Saturday, April 22, 2017


Wupatki equinox marker, panel #50,
March 21, 2015, 12:00 PM,
Photo: David Purcell/NPS.
Used by permission. 

A petroglyph panel first recorded in 1931 by Harold Colton has been recently confirmed as "definitely an observatory for the winter solstice and equinoxes." (De Pastino 2016) Writing on March 29, 2016, Blake De Pastino reported that the original 1931 record of the site by anthropologist Harold Colton consisted of a 3" x 5" index card with two sentences describing the site according to David Purcell, supervisory archaeologist at the Museum of Northern Arizona who led the new study of the site. The site in Wupatki National Monument was surveyed again in the early 1980s and again in the 1990s but the solar calendar was not confirmed until a time-lapse photography and video study in 2015 confirmed its solar interaction. (De Pastino 2016)

Wupatki National Monument was created in 1924 to protect archaeological sites, and is managed by the National Park Service. The back country of the monument, including Crack-in-Rock area is closed to visitation and managed as wilderness to preserve park resources. The monument offers guided hikes to Crack-in-Rock in April and October (the website link is

Wupatki equinox marker, panel #50,
March 21, 2015, 12:03 PM,
Photo: David Purcell/NPS.
Used by permission. 

Designated Panel #50, its orientation and features create an interplay of light and shadow at significant seasons of the year."A natural outcropping of rock above the panel forms what researchers have dubbed a "shadow dagger" that bisects a spiral carved onto the cliff wall, while another shadow interacts with a set of eight circles (on) the panel's left side."  (De Pastino 2016)

Researchers believe that because the two elements function together to measure the time, they must have been created on the cliff face at the same time.

The most recent study was led by David Purcell of the Museum of Northern Arizona. They identified the solar interactions with time-lapse photography and video and confirmed the functioning of the solar marker on the Spring Equinox. "On the equinox, sunlight does not reach Panel 50 until exactly 12:00 local time." (De Pastino 2016)

Wupatki equinox marker, panel #50,
March 21, 2015, 12:07 PM,
Photo: David Purcell/NPS.
Used by permission. 

"Shortly after noon on the equinox, a shadow dagger starts to take shape over the spiral to the right, while another body of shadow approached the group of circles to the left." (De Pastino 2016)

Wupatki equinox marker, panel #50,
March 21, 2015, 12:07 PM,
Photo: David Purcell/NPS.
Used by permission. 

"As the shadow dagger narrows on top of the spiral, the shadow at left continues to move toward the circles." Then "the left edge of the dagger bisects the spiral at the same time that the shadow at left aligns with the group of circles." (De Pastino 2016)

Wupatki equinox marker, panel #50,
March 21, 2015, Photo: David Purcell/NPS.
Used by permission.

"During the afternoon, the shadow moves across the disks, dividing different numbers of them in shadow and others in light. Archaeologists think this marks a kind of countdown either to the equinox or an important time around it, such as the beginning of planting season." (De Pastino 2016)

I have elsewhere argued that farmers do not need celestial calendars to tell them when to plant. They go by biological clues in their environment. A quote I once read, the source of which is long lost in time, stated "it is time to plant corn when the leaves on the trees are the size of squirrel's ears." Now it may be that they do follow such calendars, but that is because of religious dogma, not out of physical necessity or their own lack of skill. Such beliefs are imposed upon them by leaders. In any case, and for whatever purpose it was intended, this is another fascinating, and important discovery about the knowledge of the ancient people of that area.

(All photos: David Purcell/NPS, used with permission.)


De Pastino, Blake,
2016 Photos: Watch the 'Shadow Dagger' Solar Calendar Mark the Equinox,

Saturday, April 15, 2017


Russian elk geoglyph., 
public domain.

Back in 2012, Owen Jarus wrote a column for, about a large geoglyph discovered in Russia that has been identified as a probable elk figure.

Russian elk geoglyph.,
public domain.

The animal-shaped structure is made of stone and is "located near Lake Ziuratkul in the Ural Mountains, north of Kazakhstan" The image "has an elongated muzzle, four legs, and two antlers." A 2007 image from Google Earth shows a possible tail that "is less clear in more recent imagery." (Jarus 2012) This graphically illustrates the potential of Google Earth in archaeology studies.

Russian elk geoglyph outline.,
public domain.

Jarus continued, "Excluding the possible tail, the animal stretches for about 900 feet (275 meters) at its farthest points (northwest to southeast), the researchers estimate, equivalent to two American football fields. The figure faces north and would have been visible from a nearby ridge." (Jarus 2012)

The discovery was originally detailed in the journal Antiquity in an article written by Stanislav Grigoriev of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of History and Archaeology, and Nikolai Menshenin, of the State Centre for Monument Protection.

Excavation inside the site,,
public domain.

Limited excavations were conducted to study the construction of the stone figure. According to Grigoriev, "when they excavated part of a hind leg the largest stones were on the edges, the smaller ones inside." (Jarus 2012) More recent excavations have also found the remains of what they called passageways and small walls on one hoof and the muzzle of the animal. "the hoof is made of small crushed stones and clay. It seems to me there were very low walls and narrow passages among them. The same situation in the area of a muzzle: crushed stones and clay, four small broad walls and three passages."  (Jarus 2012)

Stone tools from the elk geoglyph,, public domain.

The excavators also found 40 quartzite tools on the structure's surface. They were chipped to a mattock shape (like a pick-axe), and stylistically dated by Grigoriev to the Neolithic or the Eneolithic, between the fourth and third millenium B.C. (Jarus 2012)

It is always exciting to find tools with the work of art that they created, it provides a more direct connection to the people who did the original work, as well as providing more detailed factual data for analysis.

NOTE: The images in this posting were retrieved from the internet with a search for public domain photographs. For further information on these reports you should read the originals at the sites listed below.


Saturday, April 8, 2017


 Swastika geoglyph. http://www. Public domain.

An article in Live Science, written by Owen Jarus, and dated September 23, 2014, detailed the recording of more than fifty geoglyphs in northern Kazakhstan. This is a central Asian republic which used to be part of the Soviet Union.

Squared-X geoglyph.
Public domain.

The Kazakhs people are "descendants of the Turkic and medieval Mongol tribes - Argyns, Dughlats, Naimans, Keraits, Jalairs, Khazars, Qarlugs; and of the Kipchaks and Cumans, and other tribes such as the Huns, and ancient Iranian nomads like the Sarmatians, Saka and Scythians from East Europe populated the territory between Siberia and the Black Sea and remained in Central Asia and Eastern Europe when the nomadic groups started to invade and conquer the area between the 5th and 13th centuries AD" (Wikipedia)

The same geoglyph, view
from directly overhead.
Public domain.

"These sprawling structures, mostly earthen mounds, create the type of landscape art most famously seen in the Nazca region of Peru. 

Linear geoglyph.
Public domain.

Discovered using Google Earth, the geoglyphs are designed in a variety of geometric shapes, including squares, rings, crosses and swastikas (the swastika is a design that was used in ancient times). Ranging from 90 to 400 meters (295 to 1,312 feet) in diameter, some of them are longer than a modern-day aircraft carrier. Researchers say that the geoglyphs are difficult to see on the ground, but can easily be seen from the sky." (Jarus 2014)

I think that it is significant that these designs were reportedly discovered using Google earth. This wonderful resource is proving to be a valuable tool for archaeology, and future developments are filled with promise.

NOTE: Images in this posting were retrieved from the internet with a search for public domain photographs. If any of these images are not intended to be public domain, I apologize, and will happily provide the picture credits if the owner will contact me with them. For further information on these reports you should read the original article at the site listed below.


Jarus, Owen
2014     Nazca Lines of Kazakhstan: More than 50 Geoglyphs Discovered, September
23, 2014,
47954 -geoglyphs-discovered-in-


Saturday, April 1, 2017


Shrieker petroglyphs, La Cieneguilla,
southwest of airport, Santa Fe, NM.
Photograph by Patricia Price, Dec. 1991.

The series of Tremors movies was memorable for a number of reasons; fun and frightening, with parodies of so many types of people that we all know. I was, however, quite surprised to find that the creatures upon which the movie were based are apparently real - very rare, but real. I am referring, of course, to the Graboids, the ravening, monstrous, carnivorous worms, and their other incarnations, the Shriekers, and the Ass Blasters.

Shrieker petroglyphs close-up,
La Cieneguilla, southwest of
airport, Santa Fe, NM. Photograph
by Patricia Price, Dec. 1991.

Now I am not suggesting that I know where we can run off to and observe the real thing. There is, however, a petroglyph panel at La Cieneguilla, south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, that convincingly portrays Shriekers. The movie Tremors, was supposedly filmed in California, and was fictional from beginning to end. These petroglyphs add an interesting possibility. Conspiracy theorists should be able to see how the selling of this movie as fiction is a very clever government plot to convince people that the real creatures actually DO NOT exist.  The Ancestral Puebloan people of New Mexico obviously knew of them, and knew them well enough to leave pictures on the rocks. These images can be seen at the La Cineguilla, southwest of  the airport at Santa Fe, New Mexico. Not only are two shriekers portrayed, but there is a shrieker egg shown between them, and a highly stylized and simplified graboid below their feet. This stylized and simplified graboid is placed at the bottom of the picture to represent its location underground. 

Drawing of a Shrieker by
public domain.

This brings up the obvious question then; is it possible that we can hope someday to find more evidence of the Graboids and Ass-Blasters as well? Well, quite possibly on another April Fool's Day. 

Shrieker, www.stampede-
Public domain.

NOTE: The drawing and photograph of the Shriekers were retrieved from the internet with a search for "shrieker public domain." If these images were not intended to be public domain please inform me of the proper credits and I will happily add the information.
Thank you.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


Moab Mastodon, Photograph
by Dell Crandall.

 On November 25, 2009, I wrote a column in RockArtBlog titled Elephantids In North American Rock Art - The Moab Mastodon, in which I expressed the opinion that this famous image, usually identified as the Moab Mastodon, is actually a bear eating a large fish.

Bear eating a salmon, National
Geographic, Vol. 209(2),
February 2006, photograph
Steve Winter.

In support of this suggestion I compared it to a photograph taken by Steve Winter for National Geographic Magazine of an Alaskan brown bear eating a salmon in virtually the same pose.

Bear eating a salmon,
carved antler, Lourdes,
France, redrawn from

Another related example of the theme of a bear eating a fish found in Lourdes, France, was illustrated on page 218 in Dale Guthrie's excellent book The Nature of Paleolithic Art. A Paleolithic antler carving from Lourdes, France, shows a bear with a salmon in his mouth (Guthrie, p. 218).

Is this proof of anything, no it is not. It is circumstantial evidence only. While not bearing (really, a pun here?) directly on the question of the identification of the so-called Moab Mastodon, this carving at least helps establish that the theme of a bear eating a fish is one that had been illustrated by a primitive artist before, providing perspective on this claim for the identity of the Moab image.


Faris, Peter
2009 Elephantids In North American Rock Art, Nov. 25, 2009,

Guthrie, R. Dale
2005    The Nature of Paleolithic Art, page 208, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Winter, Steve,
2006 National Geographic, Vol. 209, No. 2

Saturday, March 18, 2017


Mammoth engraving from Abro
Cellier, France. Photo and
drawing by R. Bourrillon.

I  have commented on recent discoveries by Randall White from New York University and his team of researchers, and their discoveries in the French rock shelters Abri Blanchard, Abri Castanet, and Abri Faravel. Now another article adds Abri Cellier to the list of their discoveries of remarkably old rock art. Lorraine Boissoneault, writing in, has detailed their discoveries in her column "Prehistoric Pointillism? Long Before Seurat, Ancient Artists Chiseled Mammoths Out of Dots."

Aurochs engraving from Abri 
Blanchard, France. Photo and
 drawing by R. Bourrillon.

The same story was well covered by Laura Geggel, a senior writer for on February 24, 2017, in her article "Just Like Van Gogh: Prehistoric Artists Used Pointillist Technique."

These articles illustrate 38,000-year-old imagery carved into blocks of limestone from the above mentioned locations with animals portrayed in patterns of dots, and both authors liken these images to the "Pointillism" used by George Seurat and some other impressionist artists. One example, found in 2014 at Abri Cellier, has been identified by White and his team as a wooly mammoth, and another from Abri Blanchard as an aurochs.

Sketch for Sunday Afternoon on
Grande-jatte, Georges Seurat.
1886, Public domain.

The problem is that neither of these images, nor any others that they have identified have anything to do with Pointillism. As I have written elsewhere this problem occurs when non-art historians use artistic terminology without really understanding it. The Impressionism movement of the late 1800s was essentially motivated by an attempt to reproduce the effect of light on the surface of the subject, relying on the eye to mix areas of color to form the bright, colorful image. As an offshoot of Impressionism, Pointillism was also driven by the goal of providing areas of pure color and pigment which were then mixed in the viewers eye to provide the other hues. In basic Impressionism the colors were applied loosely to the surface of the canvas (thus, an area intended to be green might include yellow and blue and rely on visual mixing) , while in its purest form, Pointillism, they were patterned much more regularly leading to a painted surface that consisted essentially of ordered dots of pure color. These artists were aiming for the same effect that we perceive today when we view a color half-tone picture in a book or magazine, or now on the television screen.

Pointillist color wheel.

The color wheel above illustrates this in the orange, green, and purple secondary colors. They are composed of mixed dots of the primary colors red (magenta), blue (cyan), and yellow.

                   Georges Seurat, 1886.
                        Public domain.

I am certainly not disputing any aspect of the discoveries of Paleolithic imagery composed of dot patterns, I am only addressing the misuse of the term Pointillism as a description of those dots. While I cannot determine what the Paleolithic artists were attempting to do with their patterns of dots, it cannot by definition, be anything related to Pointillism. Lacking color, an image constructed by a pattern of dots might be likened to the black-and-white half-tone pictures in our books and magazines, or on an old black-and-white television. I do not personally think that even this is, however, an accurate representation. Half-tone reproduction essentially required the invention of photography before it was conceived, and I am not a believer in the Paleolithic camera obscura. Indeed, while I am vastly impressed by the many sophisticated effects and images produced by these artists, I cannot credit these dot-covered images with being attempts at half-tone reproductions of the animal. 

What do the animal images comprised of dots actually imply? I do not know. But I am very confident that I know what they are not.

NOTE: Images in this posting were retrieved from the internet after a search for public domain photographs. If any of these images are not intended to be public domain, I apologize, and will happily provide the picture credits if the owner will contact me with them. For further information on these reports you should read the originals at the sites listed below.



Saturday, March 11, 2017


The team of researchers with the
hole-in-the-rock. Photograph:

A recent story by Rossella Lorenzi, in written on January 5, 2017, and titled "Ancient Stonehenge-Like 'Calendar Rock' Aligns With Winter Solstice" documented a large boulder with a hole carved through it that the people involved have identified as a Solstice Marker.

        "Featuring a 3.2-foot diameter hole, the rock formations marked the beginning of winter some 5,000 years ago. The holed Neolithic rock was discovered on November 30, 2016, on a hill near a prehistoric necropolis six miles from Gela, on the southern coast of Sicily - - - -.
        It appeared clear to me that we were dealing with a deliberate, man-made hole," archaeologist Giuseppe La Spina told Seeker. "However, we needed the necessary empirical evidence to prove the stone was used as a prehistoric calendar to measure the seasons." (Lorenzi 2017)

View of solstice sunrise through
hole-in-the-rock. Photoraph:
Giuseppe La Spina, ttps://tallbloke.files.

It appears, however, from the photographs and the evidence provided, that this hole is the only feature, the article gives no indication of a sighting point that would prove an alignment. I have always had a problem accepting as a "precision" marker something with only one reference point. If you are viewing the sun through a hole, you can move around until you find the point where it can be seen as fitting perfectly, you have many degrees of freedom in a visual cone of reference. With two reference points, such as a hole and, say, a pointed rock, you can instantly see if they are properly aligned or not, like gun sights.

This discovery marks something to be sure, but I am not convinced it is proven to be a solstice marker. Interesting, and perhaps exciting possibilities, but not proven.

NOTE: Images in this posting were retrieved from the internet after a search for public domain photographs. If any of these images were not intended to be public domain, I apologize, and will happily provide the picture credits if the owner will contact me with them. For further information on this report you should read the original at the site listed below.


Lorenzi, Rossella,
2017 Ancient Stonehenge-Like 'Calendar Rock' Aligns With Winter Solstice, January 5, 2017,