Monday, December 8, 2008

The Petroglyphs At Swansea, California

Swansea, California is a ghost town site located about ten miles south of Lone Pine, CA, along Highway 136. It is located on the eastern shore of the Owens Lake dry lake bed, bordering a vast expanse of white alkaline deposits. There is not much left of Swansea, and I'll blog about that ghost town in the future. Today I'm going to write about a series of remarkable petroglyphs found near Swansea on the east side of Highway 136.

Most of the petroglyphs found in the southwestern United States were made on basaltic rock, but the Swansea petroglyphs were made on marble. Because marble is a harder rock than basalt, making the Swansea petroglyphs must have been a difficult task. Fortunately, it also means the Swansea petroglyphs are very well preserved compared to most basaltic petroglyphs:

So far, these look like very typical petroglyphs. They depict game animals (note the bighorn sheep in the second photo above) as well as astronomical objects (the starburst at left in the photo above). They also include the random geometric patterns indicative of hallucinations induced by native tobacco, lack of sleep and food, etc.

What makes the Swansea petroglyphs a bit controversial is the presence of supposedly Christian and European symbols in them, such as the cross you can see in the photo below:

Some of the Swansea petroglyphs supposedly represent horses, which were unknown in North American prior to the arrival of the Spaniards:

The Swansea petroglyphs are the inspiration for a very unusual web site called The Equinox Project, which claims the Swansea site is proof of European exploration of North America------principally by the Celts-----over 1000 years ago!

Frankly, the Equinox Project's claims are profoundly unconvincing and more than a little demented. But the Swansea petroglyphs are well worth a visit for their own sake.