Saturday, May 23, 2015


While I will be the first to argue the validity of some aspects of the field known as archeoastronomy, I am also a critic of the empty assumptions made by some people who claim to be archeoastronomy researchers. The most egregious examples are in the multiple alignments some people find between rock art or archaeological features and the heavens. I actually once heard a presentation by a so-called serious researcher who was looking for alignments in a group of pits he found on a horizontal rock surface. He explained that in order to properly analyze this he had to purchase a new computer and software package, and in the end he came up with literally hundreds of alignments to different stars, constellations, planets, and phenomena throughout the year. The worst of all was that he did not see the irony in this proposal, even when he was asked what computer and software the ancient Native Americans had used to originally plot all of these alignments.
Fremont Indian petroglyph panel, Sego Canyon,
 Utah. Photograph: Peter Faris, June 1981.
One stellar sight that is apparently easy to misinterpret is the Pleiades. We know that they do have a place in the mythology of most of the ancient peoples of North America, and in some cultures they have ritual meaning as well. For some peoples their appearance marks the time to perform certain rites and ceremonies. To the Navajo the Pleiades or Seven Sisters are known as the Planter (Miller 1997:187). During nine months of visibility the Planter is seen after sunset in the Fall on the Eastern horizon, by mid-winter it is overhead after sunset, and in the Spring it slowly disappears over the Western horizon. The time of planting is reportedly indicated by Planter in the late Spring, early Summer (Cajete 2000:224). 
In this photo from Blanco Canyon (Chamberlain:207)
Dilyehe is the pattern in the center. Chamberlain has
identified a number of other Navajo panels which contain
dot patterns that he believes represent Dilyehe.

The same photo from Chamberlain
(2004:207) with an arrow marking
the Pleiades.

Dilyehe, the Planter, is thought of as feminine and as the mate to Atseetsozi, First Slim One (Orion’s belt and sword), because they accompany each other across the sky (Chamberlain 2004:211-213). I suspect that Von Del Chamberlain is correct in this interpretation. He is a serious scientific researcher, not given to wild statements based upon his imaginings instead of upon data.

Diagram of Sego Canyon panel
from Eaton (1999:128).
An example of the opposite can be seen in the illustrations from William M. Eaton. First off, he announced that examples of Native American portrayals of the Pleiades only show four dots. I cannot imagine where he got this as most legends refer to them as the "seven sisters". As an example of this he produced the Fremont panel from Sego Canyon, Utah where he found proof of this claiming an astonishing eight portrayals of the Pleiades in this one panel (a through h), although he actually seems to have missed the four dot pattern on the top of the symbol he has designated as "v". The problem is, as anyone who has actually visited Sego Canyon knows, that the dots on this panel are from gunshots, and have absolutely nothing to do with any Native Americans, prehistoric or otherwise. They were produced by cowboy vandalism.

Now I am not saying that Mr. Eaton is wrong in everything he claimed in his 1999 book, The Odyssey of the Pueblo Indians (although I had serious trouble with most of it). I even want him to be right on some of it because it would be so interesting. The trouble is like with all people who speak up without knowing what they are actually talking about. He just doesn't have a clue about rock art.

Don't quit looking, and don't quit trying to figure it out, just please use your common sense before you go way out on that limb like Eaton. Someone might shoot it off.


Cajete, Gregory
2000    Native Science, Natural Laws of Interdependence, Clear Light Publishers, Santa Fe.

Chamberlain, Von Del
2004    Father Sky on Mother Earth: Navaho Celestial Symbolism in Rock Art, pages 195-226, in New Dimensions in Rock Art Studies, edited by Ray T. Matheny, Museum of Peoples and Cultures Occasional Papers No. 9, Brigham Young University, Provo.

Eaton, William M.
1999    Odyssey of the Pueblo Indians, Turner Publishing Co., Paducah, KY.

Miller, Dorcas S.
1997    Stars of the First People, Pruett Publishing Co., Boulder, CO.






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