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Judaculla Rock, NC- Solstice Horizon Marker

By Ray Urbaniak, October 15, 2009

 

I am a Rock Art Researcher specializing in Solstice & Equinox Markers.  I published a book entitled ANASAZI of SW UTAH, The Dance of Light & Shadow, that is available on this website.

 

On a recent visit to Ashville, North Carolina to visit my son, daughter-in- law, and grandson, I took a short one hour plus trip to the southwest corner of the state to visit the Judaculla Petroglyph Rock near Sylva in Jackson County that is open to the public year round during daylight hours.

 

 

Plate 1. Unfortunately the lighting as well as leaves on the large soapstone boulder did not lend to a very detailed photograph.  For better photos of the entire 16 foot x 11 foot boulder visit. http://www.cs.unca.edu/nfsnc/rock_art/judaculla.html Plate 2. In addition to the grooves and figures the rock has a lot of cupules, (circular indentions in the rock, that are among the oldest forms of Rock Art that have been found in the world, some dating back as much as 50,000 years.

 

 

The rock art at this site is purported to have been made in the Late Archaic Period or Early Woodland Period between 2,000-5,000 years ago according to my Internet research.

 

Plate 3. Much to my surprise, I noticed that the large deep groove was very similar to many Solstice & Equinox Horizon Pointers I have recorded in Utah. Plate 4. The exact horizon view is obstructed by recently planted reeds or bamboo plants.  I climbed up a slight hill to the road and photographed the view at 304 degrees.

 

I checked the direction it was pointing with my compass and got a reading of 304 degrees.  This should have been close to the Summer Solstice Sunset point.

 

The compass pointed to a natural viewing point on the horizon.  This indicates that the rock was selected because it was positioned to view the Summer Solstice Sunset and was therefore the logical place to peck in a Summer Solstice Horizon Sunset pointer.

 

After returning home to Utah, I checked the declination (correction factor for Magnetic North vs. true North) for Sylva, North Carolina.

 

I also checked the US Naval Observatory web site to find the azimuth (degrees clockwise around a circle starting at due North) for the setting Sun on the Summer Solstice for the Sylva, NC area.  This turned out to be 298.3 degrees and the declination correction factor for Sylva, NC turned out to be minus 5.3 degrees.  Therefore 304 minus 5.3 degrees was an almost perfect match of 298.7 degrees.

 

Plate 5. I then did a Google Earth Summer Solstice Sunset simulation on the computer and it matched.  Google Earth Sun is a great tool for simulating sunrise and sunset on the Solstices and Equinoxes from any GPS location.

Plate 6.  I feel quite certain that this rock was used as a Summer Solstice Sunset observation point and possibly as a Winter Solstice Sunrise observation point as well if viewed in the opposite direction.
 

 

Both of these solstice pointers need to be observed directly for visual confirmation, but it is highly likely that this is the first Solstice Marker to be confirmed in North Carolina http://www.cs.unca.edu/nfsnc/rock_art/judaculla.html website says that prior to my observations that none had previously been confirmed.

“It has been suggested that some sites appear to be related to comets or solstice observations.  But again, there is no site in North Carolina thought to serve this purpose.”

Plate 7. The Sun rises in a notch on the horizon per this Google Earth simulation.

 

 

 

 


 

 

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