Celebration of ancient Parowan Gap predicts colder weather in southern Utah – St. George News
Parwan — For more than 100 years, Iron County residents have been listening to the radio for weather forecasts or meteorologists like Bob Welty on television.
More recently, app sounds, vehicle dashboards and bank signs on many high streets have been announcing such information.
For the ancient people of Iron County thousands of years ago, observing the sun and the landmarks surrounding the Parowan Gap were the tools used to predict changes in the season.
Nancy Dalton, with the Parowan Heritage Foundation, is working with a group of archaeologists to understand the meaning of the Parowan Gap petroglyphs.
Nestled in the cliffs on the east side of Parowan Gap, located about 20 miles north of Cedar City on the Minersville Highway, is a jutting rock shaped like a human head with its mouth slightly open.
According to Dalton, a group of archaeologists first heard the overseer’s story from local historian Alva Matheson.
“One of the ways the superintendent protects his people is on November 6, 7 and 8,” she said. “The sun comes across the sky. When it crosses the sky, it hits his mouth, and then slowly rolls to the back of his mouth.
What appears as if the supervisor is swallowing the sun was interpreted by the Native Americans who frequent the area as a sign that cold weather was coming.
Dozens of current residents braved near-20-degree temperatures to watch Toovoots, (pronounced Too-vuts), his Native American name, on Saturday.
The superintendent was respected by longtime residents as a protector of the people, Dalton said. Because of the Earth’s rotation and orbit around the sun, the rock face can be seen spitting the sun from its mouth at sunrise in February.
“Then he tells his people that warm weather is coming, and it is time to plant and gather,” she added.
In the 1990s, teams working to learn the meaning of the petroglyphs found a set of marks where the sun’s shadow hits a rock. Every three days, the ancients would mark where the shadow would fall at sunrise for these events, spitting out or swallowing the sun, to occur. And another sign every three days after that.
“Whoever that person was from that culture stayed there in the Gap,” Dalton said. “These people who took on this responsibility lived wonderful lives.”
Dalton noted that those who made the observations may have been from the Fremont period or earlier, saying excavations in the area have found artifacts dating back to 3,000 B.C.
The Gap is particularly popular for observing the summer and winter solstice, where the sun can be seen from a distance as it sets in the middle of the valley.
For longtime Iron County residents, the Parowan Gap served as a travel corridor much as Interstate 15 does today, Dalton said.
“I get goosebumps all the time when I talk about different events going on, because it’s so cool to be a part of it,” she said. “It’s amazing the intelligence that Native Americans and ancient people had.”
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