Peer Review of the Parowan Gap Research
In the spring of 2000, Nal Morris made a presentation to the Utah State Governor's Advisory Council on Science and Technology. The presentation covered the research of the petroglyphic site at Parowan Gap near Parowan Utah. The presentation went well and documents were made available to the whole council. A peer review was requested which had not been done previously because of the many difficulties in completing the project.
Nal then selected a group of independent peer reviewers from experts in the field of archaeoastronomical research. The reviewers consisted of nine people: four astronomers with a special interest in archaeoastronomy, two professional archaeologists, and three rock art researchers. Sets of research papers and reports were made available to the nine reviewers. URARA (Utah Rock Art Research Association) furnished money for the reproduction of the reports and review materials. This money was greatly appreciated and a big thank you is tendered.
What were the final results from the peer reviewers? Does the evidence warrant the conclusion that Parowan Gap, its setting, the narrows, the Zipper Glyph and its isomorphic numbers, the five alignment double redundant cairn system, and the Zipper Glyph's morphological/topographic Correspondence (i.e. its map-likeness) is an observational calendar system? Of the nine reviewers there were seven (7) in agreement and two (2) in disagreement with the conclusions of the research. Before we go over the individual review responses, I would like to make one important point. It is doubtful that any of the reviewers in support believe that the research is without the possibility of error. In this field of study it is impossible to come to any conclusion with complete certainty. However, in the words of one archaeologist, "This is as good at it gets".
Gardiner has his Master's Degree in Anthropology with twenty-eight years experience with the Bureau of Land Management. He has done extensive work with Fremont and Anasazi sites and materials - mainly in the areas of sequence, subsistence, technology and adaptations. Gardiner says, "I think the case is made nicely, reasonably, and quite convincingly." Gardiner then attached a one-page commentary. He intended this to be his statement on the site and the research that has been done. This is available to interested parties upon request. In sum Gardiner in the attachment said that he cannot evaluate the astronomy and this is understandable. That's why this project is interdisciplinary research. Gardiner states, "I have, however, been thru the material fairly carefully - that which I can deal with, at least. Further, I have "experienced" the site several times, I have found the work to be quite convincing." Gardiner then sums his reasons. He says that he found himself in the position of having to make a presentation at the site so he read the report and seriously weighed the evidence. He states, "A strong calendric function for the site really fits well with certain important areas of archaeological inquiry." Remember this is from a person who knows the site and followed the project from the beginning. He concludes, "I think the work should continue, but there's going to be problems getting that done. What the future holds for the site is not wholly clear at this time." Gardiner here refers to the political environment in which the project is set. For more on project history, click on that heading in the main page.
John Fountain is a retired astronomer. He has twenty-five years experience in planetary studies. In his retirement he has taken up independent research in archaeoastronomy.
In answer to the question, do you agree with the conclusions of the report? John Fountain answers.
1. "Yes. An excellent case has been made that the cairn system and certain of the petroglyphs were intentionally constructed for the purpose of marking certain seasonal days, and in that sense constitute calendric function."
2. "I object to the phrase 'solar month.' The two words are mutually exclusive." [John, for you, I might substitute the word "octant" in lieu of "solar month." This would avoid the misnomer.] John continues, "There exists ample data in the literature and in own work, among pre-Columbian Native Americans of marking the solstices, equinoxes and cross-quarter days [octant days] in their rock art.
"I find the evidence reported to be compelling that the cairn system was intentionally placed to mark specific seasonal days. My examination of the cairns some years ago led me to feel they could easily be pre-Columbian, but I do not feel adequately qualified to make a definitive assessment. The interpretation given of the "Zipper Glyph" is plausible and consistent with other data.
This site has been demonstrated to be one of great importance from an archaeoastronomical perspective. The functionality of the site is consistent with widespread practices and interest. The presence of elements not identified elsewhere alone makes this site worthy of continued study. We have found creative use of local geographic elements at many other sites. Further study could uncover further subtle aspects of the site. I strongly urge both continued archaeoastronomical investigations and proper (to the extent that funds and established archaeological principles permit) rigorous archaeological study of the site.
Tom is an aerospace engineer. He has been engaged in archaeoastronomy, ethnoastronomy, ethnohistory and rock art research since the late 1970's. He is a research associate at the Bowers Museum, a member of the Oxford Conference on Archaeoastronomy, is a member of the Society for Archaeological Science and the Society for Traditional Cosmologies. He has a particular interest in Native American Indian sky watching practices, calendars and mathematics.
Tom says, "The evidence presented makes a reasonable argument that the system of cairns, petroglyphs and horizon markers at Parowan gap functioned as a solar calendar that marked the solstices, equinoxes and cross quarter days (the day count midpoint between the solstices and equinoxes [the octants). This is the most common form of the solar calendar we have observed in Pre-Columbian sites in North America. The functional combination of petroglyphs, cairns and horizon markers in the system at Parowan Gap is unusual, unique, and merits preservation and further research."
Tom continues, "I recommend the research continue and the project be completed. As I stated previously: The functional combination of petroglyphs, cairns and horizon markers in the system at Parowan is unusual, unique, and merits preservation and further research.
Boma has a masters degree in archaeology Brigham Young University, completed the CRM Program at Arizona State, Tempe and was a archaeologist with the Bureau of Land Management at Yuma, Arizona for twenty-five years. Boma is not an archaeoastronomer, however, he says that he is "familiar with numerous sites along the lower Colorado and Gila Rivers which have the same kinds of data and solar alignments as are found at Parowan Gap. Native peoples all over America worked out ways to keep track of calendars and other types of complex knowledge." He continues, "I have no problem with the Native Peoples making and using Parowan Gap in the way the research by Nal Morris has demonstrated...This place is not unique in Indian Culture, but is highly important because this is the place and manor the Natives chose to record their knowledge in this part of Utah." Then Boma turns to a more somber note, "The research must continue. Persons like Nal Morris are chosen" [Thanks Boma] "to learn and restore back to Native People that which our culture has tried hard to take away from them. Now is payback time. We must not let them down again." Boma picks up on a very important point. What he is saying is that we have found a very important link with the past in understanding what ancient native Americans have recorded at Parowan Gap. This is a legacy to all peoples but more especially to Native Americans of Pre-Columbian decent. Things have not gone well for this project in recent years. I will give more information under Project History. The important thing here is that from Boma's rich experience in this field working with archaeological sites and with living native peoples he finds the research and it's conclusions totally consistent with his experience.
Ken is a graduate Engineer from University of California at Berkeley with additional graduate studies at University of Utah. After thirty years at Unisys Corp., he retired as a Director of Engineering. Ken and I first started working together on the site at Muddy River and Rochester Creek. He recalls, "The first theory about its [The Rochester Site] functionality proved incorrect when tested, but led to further speculation and test which has proven the site to be very remarkable." The calendar function that we discovered at Rochester Creek is what guided the research at Parowan Gap and revealed the same calendar in a different form and functionality. Ken continues, "Mr. Morris' application of engineering and scientific method to the analysis of these sites has been meticulous... The analysis of the test data has led to field observable verification... To visit and experience these sites makes one really sure of the accuracy of this study and the significance of the people who recorded their time keeping there... It is my sincere hope that the site will be recognized and protected by completion of the enhancement project." The significance of Ken's participation in this peer review is that he has been either involved or witnessed the progress of the research from the very beginning. Having worked with him professionally on many engineering projects I know that if there had been any errant thinking along the way I would have been called to task for it.
John Pratt is a doctor of astronomy and teaches astronomy at UVSC (Utah Valley State Collage). John Pratt has visited Parowan Gap and watched it perform at summer solstice. He has seen the two summer solstice cairns on the same alignment and has watched the slide lecture as presented at the Gap. As he became aware that there are two cairns on each alignment for the five key dates of seasonal passage and understood that these yearly Julian day numbers correlate with the day counts on the zipper glyph, he just stoically admitted that there is too many neatly systematic correlations for raw coincidence. John later worked with us on a short video about the gap and in the the video made a profound observation pertaining to the reluctance of modern thought to admit the wisdom of ancient peoples. He said, "It's not that the native Americans understood this much astronomy but rather that we have forgotten it. This is actually the hurdle that Parowan Gap needs to make. It's educating us about what needs to happen not visa versa." John was taken back on his first visit for such a remarkable site to have so little improvement, recognition and preservation. There is no protection for the cairn system.
Jesse has a B.A in Archaeology from University of Utah with post grad studies in archaeology and linguistics. He is a pioneer in Rock Art research with 30 years experience. Three times president of the Utah Rock Art Research Association and a cofounder there of. Jesse says, "Without a doubt this interpretation of the site is on target." He adds that his own research has also verified the same conclusion. He also has identified the same dates that are the keys to the Zipper Glyph and the cairn system by observing light and shadow interactions. Jesse states, "This is the only type of information that can give the public the knowledge that rock art and its associated usage have a very significant value. That it is a definitive part of their archaeological remains and is a vast area of contribution to help us really understand those who created it and what they were doing with it." Jesse Warner has researched and observed literally thousands of sites over the past 30 years. In his observations he has seen the same calendar dates as observed at Parowan Gap marked by solar shadow and petroglyphic interaction at many other sites. Many of these interactions were unmistakably and intentionally designed by the creators of the petroglyphs. This is why Jesse is an enthusiastic supporter of the findings at Parowan Gap .
Von Del is a noted author and authority on archaeoastronomy. He is former director of the Hansen Planetarium in Salt Lake City. He was obviously in disagreement but sadly never directly addressed the evidence presented in the reports and peer review materials. I got a lot of words back from this person but most of this irrelevant. This makes my response to his objections quite difficult to sort out. For instance he was concerned that the researchers were looking for a calendar and therefore found it. Most discoveries in science are made precisely because somebody was looking for what was discovered. Serendipity is not requisite in the scientific method. This fogged over the question at hand, does the evidence presented justify the conclusion? Again another point from his response was taking great exception to a remark in the introduction to the report Volume 1 about a "well protected ignorance" from critics that never came to see for themselves. But he validated that statement when he himself never came to see. However again this point does not address the question at hand. Only those reviewers that did not come to see the new evidence first hand are in disagreement. Nevertheless their response and participation is appreciated. In a way the negative response validates the review. Meaning that I selected only those reviewers that already were in agreement but this did not happen. Several of the reviewers had not seen the cairn system prior to their participation in the peer review.
Dr. Krupp is an astronomer and Director of Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. He is author and editor of several books on ancient, prehistoric, and traditional astronomy and writes a monthly column on astronomy and culture for Sky and Telescope magazine. He has visited more than 1600 ancient and prehistoric sites throughout the world, including Parowan Gap. Ed Krupp says that he is not ready to reject the broad calendric conclusions by research initiative. However he is not convinced that "the case for detailed interpretation of alleged calendric components of the Parowan Gap site has been demonstrated." But I think Ed now gives a clue to the problem when he says "I believe this is due, in part to the format of the report". I believe that his statement throws some light on the problem identified by both himself and Von Del Chamberlain and I apologize for this. The report was written for multiple purposes: 1- for scientific support of the conclusion of the calendar function of the site and 2- for general readership. Funds for this effort originated from Iron County and Parowan City. Their goals for the project were numerous in terms of preservation, education and, not the least, tourism. The project might have been more insightful here and produced two reports but when considering time and funding that all becomes problematic. Nevertheless Dr. Krupp's response and insights are greatly appreciated.
This concludes this peer review as presented on the net. The original response papers and my (Nal Morris's) response to those who have disagreed with the conclusions of the research will be made available on request. People who would like to express their opinions about the site, the research and its conclusions, and what should be done with the site are invited to respond by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org