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Dent-de-lion, et caetera

Graphics/monotype: Inspired by Galician petroglyphs, dandelions... and much more:

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"Dent de Lion, etc". Monotype. 2015. 21x30 cm.

Read on for long story with links and interesting pictures.

In Galicia, Spain, there are some quite unique petroglyphs - at least they are of a kind I have not personally seen elsewhere (not in as good a condition at least - some other ones are so damaged that they are only "perhaps" of the same kind). The design is similar to one of the most common pre-historic designs, that of the spiral. However, the Gaelic petroglyphs are NOT spirals, they are concentric circles. This motif is not unique to that location, but the fact that every one of the concentric circles are systematically cut half way through by a line, beam, or rod, from the outside to the center, is what sets these petroglyphs apart from others I know about:

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"Laxe das Rodas (Grupo XXIX do Outeiro do Lombo da Costa)"
San Xurxo de Sacos, Cotobade.

The first association I got seeing the petroglyphs was that of the dandelion:

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Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion), ripe seed head.

This was based mostly on the seemingly random arrangement of circles in multiple sizes, as random as the way dandelions grow in the wild. So, from a second thought "dandelion" became the primary inspiration for the print.

But, dandelions aree not concentric circles. So, what are those rings, exactly? Archery targets with an arrow shot to the center, perhaps?

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Archery target w/arrows.

Unfortunately I could not find an image of an ordinary "FITA target" (the one with 10 concentric rings) in full size with a single arrow in the center of it, so the above will have to do.

Still, a target like that is a modern invention. So, the thought kept re-appearing: "Where on Earth do we find some kind of object that looks like the petroglyphs of Galicia?"

One answer, it turns out, lies in the Sahara desert, in Kufra, Libya:

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Irrigation / Kufra Growing. Sahara, Africa

However, it could also be that another plant than the dandelion was the model of the petroglyph artist. Here this particular plant is shown alongside another petroglyph from the same area; San Xurxo de Sacos, Cotobade:

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LEFT: Helianthus annuus (common sunflower). RIGHT: "Sunflower" petroglyph

A few concentric circles are visible on the sunflower photo above. In the center are the seeds, which -- in the plant -- are arranged in a spiral pattern, not in concentric circles. As the petroglyphs have 3-7 concentric circles it does not seem like a fixed number is required, rather - like in Dendrochronology: the larger the diameter of the circle, the more concentric rings within.

Of course, all of the above is just my preliminary personal thoughts on the matter. There is no way to travel back in time to ask the stone carver what his/her thoughts were.

Also, this is not an article on Archaeology. This homepage is not scientific, it is creative. So we need not concern ourselves about matters like the probability of a sunflower growing in Galicia at the time of the petroglyph carving, or things like that. The above is only based on visual clues, not logic. So, please don't hand in an essay at school based on the above; you will fail.

Some relevant subjects have not been mentioned above, or only mentioned in brief. Dendrochronology is one such topic, the core of this study being concentric circles. Another could be cosmology, eg. something akin to a model of Cosmos or a solar system. New-age theorists in particular may like that thought, still there's no evidence at all.

Then, of course, there's the "Atlantean myth" of a prehistoric country allegedly founded on a volcano ridge, and built out into the ocean so that the whole country consisted of concentric rings of land interchanging with rings of sea. That would also be a wonderful story to tell any New Age kind of person, but alas: that country, Atlantis, is now long gone and we know nothing of its whereabouts... if it ever was, that is.

A dandelion by any other name is still a dandelion... And the world is full of concentric rings, so one could keep guessing forever.

So, last but not least, my most likely hypothesis:

The serious part

Most likely these petroglyphs are related to the maze. Either

  1. early, uninformed, or unskilled attempts to carve a maze ("primitive" carvings), or
  2. practice of skills necessary for "real" maze carving ("practice" carvings), or
  3. a symbolic (or stylized) "shorthand" representation of one ("real" carvings, late maze design), or
  4. last, a precursor for / early stage of the maze ("real" carvings, early maze design).

I am not able or inclined to venture a guess as to which of the four options are the most probable. The "real" explanation might even be a combination, something in-between, or something altogether different. One thing must be emphasised, though: There is absolutely no reason to believe that the person(s) that did the circle carvings were new to this kind of activity. As far as I can tell, this is the work of (a) person(s) totally familiar with this particular craft, as well as with visual expressions of geometry.

As for the maze in question, specifically it is the maze type known as a Troy Town, especially as at least one such maze (carved in stone as a petroglyph) is actually found in the same area. Readers familiar with the Troy Town idea will know that its various representations share the same number(s) of "turns"/rings as the number of rings in the petroglyphs above, so obviously these "circle mazes" and the Troy Towns are constructed -- at least partially -- using the exact same rules.

This digression into history, archaelogy and symbolism probably deserves some elaboration in an article of its own sometime, but for now the above will have to do.

2015.11.23 17:41


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