As most of you know, I'm both a hardened skeptic AND a petroglyph (rock art) fiend. This past weekend my spouse and I went to Del Rio to the
Galloway-White Shaman site and to the Fate-Bell Shelter to photograph some of the pictographs (rock art.) On the way home, we stopped off at another
site I found on the Internet: Paint Rock -- about 30 minutes outside San Angelo. We were a day early for the "solstice celebration" and I figured
that would be okay, since I wasn't in the mood for a crowd.
The ranch is owned by the Campbells -- one of the most charming couples you could ever hope to meet! Both are in their 70's and spry and lively, and
Mrs. Campbell was glad to share the history about the site. The ranch had been bought in 1870's by her grandfather, who was a history major at a
local university. Distraught that the pictographs were being destroyed by travelers, he dropped out of college, and worked for a year to buy the
ranch with its amazing panels of rock art.
Now, I've got to admit that archaeoastronomy is something that has always sounded just a bit "foofoo" to me. I don't know why; perhaps it was
because of some of the things I read. The "sun dagger" was a fairly new discovery at Paint Rock, so I was pretty much skeptical but interested
enough to go and see.
I came away convinced that they were right -- the design really DOES mark midwinter solstice and could clearly have no other function.
These aren't my photos, but they are photos of what I saw (the top image. As I saw that sliver of light creep towards and then hit the center of the
design and looked at the landscape and the setup, I realized it had to be intentional and had to refer to the solstice. Uh... wow! Talk about a
And here's the press release on it:
Rock art has always been sort of a problematical thing. Archaeologists generally shy away from it because it's hard to date (so hard to tie in with
a culture.) Anthropologists often shy away from it because it's not modern culture -- and much of the time you can't even identify the culture that
produced the art. North American Native American rock art is not old enough for most paleontologists (it's only 4,000 - 200 years old.)
At most sites, they will let you theorize all you like, but they're not going to support it by allowing your publications to be present or
incorporate your ideas into their printed material. Not so with Paint Rock. The owners are both university educated (Mrs. Campbell has a Masters')
and very knowledgeable about the history and geology of the area. While they don't support (but don't discourage) wild ideas (like "space aliens
did this! That points the way to Rigel!"), they WILL support scholarly speculations.
Because of their kindness and openness to scholars, they are friends with some pretty notable (and well-known) names in the fields of astronomy,
archaeology, and anthropology and historians -- as well as to the Commanche tribal leaders. And they always welcome good historic research (which
anyone with access to documents can do) about the site or the people who lived in and around there -- and I think their openness to good research
(backed by excellent scholarship) has actually added a lot to the development of knowledge about the site.
After going there, we came up with some ideas of our own that we are going to research, and we'll return to the site to do more measurements and
Anyway, we had a great time (I will blog about my trip much later) and I wanted to share some links about this site for those of you who might want to
make the trip. The area code has changed for the phone number... call ahead to arrange a tour, and bring your best Texas manners (and lunch to share
with everyone.) It's a real treat to visit there!
(I'm a member of TAS)
The story of how they confirmed that a beam of light hit the turtle picture at both solstices:
[edit on 21-12-2004 by Byrd]