The Landscape
LocationThe Eastern HorizonThe Western Horizon
coolest picture


The location of the rock art is another vital factor to analyze to understand the meanings of such art.  For starters, this gives important information about which tribes may have been in the area.  The Barstow petroglyphs are located on a remote hill five miles form the city of Barstow in Southern California (Note: The actual location of the petroglyphs cannot be disclosed here).  The area is extremely hot and dry, and uninhabitable during the summer months.  The rock itself, is about one meter wide and half a meter tall.  It was located 5 meters from the top of the hill.  The petrogyphs were carved on two sides of the rock, one facing east, and one facing west.  The stout rocks appeared to have been put in place by nature rather than men, although they definitely stood out as landmarks of the area.

Geographical Landmarks and Alignments

The Eastern Horizon (how exactly they used it...)

The Eastern Horizon, standing at the petroglyphs.  The double notch at which the alignments occur is shown in the center of the photo.

After taking careful readings of the surrounding horizon, we noted the positions of due east and of the solstice sunrises on the horizon.  There was no definitive landmark in the area at which summer solstice sunrise might occur.  However, the most prominent feature of the nearby mountains, a double-notched dip in the horizon line, aligned with 113°, the azimuth of winter solstice.

A trace of the horizon line of the Eastern horizon.  Alignments are marked and the position of solstice sunrise is shown.

The alignment of this prominent feature of the horizon with the azimuth of winter solstice sunrise supports the idea that these glyphs might have been used in astronomical observation.  The similar (115°) alignment of the edge of the western rock face further supports this idea.

If the Native Americans used these glyphs to observe the solstices, they would be able to determine when solstice would occur based on how close the azimuth of sunrise every morning was to the groove in the mountain and the line of the edge of the rock.

On the morning of solstice sunrise, the sun would appear as below.

Winter Solstice Sunrise may have been and important marker of times of migration for the Native Americans.

Winter solstice sunrise as it may have appeared to the Native Americans


The Western Horizon

Features of the western horizon.

There were fewer distinctive features of the western horizon because most of them were much further away.  The sharp groove drawn in the sketch on the closer mountain range was actually significantly darker than the surrounding land and may have been used as a landmark.  However, we did not investigate the origins of this darker coloring to know whether or not this feature was a natural occurrence which may have been around as early in history as the Native Americans who inhabited this region.

However, this groove is located relatively close to the azimuth of equinox sunset at 270°.  The alignment of the atlatl rock art is also shown in the sketch.  Perhaps since there were no good natural alignments to mark the equinox, the alignment of the atlatl was used instead.

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Chemehuevi doing migratory dance with jimson weed!