[Dipity] ~ Mystery Of The Skystone ~

peter webster peterweb at TELEPORT.COM
Mon Apr 17 12:02:26 UTC 2000

Not the hee hee stone?
> The mystery of Skystone
>Rock may be early celestial observatory, researchers suggest
>By: Rob Tucker;
>   A large rock that the Puyallup Tribe of Indians says has cultural and
>historical significance also might have scientific importance: Two
>researchers think it might be a centuries-old observatory and seasonal
>  Archaeologist Gerald Hedlund of Tacoma and retired astronomer Dennis Regan
>of Kent believe they have discovered some of the secrets of the rock they
>call Skystone.
>  "It's a three-dimensional map of the heavens and Earth," Hedlund said.
>  "It looks simple," Regan said, "but there's a lot complexity underneath."
>  Their work breaks new ground in this state, said Robert Whitlam,
>Washington's archaeologist.
>  "It's an important find," Whitlam said. "It's an intriguing, ongoing
>scientific story."
>  Skystone resembles a rough parallelogram. It's 41/2 feet high and its
>top surface is about 12 feet across. It's made of dark, grayish andesite,
>common to glacial moraines in the area, and apparently was artificially
>flattened and shaped over the years.
>  The rock is in a hilly meadow south of Bonney Lake on historic Elhi Hill
>above the Fennel Creek and Puyallup River valleys. Its exact location is
>being withheld to protect the rock.
>  Hedlund said that years ago, the rock, sitting near the top of a high
>probably was in an open area, possibly an extension of nearby Connell's
>Prairie - a good place for observing the heavens. Now the site is surrounded
>by tall fir trees.
>  Regan said that though Skystone appears unique to Western Washington,
>ancient observatories have been found elsewhere, from Idaho to Mexico. Known
>as "sun daggers," they were built by ancient Indian tribes.
>  On April 8, Hedlund presented a paper entitled, "A Prehistoric Observatory
>in Western Washington," at the Northwest Anthropological Meetings in
>Spokane. He and Regan say the precise alignments of man-made holes on the
>top surface suggest the rock was used as:
>* A direction finder for true north by indicating the location of Polaris,
>the North Star.
>* A predictor of lunar standstills, which occur every 9.3 years when the
>moon reaches its greatest distance from the Earth to the north or south.
>* A locator of certain stars and constellations, such as Sirius, the Little
>Dipper and Orion.
>* Sight lines to geographical features that possibly held religious or
>cultural significance - Mount Rainier, the old peak of Mount St. Helens
>before it was destroyed by volcanic eruption in 1980 and possibly Mount
>* A way to predict the changing of summer and winter seasons by marking the
>position of the sun.
>Skystone was made at least 200 years ago by ancestors of the Puyallups,
>Hedlund said.
> "They wanted to organize their lives," he said. "They wanted to know when
>the sun was coming back."
>  "People then were just as intelligent as they are now," Regan said. "They
>were very familiar with heavens, sun and nature."
>  Many questions remain about the site, both men said.
>  For one, Hedlund suggests Skystone might have been moved to its current
>resting place by ancestors of the Puyallup Tribe, who viewed it as sacred.
>  He noted the rock appears to be resting at the head of a large, flat,
>terraced area of the meadow.
>  Regan, however, says the rock likely was too dense and heavy to be moved.
>believes people centuries ago discovered it and worked on it where it was.
> How the markings were used
>  Hedlund said he found 20 man-made holes or depressions on the top of the
>rock and others on certain sides of the rock. To use the alignments, people
>probably placed pegs, sticks or small rocks in the holes or used cordlike
>material to connect them, Hedlund said.
>  Some spiritual leaders of the Puyallup Tribe believe the holes in the
>top represent a prehistoric map of the area. Hedlund and Regan, using
>computer models based on the alignments of man-made holes on the rock,
>believe Skystone to be much more.
>  After studying the alignments, Hedlund and Regan found evidence the site
>an observatory. Its primary function was to help people to predict solstices
>or equinoxes, Hedlund said.
>  A solstice occurs when the sun is the farthest north or south of the
>and marks the change in seasons. Equinoxes occur when the sun crosses the
>Equator and day and night are equal, usually about March 21 and Sept. 23.
>  Some holes on the rock were projections of the positions of stars in the
>Orion constellation, Regan said. Other hole alignments on the rock's surface
>pointed directly toward certain stars, such as extra-bright Sirius. That
>allowed the people to tie in certain stars to significant religious events.
>  "The sky was their TV set," Regan said. "They saw spirits in both heaven
>earth linked."
>  Regan and Hedlund said there are too many accurate and precise alignments
>the holes on the rock's surface to be coincidental. For example, the
>alignments for the summer solstice sunrise is perfect, and the winter
>solstice sunrise alignment is off no more than 1 degree, Regan said.
>  "One infers that the error is too small to be made by mere chance," he
>Before the Europeans
>  Both scientists said they cannot tell how old the rock markings are. Both
>believe they predate European occupation of the area, which occurred in the
>early 1800s.
>  Hedlund said the holes were formed by people using stone to peck on stone,
>pre-European settlement activity. And Europeans who settled here wouldn't
>have to make the hole alignments on the rock's surface because they would
>have the information on their old calendars, he said.
>  By studying the alignment of Polaris, the scientists also can roughly
>estimate the age of the markings at a few hundred years.
>  Carbon-dating would be more accurate, but they haven't found artifacts
>around the rock that can be carbon-dated. Hedlund said a major
>archaeological dig might recover such artifacts.
>Different interpretations
>  As with any new discovery, Skystone has triggered debate among scientists.
>  Hedlund, for example, says the rock could have been used to predict when
>gather certain fruits or the time for a certain type of religious
>  But Regan thinks the site was used mainly for rituals to celebrate or
>reinforce what the people already knew - when the season changes occurred,
>where certain stars were.
>  And astronomer E.C. Krupp, who has visited more than 1,600 sites worldwide
>to study astronomy in ancient cultures, cautioned against overinterpreting
>the meaning of the rock and the hole alignments.
>  Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, said he would
>need more proof before he would accept the suggestion that Skystone might be
>an old observatory.
>  He said the native peoples probably already knew when the solstices
>by observing the heavens, and didn't need the rock. And they already knew
>where the stars and Mount Rainier were, he said.
>  Also, knowledge of lunar standstills is very hard to prove among old or
>ancient cultures and requires more evidence than finding the hole
>  "The site sounds to me like it's for rituals or an educational site," he
>  Anthony Aveni teaches astronomy and archeo-astronomy, the study of
>in ancient cultures, at Colgate University in upstate New York.
>  "It wouldn't surprise me," he said, "to find native people in that part of
>the U.S., even hunter-gatherers, who would need to know the time of year,
>the time to move" when winter was coming.
>  The people also might have observed the heavens for religious reasons, he
>He said he couldn't say whether the evidence supported Hedlund and Regan's
>findings because he hasn't seen the site or the evidence. But, he said, what
>they found is "certainly possible."
>A rediscovery for tribe
>  Dr. J.F. Juarez, a Pueblo Indian and former head of the Puyallup tribal
>clinic, knows about the site. He wrote down Salish Indian songs that speak
>of the sacred site, compiled testimony of tribal members he treated over the
>years and consulted old histories of the area.
>  Last year, Puyallup tribal members visited the site with Juarez. Then the
>tribal council visited the site.
>  The tribal council, in a statement issued on Friday, called the find "an
>exciting rediscovery for the Puyallup Tribe, considering the rock carving is
>located in their traditional usual and accustomed area."
>  The tribe was briefed on the initial findings in February. Tribal
>will help develop a plan to protect "this fascinating cultural feature," the
>tribe said.
>  "It's great for tribal heritage," Hedlund said. "It was lost to them. They
>didn't know there was an organized world for them (in the past). Now they
>know. We're just the mediums."
>* Staff writer Rob Tucker covers east Pierce County. Reach him at
>253-597-8374 or rob.tucker at mail.
>tribnet.com. - 04/17/2000
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