Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Saguaro National Park

These pictures were taken in 2011, at Saguaro National Park in Arizona.  My visit to Garden of the Gods (6/17/2013) reminded me of them, since there is also a propped boulder in these images.  It seems like wherever there are boulders, there are propped  boulders, especially on hilltops,  at sites with alignments, or along important trails.   Whatever significance they had to the Natives who constructed them is lost to time.
     At the East unit,  the Tanke Verde trail climbs into the pine forests of the Catalina mountain.
The southwest has many of the same structures we have in the northeast, and they are much less disrupted by farming and housing development.  The southwest also has something the northeast lacks:  poisonous snakes. Watch your step!
Luckily, this one is  harmless.
Balanced rocks near the Tanke Verde trail.
Here at the trailhead, an effigy and a propped boulder stand on an outcrop, surrounded by prickly pear and ocotillo bushes. The effigy looks a little like a bird.
The long axis of the propped boulder is parallel to the trail.  Perhaps it once meant "this way".
     Now we can go the the west unit.  The big attraction there is Signal Hill, a huge pile of boulders covered with geometric petroglyphs.
Many of these are spirals
Some are animals
There didn't seem to be any alignment with any other features.  Perhaps this rocky hill was simply a convenient place to carve petroglyphs.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Summer Solstice at Miantonomi's Cave

Last year, I missed the summer solstice patterns inside Miantonomi's  Cave because the show finishes an hour before sunset.  This year I arrived early.
    Summer solstice is the only time the face of the slanted boulder is illuminated by sunlight. The 318 degree bearing of the long axis blocks out sunlight the rest of the year. Here streaks of sunlight appear on the face and enter both windows of the cave.  This picture was taken at 7:05 PM.

 Unfortunately, Miantonomi's Cave is surrounded by trees that diffuse the light.  Here is the interior of the cave around 6:35 PM. Light is streaming in through the large window.
 The light entered the small window and the second sun dagger appeared at 6:40 PM.
 It got bigger and even took on a slightly birdlike appearance at 6:42 PM.
 Unfortunately, a cloud blocked the sun until 7:06, when this pattern appeared.

This is the final pattern, at 7:30.  A large  patch of  light appears on the end of the projecting stone. This was only a thin streak of light on 4/28.
Then the cave went dark at 7:35.  The time lapse video is at Youtube.
Here is the view from outside the cave.  The small blue box on the ledge is the time lapse camera. I wonder how many centuries passed with Native people watching this display.

This is a complex pattern of light and shadow, altered by surrounding trees and passing clouds.  Two markers of summer solstice may be the light on the face of the slanted boulder, and the large patch of light on the end of the projecting stone. There is also a faint mark on the wall that the sun ray follows as it travels up the wall.
The flat end of the projecting stone, which was illuminated at the end of the display, is shown above.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Garden of the Gods

I recently returned from a trip to Manitou Springs, Colorado, where I visited Garden of the Gods, Pike's Peak, and the Manitou Cliff Dwellings.  Luckily, I left before the Black Forest fire broke out.
     I had wanted to see Garden of the Gods since 1992, when I saw it while driving up I-25. It is a beautiful  area containing huge, jagged red sandstone spires.  The Utes revered it as a sacred place, and it is easy to understand why.

Although Garden of the Gods  has been a public park since 1909, some traces of Native use remain.  Here, near the Ute trail, rests a large stone with a smooth  top surface, suggesting use as a grinding slick.

The park also contains an impressive balanced rock, which looks like it was created mainly by erosion of  the softer stone supporting the rock.
The squarish shape of the "feet" suggests some human alteration.

However, the most interesting site is at the Siamese Twins.  Here a hole was eroded between two hoodoos.

The hole frames a view of Pike's Peak, which the Utes believed to be the home of the Sun. This view is to the west. The bearing from here to Pike's Peak is about 253 degrees, suggesting winter solstice sunset is visible over the summit of the Peak.

As I was walking around the site, I noticed this large propped boulder. From this angle, it looks a little like an animal head.
The "petroglyphs" on the upper left are English letters left by some hard-working graffiti artist.

It is clear that these stones were placed under the boulder. 
This is the other side.  The large cavity on the top center may have resulted from erosion, as these are common in other sandstone boulders in the park.
The shape is similar to that of  propped boulders in Rhode Island (11/7/2012).  I have seen propped boulders at other locations in the Southwestern US.  They were probably created by chipping away stone from the bottom of the boulder, and denote a sacred site.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Shelter

Hidden deep in the woods of northern Rhode Island is this shelter built under an overhanging cliff.
This is a surprising sight along the trail. Below is a view from the side, with the wall visible in the center of the photo. This gives an idea of the scale of the site.

In the rubble at the cliff base are a few structures, such as this propped boulder.  It looks like someone carved a large gouge out of it to the right.

Here is a closer view of the stone work on the shelter.  Since the stones aren't covered with lichens and leaf litter, they probably have not been stacked here very long.

And here's what is inside. I have a bowl just like that one.
 This shelter is interesting, but not ancient like the Flagg Swamp shelter. The cliff's smooth rock face and broken granite at the base suggest that this was once a quarry, and someone built this shelter after it was abandoned. The site has no trash, so whoever uses it respects it.  Perhaps a camper or deer hunter comes here occasionally.