This may be my final word on Baby Rock, or Solstice Rock. There remain numerous unanswered questions. Not the least of these is: What is Celtic style Ogam writing doing on stones in California? It would be more comfortable to accept the orthodox academic view that this isn't writing at all, but random scratches made by Indians in some forgotten ritual. But personally I can not ignore the evidence. These "random scratches" follow certain rules of composition. They spell out definite letters and words that can be read. Baby Rock has many splendid examples of classic Ogam, begging to be deciphered:
Leaving this issue aside for the moment, I believe I have solved one minor puzzle. This is the slight degree of error found on the solstice marker. If you re-examine the pictures in the previous article, you will note that at sunrise and sunset the shadow of the gnomon is almost - but not quite - exactly in the middle of the triangle. The difference is a degree or two. Many observers might consider this unimportant, but being a Virgo and a perfectionist, the error bothered me.
My first thought was that there might have been ground movement at sometime in the past. This is a geologically active area, after all. Perhaps the Earth had shifted slightly, causing a slight error in the solstice clock. This explanation seemed too facile. The bedrock here must be extremely stable for the rock to last as long as it has. When examined closely, nothing else about this artifact is accidental. I had a feeling the "error" was deliberate.
I also considered precession of the equinoxes. After all, the position of Summer Solstice gradually changes. A brief consideration made it clear this is not a possible explanation. However, the issue may be as confusing to others as it was to myself, so a few words are in order:
Equinoctial precession is caused by a wobbling of the Earth around its axis - like a top beginning to wind down. The wobble is slow, so we don't normally notice it. But the variation is enough to shift the equinoxes by one day every 72 years. If the Summer Solstice was on June 21 this year, 72 years ago it was on June 20. (Actually, the date can change by a day one way or the other, depending on which side of the International Dateline you're on and other factors.) *
However, if you think about it for a moment, it should become clear that although the day of the solstice changes, the angular position of the sun does not. The solstice is the solstice. If you have a marker indicating its position and the marker doesn't change, it will remain accurate regardless of what day the solstice falls upon. (I hope this is clear.)
I did some more reading about solstice markers. In due course, I ran across the obvious answer. It seems our ancestors did not always reckon Summer Solstice the same way we do. In modern astronomy, the Solstice occurs as the sun crosses its meridian on the longest day of the year, which of course happens at high noon, local time. In 2004, this will occur on June 20.
But the Ancients found this moment difficult to track without sophisticated tools like sextants and theodolites. This is because the sun moves slowly along the ecliptic at this time of year. At Winter Solstice, the sun's rising and setting points again change slowly, making them difficult to track. In this region, the difficulty with Winter Solstice is even greater because it's nearly always overcast and raining or snowing at that time of year. During both solstices, the change in position from one day to the next is barely discernible.
Therefore, ancient peoples (like the Druids) did not rely on direct observation to find Midsummer or Midwinter. Instead, they took the number of days from one Winter Solstice to the next and divided by two, to arrive at the date of Midsummer. This equals 182.5 days, which is about one half a day later than the actual solstice. The Ancients considered that Midsummer literally divided in the year in halves. How did they determine Midwinter in the first place? By counting days from Vernal or Autumnal equinox, when the sun's apparent change in position is more rapid and therefore easiest to track. For this reason, the Druids and others considered the equinoxes to be equal in importance to the solstices.
If my theory was correct, then the shadow on Solstice Rock should be more nearly accurate on the day following our actual solstice. To test my idea, I returned to the site on June 22, 2003, the day after Midsummer. I arrived in time for sunset. As you can see from the picture, the shadow pointer was just about dead-on to the center line. I regarded my theory as proved.
This is also further proof of the true nature of the artifact. This is a highly accurate Summer Solstice indicator, crafted by people who used the tradition of dividing the year in two to reckon Solstice. They knew what they were doing.
I still don't know the purpose of other indicators on the rock. There are definite signs that gnomons were used to mark different dates (possibly the equinoxes), on other glyph indicators. But there are more mysteries than answers.
Maybe that's the way it's supposed to be.
* I have received a correction regarding "precession" from the Equinox Project. Herewith is their e-mail verbatim:
Please excuse my intrusion but I'd like to correct you on a major point.
The equinoxes do not precess, they are the midpoint of the solar year.
The solstices do precess, gaining (or losing) a tiny bit every year.
It is an error to say "precession of the equinox". I know the error is a common one, but it nonetheless is an error.
R. SchmidtThe Equinox Project