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Astronomical Carvings And Paintings Made By Pueblo Culture Discovered In Colorado

The findings have huge implications for what we thought we knew about these ancient people.

Russell is a Science Writer with IFLScience and has a PhD in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology

Dr. Russell Moul

Russell is a Science Writer with IFLScience and has a PhD in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology.

Science Writer

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A female researcher sits on a rock ledge by a rock panel showing various carvings, including a prominent spiral.

Archaeologists have found new petroglyphs that change what we knew about the Ancestral Pueblos at this time. 

Image credit: Jagiellonian University.

Archaeologists from Jagiellonian University, Kraków, have discovered astronomical carvings and paintings made by the Pueblo culture, one of the most advanced pre-Columbian societies in America.

The ancient Puebloans, also known as the Ancestral Pueblos, first emerged at the beginning of the cultivation era and lasted until around 1600 CE in the region that spans modern Utah and sections of Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. The culture is known for its multi-story stone houses (called “pueblos” from which their name is derived), rock art, ornate jewelry, and painted ceramics.

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The Ancestral Pueblos mostly lived on the flatlands in semi-subterranean pit houses occasionally encircled by wooden stockards. Their famous agricultural practices were also accompanied by basket weaving and mat making.

The new findings come from the Castle Rock Pueblo settlement complex, located on the Mesa Verde plateau, on the border between Colorado and Utah. These areas have become popular with archaeologists and tourists alike because they are home to famous pre-Columbian settlements that were built into cave niches or carved into the canyon wall. They also contain rock art that dates back just less than 3,000 years ago.

Based on local reports, archaeologists started exploring areas of the typically harder-to-reach cliffs, especially within the Sand Canyon, Graveyard Canyon, and Rock Creek Canyon sites in the settlement complex.

It seems there were many previously unknown petroglyphs hidden in inaccessible places about 800 meters (2,624 feet) above the cliff settlements. Amazingly, the rock panels extended over 4 kilometers (2.48 miles) around the plateau.

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On them, the Ancestral Pueblos had carved 1meter wide (3.28 feet) spiral carvings that were used for astronomical observations and to record the dates of some special days in the calendar, such as the summer and winter solstices and the spring and autumn equinoxes.

Spirals up to 1 meter across were used by the Pueblo people for astronomical observations and to determine the soltices and equinoxes.
Spirals up to 1 meter across were used by the Pueblo people for astronomical observations and to determine the soltices and equinoxes.
Image credit: Jagiellonian University


“These discoveries forced us to adjust our knowledge about this area” Professor Radosław Palonka, an archaeologist at Jagiellonian University explained in a statement.

“Definitely we have underestimated the number of inhabitants who lived here in the 13th century and the complexity of their religious practices, which must have also taken place next to these outdoor panels.”

In addition to these spirals, the team discovered carvings of warriors and shamans which probably date to around the 3rd century CE, in what is referred to as the Basketmaker Era.

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Most Puebloan petroglyphs were created between the 12th and 13th century CE, and evolved to include complicated geometric shapes and later whole narratives showing hunting scenes. Then when the Spanish arrived in America, horses appeared in carvings for the first time – as these animals were unknown to Native North Americans before this after disappearing from the continent during the last Ice Age.

This research would not have been possible without the support of local communities who helped the Polish archaeologists discover these amazing carvings.

“Members of the native tribes are keenly interested in the history of their ancestors and have repeatedly helped [our] researchers in understanding the iconography, rock art, and the functions of some buildings,” Jagiellonian University explained.


ARTICLE POSTED IN

humansHumanshumansancient ancestors
  • tag
  • Astronomy,

  • archaeology,

  • Native American culture,

  • pre-Colombian history,

  • ancient ancestors,

  • Ancestral Pueblos

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