Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ok, I Did Do the Nose

In my title I'm alluding to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the scene where members of the witch hunting crowd admit to adding the nose and hat to their suspected witch. The significance of this will come later.

Some time ago I shared a possible archeoastronomy artifact from my region refered to as cupula rock. A photo is below:

I've hypothesized that this rock contains constellation images that the Native Americans, likely Luisano, thought worthy of representing. My only support for this notion other than the apparent similarity of some patterns to constellations is a mention of this behavior in Ray Williamson's Living the Sky and a fleeting conversation with a local Luisano who said "yes, our ancestors did that [carved constellations]". Verification or refutation has been on my to-do list.

Recently I had the opportunity to see Professor Anthony Aveni of Colgate University and author of many books on archaeology speak on the Maya calendar and the significance of 2012. Professor Aveni is motivated by the anxiety among young people he's met that 2012 bodes ill. His work assures us that there is no reason to believe the Maya made any prediction about 2012 other than it being the time when, like an odometer, their calendar turns over. Since the lecture, I've read his book 2012: The End of Time. A main thrust of this book is that it appears to be an American (U.S., not Native) tradition to project our views onto ancient cultures, and he cites a list of cults and doomsayers from throughout American history.

I sent the photographs displayed here to Professor Aveni. Speaking as someone who has examined countless artifacts and sites, he offers the opinion that there is no compelling reason to see constellations in this rock. He recommended another of his books, Uncommon Sense, in which he argues that maps are a product of western culture. My conjecture on this rock is not too different from projecting my own map of the sky, or of elements of the sky, onto a past culture. Fair criticism. He adds that this is only his opinion, but I went out of my way to get it, so I'm eager to share it here in connection with (or correction to) the previous post I made on this topic.

I would add one update from my previous post. I had thought one star in my proposed Cassiopeia was a natural indentation. I've recently returned to the rock and this indentation looks less natural than I had first thought.

And now my joke: Am I projecting my concept of the stars onto this rock? Here are the photos I sent him and so I have to admit: well, yes, I did draw Cassiopeia:

Cassiopeia traced from a photo and overlaid on the image

Hypothetical Cygnus (also called the Northern Cross):
Ok. I did place the paper circles.

Hypothetical Hercules (butterfly shape on the left):
Yep. My hand was in this one too
(Update, 6 April 2010: I just learned that within the past week, someone of Native American descent, asked at the Reserve to see "the star rock" saying that her grandmother had told her about it. Two possibilities come to mind: one, my sharing of this rock evoked someone's curiousity or influenced a memory; or two, there is some cultural history of this custom or specific rock outside of my influence. Humility suggests the latter, but either are possible.)


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