Steve Bartholomew

This essay has been published in Volume 10, Number 61 of Ancient American.  (March 2005.)  A brief addendum follows the article posted here. 


This is a report on two Ogam stones in Northern California.  One is secret, the other is not.  One is in danger, the other is safe.  I will tell you how to find one, but not the other.  Both are equally ancient, equally sacred, equally mysterious. 

The first part of this essay is actually a follow-up to an article of mine published in Ancient American, Volume IV issue #27.  That article concerned a stone usually referred to as “Baby Rock” and located in Lake County, California, not far from Clear Lake.  At the time we examined this first stone, it was clear that Ogam script covered nearly all available surfaces.  However, there was one prominent petroglyph on top of the stone the like of which I had seen nowhere else.  Because of its compass orientation, there was good reason to think it might be a summer solstice marker.  However, this idea had not yet been verified at the time the previous article was published. 

For those not familiar with the Ogam controversy:  Ogam is an alphabet originally made on notched sticks as well as carved on stone.  Conventional scholars continue to insist that Ogam was invented by the Irish during Roman times.  This belief flies in the face of overwhelming evidence of its use on the European Continent and elsewhere millennia before the Romans.  Ogam is probably one of the oldest forms of writing on Earth:  Dr Barry Fell was able to show how closely it is related to Hittite cuneiform.[1] 

Ogam script is usually composed of vertical lines across a horizontal baseline; or it may be drawn vertically with horizontal lines across a vertical base.  The Celts wrote horizontal Ogam from left to right, but there is a Semitic form found on the Iberian peninsula and in North Africa, written from right to left.  There are several criteria we use to determine whether a petroglyph is genuine Ogam or merely random scratches on a rock.  One is the presence of a baseline, which is sometimes only implied by the relative positions of other strokes.  A second determinative is the number of strokes present and their grouping.  An Ogam letter may include from one to five strokes.  If there are six or more strokes in one group I would rule it out as writing (though it could indicate a number). 

Most important is the presence of syntax.  Is it possible to put the letters together so they make sense?  If I see the same group of letters repeated several times in one location, I assume that the writer was endeavoring to communicate a definite, symbolic meaning and not just making random scratches. 

Our Ogam stone #1 easily fulfilled all these criteria.  For example, in one area we find the letters “L-G” repeated over and over.  This could indicate the Celtic Lugh, god of light.  This would be appropriate for a solstice observatory, which the artifact is in fact.  Also noted is what appears to be the Druidic “awen” sign, in several places.   

"G-L" and Awen symbols

This stone has been referred to as “Baby Rock,” since it was supposedly used in Pomo fertility rituals.  (Pomo Indians have continuously occupied this area for the past 10,000 years.)  The fertility story may or may not be valid, but it was certainly an observatory.

The only way we could check on this theory was to go to the stone’s location on June 21, Summer Solstice, and observe the sunrise.  I realized I could insert a small twig (or in this case, a pencil) into the hole in the center of the petroglyph referred to earlier. 

Summer Solstice Sunrise

On the morning of Solstice, a shadow cast by the stick exactly reaches to the end of the triangular pointer below it.  Note that this does not happen until after 8:30 a.m.  Although sunrise is much earlier, the sun does not actually clear the hill to the east, and cast a shadow, until then. 

What I had failed to realize at first was that this glyph is not only a marker for solstice sunrise – it also works at sunset!  There is a second pointer above the circle.  At sunset on June 21, a shadow cast by the inserted stick almost exactly reaches the end of the upper pointer.(2)  This is a double verification of the purpose of this petroglyph, which occupies the most prominent position on the stone.  

Solstice Sunset

Further, notice there is another line in each of the triangular pointers which goes across, dividing them in two.  I was puzzled by this line, until I watched the stick shadow gradually lengthen as the sun just touched the horizon.  At this point, if the inserted stick is the correct length, its shadow will meet the perpendicular line. 

As the sun finally sinks below the visible horizon, the stick’s shadow just reaches the tip of the pointer.  In other words, the area between the line and the tip defines the apparent diameter of the sun. 

Why was this detail important to the ancient astronomers who invented this device?  I can’t answer that question, but evidently it was important.   

I therefore refer to this artifact as “Solstice Rock,” which name I believe adequately justified.  Aside from the Solstice indicator, there are a number of other petroglyphs with probable astronomical functions.  One is a “star” formation which seems to point to the four cardinal directions as well as the four cross-quarter points.  As far as I know, this artifact is absolutely unique in the United States; there is nothing else exactly like it. 

Solstice Rock is located on private property in Lake County.  It is not protected by any Government or institution.  It’s situated on the bank of a seasonal creek which is gradually eroding.  The owners and neighbors do their best to preserve it by not broadcasting its existence to tourists, which is why I am not more specific about its location.  I can only hope that someday Solstice Rock will be properly studied by those capable of understanding it – while it still exists.