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Marking Time and Place - Eclipse Representations in the Late Prehistoric Rock Art of the Central Mississippi River Valley

Author(s): Russell Weisman

Year: 2016

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Summary

Total solar eclipses are perhaps the most dramatic of celestial events. During a total eclipse, for a few moments, while the moon passes unseen between the earth and the sun, viewers positioned directly in line with the sun and moon experience totality. The sun goes black. Day turns suddenly to dusk, winds stir and animals assume their night time behaviors. It is then and only then that the sun’s luminous and variable corona becomes visible.

Solar eclipse representations have been widely identified in ancient rock art. Eclipses differ from other transient astronomical events because the date and place of their past occurrence can be calculated for every site, making it possible to consider relationships between putative eclipse representations and dated events.

The spatial patterning of late prehistoric rock art motifs in Missouri and Illinois that may be eclipse related are reviewed in relation to the central paths of particular eclipses visible from those sites. Sites that experienced totality during two rare ‘black sunrise’ eclipses in the years 831 and 941 are highlighted. Eclipses may have prompted the creation of representational rock art as visual markers denoting places within the landscape that were sanctified by contact with the celestial shadow.


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Marking Time and Place - Eclipse Representations in the Late Prehistoric Rock Art of the Central Mississippi River Valley. Russell Weisman. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403490)


Keywords


Spatial Coverage

min long: -104.634; min lat: 36.739 ; max long: -80.64; max lat: 49.153 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America