Article by Gérard Leduc, January 2011
Since the discovery of sulphur springs in 1828 by Nathan Banfil, the Potton Springs site located in Potton Township, in the Province of Quebec, never ceased to fascinate people. A spa hotel flourished from 1875 to 1934. In 1998, the Poorna Jnana Yoga Foundation acquired the property and has begun to develop a health and spiritual enlightening centre.
Of all people who frequented Potton Springs since 1828, is there anyone who observed stone alignments oriented on the summer and winter solstice sunsets? It is possible but no one seems to know.
Over the years, I pursued research at the site, not only on its history but also on its archaeology. Last fall, I discovered an archaeoastronomical site which is associated with the local astronomy and where man made structures allowed to observe the cosmos. I just confirmed this by pictures taken between last December 21 and January 6, the winter solstice period.
A steep slope leads you to the sulphur spring located on the hillside of Mount Peeve. At the top of a cut stone staircase, a large pointed flagstone sends a signal; it measures 1.4 m long by 60 cm at its widest point. From this marker, looking south towards the Sutton Mountains, one can spot below, in the woods, a large boulder which measures about 1.4 m wide. This stone, and the flagstone pointer above produce an alignment which allows to predict the exact position of the sunset at the winter solstice. The picture taken at this moment illustrates the event.
This position is measured with a compass, as the azimuth, that is the number of degrees on a compass relative to North (0 degree) on an imaginary circumference of 360º; the reading is corrected for magnetic declination.
In fact, for a given latitude, this azimuth varies with the altitude of the horizon, which, at sea level is zero. It is the theoretical azimuth. Here, in a mountainous area, the sun disappears out of sight before reaching altitude zero. It is the real azimuth, visible from the sulphur spring, which is 232º, whereas the theoretical azimuth would be 237º.
Is this alignment at Potton Springs a natural coincidence? No, and for two reasons! First, the stone pointer was man made; it shows, on the part of the site builders of their intention to watch the horizon at a precise moment.
Second, in addition to mark the visible sunset position, the ancients built a second alignment that tells the theoretical azimuth of the winter solstice sunset. At the base of the steps leading to the sulphur spring, another large stone block was aligned with the pointer above to give the azimuth zero of the winter solstice sunset. The theoretical azimuth measured was 239º, that is two degrees higher than the one predicted from an astronomy table, 237º. I do recognize that the use of a better instrument than my compass would minimize errors.
Within the limits of winter field work errors, I acquired the conviction that the described alignments confirm that men keen on astronomy laid out this site at Potton Springs not only to watch the sunsets at the time of the winter solstice but to also leave a concrete testimony of their knowledge of the cosmos. Indeed, in this case, they were able to demonstrate the difference between the theoretical and the real azimuths. Other important geodesic data could also have been deduced at that astronomical observation site.
The knowledge of astronomy goes far back in the history of humanity. Indeed, in France, archaeologist Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiev has discovered, in 35,000 year old caves, the evidence of archaeoastronomical sites aimed at the sun, the moon and constellations. These discoveries were illustrated in a fascinating film: Lascaux: le ciel des premiers hommes.
This site at Potton Springs justifies more in depth research because it was, a long time ago, a high place for astronomy and spirituality. This was not the first archaeoastronomical site discovered in Potton nor elsewhere in Quebec. Who built them? Most likely these stone workers of an advanced culture who left here innumerable stone ruins, some of them dating back as far as 1800 years before present.
Article by Gérard Leduc, January 2011