Saturday, February 23, 2013


On February 9, I posted a column speculating on the existence of total solar eclipses in rock art.  A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun. This is a spectacular sight, even to our modern society which understands the scientific reason for such an occurrence. It was surely even more impressive to our ancient ancestors who did not have our understanding of it. This is another of the subjects that I cannot imagine would not have been commemorated in rock art somewhere. I personally know of no  proven examples, but I do think there are some possible examples. In that February 9 posting I suggested that the Zia Sun symbol might be a representation of the eclipsed sun disc with solar prominences depicted radiating outward.

Possible total eclipse portrayal. Fremont or Ute. Moffat County,
Colorado. Photo: Peter Faris, September 1987.

Most recognizable from the automobile license plate from the state of New Mexico, the Zia sun symbol is actually a good representation of the moment of totality in a solar eclipse when the corona of the sun becomes visible and the sharp-eyed viewer can see the prominences in the solar atmosphere. Indeed, that is the only time one can see this phenomenon with the naked eye, and this suggests that any sun symbol with points, rays, or projections beyond the outer circle might be a representation of a total eclipse. Such an example would be the familiar sun symbol we recognize worldwide. The example illustrated above is from a private ranch in Moffat County, in northwestern Colorado, and may be attributable to the Fremont culture, or the later Ute people of that area.

Sun symbols at McConkie Ranch, Vernal, Utah.
Photog: Peter Faris, 1990.

As I have pointed out elsewhere the symbol generally accepted as a Sun symbol for most peoples of the Southwest is the concentric circle representing the sun disk. A representation of the sun done differently might possibly be assumed to record a remarkable or unique view of the sun, like a total solar eclipse.

As before, I will happily entertain any other examples you might wish to submit. Indeed, it would be interesting to be able to do a posting of a variety of candidates. Please forward any you have to me at

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