Hamilton Institute of Exopaleontology

Image from Aaron Hamilton
Hamilton Institute of Exopaleontology long-range exploration ship/relic-piracy control cruiser Tripitaka approaches the Anolis binary star system. A 395 million year old space colony ruin was salvaged from its orbit around the current innermost planet (originally the fourth or fifth planet before the expansion of Anolis A into an unstable Type-K supergiant). The alien ruin would soon have been destroyed by the dying star if not preserved.

One of the great scientific Houses of the Integration and later.

The Institute was originally founded on the new University planet of Upali C/D II during the Age of Expansion, when relativistic exploration ships were increasingly encountering ancient and enigmatic ruins and relict tech of lost civilizations. Especially during the 2600's this excited huge interest.

The HIE is backed by a mid-level 2nd Toposophic AI with an interest in galactic exo-paleo phylogeny, and thus was able to establish itself as meritocratic governing body for the whole planet, which has been declared a Galactic Park of Unusual Scientific Value. The AI stays in the background, giving free reign to the human and other sub-transapient scientists, but through its agents (mostly synthetic humans and virtuals) it averts the various political crises that inevitably arise in such situations as time progresses.


As a form of government, the Institute has remained remarkably stable and consistent over the past seven thousand years. While changes have occurred in the history of this institution, its core values and basic structure have remained intact. The core of the government revolves around the HIE Council and Senate, each branch of government having equal status, existing to consider all Institute activities, as well as to advise and recommend policies to the ruling Officers of the state. The head of this state is the HIE Chancellor, followed in a chain of command by the Vice Chancellor, and then the various Provosts of the HIE at large. The Provosts all are elected based on their scientific contributions and publishing histories. Indeed, at any one time, the seats in the House of Provosts may have several vacancies, as the Provosts themselves do not cease their scientific careers simply because they are also elected governmental officials. Some seats have been known to remain empty for a full term (eight Standard years) when a Provost has been lost on an expedition.

In detail, however, the government can be considered a stable meritocracy. Scientific investigation is considered to be the ideal career, and those who embark on major expeditions (especially beyond the confines of the system, though such travels today are quite commonplace) can expect to find themselves rewarded with social standing, depending on the value and merit of the data returned. An aristocracy has developed on Jannah, led by those scientists who have made major contributions to all fields of science.

The core of the HIE's stability for the past seven thousand years since the end of the Interim has been the institution's backing by a mid-level second Toposophic AI which had long ago adopted the old University's interest in Exopaleontology. Referred to today as Hamilton, its original designation is not known, and few details of its pre-HIE existence are known to the public. This is of little surprise, since the AI remains in the background, tending to be content in allowing the humans and their nearbaseline kin to continue to administer the government, and all aspects of the HIE on and off world. Even so, through the use of various forms of synthetic humans, virtuals and other avatars, Hamilton does lend the occasional obvious hand when various political or social crises develop.

The strength of the HIE and its commitment to scientific investigation was obvious from the first, when they rejoined interstellar society in 4213 AT, during what was arguably the height of the Concord Ontology. Contacted by an exploration nanotech after detection of increased non-terrestrial activity in the Upali system, the HIE was eager to renew ties with the Orion Arm at large. An expansion of the University System was quick to follow, until annexes of the HIE spread to dozens of systems and hundreds of worlds.

Today, the HIE is engaged in projects that span the Orion Arm, and extend outward into both the Perseus and Sagittarius Arms (though these latter two regions are, by necessity, far less expansive than the thousands of potential sites to be found in our own interstellar backyard). Of particular interest to the HIE are the several instances of extinct sophont species and their attendant civilizations. This interest, stemming from the discoveries on Jannah itself, has brought to light species which might never have been discovered otherwise. While knowledge of all these species remains highly fragmentary, hints of ancient interstellar civilizations continue to capture the imaginations of cultures across the Orion Arm.

Current Work

The Hamilton Institute of Exopaleontology is currently sponsoring several dozen expeditions across the Orion, Perseus, and Sagittarius Arms. There are many interesting ruins, fossils, degenerate species which were once sapient (de-evolved), and massive derelict ships in orbit around devastated worlds. Most of what is found is from long-extinct species and is of mainly academic interest.

HIE usually sends teams along with other government/corporate deep space exploration ships (and, unofficially of course, tries to keep tabs on 'grave-robbers'/'fossil-bandits' to make sure nothing scientifically important gets auctioned off without inspection).

Many expeditions involve relativistic journeys beyond the wormhole nexus. Occasionally one finds ruins on colonised planets, such as the mysterious obelisks on Robinson III, but many long-term expeditions are carried out by very dedicated scientists, more into fossils than families. Expeditions which attract people who consider a relativistic journey as a way to see the future are even more common.

The HIE Dating System

All distinct civilisations, past or current, are assigned a catalog number by the Institute. For several of these civilisations no alternative name is available, so the HIE catalog number is often used as standard. The last three letters in the catalog number describes the era in which the civilisation existed, or in the case of a long-lived civilisation, the era in which the civilisation first emerged.

This three-letter code is defined by the traditional eras and eons derived from Earth's geological history as shown below:

Gaiozoic Era - GZE - 10 tya (thousand years ago) to present - designations commonly used for currently active civilizations
Cenozoic Era - CZE - 66 mya to 10 tya
Mesozoic Era - MZE - 252 mya to 66 mya
Paleozoic Era - PZE - 541 mya to 252 mya
Neoproterozoic Era - NPE - 1 bya to 541 mya
Mesoproterozoic Era - MPE - 1.6 bya to 1 bya
Paleoproterozoic Era - PPE - 2.5 bya to 1.6 bya
Archaean Eon - ARE - 4 bya to 2.5 bya
Xenozoic Eon - XZE - 13.7 bya to 4 bya


Scouts and rangers sometimes discover several interesting gatekeeper cultures, the descendants of the original aliens or their technology and charging tolls for passing through their unique wormholes. Prospectors try to discover other old networks, working together with xenoarcheologists attempting to decipher alien documents. The Institute keeps itself funded by being the experts on locating such things. Of course, 95% of alien relics will be of interest to academics and collectors only, very little will be still-functional tech (but then again, vaults full of emergency supplies may be found for some species, or even military command centers/fallout shelters, those would be the best- preserved types of sites).

Many extinct alien species will never be known from more than scraps and fossils: fascinating to a scientist, but after the shock of the first few discoveries dies down, of limited interest to the general public, except for those who wonder why so many species, some as advanced as any Terragens, are no longer extant.

Relationships With Other Institutions

The Hamilton Institute has had a longstanding rivalry with the Eden Institute of Xenoscience; mostly a good-natured rivalry, but at times, such as during the The Saro-Mbuna - Roduimo affair, the rivalry has changed to bitter dispute. The HIE has existed for millennia, and like many "invariant" institutions is a society of its own, supported by its own resources and by the natural longevity that comes with relativistic travel. However it has always been part of a larger framework in the interstellar academic community, and especially the other major Institutes, including current rivals or collaborators such as the Ozymandias Institute, and extinct predecessors like the Lagrange Defenders and the Holist Brotherhood.

Saro-Mbuna Affair
Image from Steve Bowers
Fredre Iskare, one of the first worlds investigated by the Hamilton Institute

Philosophical Questions

One Big Question the Institute is working on is why one species or metacivilization does not dominate the galaxy and stay there forever. A species on a natural biosphere planet like Old Earth, Trees, or Ridgewell can last millions of years, but interstellar civilizations often only last a hundred thousand or less. Even God-aliens have various fates — they can become Buddhas (and give up their power), or might possibly 'evolve' into unknown forms or migrate to other universes, or self-destruct, be destroyed by powers even greater than themselves. Even the greatest Archailects do not appear to have the answers.

See Also

Timeline of the Preterragen era

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Development Notes
Text by Aaron Hamilton, M. Alan Kazlev, John M. Dollan
Amended by Mark Ryherd
Initially published on 02 July 2000.

Amended and expanded January 2011 and June 2013
Additional Information
The Hamilton Institute was merged from the Hamilton Institute of Exopaleontology of Aaron Hamilton's personal setting , still available on the Internet Archive