adventures in nature

Posts tagged “petroglyphs

Vernal Equinox, Indiana Jones, PCN Petroglyphs, and Tracking

This evening I debated about doing my almost daily walk/wander/hike in the hills. I was feeling kind of lazy. It was a warm and clear day, and despite being thankful for all the rain of late, I was happy for some sun after almost 10 consecutive days of rain. The light was sublime out there, and I was content to just stay at home as it illuminated my house with golden yellow light warmed by a slight orange hue. I started doing some mundane tasks, and I randomly started watching a classic movie in the background, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Great flick. It was right at the part of the movie when he enters the map chamber and the sun shines through the amulet on top of the staff illuminating the location of the holy grail.

Soon I noticed that the sun was setting outside, and the rays were coming through my window reminding me it was soon time to go walk if that was to be.

I resisted.

And thankfully so.

After a bit, I walked outside to watch the sunset from my backyard in the warm, still, March air. As I looked West, towards Mount Tam, I realized that the sun was setting almost perfectly behind the peak. But just to the left.

Mount Tam, just after sunset

Then I thought, wow – I wonder if the sun will set exactly behind the peak on the vernal equinox, March 21st (four days from now)? Suddenly, I remembered the petroglyphs on the chlorite schist rock just 20 feet from me in my yard (that I blogged about over two years ago) …

Could they be related?

My mind continued on a virtual wander, as the sun illuminated the sky behind the Sacred Mountain across the Bay from me. What if the other petroglyphs-  similar to what are in my yard, but just to the south in Canyon Trail Park – lined up with another celestial event? Perhaps the summer solstice? And what if I searched to the north, along a north/south line from my current position – would I find more rocks with similar markings that aligned that position with Mt Tam and the winter solstice? Do they exist, or did they (it’s totally possible that they have already been destroyed or covered over by development – so proof could be hard to find)?

Maybe watching Indiana Jones had me fantasizing too much. But, what if?

As I looked at the rock with the petroglyphs, I realized that with some level of imagination the rocks actually looked like the silhouette of Mt Tam! Maybe that part is a stretch of the imagination, yes. But, the equinox alignment, at a minimum, seems too obvious to discount as coincidence. But why this rock? Why here, where there are higher elevation points that would seem to my modern mind more “appropriate” as a place for something like this? Perhaps the topology or plant cover at the time they were carved might have yielded more obvious clues about that.

Regardless, I think Dr. Jones would be proud.

As I watched the light fading behind the Mountain, standing by the Rock, I looked up. Above the Rock that has a half-moon carved into it, and over the juniper tree beneath which it lies  – there was the half-moon shining through. Magical!

Tracking is not just about animal track and sign. Tracking is a 24/7 part of our existence, something we all do to one degree or another in almost every aspect of our lives – but each of us with different levels of consciousness around it. We can track animals, water, stars, moods, stock markets, traffic patterns – everything, really. It is about awareness. Practicing awareness. Taking a moment to observe, instead of always “doing.”

To finish the evening, I stopped at a restaurant called Jupiter and sat down in the courtyard by the fire. As I looked up into the sky in that courtyard, above the hanging sculpture of Jupiter, there shined a bright thing in the sky … the actual planet Jupiter!! Aha!!! Good stuff.

20160315_222658 v1

I asked the server if she realized that Jupiter was shining above their Jupiter sculpture above us – she did not, and really didn’t seem all that impressed to know. She was tracking other things I guess.

The adventure and questions go on, hopefully more to come on this …


petroglyphs in my backyard [+ new species of human ID’d!]

petroglyph rock IN MY YARD(?!)

petroglyph rock IN MY YARD(?!)

I’m always fascinated to see evidence of people from the past – to hold an arrow head in your hand is a direct connection to the person who made it, a physical and energetic connection to another time. We tend to think of these past times and people as having occupied a space that is very removed from our present reality, and in some ways that is true. It’s hard for our minds to grasp this, as to many of us the early 1900’s seems as long ago as when the pharaohs ruled Egypt (OK maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but maybe not – both are just abstractions in our minds if we haven’t lived it). But when you consider the brief amount of time that each of our lives is here in this incarnation, it’s possible to feel how close we actually are to our ancestors despite our mind’s perception.

And of course this is especially true when we see direct evidence of our primitive past living out in our congress and politicians today!

[Perhaps there actually is another species of human that survived to present day, and merits a new branch on our family tree – hiding in plain site, somewhere between Neanderthals and Cro Magnon man – he/she looks like modern day humans and has survived in our midst despite retaining the brain size and primitive behaviors of long gone primate species … I hereby propose the addition of “Homo politico ineffectus!!!”]

Homo politicus ineffectus

Homo politico ineffectus

(photo meld courtesy of Smithsonian’s MEanderthal app – evidently the MEanderthal app is considered critical and not subject to government shutdown)

Enough of that though, I am getting off topic.

The other day a woman was combing through the neighborhood where I live looking for ancient petroglyphs – rock art. That’s right, looking for rock art in the metropolitan area of the East Bay of San Francisco. Evidently petroglyph sites have been found all along coastal California and into Oregon that are attributed to people who lived here anywhere from 8000 to 3000 year BP (Before Present)! Amazing when it is thought that humans only occupied this land at most 12,000 years BP. It is suspected that these are the predecessors (and possible ancestors) to the Native People who live here now and have been living here for many centuries prior to contact with Europeans. This woman was excited to reveal that one of the rocks in our yard very likely holds some of this ancient art.

Pecked Curvilinear Nucleated shapes (PCN's)

Pecked Curvilinear Nucleated shapes (PCN’s)

What prompted her search, besides a peculiar calling and possibly that she already did her annual tree burl assessment for the area, is the fact that there is a site not far from where I live (approx 1/2 mile) that is a park, and within that park a playground was built around some rocks. Turns out those rocks hold a large number of petroglyphs. Fortunately someone finally realized the significance of the markings on those rocks and now they are protected (Canyon Trail Park in El Cerrito). This is one of less than a dozen sites that has been found though, so it is remarkable. But all throughout the neighborhoods of the East Bay are many rocks that protrude out of the earth into people’s yards – some as big as passenger vans or larger. Many palettes for the prehistoric-artist.

According to research and analysis regarding this topic (which is scant, at best), a type of rock art was all the rage in those times composed of shapes now called “pecked curvilinear nucleated” petroglyphs (PCN’s). They generally consist of a circle inscribed in the rock, which then allows the center to stand out in relief. Sometimes there are variations to this theme, and sometimes they are accompanied by cupules (small cups ground into the rock). Not only that, they have almost always been found carved on blue/green chlorite schist rock and often near a water source. The chlorite schist only occurs in fault zone areas, so it is found in isolated regions especially in California.

close-up of PCN's

close-up of PCN’s

close-up of PCN

close-up of PCN

Who carved these? And why? And when? Evidently those exact details are a bit of a mystery, but it is theorized that they are related to fertility or weather rituals by the people I mentioned above, sometime between 8000 and 3000 BP (though not to be confused with some petroglyphs created later, in the same areas, by Pomo People for fertility rites – or mortar stones for grinding acorns by other various Native Peoples – see pictures below).

mortar rock hole (hole diameter approx 8")

mortar rock hole (hole diameter approx 8″) / Solano County

mortar rock with multiple mortar holes / Solano County

mortar rock with multiple mortar holes / Solano County

Really an amazing treasure to be living by such a piece of history – it will be exciting to see if anyone analyzes the rock further (and if there are more petroglyphs buried under ground level).

Another site that is open for viewing to the public in addition to Canyon Trail Park in El Cerrito is Ring Mountain in Marin County. There are other sites, but many of them are on private land or are not publicized.

Luckily for all of you, I have decided to open a roadside museum to display this new find in my yard – look for me in full steam punk regalia with a bullhorn, standing on a soapbox by what will appear to the observer to be a modified child’s lemonade stand. I’ll also be selling my special tonics that are guaranteed to cure all.

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References (and for more information) check out these links:

1) Cultural Markings on the Landscape: The PCN Pecked Curvilinear Nucleated Tradition in the Northern Coastal Ranges of California – Dissertation by Donna Lee Gillette http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/1nh3898b#page-4

2) American Rock Art Research Association website http://www.arara.org/

3) Canyon Trail Park petroglyphs – http://www.arara.org/documents/LP-30-1.pdf

4) CA petroglyphs – http://www.arara.org/Background_RockArt_Calif.pdf