706 Madison, Wisconsin 53706