Rock Art and other Ancient Solar Imagery

We think that the Sun watcher is not a good man. He was wrong last year. The Hopi think that is why we had so much cold this winter and no snow." --Crow Wing 1925

Ancient cultures certainly observed the celestial bodies. But because so few of them left any written records, it is difficult to imagine how they interpreted the skies. A few examples remain of imagery, usually left in rock which may refer to the Sun. What do you think these ancient images mean, and why do you think they were created?

Sundagger Almost 500 feet above rocky Chaco Canyon, in what is now New Mexico, stands a huge rock structure, Fajada Butte. Atop the butte, in a wedge amongst the rocks, are several spiral figures carefully pecked into the rock. At noon on the Summer Solstice, a dagger of light pierces the spiral. This butte was a sacred space for the Chacoans who built their spiritual center in the canyon. Fajada Butte and Chaco contain many rock carvings and alignments related to the Sun's and the Moon's cyclical patterns. See Traditions of the Sun, an experiential web site that lets you explore Chaco Canyon, learning about NASA research on the Sun and Native American solar practices within a larger historical and cultural context. For more information on Chaco, see Chaco Canyon.

Man-Sun rock art image
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Chaco Canyon Man and Sun petrograph, created by Anasazi (ancient Native Americans) somewhere between 900 and 1130 AD.

Newgrange spiral Triple spiral symbol on Newgrange, an ancient mound in Ireland. Built some 5,300 years ago, this sacred place is one of the oldest built structures in the world, and certainly the oldest with astronomical alignments. Known in Gaelic as Uaimh na Griine, 'the cave of the sun', Newgrange's origin purpose is unknown.

Valcamonica rock art with sun Copper Age image of man and sun from Ossimo boulder n. 8, Valcamonica (in the Alps). See also Sun images in the Rock Art of Valcamonica and Valtellina

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