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Fieldwork Methodological Considerations for Archaeoastronomy Study of Rock Art


  • Ilia State University, P. O. Box 841352, Houston, Texas 77284–1352, USA, United States
  • Ilia State University, Cholokashvili Ave, 3/5, Tbilisi 0162, Georgia


Background/Objectives: In 1996, solar markers were discovered at Paint Rock, a pictograph site in the state of Texas, USA. The astronomy of the site had not been studied to answer how the cultures were able to place the pictographs so accurately, interacting with sunlight and shadow, recording vital astronomical knowledge. The primary focus of this paper is to provide details of the methodology used in discovering the horizon astronomy at the Paint Rock site. Methods/ Statistical Analysis: Three primary methods were employed, the field walking survey, photographic documentation, and surveying methods for archaeoastronomy. The field walking survey was the primary method to assess the site and conduct the search for the place of observation. Significant points were documented by photographs at all stages of the study. Then, using archaeoastronomy surveying techniques, a profile of the east and west horizon was performed, providing detailed celestial declinations along the horizon.Findings: A significant horizon “notch” from the place of observation was discovered through these methods on both the east and west horizon. The place of observation was tied to the material cultural record. Tying the horizon astronomy to the archaeology provides strong support in answering the question of how the native cultures were able to place the glyphs so accurately to interact with sunlight and shadow. Photographic evidence documents the findings. Applications/Improvement: The outcome of the findings has lead to the realization that these methods need to be applied to many unstudied sites worldwide. Establishing the horizon astronomy at a rock art site with solar markers adds significant support to any astronomical interpretation.


Archaeoastronomy, Cognitive Archaeology, Landscape Archaeology, Rock Art, Solar Markers

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