Monday, 21 June 2004
The Longest Day Dawns In Parowan
CREDIT: © Ian Scott-Parker/CAMwrangler.com
WHERE: Parowan, Utah. WHAT: probable ancient celestial observatory & calendar.
MAP: Parowan. Thumbnail click pops-up larger image.
Parowan, Utah, has witnessed the migrations of several cultures. Presently the dominant culture is formed by Euroamerican members of the LDS (Mormon) church. This is slowly changing as Gentiles (the LDS name for non LDS people) dilute the numbers down from almost 100% church membership after the previous 'Native American' culture of the Paiute people was displaced. In some parts of the state church membership is said to be as low as 50% of the population, while Utah County south of Salt Lake City claims the highest percentage, still said to be at traditional levels of almost exclusively LDS members. None of these statistical statements is claimed to be sourced or accurate, but rather the generally retold perceptions from anecdotal conversations. When we visited Parowan we ate at a Mexican restaurant, staffed by Hispanic people, and occupied by customers who might have been from anywhere; and some of us were.
The heritage of the presently dominant culture is seen on the Parowan.org museums page. Our own picture shows the Old Rock Church, taken from the rear to better show the construction from whence its name derives. A fuller version of the heritage story is told in six  parts by Nancy Dalton on the Parowan.com web site. The Utah History To Go web site has a piece by Will Bagley that discusses the LDS (Mormon) 'Iron Mission' that founded the town. Blaine S. Nay adds more historical detail, and has a picture of the front elevation of the church.
Today's date, 21 June is Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere, takes us back to those earlier people who lived around Paragoon, which was their name for this place. West of the town there is a geological feature known as a 'wind gap'. These are created when a stream that cuts down through a rising mountain blocks, in this case the Red Mountains, eventually becomes a victim of the uplift, leaving a dry cutting through the mountains. Often wind erosion takes over where the water left off, leaving intricately carved rock formations and erosional surfaces.
Our picture shows not the main gap at Parowan, but rather the inter mountain bowl, looking east. Across this low ridge the rising sun streams towards the main gap, and the setting sun shines through the main gap to fade on some of the ridge points. The ancients observed the apparent movement of the sun over the course of the year, and one compelling interpretation of the petroglyphs in the gap is that this place was a vast celestial observatory and calendar.
We have chosen three resources to tell the archaeological story of Parowan: Nowell 'Nal' Morris, a former NASA physicist who teaches archaeo-astronomy and archaeology at Utah Valley State College, has a page on the Parowan.org web site that introduces almost a decade of his research into the Parowan glyphs.
The Hamilton's ScienceViews.com web site is a rich resource, and includes two  pages on the Parowan caves, and four  pages containing forty eight pictures of the glyphs, taken by Calvin J. Hamilton, Randy M. Hamilton, and Rosanna Hamilton. There is also a page on the associated Rush Lake Legend.
Dale R. Bascom has two  pages of pictures taken at the time of a study session, when guide Stan Johnson explained the calendric functions of the glyphs.
Sadly, we read on the ScienceViews.com site that current warnings not to touch glyphs, backed by legal action against transgressors, seem not to have been in place as recently as 1963, when these precious artifacts were being blown apart with dynamite! The estimated destruction of about half the glyphs, extant when the first modern settlers arrived, speaks volumes about the foundations of our own culture.
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Jules Laforgue (1860-1887)
"Ah! que la vie est quotidienne."
Oh, what a day-to-day business life is.
'Complainte sur certains ennuis' (1885)