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Possibly interesting maps...


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And from a wider perspective:


And yes, she claims on her website that these aren't photoshops but crafted by cutting up banknotes...

I know it's artistic license and all, but it is curious where she chose the obverse and where she chose the reverse... I would think that it might be more visually interesting to choose the portrait side of the various banknotes.

Then again, the only cases where she chose the reverse/non-portrait side, AFAICT, are Russia and the USA; could there be some significance there?

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  • 4 weeks later...


This one's complex:

* The regions are colored according to the degree to which they voted for Obama (more blue) or McCain (more red)

* Each black dot represents 2,000 bales worth of cotton production in 1860

Compare with the likely coastlines during the Cretaceous period:


EDIT to add:

So what's the connection?

Soil types

It turns out that this crescent actually has a name: the "Black Belt," a name that refers both to the area's racial demographics and to the rich, loamy soils that were ideal for cotton crops.

Allen Tullos of Emory University has an excellent essay on the Black Belt that's available online from the Southern Spaces journal. His article observes that

Half of Alabama's enslaved population was concentrated within ten Black Belt counties where the exploitation of their labor made this one of the richest regions in the antebellum United States.

Indeed, the northern, hillbilly counties, where the dirt-poor white trash (largely Ulster Scots) lived, intrastate rivalries led them to largely side with the North in the Civil War, to the extent that various upland counties in Alabama (Republic of Winston), and what would become West Virginia themselves seceded from the Confederacy.

Tullos's essay also includes a quote from Booker T. Washington, who gave this assessment of the Black Belt in 1901:

"I have often been asked to define the term 'Black Belt.' So far as I can learn, the term was first used to designate a part of the country which was distinguished by the colour of the soil. The part of the country possessing this thick, dark, and naturaly rich soil was, of course, the part of the South where the slaves were most profitable, and consequently they were taken there in the largest numbers. Later, and especially since the war, the term seems to be used wholly in a political sense - that is, to designate the counties where the black people outnumber the white."

A hundred years later, the "black belt" still contains a high concentration of African Americans, who, as a demographic group, voted overwhelmingly in favor of Barack Obama.

To review so far: the blue counties can be explained by the black population, whose ancestors were brought there because of white supremacy, and black soil.

But how did the soil get there, and why is it in this unusual crescent-shaped band? In an essay on the area's ecology, Joe MacGown, Richard Brown, and JoVonn Hill of the Mississippi Entomological Museum write that "the entire region is underlain by Selma Chalk formed from Upper Cretaceous marine deposits. Depending on the exact consistency of the parent material, the chalk weathers into a variety of soil types which supports a mosaic of habitats ranging from prairie to forest."

One last map to bring it full circle, from blue counties, to ancient blue seas. Below are two maps of North America in the late Cretaceous Period, made by Professor of Geology Ron Blakey at the University of Northern Arizona. The map on the left shows the South during the early Cretaceous, about 115 million years ago, and the map on the right shows the South during the Late Cretaceous, about 85 million years ago. These shallow, tropical seas, teeming with marine life, laid the deposits that would eventually become the rich "black belt" soils. Note how the crescent of cotton farms in 1860, and of Democratic-voting counties in 2008, also follows the crescent of these ancient shorelines.

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This is one I created not long ago showing the distribution of the increase in traffic in Headingley on match days. Yellow pins with red captions are where it is and is considered a nuisance, green is where it occurs but isn't considered a nuisance and white is where it does not occur.


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