Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sacred Sites: Native American "prayers in stone"

What makes a site sacred?

Today question arises from an article titled Sacred Sites or Something Else? about ancient stone mounds recently discovered in the United States.

It is a fascinating article on the possible origin and meaning of early stone mounds in the United States.

So, what makes a site sacred in your eyes and how far should we go to preserve such a place?



One pile of stones on a particular hilltop evokes the curved body of a snake. And there are formations with purposes unclear and at times in dispute. All of these sites are part of a slowly unfolding story, one archaeologists hope to tell by learning more about them … if development doesn't destroy these places first.

In recent years, American Indian groups have pushed for greater recognition and understanding of these sites, which they believe are sacred. The controversy surrounding a stone mound on top of a hill in Oxford pushes every button that could set off alarms for these advocates. It also puts Calhoun County's most prosperous city in an unwelcome spotlight, pitting its rapid commercial growth against passionate preservationists.

...The mountain, which Holstein would not name for fear of advertising the site to looters, contains 80 acres of mound structures. The walls run across the mountain, in patterns Holstein believes are connected to natural phenomenon like springs and rock outcrops.

"We started excavating them in the '80s," he said. "We were the first people to realize they were something."

Levels of perception

Holstein said almost every native culture saw the world on three levels; earth, sky and the underworld.

"I just get excited about it," Holstein said. "Each time we find a new one, it gives us more information."

But how do we know they're cultural?

According to Holstein, early explorers asked American Indians about the rocks, who said they were commemorative structures. They were tombstones of past events.

Thrower says they're called "prayers in stone."

Art: Young Woman by Garry Machees.

Related Articles:

Hogmany and Mystical Places

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