Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of Apr 8th - Apr 14th, 2005

Native American Observatories

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      Over the last few weeks, I have been driving throughout the Southeast, visiting mound sites and attempting to unearth their riches. Having interviewed a few of the directors of these State Parks, a picture has begun to emerge of a common culture which extends to at least to 1700 BC (Poverty Point, LA), and possibly as far back as 4,000 BC (Watson Break, LA). These centuries are arrived at through a combination of radio carbon dating and the observation of astronomical alignments. How extensive these sites were has been largely lost to time, although in Louisiana alone there are some 700 artificial mounds which have been registered.

      What is obvious at each of these sites is that a hierarchy organized their communities into gathering wicker baskets loaded with earth, which were then carried and dumped in pre-selected locations, some of them quite extensive. At Moundville, Alabama for instance there are some twenty mounds in the central complex alone, with others located more distant from the central location. While one archaeologist expressed the opinion that if all of this earth was moved to build these mounds, then they must have been doing so in order to contain something; presumably burials; but for the number of burials which have been found surprisingly few yield bones of the dead. It is my own view that these sites were not created as mortuaries, but rather to lift their people above the plain, to a higher location from which they could better observe the stars. Cherokee Soul

      This notion is perhaps best substantiated at Cahokia, outside of St Louis, where, aside from a huge artificially created mound, they have also discovered a ring of postholes not dissimilar to the circle encountered at Phase One of Stonehenge, dating in England from around 3,000 BC. This circle is too small to represent a protective enclosure, yet too large for any sort of ceremonial lodge or dwelling. A more rational explanation seems to be that it was constructed to measure and observe the motions of the stars, Sun and Moon, in other words to help determine measures of time as a calendar. Indeed, if we lift our gaze from the regional perspective, we find that these sites, using the local materials available, can be found around the entire country. In the Northeast probably the most famous site is Mystery Hill, located in North Salem, NH. Another is located in Groton, CT. In fact, there are over 600 known sites of the dry mortar construction which is similar to those found at these locations, including one found in Woodstock, VT, and another in Heath, MA. Naturally, there is the Big Horn medicine wheel located in the Rockies, and several better documented sites in the Southwest. The list goes on and on. While the materials used in the construction of these sites differed, each employed local materials, and all were guided by a single objective, to chart the heavens and understand the motions of heaven and the rhythm of time.

Moundville       Naturally, from North America we can look south and find observatories of the Aztec and Maya in Central America, and then across the sea to Asia, Europe and even Africa.

      Everywhere people were watching the skies in an attempt to get in touch with the divine plan, and to stay in harmony with the will of heaven, in any of the various ways in which they saw these themes written in the stars.

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