Ancient Tree Carving Points to the Stars  

Posted by Drew Versak in , ,


On the trunk of a gnarled, centuries-old oak tree, about 90 miles southwest of Phoenix, Ariz., are odd carvings of six-legged, lizard-like beings.

The tree is located at Painted Rock, an archaeological site peppered with hundreds of ancient petroglyphs, images created upon rock surfaces.

Known as the "scorpion tree," locals had long believed that cowboys were behind the tree carving (the technical term is "arborglyph"). But paleontologist Rex Saint Onge knew it dated to long before then.

His analysis offers a glimpse not only into the cultural history of the Chumash people, the Native American tribe that once inhabited the region; it also provides unique insights into their scientific expertise.

Although Saint Onge is uncertain how old the tree carving is, he believes that nearby Chumash residents may have maintained it until the early 20th century.

The images at Painted Rock were originally written off by past researchers as "the work of wild-eyed, drug-induced shamans." However, the arborglyph led Saint Onge to connect the symbols within the carving with the stars in the sky.

More from Time's Matt Kettmann:

After spending more time at the site, Saint Onge realized that the carved crown and its relation to one of the spheres was strikingly similar to the way the constellation Ursa Major -- which includes the Big Dipper -- related to the position of Polaris, the North Star.


He quickly learned that the constellation rotates around the North Star every 24 hours, that its placement during sunset could be used to tell the seasons and that the Chumash people also revered this astronomical relationship in their language and cosmology.

Although the Chumash had long been characterized as a kind of primitive society, Saint Onge's findings indicate that they were in fact so much more.

From the source.

Drew Versak(semi)creative genius

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at Wednesday, February 10, 2010 and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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