Saturday, June 23, 2018


Tool-sharpening grooves,
Picture Canyon, Baca County, CO.
Photo Peter Faris, 21 Sept., 1986.

In southeastern Colorado there are large numbers of sites that have rows of lines or grooves pecked or ground into the rock. Over the years attempts have been made to decipher them as Ogam inscriptions, counts of some sort, even ribstones as proposed by Larry Loendorf, or just tool-sharpening grooves.

"Ribstones may vary in their details but all consist of a long, vertical line or groove along the length of a boulder that is crossed by shorter grooves, creating a figure that represents the backbone and ribs of a buffalo. The grooves have been pecked and abraded into the boulder surface a depth of 1 or 2 centimeters, and a series of cupule-like holes have been placed between the lines. The inclusion of pecked eyes, ears, a mouth, and horns, suggests a living buffalo, and the presence of buffalo hoofprints on a number of boulders created the impression of movement." (Loendorf 2008:214)

Tool-sharpening grooves,
Picture Canyon, Baca County, CO.
Photo Peter Faris, 21 Sept., 1986.

This is a surprisingly good description of many of the panels that I mention above, enigmatic collections of tool-sharpening grooves that seem to beg for additional identity. I personally have made many attempts to link them to some type of count, from calendar to number of game animals bagged, with no convincing success.

Now, a recent discovery at the site of the Roman town of Interamna Lirenas, located 90 miles southeast of Rome, have suggested another possibility, that of sundials.

Roman hemicyclium, Archaeology,
May-June 2018, p.68.

"The limestone sundial measures about 21 inches by 13 inches by 10 inches (54 by 35 by 25 centimeters), and has a bowl-like face engraved with 11 hour lines, which mark the 12 hours of daylight. Three curved lines intersect perpendicularly with these hour lines, marking when the winter solstice, equinox and summer solstice should happen researchers said.
The sundial's iron needle that casts shadows - known as a gnomon - is missing but its lead base is still there, the researchers noted they added that this type of bowl-like sundial is known as a hemicyclium, and was common during the Roman period." (Geggel 2017)

Blessed Twins inscription (5LA2224),
2975±200 BP , Las Animas County,
CO. Photo Peter Faris, 24 May 1987.

Each of the examples herein of the tool groove groupings have cracks or crevices in the rock face that a piece of wood, a section of tree limb perhaps, could be jammed into to served as a gnomon. Could they have been intended as sundials by their Native American creators? That would require a whole lot of research, to begin with I do not have records of the original orientation of these panels so I cannot say which way they faced. Would a couple of them thrown shadows at all? I also have no idea of the units of passing time that they would have measured, did Native American peoples of southeast Colorado divide the day up like we do?

In most instances I also have no record of the direction these panels face which would, of course, be of major importance if they were used as sundials. What is their orientation?

Tool-sharpening grooves,
Hackberry Springs, Bent County, CO.
Photo Peter Faris, 21 Sept., 1986.

Given the uncertainties of the sundial possibility, balanced against Larry Loendorf's description of ribstones, I think we will have to go with Larry on this one - they are ribstones - at least until I hear a better suggestion.

NOTE: The sundial image in this posting was retrieved from the internet with a search for public domain photographs. If this images was 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.


Geggell, Laura
2017 Time to Celebrate: Ancient Sundial Made to Celebrate Roman Politician, Live Science, November 9, 2017

Loendorf, Larry
2008 Thunder and Herds, Rock Art of the High Plains, Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, CA.

Lobell, Jarrett A.
2018 Artifact,  Archaeology , p. 68, May/June 2018

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