Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Discovering Bunnyhenge

In early 2013, while grading land for the new Newport Beach Civic Center Park, backhoe operator Greg Oswald uncovered an amazing relic of Orange County’s prehistoric past. “The side of the area I was digging caved in a little, and suddenly I was looking at a huge pair of bunny ears!”

Those ears turned out to be part of the first of two ancient eight-foot-tall stone figures on the site depicting Desert Cottontail Rabbits (Sylvilagus audubonii). Then, something even more astonishing was found: A large circle of sixteen, four-foot-tall stone rabbits on top of a hill.

“We were shocked,” said Jack O’Hare of the project’s landscape architecture firm, Peter Walter Partners. “But the archaeologist monitoring the dig, Hazel Lepus, told us that native rock art is often found near water, and this is right next to a small wetland habitat.”

Archaeologists estimated that this “Bunnyhenge” was built anywhere from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. “Radiocarbon dating suggests that the bunnies were carved between 2400 and 2200 BC,” said Lepus. “Based on protein residue sampling, it appears the rabbits were originally brightly colored with ochre pigment. A variety of other natural colors were used to highlight the eyes.”
These sorts of monolithic stone animal effigies are extremely rare, but not unheard of. Similar sites have been discovered from the Conejo Valley to Caerbannog, Wales. In fact, at roughly the same time as the Newport Bunnyhenge discovery, a large figure of a dog relieving himself was found only a mile away, near the Orange County Museum of Art.

“These ‘rabbit rings’ had ceremonial or religious significance, and were probably used in puberty or fertility rights,” said Dr. Peter Binkenstein, who teaches anthropology and Native American Folklore at South Dakota State University. “But bunnyhenges were also used as calendars. By observing the alignment of the stars, sun, moon and planets in relationship to their floppy ears, one could mark the passing of the seasons.”

Further excavation showed that the center of the Bunnyhenge circle was used as some sort of fire pit. This led the City Council to briefly propose a ban on the site.
Local Juaneño and Gabrieleno Indian leaders are baffled by the stone rabbits. But the site is drawing people with neopagan and new age beliefs. In the wee small hours of Feb. 20th, reports of strange goings-on and possible fire at the park brought the Newport Beach Police to investigate. All they found was a smoldering bunch of white sage and a bag of Purina Rabbit Chow (Garden Recipe) – its contents scattered across the circle.

“Something was definitely going on up there,” said NBPD Lieutenant Frank Harvey. “This is one of the most culturally sensitive places in our city and as a resident myself, it makes me hopping mad to think of someone messing it up.”


Anonymous said...

are you sure this is not on Easter Island?

GF said...

it does look a little Moai like Easter Island than Stonehenge

James Woest said...

Easter Island or Bunnyhenge, it was a hare-brained idea.

Anonymous said...

April Fools!!! Nice try Chris, but your readers are not gullible Rubes who would believe such utter nonsense. Everybody knows those rabbits were put there by Elvis, Bigfoot & the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Dustin L.