In ESOP volume 8, November 1979, I reported on an inscription in Inyo County, California, stating that it represents a zodiac with an associated explanation in Kufic Arabic, which I translated. The inscription became known to me from Figure F-19a, Site lny-272, as recorded by Heizer and Baumhoff (1962), who however gave no explanation of it.
I showed my decipherment to Dr Jon Polansky who was acquainted with Dr Heizer, and who proposed that I come to California in order to meet Dr Heizer, and discuss the matter with him. As was generally known, Dr Heizer was adamantly opposed to any notion that these pre-Columbian petroglyphs could have been produced by anyone other than native American peoples; yet, as was perfectly obvious, the detailed zodiacal figures, plus the Kufi explanation of the Zodiac, implied just such pre-Columbian visitors from the Arab Old World. In June of 1979 Polansky introduced me and my New England colleague John Williams to Dr Heizer.
Robert F. Heizer (left) and Fell during their meeting in June 1979, at Berkeley. The outcome of the discussion was Heizer’s recognition that the Inyo zodiac is indeed a zodiac, and the script is of precolumblan date. A joint paper was planned, but was circumvented by Heizer’s illness and death a month later. (Photo John Williams, 1979).
To my relief Dr Heizer did not deny the evidence, though he was clearly startled by it. He spent some hours searching his papers in an effort to locate the original photographs or field sketches from which his Figure F-19a derived, but without result. He then arranged from one of his former graduate students to lead a party of six of us into the field in search of this and other petroglyphs, but our efforts were not successful at that time. Subsequently, in 1991, Rod Schmidt located the Kufi portion of the inscription, but reported that the zodiacal section had been destroyed or removed by vandals. Schmidt also discovered that the source of the illustration, Figure-19a, in Heizer and Baumhoff was actually a manuscript written by Clifford P. Baldwin in 1931, in an unpublished report to the Eastern California Museum. (See article by Rod Schmidt in this issue of ESOP). Schmidt’s recent work on inscriptions in the Inyo area indicates that the whole complex requires reconsideration, so I now reprint my decipherment of the zodiac and its text.
The Inyo Zodiac
An identification and translation of text and associated pictographs, Figure F- 19, a, Univ. Calif. site lny-272, Heizer and Baumhoff (1962). In accordance with ancient practice, Ubra is rendered as the claws of Scorpio. The letter style points to a date of around the eighth century A.D. The text matches in meaning that which I deciphered for the Davenport tablet, and instructs that the New Year begin at the time of the sun’s entry into the zodiacal constellation of the Ram (March 21st).
Translation of Text
(1) When the Ram and the Sun are in conjunction (Spring Equinox).
(2) On that day celebrate the New Year Festival.
Comparison of the Inyo Kufi alphabet with early Kufi forms from Islamic manuscripts of the eighth century A.D. (the latter after Dr. Salahuddin al Munaggid, Etudes de Paleographie Arabe). Modern Arabic Naskhi forms are shown below, with Roman- letter equivalents.
Some Dialectal Variation or Erroneous Forms
As commonly is the case in American graffiti and other inscriptions the spelling departs from standard. The Ram, Aries, is rendered h-a-rn-l whereas in standard Arabic it is h-m-a-l Iberian inscriptions both in Iberia itself and elsewhere similarly confound the two forms of h. What appears to be an aleph is inserted beneath the q in the vertically spelled q-a-y-s; in standard Arabic the y precedes the aleph. Articles as almost always are omitted as indeed they commonly are in nearly all inscriptions. Where assimilation of the I of the article occurs in spoken Arabic, the American Arab spells phonetically (as yamadin).
I beg to thank the Libyan Studies Center of the University of AI-Fattih for opportunities to study inscriptions in Northern Africa and for the travel grant that made this possible. Also I am much indebted to Jamil Mroué of Beirut and to Dr. Salahuddin al Munaggid for access to the lather’s valuable researches on Islamic Paleography Professor Norman Totten secured some valuable examples of old Koranic manuscripts of various epochs, and Dr. All Khushaim and Dr. Mohammed Jarary visited America on various occasions to examine and to participate in the decipherment of ancient Ubyan and Arabic inscriptions James Whittall also made helpful contributions from Morocco.
Abdussaid, Abduihamid. Barqa, modem EI-Merj. Libya al-Qadlmah, VIII, p121 1971)
Fell, Barry. America B.C. var. ed. (1976-)
Ibn Khaldun. The Muqaddimah (1377)
Al Quran, passim.
Inyo Zodiac Detail
From an adjacent site Iny-272, Heizer and Baumhoff fig F18-b, this is a chart of the region of the Zodiac between Aries and Gemini, and depicts the calendar situation at the onset of May, as the sun passes from Taurus into Gemini. It is not improbable that some unrecorded detail indicated that the summer festival is to begin.
al-Munaggid, Salahuddin. Etudes de Paleographie Arabe (in Arabic),(1961)
Heizer, Robert F. and Martin and Martin A.Baumhoff. Prehistoric Rock Art of Nevada and Eastern California. Univ. Calif. Press (1962).
Warfelli, Mohammed S. Ajdabiyah (in) Islamic Art and Architecture in Libya Tripoli (1976).
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