Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Astronomy and Ancient Kansas Intaglios

Beccy Tanner at the The Wichita Eagle has a December 19, 2004 story entitled Figures carved into prairie are a story of ancient beliefs. The story is about ancient intaglios (figures or designs carved into surfaces) found in Kansas. These "ground drawings" in Kansas are drawn on trenches along hillsides and show figures of a serpent holding a ball in its mouth, then another serpent, a turtle, a duck and two caterpillars.

Kansas archaeologists and anthropologists see the figures as possibly marking the solstices and the stars and planets for ritual purposes.

Donald Blakeslee, professor of archaeology at Wichita State, compares the Kansas council circles to Stonehenge in England as sacred calendars the sun hits at certain points during the solstices.

"The native people in Mexico connect the caterpillars with meteors and meteor showers -- they have a celestial connection," Blakeslee said.

In other words, we know from that knowledge that the caterpillars mark portions of the sky in which annual major meteor showers occur (there are only a few of these). Knowing that, we have a good chance to put the rest of the intaglios into their proper astronomical places.

Possible dates for the caterpillars are then the meteor showers known as:

1. the Perseids, major meteor showers which peak around August 12 and at which time the caterpillars can be quite a nuisance in Kansas, or

2. the Lyrids, which appear in Spring

Some caterpillars appear twice a year (in Spring and Midsummer). Are the two intaglios of caterpillars next to each other or separated by other figures?

Without knowing the inter-related locations of the figures on the ground, their identification is guesswork on our part, but we think that at least one of the Kansas caterpillars could mark the Perseids. The Perseids appear in August but are found in the Perseid Radiant, which is at the top of the constellation of Perseus.

If the caterpillar is close to the duck, then the duck may mark the Pleiades (indeed, the duck marks the Pleiades (Latvian Pilites "ducks") clear back to the time of Lascaux, ca. 9000 BC - see Stars Stones and Scholars).

The turtle then would mark Orion - as it did for the Maya - see also here concerning the turtle as marking Orion on Native American medicine wheels.

One serpent figure would then be Hydra.

The serpent holding a ball in its mouth could mark the center of heaven, but this would depend on the location of this serpent with respect to the other figures. Again, I do not have a plan of the figures on the ground. Otherwise, I could make the identifications with certainty.

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Sky Earth Native America

Sky Earth Native America 1:
American Indian Rock Art Petroglyphs Pictographs
Cave Paintings Earthworks & Mounds as Land Survey & Astronomy
Volume 1, Edition 2, 266 pages, by Andis Kaulins.

  • Sky Earth Native America 2:
    American Indian Rock Art Petroglyphs Pictographs
    Cave Paintings Earthworks & Mounds as Land Survey & Astronomy
    Volume 2, Edition 2, 262 pages, by Andis Kaulins.

  • Both volumes have the same cover except for the labels "Volume 1" viz. "Volume 2".
    The image on the cover was created using public domain space photos of Earth from NASA.


    Both book volumes contain the following basic book description:
    "Alice Cunningham Fletcher observed in her 1902 publication in the American Anthropologist
    that there is ample evidence that some ancient cultures in Native America, e.g. the Pawnee in Nebraska,
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    See Alice C. Fletcher, Star Cult Among the Pawnee--A Preliminary Report,
    American Anthropologist, 4, 730-736, 1902.
    Ralph N. Buckstaff wrote:
    "These Indians recognized the constellations as we do, also the important stars,
    drawing them according to their magnitude.
    The groups were placed with a great deal of thought and care and show long study.
    ... They were keen observers....
    The Pawnee Indians must have had a knowledge of astronomy comparable to that of the early white men."
    See Ralph N. Buckstaff, Stars and Constellations of a Pawnee Sky Map,
    American Anthropologist, Vol. 29, Nr. 2, April-June 1927, pp. 279-285, 1927.
    In our book, we take these observations one level further
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    That mirror image of the heavens on terrestrial land is the "Sky Earth" of Native America,
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    These landmarks were placed systematically in North America, Central America (Meso-America) and South America
    and can to a large degree be reconstructed as the Sky Earth of Native America."

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