Saturday, September 16, 2017


La Cieneguilla, New Mexico.
Photograph Peter Faris,
August 24, 2017.

On August 23, 2017, we drove down to Santa Fe for a few days to see long-time friends, do some museums, and eat good food. On the 24th we drove out to La Cieneguilla with Jeannie Gibson to look at some rock art on the side.

La Cieneguilla, New Mexico.
Photograph Peter Faris,
August 24, 2017.

La Cieneguilla rock art is located on a mesa above the Santa Fe River southwest of Santa Fe, past the airport. "Most of the petroglyphs were placed there by Keresan-speaking puebloan people living in the area between the 13th and 17th centuries. The descendants of these people now live down the Santa Fe River along the Rio Grande at Cochiti and Santo Domingo pueblos." (

La Cieneguilla, New Mexico.
Photograph Pat Price,
December 1991.

This site is home to a considerable amount of Rio Grande Style rock art with the common Rio Grande themes such as stars, flute players, insects, plants, and birds etc. As an easily accessible location it should be on any rock art student's bucket list.

La Cieneguilla, New Mexico.
Photograph Pat Price,
December 1991.

And while you are in the Santa Fe area try the carne adovada at The Horseman's Haven in Santa Fe, or at Soccorro's or El Paragua in Española. Go for the rock art, stay for the food and culture. A truly magical part of our country.


Saturday, September 9, 2017


Uffington White Horse, England.
Photograph Wikipedia,
Public Domain.

One uncommon type of geoglyph is known as a chalk figure. These are found in few locations because they can only be created under special conditions. In southeastern England areas where the topsoil overlays chalk or white limestone they are most common, and are primarily created by cutting away the layer of vegetation and topsoil on a hillside to expose the white rock underneath.

The oldest known chalk figure is the Uffington Horse in the county of Oxfordshire. "Documents as early as the eleventh century refer to the "White Horse Hill" at Uffington ("mons albi equi"), and archaeological work has dated the Uffington White Horse to the Bronze Age." (Wikipedia)

Measuring 110 meters long, it is archaeologically dated to the Late Bronze or Iron Age at 1380-550 B.C. Many archaeologists believe that it was originally created as a sign of ownership of the area by a local group, although University of Southampton archaeologist Joshua Pollard disagrees. "Both the form and the setting of the site led Pollard to
conclude that the White Horse was originally created as a depiction of a "solar horse," a creature found in the mythology of many ancient Indo-European cultures. These people believed that the sun either rode a horse or was drawn by one in a chariot across the sky." (Powell 2017:9)

The secret to its longevity is that local people have maintained the figure. "Over time, though its original purpose was lost, local people have maintained a connection with the White Horse that ensured its continued existence. "If it weren't maintained, the White Horse would be overgrown and disappear in about 20 years," says Andrew Foley, a ranger with the National Trust, which oversees the site. Historical records indicate the local community has long geld regular festivals devoted to maintaining the site. In 1854, some 30,000 people attended. Now, each summer, a few hundred local volunteers week the white horse and then crush fresh chalk on top of it so that it keeps the same brilliant white appearance it has had for 3,000 years." (Powell 2017:10)

This may be the origin of the custom of many college towns in the United States of creating a giant letter on a hillside with rocks and annually repainting it white with the labor of fraternity pledges, the football team, or freshman volunteers. On October 1, 2016, I posted Hillside Initials As Modern Geoglyphs about a number of these modern geoglyphs.

I think that too much attention is paid to the form of the Uffington Horse which is admittedly quite abstract. Given an age of 3,397-2,567 years, the Uffington Horse must have been renewed many hundreds of times, with no precise measuring tools, and only volunteer labor. If shapes and lines moved only a fraction of an inch during each renewal the original shape must have been altered considerably by now, so speculating based upon its appearance is bound to be unproductive. Better we appreciate it for what it is, a special example of people's relationship with their land, and caring for its historical features.

NOTE: Images in this posting were retrieved from the internet in a search for public domain photographs. If any of these images are not intended to be public domain, I apologize, and will happily provide the picture credits if the owner will contact me with them. For further information on these reports you should read the originals at the sites listed below.


Powell, Eric A.,

2017 White Horse Of The Sun, Archaeology Magazine, Vol. 70, No. 5., September/October 2017, p. 9-10.

Saturday, September 2, 2017


Photograph Becky Green Bowman,
August 21, 2012, Knoxville,

We were lucky enough to reach a location (Wheatlands, Wyoming) to view the August 21, 2017 solar eclipse in totality. I will omit any whining about the traffic, and the price gouging for motel rooms, and will focus on the ideas that came out of
observing this amazing phenomenon.

August 21, 2017 eclipse in partial
phase, the moon's encroachment on
the Sun is not visible. Photograph
Peter Faris, August 21, 2017.

One lesson that was immediately apparent as we watched the eclipse proceed was that the old wife's tale about explorers saving their lives from primitive natives by correctly predicting an eclipse must be totally untrue. As the moon proceeded to cover the sun the appearance of the sun did not vary. The world got dimmer, and cooler, but the brilliance of the remaining portion of the sun made it impossible to see a bright disk being consumed by the dark moon. The sun remained an unbearably bright light in the sky up until literally just a moment before totality. The process of a "sky monster" eating the sun could not, I repeat could not, have been viewed without proper eclipse filters.

I also believe that this would apply to eclipse mythology such as this.
"To the Vikings thought that an eclipse occurred, when a pack of wolves chased the sun across the sky and then captured the celestial orb. Meanwhile in Vietnam, it was a giant frog that devoured our nearest star. And in the Pacific Northwest, the Pomo Indians rationalized that the culprit was a giant bear. Even in ancient China, people believed that a giant dragon was the cause of the sun's demise." (

Photograph by Becky Green
Bowman, August 21, 2017,
Knoxville, Tennessee.

As was observable during the August 21, 2017 total eclipse, you do not see any sort of diminishing crescent during a solar eclipse, indeed you do not see anything removed from the disc of the sun until it is literally in the "diamond ring" phase of the eclipse immediately followed by the blackened disc of totality.

Pinhole projection of partial eclipse.
Photograph Peter Faris, May 20, 2012.

In order to see the bite being taken out of the sun you either need proper eclipse filters, or you need to use the pinhole camera technique to project its image on a white surface.

This realization should be applied to any rock art identified as a representation of an eclipse. If it shows a crescent it is probably not an eclipse, because the creator of the rock art would not have seen a crescent when observing the eclipse supposedly being pictured.

Raftopolis Ranch, Moffat County,
Colorado. Photograph Peter Faris,
September 1987.

Pecos rock art, Texas. 
Photograph Teresa Weedin.

On February 9, 2013, I posted a column titled A Possible Total Eclipse Of The Sun In Rock Art, showing a petroglyph from northwestern Colorado which shows the sun as a disc surrounded with triangular prominences or flames. This was followed on February 23, 2013, with another posting titled Another Possible Solar Eclipse Symbol In Rock Art about my identification of the Zia Sun Symbol as a possible representation of a total solar eclipse. Both of these cases show a symbol that can be interpreted as the totality stage of a solar eclipse. A definite disc surrounded by rays or prominances.

Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.
Public Domain.

Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.
Public Domain.

A widely reported recent example of a petroglyph from Chaco Canyon which supposedly illustrates a solar eclipse does indeed show rays or prominences (flames?) around its edges, but it lacks the circle defining the blackened interior of the sun obscured by the moon. For this reason, while I accept it as a possible sun symbol, I certainly cannot accept it as an illustration of an eclipse. To my thinking it just does not fit all the criteria to illustrate a total eclipse.


Faris, Peter
2013 A Possible Total Eclipse Of The Sun In Rock Art, February 9,

2013 Another Possible Solar Eclipse Symbol In Rock Art, February 23,