A brief history and description of the discoveries at the Swansea site was given in ESOP 21. Located in the Owens Valley, California, it has proven to be an ancient solar observatory. This paper will add a few more significant details about this unique place. It will take some time for the complex to be fully recorded and longer still for it to be understood. The astronomical-astrological observation features are slowly being identified and cataloged. Newly identified features have added much to the knowledge base.
In November, 1992 I had the opportunity to be on the site with Dr. Jon Polansky to locate and identify a potential sunrise cross-quarter marker. The search was successful in a surprising way. Besides locating the marker, a new ogam inscription was found and translated. In December, we were joined by Dr. Alan Gillespie to search for the elusive winter marker. After better than ten year search, a winter solstice marker was located. These finds complete the calendar regulation marks for a year of observation, yet there are many more regulatory marks and their functions remain in question.
The Kufi Wall and the Equinox
In the ESOP 21 article a sketch created by Clifford Baldwin of a section of cliff face at Swansea was presented as the original source for what Dr. Barry Fell identified as crude kufic Arabic and translated to read, "When the Ram and the Sun are in conjunction (Spring Equinox) on what day celebrate the New Year Festival". Figure 1 is a sketch of all the discernible details pecked or abraded on that same section of cliff or wall. The fracture lines and fissures have been eliminated on the sketch, but the relative placement of the figures remain unaltered. The additional details may relate to the Kufic inscription, but most appear to be much older, having weathered significantly and totally patinated. Most of these details literally disappear from casual view, except under all but the most deliberate lighting and critical examination. The sketch was created from a series of careful photographs taken under controlled lighting conditions. No distinction has been made to account for the different generations of work nor the items reworked or refreshed. Dr. Alan Gillespie suggests that at least six different ages of work are present on the wall. The drawing shows relative visibility, rather than age. There may be other hidden details awaiting discovery.
The sun symbol and inscription in the lower right of figure 1 were hidden until recently. What function it may have as a calendar regulator (if any) will have to be determined by observation. The design is notable because it seems to be of the same genera of at least three other sun symbols existent on the site, the style being so distinctive as to suggest they had been made by the same individual.
The two details in the lower left of figure 1 deserve special attention. These may connect the wall's message with the equinox marker discovered by Vincent Yoder and briefly discussed in the ESOP 21 article. Both of these details are patinated and tend to disappear in normal sunlight. However, before they aged, they stood out quite clearly against the gray background. It was during observation of the Yoder discovery on the equinox that the similarity was first noted.
In 1985, Mr. Yoder accompanied the late Burrell Dawson to the site to observe a possible sunrise equinox marker. Mr. Yoder noticed a display of sunlight forming a dagger of light on a series of concentric circles pecked on a south facing indentation on a mostly buried boulder. As the sun rose, the dagger distorted to become a pointer and passed through the concentric circles. This observation was made the day after the equinox and the shadow pointer missed the center by a small but noticeable margin. On the morning of the vernal equinox in 1986, he confirmed his observation as the pointer shadow passed directly through the center.
Figures 2 and 3 are drawings of the morning equinox marker and the inscriptions that accompany the concentric circles on the boulder. The inscriptions may contain decipherable data, but so far no explanation has been offered. The same problem of mixed ages is present here, but none of the work seems to have been redone or refreshed. The inscription at the top fades into an area that has exfoliated or been spalled and that portion is indeterminate.
The November/February cross-quarter marker
This is one of the most beautiful sun symbols on the site. With the exception of a small scar caused by blasting and resulting flyrock, it is pristine. Featured in figure 4, it is distinctive, yet very similar in execution to three others on the site. This is another case of deliberate superimposition over a much older existing design and the finished product appears to be a composite of several generations of work. Inspection of the area around the symbol at the extreme left suggests that a much older inscription was "erased" because the edges of the pecking are very rounded, much more than could be expected by weathering alone. All the Work is old enough to have totally patinated.
The inscriptions that surround the sunsymbol appear to be of astrological-astronomical significance. The similarity to symbols in modem use suggests a possible decipherment. Starting at the right and working counterclockwise, there is a vertical way line with a circle near the center. The wavy line in a variety of forms, usually in pairs, may mean "Aquarius" or "The House of Aquarius". The circle within it probably represents the sun. The meaning of the composite design may mean "the sun in Aquarius" or "the sun traveling through the house of Aquarius". This would correspond to approximately January twentieth to February eighteenth, by modem reckoning. Continuing upwards is a circle, which probably represents the sun. The next item to the left is a curiously distorted symbol that directs attention back to the circle to the right. The astrological house of Pisces follows that of Aquarius and I believe this is a deliberately distorted Pisces symbol. Continuing counterclockwise, the next item is a series of four parallel lines, possibly suggesting the quartering function. These lines and the spacing of the rays of the central sunsymbol are probably significant. I am open to suggestion as to what that significance may be. The combination and spacing of the defined symbols suggest a prediction or timing of an event that would occur when the sun is in Aquarius and not yet into Pisces. That event may be the cross-quarter day that occurs in the beginning of February (and is noted in our calendar as "Ground Hog Day").
It is within an astronomical/astrological context that these signs made sense. A variety of quadrant or octantal systems for use in astrological forecasts have existed for several thousand years, variants exist even today. It wasn't until about the third century AD that the modem twelve sign zodiac was adopted by the Byzantine Greeks and the usage spread throughout the Mediterranean area. These same Greeks were responsible for the "standardization' of the astrological signs for the planets, constellations, sun, moon and probably common alignments such as conjunction, opposition and the like. Because of the wide spread recognition of these signs, ancient observers and astronomers may have adopted these or created a similar system that would include noteworthy solar events such as equinox and solstice.
The circle with the line through it on the left of figure 4, may be a graphic example of something that is supposed to happen to a circle nearby, and I assigned the term "bisect" for it's meaning. The fact that there are several very similar and clearly pecked circles in the immediate vicinity that have the potential of being halved by light and shadow suggest this may have a general, rather than a specific application.
Early in November, the location of the sun on the morning horizon matches that of the sun's position in early February and is designated a cross-quarter event. Historically, the actual dates assigned to this event varied, depending on which culture and method of computation was used. Possibilities exist as to the date having been computed by actual sun position, or day count. Observation at Swansea will provide several clues as to which method was applied here.
On November 2, 1992, there was quite a group present at the Swansea site to witness and aid in the search for a marker on the site that noted the event. At first light, the bisect symbol was illuminated and the circle between the Pisces symbol and the Aquarius symbol was halved (bisected) with light and shadow. The shadow was made by a stub of pillar about ten meters to the east. The same relationship will occur again in early February. The difference being, after the solstice, the daily sunrise event will proceed in a counter clockwise movement. Starting near the bottom of the boulder at the winter solstice the sunrise shadow steps upward through the Aquarius sign, (illuminating the little sun symbol about January 20th) and finally intersects the event indicator early in February.
The questions that arise from this observation are, if this marks the February cross-quarter date at the Swansea site, is there another marker exclusively for the November cross quarter date? Also, what was the special significance of this date to warrant such an effort of observation and labor in creating this marker?
That same November evening, the group was on the site to see if we could locate an evening marker for the cross quarter event. After sundown, the site is lit by sunlight reflected off the horizon for about a half an hour. That soft, even light is excellent for searching for relatively hidden details. On a small stub of protruding rock, adjacent to the six line equinox marker, four broad, shallow lines were noted. This in itself wasn't so unusual because parallel lines are among the most common and repetitive designs of the site. What made these interesting was rather than all the lines being of the same length, the second two were about half the length of the first pair. It appears to be ogam, written without a stem line and would translate, from right to left, L-G. This is the second reference to LUGH (Lug), the Celtic God of Ught, found on the Swansea site. (Figure 5)
The Winter Solstice Marker
The search for this marker has been long and arduous. The before dawn temperatures at the Swansea site are usually sub-freezing during this time of year. Braving the weather was a resolute team of dedicated explorers and on December 21, 1992, the search was successful. Several days, prior to the solstice, observation had eliminated most of the potential markers. Hampering the search was a lack of knowledge. No one knew whether this event would be noted by a sunrise or sunset indicator and there was a distinct possibility that it could be noted by some very subtle midday event. Nor was the type of marker known. It could have been a sunsymbol, a circle or series of concentric circles, or parallel lines or some combination of light and shadow almost anywhere on the site, a boulder strewn area of about a half the size of a soccer field.
The day before the solstice, Earl Wilson and I were on the site at sunrise and noticed a circle, pecked on a slab of rock that came very near to being bisected by light and shadow. We noticed this shortly after dawn and decided that this was the prime candidate for the winter solstice marker. The next morning, at first light, the circle was clearly halved by sunlight and shadow (figure 6). The shadow was created by the north side of a large freestanding boulder about 6 meters to the east. It is noteworthy that the symbol I previously assigned as meaning "bisect" is clearly visible a few meters to the north. The slab has much more data inscribed on it. It is all fully patinated, very weathered and difficult to make out. Further study is warranted.
It was very curious that a solar event of such significance as a solstice was noted by a simple circle. The other solar events are observed with artful indicators that reveal much forethought and attention to detail in execution. There may be reasonable and practical reason for this. The inhospitable weather near the solstice would certainly deter all but the most hardy from visiting the site. I suspect this would also affect how much an observer/scribe was willing to endure to accomplish the task of notation, regardless of motivation.
The Unknown Timekeeper
I have included this illustration, figure 7, of an unknown timekeeper because of the deliberate nature of the sunsymbol. The inscriptions are undeciphered. On the site, the small boulder it is engraved on sits a few meters to the west of the morning equinox marker. There is a much larger boulder about 12 meters further west that casts a very pointed sunset shadow that may interact with the sunsymbol sometime near the summer solstice. Whether designed to act prior or after is an unknown. It is yet another item that deserves further attention.
The Winged Archways
Some of the details that occur at the Swansea site are deliberate, distinct and graphic. Figures 8 and 9 are best described as winged archways and the motif appears in two places on the site. The designs reside some distance apart. One is placed on the northern limits of the site, the other is near the center of the main body of work. Both are very deliberate in execution. The significance of the representation is open to question. The multicultural aspects of this site leave it uncertain whether these arches are a cultural signature, a representation with religious significance, or possibly clan marks left by natives or travelers.
These tiny details, shown in figure 10, pecked on a west facing wall are nearly invisible. The rock face is deteriorating and the designs are slowly being erased by natural causes. The deliberate "U" shape is repeated about 20 times in a very small area, significantly less than a meter square. Some of the designs are inverted, but in a random order.
The name "horseshoes" refers to the basic shape of the designs, but on seeing them one has to wonder if they might actually represent horses, possibly shod. I have read of a comment by Dr. George Carter referring to a carbon date of 700 AD or so being applied to a horse skull found in an "Indian" mound. The idea of horses as a mode of travel or as pack animals may not be as far-fetched as it first appears. In the Dawson collection is a photograph by W.W. Dexter of a pictograph titled "Arabian Horse - Libyan Brand". The site is in Cimarron, Colorado. Gloria Fancy had made the original discovery and provided a photograph of the horse to Dr. Fell and he identified the brand on the animal as Libyan. It is very possible that horses (as well as sheep and other domestic animals) were introduced quite early by any number of traders, explorers or colonists. It was certainly well within the late bronze and early iron age maritime technology to accomplish such a task. The vast distances from the ports of entry to the mineral rich interior would have made horses desirable.
Each new identification or discovery adds to the knowledge base and at the same time opens up new avenues for investigation. During our explorations of the kufic wall, it was noted that the wall to the immediate left was rich with pecked details. Normally that wall is either in full sun or shade, but during the transition to shade, a few items are sidelit and become visible. Those details are very intriguing. Another area of intrigue is the shelf above and to the north of the kufic wall. This area is fractured, spalled and very broken up and contains much deliberate work that has neither been recorded nor explored in detail.
Baldwin, Clifford Park, (1931) Archaeological Exploration and Survey in Southern lnyo County, California. Unpublished report.
Brett, James S. and Cyr, Donald L (1991) The Diffusion Issue Stonehenge Viewpoint Santa Barbara, CA
Campion, Nicholas, (1987) The Practical Astrologer H.N. Abrams, Inc., New York, NY
Fell, Barry, An Ancient Zodiac from Inyo California
ESOP Vol 21 pg 263 (reprinted from ESOP vol 8 pt 1 pg 9) Personal communications with Dr. Fell
Gillespie, Alan Personal communications
Green, Landis Knight, (1978) The Astrologers Manual Arco Publishing Co., Inc. New York, NY
Leonard, Phillip M. and McGlone, William R, (1986) Ancient Celtic America Panorama West Books, Fresno, CA
Polansky, Jon personal communications
Schmidt, Roderick L, (1992) Swansea, a multicultural petroglyph site in Inyo County, California ESOP Vol 21 pg 268
Yoder, Vincent, (1986) Equinox Site at Swansea, The Dawson Collection, unpublished paper Personal communications with Mr. Yoder
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