By John H. Rudolph
The BPAA Board of Directors, with its usual largess, voted unanimously to sponsor my attending the Utah Rock Art Research Association's annual symposium, on November 9-12 in St. George, Utah. Sponsor, yes, travel money, no, but I attended anyway. It was a wonderful meeting of people from many parts of the country all being enthusiastic about the ancient writings on the rocks. Petroglyphs (engraved or pecked) and pictographs (painted on the rocks) are found worldwide. The American Southwest has them in great abundance. The papers presented were about a great variety of rock art sites and subjects. My paper was the only one about archaeoastronomy, illustrated with forty slides. The following is a synopsis of this presentation . The best parts of the symposium were the field trips into the dramatic canyon country near St. George and Kanab, Utah. Both petroglyphs and pictographs in rock shelters were seen. Bounding herds of deer, soaring hawks and good friends made the trip most memorable.
THE LONG LAKE SITE NEAR LAKEVIEW, OREGON
This site is situated on the high sage-covered plateau on the west edge of the Great Basin adjacent to a shallow lake bed, usually dry by the end of summer. A basalt escarpment, 4 kilometers long and 10 meters high runs along its western margin. A wind-blown talus up to 3 meters deep lies along the base of the cliff. The country is rich with the kinds of food plants and animals utilized by the early inhabitants. Probably they were more abundant then than now. Petroglyphs embellish the cliff face along the entire length ranging in age from very old to more recent.
Many persons are not aware that early Native Americans used a variety of ingenious counting and calculating systems, some based on 10, some on 20 , some on 8-16, and some on base 2. Native American Mathematics edited by Michael P. Closs, Texas U. Press 1986 is my source for being able to state in my paper that many of the glyphs at Long Lake represent counts of tallys. Fig. 1 illustrates a count familiar to all of us who have been paying attention. Connected figures of an increasingly
Fig. 1 pregnant woman through nine months with a babe in arms the tenth rival "A Nude Descending a Staircase” by Duchamps and precedes it by perhaps 2000 years. To the right of the figures are serpentine lines that have the same count. The lower seven line glyph may refer to the Moon, being one quarter of the visible lunar cycle. (Thanks to Jane Bush and Ron Lee for providing me with this glyph.) While not at the Long Lake site, this glyph illustrates my point.
At Long Lake the more recent petroglyphs are goats, lizards with 12 toes, human figures, blue camas sprouts (an important food source) with older figures of chevrons, concentrics, serpentines, and hands. Older glyphs run more to many arrays of dots or dashes with numbers congruent with lunar counts for a year (6 + 6 + 1) and lunar cycles (19) and one panel of four lunar cycles (19 x 4 = 76) the cycle of Halley's comet. One panel has the same counting array as is found on the Agate Point Petroglph Stone on Bainbridge Island ( 1 + 1 + 1+ * + 1 + 1 + 1) where the full Moon marking each month is shown from summer solstice at one end to the equinox in the center to the winter solstice at the other end and back to the equinox and the summer solstice.
At the southeast end of the escarpment is a circle of stones with a standing stone at each end imbedded into the mother rock. From this circle of 3 meters diameter , the summer solstice Sun can be observed rising from behind a singular peak on the otherwise flat horizon, providing a very accurate determination of the time of year. Not only agricultural peoples needed to know when certain activities should commence, but foraging peoples also needed to know when to start out for their yearly round of food gathering and hunting.
At certain places, fine arrays of dashes can be seen peeking up above the talus. In a paper by Bill Cannon and Mary Ricks, they describe an "unauthorized dig" that exposed panels of petroglyphs below the talus. These glyphs were mostly long arrays of carefully inscribed dots and dashes separated by lines, with an occasional concentric or spiral, and several whorls. This is shown in Fig. 2 taken from Cannon and Ricks’ paper.
These are quite different from the glyphs above the talus except for one panel that we found in our survey of 2001 that is very old (weathering and patina) and is like the buried arrays. Some of the buried glyphs show features that are to be found at the Little Blue Table site in Idaho as well as on the walls of the chambers at Carnac in Brittany, France. Some of these long tallys can be counted and seem to represent counts of astronomical events, but more extensive research and analysis need to be done to match glyphs with events. There have been some techniques developed to determine the dates of petroglyphs, with mixed results. The exposed panels are dateable because they descend below a layer of Mt. Mazama ash that created Crater Lake when it erupted in 4750 BC. It seems clear that these panels of glyphs were created by a long-lived culture well before the eruption. It is entirely possible that these people were forced to move away from the area because of the devastation to plant and wildlife in the area. A hiatus of hundreds of years may have occurred before a different culture arrived to make their marks on the basalt above the windblown talus of ash, soil and debris, entirely different from the earlier tallys.