An ancient petroglyph found on a rock at Chaco Canyon in the United States may represent a phenomenon in the sky observed by the ancient Pueblo Indians in 1097, scientists believe.
And while millions in the U.S. await the total solar eclipse of August 21, it turns out that a petroglyph found in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park in the state of New Mexico reveals a similar event observed by Pueblo Indians nearly 1000 years ago.
The enigmatic carving has a distinctive circular shape, marked with a solid center that was represented with a solid center and strange spirals seen on all sides.
According to professor Emeritus J. McKim ‘Kim’ Malville, of the University of Colorado in Boulder, quoted by the page of the educational center, the drawing carved in the rock known as Piedra del Solrepresents a circle similar to the solar corona, with tangled protuberances emerging from the edges. The investigator claims that the petroglyph could be the representation of a total solar eclipse that occurred around July 11, 1097.
“To me, it looks like a circular feature with curved tangles and structures,” said Malville of CU Boulder’s astrophysical and planetary sciences department.
“If one looks at a drawing by a German astronomer of the 1860 total solar eclipse during high solar activity, rays and loops similar to those depicted in the Chaco petroglyph are visible.”
The ancient petroglyph, first discovered in 1992, also depicts a large spiral petroglyph on its side that marks the sunrise about 15 days before the June solstice. A triangular shadow projected by a large rock on the horizon intersects the center of the spiral at that time. Malville contends that the same could have been used to start a countdown for the summer solstice and related festivities. That side of the rock also contains a hole in the shape of a cup where people probably left offerings.
According to Malville, one tangled loop jutting from the petroglyphs at Chaco Canyon may depict a coronal mass ejection—a massive eruption that is so powerful that it can blow BILLIONS of tons of plasma from the sun, at several million miles per hour.
“This was a testable hypothesis,” Malville said. “It turns out the sun was in a period of very high solar activity at that time, consistent with an active corona and CMEs.”
Professor Malville is convinced that he’s right about the meaning of the petroglyphs.
In fact, in 2014 Malville and fellow colleague Professor José Vaquero of the University of Extremadura in Cáceres, Spain, published a paper about the petroglyph in the Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry.
The researchers argue how the numerous features of the petroglyphs, together with a set of carved stairs near the rock are “indicative of the site’s ceremonial importance.”
“This possible eclipse petroglyph on Piedra del Sol is the only one we know of in Chaco Canyon,” Malville said. “I think it is quite possible that the Chacoan people may have congregated around Piedra del Sol at certain times of the year and were watching the sun move away from the summer solstice when the eclipse occurred.”