Friday, June 09, 2006

About Petroforms - sent in by Tim MacSweeney

As It Is Above, So It Is Below
By Patricia A. Kurtz
Throughout the ages, mankind has created relationships with the stars. Cultures wove their beliefs and traditions into stories told around campfires or inside their homes. While modern man typically considers this sharing process to have been mostly an oral tradition, perhaps some enterprising ancient North Americans also put their cosmology into a more permanent record. Instead of paper, they used the ground; instead of pens and pencils, they used colored stones…
Many ancient Native Americans were dedicated and discerning observers of the sky. We know that some of them built elaborate devices with which they could predict solstice, equinox, stellar risings and settings, lunar standstills and eclipses. In 1997, Herman Bender of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, discovered an assembly of rocks, called a petroform, near Horicon Marsh that was created by a prehistoric culture. With color-coded rocks--particularly white granite and red rhyolite--and meticulous precision, the people had laid out a human-shaped effigy 55 feet in height that, when viewed from the air, eerily resembles a mirror reflection of the constellation Scorpius.

By definition, a petroform can be one of a number of different kinds of rock or lithic formations, including stone circles, such as the well-known Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming. Often found on hilltops, petroforms can be as simple as a cairn of rocks, or as complicated as lines of rocks and figures arranged on the ground in the form of animals and/or humans. In addition to their spiritual associations, the petroforms and related mounds and circles can function as a form of calendars, pointing to summer and winter solstice and equinox sunrises and/or sunsets, the cardinal directions, eclipses and other cosmic events. The largest found to date—nicknamed Star Man—measures 62 feet. Individual elements in the groupings can measure from a few feet to many feet in size. According to archaeologist Dr. Jeffrey Behm of the University of Wisconsin, petroforms have been found in Wisconsin, the Ohio Valley, the Northeast, the Southeast, the northern Plains, and in the inter-mountain West. He suspected they were once widespread throughout North America.

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