Medicine Wheel

October 30, 2005


Provided by: Peter Saracino, Marcus Whitman High School, Rushville, N.Y.
Summary authors & editors: Peter Saracino

Pictured above is a medicine wheel constructed this past summer by Pete Saracino and John Fiori, teachers at Marcus Whitman High School in Rushville, New York. This wheel has a diameter of 28 feet (~ 8.5 m) and is accurate for the latitude and longitude of Phelps, New York. It's intended to help students appreciate how ancient peoples kept track of cyclic time by marking our home star's annual north-south journey along the eastern horizon. The rocks comprising the wheel consist of native limestones, shales, sandstones, cherts and glacial erratics (mostly ancient gneisses). A line of rocks extends from the wheel's center to geographic north (extreme left center in photo). Another reaches from the wheel's center to due south (extreme right center in photo). Lines also extend from the center to due east (top of photo) and due west (bottom of photo). These due-east and west lines roughly mark the Sun's rising and setting points on the September and March equinoxes. The diagonal stone lines in between mark the rising and setting points of the Sun on the June and December solstices. Not only is the structure an ancient calendar, it's also can be used to mark the transit of celestial objects. Finally, it's a celebration, in stone, of the wonderful predictability of the seasons. Photo taken by Al Suffredini.

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