Saturday, May 11, 2013



Village of the Great Kivas, Zuni, photo Teresa Weedin.

On June 18, 2010, I published a posting on some insectiform petroglyphs that I suggested represent the insect commonly known as earwigs. Now, (March 20, 2013) I have received a thirteen word comment on that posting from "Anonymous" stating that “these are images of Birkeland currents occurring in a plasma discharge, not bugs.” While it is difficult to hold much of a conversation or debate with "Anonymous" I have heard these arguments in the past and it may be time for me to attempt to address the subject.

Insect, Canyon de Chelley, AZ, Photo-Peter Faris, 1997.
Although I have received a certain amount of criticism for it, I am a firm believer in the efficacy of Occam’s razor in such arguments. While I understand that it is by no means the final arbiter in any debate, it is useful as a guiding principle in evaluating opposing theories. In this case the debate is between the two possible explanations of a particular figure in rock art.
Earwig, Wikipedia.
In my June 18, 2010, posting I stated that In a patch of growing corn the earwig finds ideal hiding places between the leaves and cornstalk, as well as within the leaves that make up the husks of the ears of the corn plant. Anyone who has ever experienced husking fresh picked corn from the garden has found earwigs in the process and would definitely accept an association between the corn and the insect.

Ancestral pueblo people of the Southwest depended upon their corn crop for the survival of their families. They would be expected to have an intimate knowledge of the life and development of the plants and would have been fully aware of insects associated with their corn crop. While the earwig might have damaged some of the corn crop by eating the silk on developing ears of corn, they also ate insects that may have damaged the corn such as aphids and plant lice. This knowledge may well have inspired the sort of approach-avoidance relationship that would lead to granting the insect a special place in agriculturally related belief complexes.”

Simply stated, I postulate that the agricultural cultures of the American southwest, which created the rock art I am discussing, would have been aware of the association between the insect we call earwigs and their main food crop maize. As a lifelong backyard gardener I have noticed this association so I believe that they inevitably would have as well. It makes sense to me that this relationship could well have been commemorated in their rock art. In terms of Occam’s razor this is, I submit, the simple explanation. I could be wrong in this, but it seems the simplest and most obvious explanation.

Now, as to the other side of the argument, the Birkeland currents. Remember the statement from Anonymous that I quoted above“these are images of Birkeland currents occurring in a plasma discharge, not bugs.” The web site gives the following definition of the phenomena known as Birkeland currents: “Birkeland currents are also one of a class of plasma phenonena called a z-pinch, so named because the azimuthal magnetic fields produced by the current pinches the current into a filamentary cable. This can also twist, producing a helical pinch that spirals like a twisted or braided rope, and this most closely corresponds to a Birkeland current. Pairs of parallel Birkeland currents can also interact; parallel Birkeland currents moving in the same direction will attract with an electromagnetic force inversely proportional to their distance apart (Note that the electromagnetic force between the individual particles is inversely proportional to the square of the distance, just like the gravitational force); parallel Birkeland currents moving in opposite directions will repel with an electromagnetic force inversely proportional to their distance apart. There is also a short-range circular component to the force between two Birkeland currents that is opposite to the longer-range parallel forces.

Birkeland Currents in a laboratory.

Electrons moving along a Birkeland current may be accelerated by a plasma double layer. If the resulting electrons approach relativistic velocities (ie. the speed of light) they may subsequently produce a Bennett pinch, which in a magnetic field will spiral and emit synchrotron radiation that includes radio, optical (ie. light), x-rays, and gamma rays.” (

Proponents of this theory suggest that rock art like the figures from the Village of the Great Kivas at Zuni, and the petroglyph from Canyon de Chelley represent the plasma discharges created by one of these Birkeland currents.

This has gotten to be long enough for one week so I will revisit it with the second half of this exploration in next week's posting.


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