Solar calendar found among newly discovered petroglyphs

Trove of previously undocumented rock art was discovered by archaeologists exploring the remote Wupatki National Monument northeast of Flagstaff in northern Arizona. The area contains ruins of dozens of sites built by Ancestral Puebloans known as the Kayenta and the Sinagua. More than 1500 petroglyphs, and confirmed the presence a prehistoric solar calendar, which has been marking the seasons for more than 700 years with a striking “shadow dagger” that travels across its sandstone face.

Horseshoe Mesa site (by Western Digs)
Horseshoe Mesa site (by Western Digs)

As a result of a project conducted by Museum of Northern Arizona and the National Park Service a complete library of photographic images of every panel, every element, and every feature was created. Among the find were several dozen of individual petroglyphs and more than 1500 separate glyphs that were recorded for the first time. The most recent markings include graffiti made by American travellers in the late 1800s, and historic-era images of horses, barns, and cattle, sometimes with visible brands, scratched into the rock by Navajo inhabitants.

Solar calendar at the site (by Western Digs)
Solar calendar at the site (by Western Digs)

The researchers documented 122 panels of petroglyphs at a site called Horseshoe Mesa — 50 of which had never been recorded before — and 107 panels at Middle Mesa site , 88 of which were newly discovered.  The majority of the petroglyphs documented seem to be the work of the Ancestral Puebloan group known as the Kayenta, which lived in the Wupatki area from about 1150 to 1300. And among the Kayenta petroglyphs were a cluster of geometric forms found at Horseshoe Mesa, identified as a solar calendar. It consists of two main motifs – a set of eight circles, each 7 to 9 centimetres to the left and a large spiral, which winds counter-clockwise into a coil 10 lines deep. Using video and time-lapse the archaeologists observed the appearance of a “shadow dagger” that interacts with these elements on the days of equinox. s the hours progress, the dagger, being the only shadow that appears on the spiral that day, narrows and moves upward, its leading edge running through the precise centre of the spiral.

Solar calendar at the site (by Western Digs)
Solar calendar at the site (by Western Digs)

(after Western Digs)

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