Go to Paint Rock, Texas
and step back a thousand years in time.

Pictograph predicting vernal equinox

Pictograph of Spring sky predicts Spring equinox.

The Remarkable Winter/Spring Sky Chart

at Paint Rock, Texas.

The Newly Discovered Meaning of an old Pictograph.
Nothing similar yet found anywhere else - unique to Paint Rock.

Links to other Paint Rock pages:

Click here to go to our Paint Rock home page. Click here to go to Paint Rock's own home page.
Click Here visit Concho Valley Archeological Society. Click Here to Read an Article on Paint Rock.
Click Here to Read About "Rock Art of the Texas Indians". Click Here to Read yet another old story about Paint Rock.

A Thousand Years of Indian Pictographs at Paint Rock.
Solar and Stellar Observatories Still Work Centuries Later.

The Spring Sky Chart

Paint Rock is now known to have more archeoastronomy images than any other presently known pictograph/petroglyph site, at least that I am aware of. It has become clearly obvious that Paint Rock was a unique observatory where early astronomers posted their findings for posterity.

I first saw the pictographs in December of 2002 when I brought my cedar flute to play at the solstice observance. My flute playing was a big hit and I kept getting invited back and now have sort of become a fixture on solstice and equinox days. Being such a frequent visitor, I had many opportunities to see the paintings with my binoculars, since no one is allowed up on the sides of the palisades or cliffs where the paintings are. They are easily seen from the ground level even though they are 20 or more feet above you up the steep walls of the river canyon. Some of the images seemed somehow hauntingly familiar or reminded me of something but I didn't know what.

One painting in particular caught my eye and that one is shown above. The cute little triangular guy seemed almost out of place with the other figures and was a darker color; it may not seem so in the picture above, but he is distinctly dark brown while the others are much lighter and more reddish. It was beautifully painted and obviously deliberately made to look the way it does. When you see it, it commands your attention and your words of praise for a beautiful, well done work of art in an interesting style. It makes you wonder if it has some kind of meaning. As an amateur astronomer, I noticed an interesting resemblance of the little guy to Orion that you see in the winter sky, but the other stuff looked like gibberish.

 Closeup of Skywalker showing color difference

Closeup of Skywalker area shows the different color of the Skywalker from the other figures.

Later on as I was looking at the stars one evening I found there were some bright stars close enough to Orion and in the right places to trace out the lines of the cute little triangular guy, whom I promptly named "Skywalker". In looking around that same part of the sky, I immediately spotted the kite-like shape in Canis Major's tail and also the shape next to it in the picture. I could then see the shape of the goose-like form, which I call now goose, using Auriga, Gemini and the front part of Canis Major (Sirius is the heel). I knew right then and there that the painting depicted the night sky in winter, all I had to do was trace out the lines in the stars just the way the artist did hundreds of years ago. With the aid of my computer astronomy program, Celestron's "The Sky", I printed out many star charts showing the skies visible from Paint Rock and sure enough, I found all the parts of the artwork in the winter sky just like the pictograph showed them.

The artist was unaware of our standard Greek mythology model of constellations that we are all familiar with, so he just put together some shapes from the stars as he saw them and there was probably a story or stories involved with the panel, much as in the Greek myths. The same stars are there for everyone, it's that people see different shapes in clusters of them, just like looking at the clouds and seeing shapes. By understanding that people see things differently, we can feel free to look at them differently ourselves and see things we never noticed before. When we begin seeing the sky through another culture's eyes, it's like seeing a whole new sky.

Star map with artwork outlined to show stars involved in artwork. Star map with artwork outlined to show stars involved in artwork.

Considerable additional research showed me that the pictograph implies that Orion and the constellations that make up the Big Bird all rise in the sky in the direction indicated by the ray-like light-colored lines emanating downward from the Big Bird. Later on a tomahawk will rise and proceed in a different direction also indicated by the different direction its rays point to. Rather than rise high in the sky like the other stars, the tomahawk rotates in a more obviously circular movement around the star Gacrux. As the night progresses toward dawn, the tomahawk rotates from having the cutting blade facing down, through the perpendicular all the way until it sets in the blade up position, much like it would be if a person were pulling it back in preparation for striking with it.

There is some ambiguity as to which stars make up the shaft and handle of the tomahawk. There seem to be a couple of possibilities, one being the bright star, Canopus and the other being the two stars in the constellation Vela that linger closest to the horizon (see illustrations below). Canopus is a very bright star that slips below the horizon as the head of the tomahawk starts to rise in its circular path but it isn't visible except for the beginning of the cycle. The two stars in Vela hang around a little longer and might be considered the handle stars. Of course, they might all be in it as the Vela stars could be part of the shaft and Canopus the actual hand grip. My current thinking is that it is Canopus as it is so bright it's hard to miss. I was confused by this for a long time as I thought that the handle would remain in the sky longer but I now think I was wrong about that.

The star that the tomahawk appears to be circling, called Gacrux, shows up on the horizon as the two handle stars in Vela slip below the horizon. Gacrux is actually part of the Southern Cross, but from this latitude, Gacrux is the only star of that group that we can see.

Gacrux is interesting because it appears to stay on the horizon for almost two hours while all the other stars appear to rise and set around it, including the tomahawk. It is a star in the Southern Cross (Crux Australis). It will tell you when to look for the winter solstice. - the rock's lower edge represents the horizon and within a couple of weeks of the winter solstice is the only time you can see Gacrux at dawn. Thereafter it starts rising a little earlier each night until June, when it shows up in the evening. It cannot be seen again in the northern hemisphere because it rises and sets during the day until a couple of weeks before the winter solstice when it starts showing up again at dawn. When Gacrux appears on the horizon at dawn is the real indicator that the time of the winter solstice is near.

Now you know why Gacrux is important (It is the true harbinger of winter.) While that is very interesting, it has nothing to do with the vernal equinox as Gacrux rises around midnight and sets around 2:30 on that night and the tomahawk still appears to be rotating around it.

Star map with artwork outlined to show stars involved in artwork. Star map with artwork outlined to show stars involved in artwork. Star map with artwork outlined to show stars involved in artwork. Star map with artwork outlined to show stars involved in artwork.

Click here for a movie.

Click on bottom picture above to see a Quicktime movie of the tomahawk rotating during the night.

In the Quicktime movie above, the curved green line is the horizon and on the left side in the sky is Corvus, the cutting edge and Crater being the other end of the head of the tomahawk. If you use your imagination, you san visualize the head of the tomahawk in these two small constellations. The grip of the handle, I think, is the bright star Canopus, just to the right of the word South. As you watch the movie you can see the tomahawk circle around and disappear beneath the horizon. You can use the grey control bar right under the movie to replay the movie or to move to any part of the sequence so you can see how it works.

The pictograph appears to use the bottom of the rock it is on as the southern horizon and the and the end of the handle appears to be painted partly on the bottom side of the rock so as to show it going under the horizon. The tomahawk’s purpose seems to be to show the rotation of things close to the southern horizon. The tomahawk was painted with some light colored “rays” emanating from it, I think to indicate it's direction of motion.

 Closeup of Pictograph showing tomahawk

Closeup of tomahawk area shows directional rays and thin black lines.
What appears to be a faint star just left of the handle is actually only a late afternoon shadow, it's not part of the pictograph.

There are some thin black painted lines that may point to other stars on the horizon at the same time, such as SAO 241847 Spectral in Centaurus, Antares in Scorpio and Sabik in Ophiuchus as they are all on the horizon in the area where the lines point and they all rise in the sky in the same direction as the thin black lines.

Interestingly, on close examination, the painting uses the same dark brown color that coats the skywalker on the tip of the handle. All the rays are a watered down version of the reddish/light brown color that most of the figures are painted Nd that seems to me to indicate a direction of movenment. I think there might be a reason for that. This painting may have been done by a shaman and perhaps you had to be an initiate in order to learn what the symbols meant and how to use them.

For a while I wondered whether Gacrux itself might be the star that makes up the grip of the handle, but then I discovered that if it were the handle then the tomahawk could not be seen in the position it is in the pictograph and that brought that speculation to a halt. I emphasize that the Crux Australis star, Gacrux, is conspicuous because it stays close to the horizon and does not rise into the sky like the others. Gacrux as the handle just doesn’t fit in with the painting and everything else does.

More About The Spring Sky Chart

I call the figure on the left of the pictograph the Great Weasel and find that it takes up a huge part of the winter sky, comprising a dozen constellations. It is so big that you cannot see it's bottom parts, except that each night you can see a little more of it's feet and tail and as winter progresses toward spring, it's nose will be just below the northeastern horizon while his feet and tail are both finally visible just above the horizon in the southwestern sky just before dawn on the first day of spring. It stretches all across the sky - it's huge. and it appears that the last star in it's tail may point the same star in the Southern Cross that is, Gacrux. While both the Great Weasel's feet are seen pointing upward on the horizon, only part of its tail is above the horizon while the rest of it's tail dips beneath it. The artist's brush went 1/2 inch under the bottom of the ledge so that the last star in the tail points directly to Gacrux, which is already under the horizon by that time.

It is the fact that the only time you can see the entire Great Weasel as shown in the pictograph is at dawn on the vernal equinox that convinced me that this chart is intended to show the stars in the sky on that night. Both before and after the vernal equinox the feet and tail are beneath the horizon and cannot be seen at any other time of year except for a couple of weeks around the vernal equinox. Yes, there are some constellations depicted that are also winter constellations, but the full Great Weasel is the giveaway that it is a spring star chart. Knowing the first day of spring was important to crop-growers and there is another pictograph that implies that these people grew corn - very unusual in this area of the land that became Texas centuries later. See explanation below.

The animals pictured in the painting appear to me to be dead, as indicated by the feet being in a dead position and the Skywalker appears to be marching upwards to the heavens. Many Indians in the Southwest saw the sky as the place where the souls of the departed went and the the stars were their campfires. They believed that once a person died you could never say their name again as it would disturb the deceased's spirit, which would come and haunt you. The depiction of the animals as dead and the Skywalker on his way in the shadow while walking up the light, seems to confirm to me that the image is indeed of the sky in terms of the animals and things the local Indians saw among the campfires in the sky. The Indians saw all animals as related by being the other children of Mother Earth and there were animals in their afterlife where the hunt went on.

I hope my use of the word Indian to describe these unknown people, probably the ones the Spaniards called the Jumanos (humans), but I am part Indian, Choctaw, and to me, growing up in Oklahoma, the word Indian was always a good word and evoked visions of very special people who knew things about nature the others didn't and who possessed great skills that allowed them to thrive where others failed. To me the word Indian is preferrable to indigenous persons or natives or aborigines or whatever politically correct name anyone wishes to use and I am rightly proud of my Indian heritage and yes, I know both Choctaw and Cherokee history. Indian is only a bad word if you see it as bad, I see it as a good word, even if it is utterly inaccurate as none of these people had ever been to the East Indies.

As soon as I can get my scanner working again I will digitize and publish some more of the star charts showing which groups of stars are involved in each of the figures in the pictograph - it's amazing to watch it all come together as blobs of ancient paint become groups of constellations moving in the night sky in the direction of the motion indicating lines. It's like watching an ancient motion picture.

On the first day of spring a shadow is cast over the painting and at around 2:45 PM, the line separating light from shadow is right at the feet of the cute little guy, whom I now call the Skywalker, for obvious reasons, making it look as though he is walking up the ray of light to the sky. The angle of the light is perfectly perpendicular to the axis of the skywalker. This sign is regarded as a reliable indicator of the vernal equinox, but it may just be a coincidence. According to Mrs. Kay Campbell, on other days, the line does not line up with the feet and the line is also a crooked line at other times of the year. It is only straight for a couple of weeks on either side of the equinoxes, due to the alignment of overhead rocks.

Meanwhile, about 40 feet away, there is a small circle within a circle that has a spear of light briefly touch the center of the inner circle at the same time the light touches the skywalker's feet but it moves away quickly - Kay discovered it this year, March 20, 2005 when we were all present and we all saw it immediately when she yelped. She had been watching it for a couple of years, but the skies were rainy or just cloudy. Even a cloudy day will cause one of these to not work; they require a clear day. Yet another discovery in a ever increasing chain of them in this archeoastronomical observatory that is Paint Rock. This place is an archeoastronomer's playground. There's a lotta nice toys here to play with, but you can't touch them.

All of the information above and more packed wordlessly into eight blobs and a few smears of paint and a few black lines. I stand in awe of the artist who originally painted this masterpiece. It took me a lot of right frontal lobe exercise and a natural intuition aided by a computer running telescope maker, Celestron's software called "The Sky" to allow me to learn about the peculiar motions in this part of the sky in winter and how that can be used to predict when to look for solstices and equinoxes. The artist must have made many observations over time in order to use crude tools to paint this simple but eloquent work of art and science in one. I wonder if this guy was a telepathic contemporary of Leonardo da Vinci? Probably not, but he was pretty sharp.

There may be other possible explanations for this pictograph, this is the one that best suits the observable evidence and gives depth and meaning to an otherwise inexplicable puzzle of a few daubs of paint. Truly no other explanation does justice to this eloquent, but simple work of genius.

As far as I know, there are no other skymaps or similar charts yet discovered in any North American pictograph or petroglyph sites. It is unique to Paint Rock and that makes Paint Rock an even more special place.

Click here to go to our Paint Rock home page for other pictographs

The Winter Solstice Marker
Pictographs at least as old as 1054

The Hueco Tanks pictograph site near El Paso has images that go back several thousand years and so we might find some that are very old as well. Indian cultures all had unique styles of projectile points and so maybe different cultures had different styles of painting pictographs and we may one day learn the ages of more of the images as we learn more about the people who made them.

There are many other pictographs there depicting many things, some we think we know, such as solar eclipses, some unknown. Since it is art we are free to let our minds roam and see if we can find an explanation that makes sense and fits the images in the pictographs. It is an exhilerating feeling to figure out something that has befuddled people for so long. Since I am an avid amateur astronomer, I can see some things in some pictographs that people with less of an astronomical backgroud would have to have pointed out to them. I gladly do so since it helps us to understand what the artist was trying to convey.

There is another painting I am helping to interpret and it shows a healthy vigorous corn plant and below it, a bright sun and a wilted corn plant. I have attributed this panel to refer to the Green corn moon and the dry corn moon, the moons of June and July, respectively. These were great celebrations among corn growing indians who planted the three sisters of Indian crops, corn, beans and squash.

There are many, many more pictographs worth taking the time to look at, take pictures of and ponder over, all of them worth the trip.

We will be adding some new pictures soon showing the solstice and equinox indicators on the actual days so you can see them still working centuries after they were painted. We're just getting started with this page. In the meantime - - :

Click here to go to Paint Rock's home page to see more pictures of the pictographs and get more information.

March 25, 2003
It's spring again and the wildflowers are everywhere on the ranch in dense clumps and in dazzling arrays of colors. Even Mother Nature celebrates my annual spring haircut. Because I work outside, I let my hair and beard grow long for warmth during the fall and winter and get sheared short in the spring since that's cooler. I play my Choctaw cedar flute at Lake Brownwood as a prelude to the Easter sunrise service every year and the mountain-man look kinda adds to the aura of the flute music drifting through the woods in the gray predawn. The incredibly rich and soothing flute music makes the long wait of the early arrivals go easier and I have received many compliments.

I also played the Choctaw cedar flute at the Winter Solstice of 2002 and Vernal Equinox of 2003 celebrations at the pictographs site at Paint Rock, Texas. Paint Rock is a place which many native peoples over the centuries have treated as a holy place and painted many symbols on the cliff walls above the banks of the Concho River. Observations have confirmed some of these rock paintings to accurately predict the solstices and equinoxes and some that appear to be astronomical/astrological sky charts as well.

Chiefs, Shamans and spiritual practicioners of several tribes still come here to this special place to perform their rituals, usually alone because it's not done for show, though sometimes one will chant his chant and make his offerings oblivious to the presence of others. Over the centuries, Paint Rock has been home to many different cultures and so no restrictions are placed on native religious ceremonies nor is any form of disrespect permitted.

Fred and Kay Campbell have done everything they could to preserve and protect this place and these rock paintings. They lead personally guided tours at $5 for adults and $3 for children but they encourage the observance of the solstices and equinixes; however, so there's no admission or other charges at all for the solstice and equinox celebrations. Call them at 1-(325) 732-4376 and make a reservation for a tour and plan to spend some quality time in a special peaceful place on the banks of the cool Concho river. You'll learn some things about the Indians who lived here long ago that will surprise you. Feel free to bring a picnic basket and leave nothing but footprints in the dust and take nothing but memories and photographs. You'll come away with a peaceful feeling that might even change your life.

I hope this does not sound like a commercial; it's not. Paint Rock is not for entertainment like a powwow, but is a special place where one can commune with nature and meditate in a place that lets you feel an uncommonly strong connectedness with Mother Earth and all her other children. It feels as if some part of the spirits of those who were here before are still here. It is an invitation to open the eyes and ears of your soul to hear the stories of those whose innumerable campfires dot the night sky and whose names can never be said again. One comes away with a feeling of spiritual fulfillment and personal contentment. There are some places that just seem to have some kind of spiritual electromagnetic attraction. This place is one and so is "the Garden of the Gods" rock formations in Colorado.

April 3, 2004

I played my Choctaw cedar flute again this year at the Paint Rock Pictograph site during the winter solstice and again during the vernal equinox and discovered the meanings of some of the pictographs. Some of them were ritualistic, such as the paintings that honored the Green Corn Moon and the Ripe Corn Moon, two of the biggest celebrations of the year among corn growing indians.

Some of them were of astronomical significance, such as those depicting the supernovae of 1054 and 1572 and one that was a beautiful map of the winter/spring sky. Another was already known to be a reliable marker for the winter solstice. It's a real "Aha" moment when you finally figure out a pictograph. What was a mystery for a few centuries is suddenly clear.

All photographs were originally taken by and are courtesy of Fred Campbell unless other wise noted.

Bob Phillips' Texas Country Reporter did a story on me and the garlic for their long running TV program -
click here to see the 6:28 video on youtube:

Picture of the Garlicmeister playing his Indian flute.

Bob Anderson
Garlicmeister, a self-inflicted title for amusement only.
Photo courtesy of Bill Yeates.

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