Some Native American cultures built large stone circles by laying stones in a particular pattern on the ground. They are known as “medicine wheels” —the term refers to the common believe that these stone circles served as places where one meditated for spiritual healing of the soul. However, the actual purpose of these structures remain unknown.
Medicine wheels are found all over northern United States and southern Canada, but the most famous medicine wheel is located at the summit of Medicine Mountain in Bighorn National Forest, in the U.S. state of Wyoming. The Bighorn Medicine Wheel was the first such structure to be associated with the term “medicine wheel”.
Photo credit: Frank Richards/Panoramio
The Bighorn Medicine Wheel measures 80 feet in diameter and consists 28 spoke-like lines radiating from the center where lies a doughnut-shaped pile of stones. Around the wheel’s perimeter are six smaller stone enclosures. These stone enclosures are oriented in a such a way that they towards different astronomical objects such as the direction of summer solstice sunrise and sunset, the rising of stars Sirius, Aldebaran, and Rigel. The rising positions of stars change very slowly over the centuries, and astronomers have calculated that these alignments worked best between 1050 AD and 1450 AD, suggesting that the Bighorn Medicine Wheel might have been constructed between that time period.
Other medicine wheels have existed for a long, long time. Some of the oldest medicine wheels are 4,500 years old. There are evidences that these wheels were built up by successive generations who would add new features to them. This has lead archeologists to suspect that the function and meaning of the medicine wheel had changed over time, and it is doubtful that we will ever know what the original purpose was.
Photo credit: www.sir-ray.com
Photo credit: Nicholas Brown/Flickr
Photo credit: Give Nielissen/Panoramio
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