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The Star-Beings and stones: Petroforms and the reflection of Native American cosmology, myth and stellar traditions

Herman E. Bender


Native American myths, legends and oral traditions are rich with stories of giant beings existing in ancient times. They all talk of giant Thunderers or Thunder-beings, giant snakes and great Thunderbirds. Even the first humans were said to be giants, some half man, half animal. The Tsistsistas (Cheyenne) have a name for the giant beings that their ancestors encountered during the early migration to the grasslands of the Great Plains. They called them haztova hotoxceo or “two-faced star people”. Other Plains tribes such as the Black Feet, Gros Ventres and Lakota have similar stories.

These old stories may have real world counterparts. Discovered in a prehistoric effigy-mound group (the Kolterman Mounds) in south-eastern Wisconsin (U.S.A.) is a human-like petroform or lithic effigy with a serpentine body and wing-like arms known as the ‘Star-being’. Configured in stone, it is approximately 20 metres in length with a red coloured, bison-shaped headstone aligned to face the summer solstice sunrise. However, it is not a lone or singular occurrence. The ‘Star-being’ is but one of two human-like petroform effigies discovered in south-eastern Wisconsin. There is another of almost the same size called the Starman which also has a red coloured, bison-shaped headstone aligned to face the summer solstice sunrise. Both the Starman and Star-Being lithic complexes are codified by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin as archaeological sites of Archaic age.

Each giant lithic effigy appears to be a reflection of certain constellations and stars. The ‘Star-being’ is a mirror-image of the (western) constellations of Scorpius and Libra (with Sagittarius); the Starman is an almost exact representation of Taurus and the Pleiades. Both giant effigies are estimated to be 3500-6000 years old, embodiments of ancient legends and traditions writ large in stone and connected to ‘The People’ through ceremony and acts of cosmic renewal.


headstone; Massaum; petroform; Star-Being; Wisconsin

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.2218/jls.v0i0.1918


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