California Tree Carving Hints at
Early Chumash Astronomy
California: It's called "the scorpion tree" by locals. But the centuries-old gnarled oak in San Luis Obispo County is more than that. It's the West Coast's only known Native American Arborglyph.
In 2006, when Rex Saint Onge saw its 3 foot ancient carving -- a six-legged, lizard-like beast topped with a crown and two large spheres -- he knew what it was.
really the first one to come across
it who understood that it was a
Chumash motif," says Saint Onge
who had seen similar Chumash
painted on rock
formations from San Luis Obispo
a paleontologist, I live my life
looking down at the ground," he
didn't know much about astronomy at
Ursa Major rotates around the
North Star every 24 hours.
"It's the third largest
constellation in the sky, and they
saw it every single night for tens
of thousands of years," he said. "It was
like the TV being stuck on the same
channel playing the same show
Saint Onge says the arborglyph and
rock paintings partly served
as Chumash calendars. "This gives us
an insight into what the indigenous
people of Central California were
doing," he said. "It
wasn't just the daily ...
tasks of hunter-gatherers. They were
actually monitoring the stars."
No one knows
Saint Onge says the arborglyph and rock paintings partly served as Chumash calendars. "This gives us an insight into what the indigenous people of Central California were doing," he said. "It wasn't just the daily ... tasks of hunter-gatherers. They were actually monitoring the stars."
No one knowsthe Arborglyph's age. It's believed a Chumash family may have cared for it until they died in the 1918 flu epidemic. It's now in poor condition. Saint Onge is grateful that he found it at all.
"The upkeep of the motif itself has
gone by the wayside and it's not
long for the world," he said, "so I think it was a good
thing that we came across it when we
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