Quatrian “Tree Maps”
How one ancient civilization navigated their landscape
Although we’re still learning much about how the Quatrians interacted with “nature,” one of the more intriguing practices of their society has been preserved primarily in the folklore of their modern descendants. Possessing a deep understanding of the biology of the plant species surrounding their urban centers, the Quatrians, at the height of their civilization, practiced a kind of “way-finding” based entirely on horticulture.
The closest approximation may be the practice of Polynesian Wayfinding. However, instead of depending upon a knowledge of ocean currents, Quatrian “navigators” would travel through the forest along paths established over the course of generations by a caste of “Waytenders,” who combined the skills of map-makers, gardeners, and arborists to grow and maintain plant landmarks referred to as Waytrees. Interestingly, a plant within this network didn’t have to be a “tree” — it could just as easily be a shrub or a woody perennial.
Waytrees weren’t marked with special characters or painted upon. Instead, Quatrians used a kind of pattern language based on plant knowledge to indicate direction. For example, whereas one Alder tree might not “mean” anything, three Alders equidistant from one another preceded by a Poplar would point the thirsty wanderer to a water source. Additionally, each Quatrian settlement had its own cornerstone species; so, if someone wanted to travel from the Tri-Cities to Salicornia, one would follow a path marked by Hawthorns alternating with Wild Roses until the Hawthorns were replaced by Willows.
Waytenders, responsible for maintaining these horticultural networks, spent their time maintaining the health of the plant species involved, replacing dead or diseased Waytrees, and removing species that might confuse the traveler. They would also plant and maintain food sources along the paths at regular intervals, making travel even easier for Quatrians, as they rarely had to bring along food or water sources and could thus travel more lightly for longer distances.
This system was far more complex than this cursory overview can cover, and included thousands of variables. Waytenders were expected to understand botany and mycology, as well as the seasonal implications thereof. Certain paths, for example, required coniferous and evergreen indicator species as they were more traveled during winter months. Other aspects of this discipline were more esoteric, involving mineralites like amber and jet which have electromagnetic properties.
At the height of Classical Quatrian civilization, there were thousands of miles of Waytrees covering the landscape, maintained by hundreds of Waytenders. Needless to say, the ephemeral nature of this system caused this vast network to virtually disappear after the Pantarctican diaspora. However, researchers of this ancient way hope that new technologies such as LIDAR might provide us with a clearer picture of this fascinating practice.