Sites Aligned to the Sun

Equinox Light Serpent Animation at Swansea Petroglyph Site in Eastern California


A photo from the general area of Mojave North.
Photo by Dcrjsr (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Swansea is a petroglyph site in Mojave North, California. The site’s exact location has been mostly kept secret due to the extreme vandalism that the site has suffered since the early 80s.

An example of symbol found in rock art all over Chaco Canyon

It contains engravings of rayed circles and suns, spirals, and other patterns marking the equinoxes, and summer solstice. The engravings on site are estimated to be between 2000 – 3000 years old. The site has been likened to the Fajada Butte at Chaco canyon (New Mexico).

Solar Alignments

Dr. Barry Fell (1917-1994), a professor of invertebrate zoology at Harvard University, was a widely acclaimed figure in demonstrating, through his research of inscriptions, that the pre-Columbian Americas had been visited and influenced by other Old World cultures, particularly those of European origin. In his controversial-for-its-time book America B.C. (published in 1976) he presented substantial evidence as such, and his work was arguably the first of its kind to tackle and examine this evidence at length.

In 1979 Dr. Fell published a book called Saga America, in which he detailed a decoded Arabic inscription at the Swansea petroglyph site in California, translating to say:

“When the Ram and the Sun are in conjunction, then celebrate the New Year”.

Based on his findings he believed the site to be solar-aligned. His research was widely rejected simply based on the assertion that Arabic inscriptions should not have been detected from that period in antiquity in the Americas, dismissing the irrefutable fact that there they were carved in stone.

Some took an interest in the subject and within six years carvings had been found on site with references to the sun, as well as to the equinoxes, thereby validating his assertion. A marker was found for the vernal equinox, and later markers were located for the whole solar year.

Equinox Alignments at Swansea Petroglyphs

The primary equinox markers on site are six vertical bars pecked into the rock that predict the time of equinox with the accuracy of few hours.


An illustration of the Light Serpent “Animation” petroglyph, that takes place at the equinox. Illustration created by Jenny Belikov based on original photography on site shared by Equinox Project, viewable here.

Another very interesting feature of the site is a Light Serpent heliolithic animation that occurs in the morning of the spring equinox, where an image of a snake with open mouth, made of sunlight, slowly proceeds towards a spiral petroglyph and starts “eating” its inner ring, also referred to as “an egg”.

This discovery was observed by Mr. Vincent Yoder, who at first noticed a set of circles carved into the stone. He then described how an intelligently crafted pointer shadow entered the circle. After studying this petroglyph further, an interesting equinox scene emerged.

During the process, the “Light Serpent” expands, until it fully merges with the other illuminated part of the site — the sun (or the symbolic “egg”). The illuminated parts in the circle perfectly align with the top and bottom of the carved rings, leaving the rest in shadow. This heliolithic presentation begins shortly after sunrise and lasts about an hour and comes to an end when the circle is entirely devoured and light envelopes the whole display.

You can see a simplified diagram of this on the top right of this section (note in the original petroglyph, the serpent is entirely made up of light, illuminated with sunlight to form its shape from the shadows), and see the fascinating original documentation of this solar event depiction from The Equinox Project here.

Correlation to Other Ancient Sites

Serpents are a common symbolic motif in many ancient sacred sites around the world, particularly ones aligned to the equinox.

Chichen Itza Equinox

The Serpent of Light descending down the pyramid at Chichen Itza at the equinox. Photo By ATSZ56 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

For instance, one of the most common sites that comes to mind is the Kukulcán pyramid at Chichen Itza in Mexico, where a light effect creates an “animation” of a serpent descending down the pyramid.

Several ancient serpent mounds around the world depict a serpent swallowing an egg.

Serpent Mound in Ohio for instance, is a giant earthwork shaped like a serpent with an oval in its mouth (aligned with summer solstice).

Could the Swansea Light Serpent petroglyph be a mini testament to the same?


The site contains many more petroglyphs, the meaning of which remains unknown, including several star-like glyphs, winged arch-shaped carvings or even ancient zodiac carvings. In his book Secrets of Ancient America, Carl Lehrburger shared the following about his explorations of the site:

“I was also to learn that at Mojave North there was nothing simple about any one petroglyph, alignment, or even a grinding hole. What appears as a basic petroglyph image often turns out to be complex and multidimensional, requiring astronomical knowledge to fully grasp the meaning or meanings. For example, there are at least thirteen sun or star symbols at the site, and many are known to be associated with archaeoastronomical events, but all of them are very different in form and function.

Unfortunately much of the rock art in this area has been destroyed by human activity.

The video below shows some of these glyphs and gives you a sense of the area (though unfortunately it did not capture the ones mentioned above):


A petroglyph at Spook Canyon depicting the Sun/Sky Father entering the womb of the Earth/Mother. Image re-drawn by Jenny Belikov based on this diagram.

Interestingly, the site is located relatively close to Spook Canyon (a very narrow slot canyon), the area where a petroglyph has been found depicting the rays of the sky father Sun entering the womb-like labyrinth of the Earth Mother.

Judging by the presence of so many solar aligned petroglyphs and depictions of the cycle of the year, it appears the ancient culture of the sun has had a strong presence in these regions in bygone days, demurely leaving only an enigmatic trace of the vast spiritual history of the Americas now largely unknown to us — one that can be explored by reconnecting with the solstices and equinoxes.

inyo mountains california equinox solar alignments at Swansea

A photo from the mountains of Eastern California. Beveridge Hike Inyo Mountains, CA. Photo by thomas.prichard [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Article written and researched by Lucia Beznik and Jenny Belikov

Carl Lehrburger. Secrets of Ancient America

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  • My wife and I came out to California for personal reasons, so we thought we’d see what was out here in terms of sacred sites. After seeing this post, we decided to go check this site out.

    It’s a strikingly beautiful area, and the various natural rock formations, mountains, and all the colors of the landscape create a very mystical feel; it makes it easy to understand why they chose the spot.

    The petroglyphs were very intriguing. The clearest ones were the multiple sun images (I counted 4-5), as well as the images of rams, but as I looked closely (and through my camera, where I could augment the contrast), I noticed that almost every single surface in the area had at least one petroglyph on it, some so faint they couldn’t be seen with the naked eye, and one had to trace and retrace it over and over to understand what the shape was. The Arabic script really looks like Arabic, especially up close, and it’s hard to imagine what else they could be than some sort of language. It would be interesting to see how the various petroglyphs are arranged around the site, something that a more careful survey could uncover, because I noticed that from certain positions, more petroglyphs were visible (the spot where one would observe the snake was one such spot), which made me think that there was perhaps some intentionality behind it.

    Many petroglyphs were still visible and in good condition, but there was a lot of very unfortunate damage as well. I saw some evidence of weathering, some vandalism (including some heart-breaking hammering around a beautiful sun symbol, where someone clearly decided they would try to break it out and steal it, but failed), but the worst damage was from the marble quarry. Rocks containing petroglyphs had clearly been quarried, as the petroglyphs went right up to the edge, and some were even covered by rubble. The concentric rings with the heliolithic animation had some parts broken off, crucial ones that would likely prevent it from being visible again. I found one missing piece and put it back, and did my best to fill in the parts I could to make it look how it was before, but unfortunately it may not be visible again. It was cloudy when we did our little equinox ceremony, so we didn’t get to see for sure.

    • Hi Julian,

      It sounds amazing that you guys were able to camp at such a spot! I was thinking how different the world would be if there was no vandalism and the spiritual level of humanity was higher… We could just go and spend nights at the sacred sites, enter the ancient caves, observe the alignments in the way they were intended to, tap into their original meanings, explore them out-of-the body, etc.

      It seems like you got to explore the place a bit, and even did a little restorative work! It is a great pity that the precious light animation has most likely disappeared by now, but it looks like despite all the vandalism and weathering, the site still contains a lot of material that could possibly reveal some hidden meanings if explored properly.

      I thought it would be nice to update this article with some recent photos, not sure if you guys were thinking about that?

      Thank you a lot for sharing the impressions of your visit.

  • unfortunately this amazing place has been destroyed by the recent el nino rains and freezing. The dolomite/marble outcropping was shattered. The glyph site now looks like a slope of talus and scree. really to bad. it was a magical place (still is knowing what was once there). I worked for a few years as an archaeologist and it really was a stellar place.

    • Oh no, Ed. That’s terrible. Thanks for sharing though. Such a shame. The Swansea glyph was so unique and interesting.

      Was just re-reading Carl Lehrburger’s book on the subject (Secrets of Ancient America), and reflecting on the impact of so many of these sites being left completely unprotected and ignored. Of course with weather impact can wreak havoc at any time, so not sure anything could have been done in this case, but would have been good if this site was more widely studied and documented beforehand. Makes me appreciate even more the efforts of people like Carl, Bill McGlone, Phil Leonard, Gloria Farley, Scott Monahan, Barry Fell, and the many others who spent time documenting and exploring these sites for the benefit of others having knowledge and a record of them.

  • So Dr Fells book comes out in 1979 and the vandalism starts in the early 80’s; that sounds about right.

    Looks like an amazing site; that photo from Thomas Pritchard is fantastic. Thanks for putting this article together, it’s greatly appreciated.

    • Hi. I encourage the authors to delete reference to the location of the Equinox Light Serpent Animation article. Protection of these fragile sites and vulnerable locations warrant that researchers not provide location details. Previous authors,including Roderick Schmidt, did not take this into account on his website, article titles or publications, which I think was an error. In my book, Secrets of Ancient America, I refer to the site as Mojave North and provide no details on how to find it. I continue to suggest this course of action until site protection and preservation measures are in place.

      • Hello Carl. Thank you very much for stopping by! And thank you for the note. I made some adjustments to the article as per your suggestions. While researching we realized that the location was vulnerable to vandalism, but (incorrectly) assumed the location descriptions publicly provided were sufficiently vague — thank you for offering the correction, and we would definitely not want to see the sites further harmed in any way.

        Thank you as well for sharing your work on the subject — your book has been invaluable for learning and understanding more about these beautiful sites in America.

      • Anyone visiting this site should be very mindful of what is underfoot as many of the glyphs including the snake/egg and concentric circles of solstice marker are on the flat walking surfaces of outcrop. walking on the brittle dolomite makes it scale & foliate, s well s climbing around the outcrop, the glyphs are not as easy to see and define in the lighter colored dolomite, especially mid- day. as opposed to more patina’d surfaces used such as basalt. visiting around sunrise or sunset will provide a much better view of the details on the surfaces that would otherwise be walked on & over and go unnoticed. I knew he late Rod Schmit for many years, who dedicated a website to his equinox project, Sadly in his enthusiasm of personal discovery with the site & the internet attention & exploitation resulting therof, drew many visitors & sadly became a “New Age” destination spot back in the 1990’s resulting in alot of damage excelerated scaling and wear. Most the remaining glyphs on vertical surfaces are intact, but the ones on horizontal surfaces have suffered alot. It is not advisable to camp there, there are plenty of places to camp in the immediate area. i live 2 miles from the site and have studied it for 45 years. Very fascinating spot containing many styles of pre contact as well as some very ancient glyphs, walk softly and watch your step when you visit.

  • Lovely find Lucia. So many mini-testaments to this wide spread ancient religion, as you say.

    I didn’t give much notice to rock art before I realised it interacted with the solstices and equinoxes. I also recall listening to John Burke, a physicist who goes around these sites with gadgets that read their electro-magnetic level. He wants to use accepted modes of scientific enquiry to show that there’s more going on at these sites than meets the eye. Anyway, I remember him saying that somewhere in America he found the highest readings of a certain energy and this was also the place with the highest concentration of rock art anywhere. I can’t find where I read that again, but will post when I do!

    Thanks for adding to the picture!

  • An amazing site, and great to see the drive up to it. It seems like there are so many different ways to align a site to the solstices/equinoxes, and the uniqueness of each one is a source of inspiration. The simplicity and depth of the ‘multidimensional’ rock carvings here are really amazing.

    • Agreed 🙂

      It seems a common method in the carvings at these ancient sites to somehow create something very multi-dimensional that looks one way in a certain light, another way when the sun shifts slightly, another way from a different angle, and so on, utilizing optical illusions, mathematics, and the interplay of light and shadow. Not to mention the embedded astrology and astronomy… Incredible how a carving that appears simple at a glance can contain so many “mysteries”.

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