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  • Writer's pictureP.M.

Survey Monuments - the next Cyrus Cylinder?

I recently read about the Cyrus Cylinder, a 2,500-year-old message impressed on a barrel shaped clay tablet. This cylinder was found relatively recently (1879) and tells of the Persian conquest of Babylon under Cyrus the Great. This short video conveys some of the interesting details and demonstrates how the clay was embossed with a message we can see and appreciate many many years later. It is a remarkable and fascinating glimpse into our shared human history.

The Cyrus Cylinder, dating from 539 BC. Original image by kourosh e kabir. Uploaded by Antoine Simonin, published on 26 April 2012 under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

Like the Cyrus Cylinder but on a smaller scale, land surveyors are obliged to leave at least a trace of their presence. How cool is it that a surveyor’s mark might survive and be found by others? What if a future civilization finds your property corner 2,500 years from now?

California law requires land surveyors to memorialize the lines or points of property that they locate. This is accomplished by recording a map of the survey drafted on a long lasting medium such as cloth or film (B&P Code Sec. 8763), placing durable physical objects called “monuments” at the survey location (B&P Code Sec. 8771), or both. Because survey monuments are permanently marked (B&P Code Sec. 8772) and relatively common, I wonder how archaeologists might in the distant future think of us upon finding a petrified property corner?

On second thought, how long will a plastic cap survive? What about a brass disk? How about a stainless steel washer? I know some surveyors try to leave as little trace of their presence as possible, but I incline to the opposite. Why not leave plenty of evidence? Of course it is helpful to our clients directly and more generally to the public, but isn’t it also fun to think that something you set could be found in a thousand or more years? With that in mind, why not put a little more effort into leaving a record? Perhaps that LS certificate number inscribed should be the informational floor and not the ceiling. After all, no law prevents inclusion of "other information on the tag which will assist in the tracing or location of the survey records which relate to the tagged monument." Why not add your name, date, the purpose, the client, the location or other info? It would not only be helpful, but more importantly it would be interesting! In an age of specialized labor and commodity pricing, step off the treadmill and be a little creative when you leave your record. Who knows where it will end?

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