Near the town of Hemet in the Reinhardt canyon of southern California there is a curious petroglyph known as the Hemet maze stone. It is a figure made of interconnected rectilinear shapes that form a cyclic pattern of mazes inside a square or rectangle. The overall shape vaguely resembles a swastika, a symbol used in Native American and Asian art for millennia before it became associated with the Third Reich.
Archaeologists do not know exactly who made the drawing or how old it is. Various identities have been suggested for the petroglyph’s creator. Suggestions range from an unknown indigenous Californian culture to Chinese Buddhist monks. This article will examine two of the popular theories and evaluate them in light of what archaeologists, historians, and other scholars know for certain about the artist behind the maze.
The Hemet Maze Stone. (Wayne Hsieh/CC BY NC 2.0)
A Chinese Connection
The first theory, which is also the most controversial and outside the mainstream, is that the petroglyph was made by Chinese Buddhist monks or shipwrecked sailors. Proponents of this view argue that parts of the maze look like interconnected swastikas forming into a giant swastika-like symbol. The swastika is a common symbol in Buddhist art and symbolizes eternity in that context.
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