Rock Art, Stone Symbols, Myths, Legends, Signs

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Native American Rock Art, Stone Symbols, Myths, Legends, and Signs

Petroglyphs are “rock carvings.” From petro, meaning “rock” and glyph, meaning “symbol,” petroglyphs are a form of rock art that consist of designs carved into the surface of natural rock. Forms include lines, dots, numbers, letters, human, animal, supernatural beings or astronomical images. They are found throughout the world and can date as far back as tens of thousands of years ago. For more than 40,000 years, humans have been inspired to create what archeologists call “rock art,” meaning the paintings and engravings which are found on natural stone surfaces.
Although it is often times called rock art, don't let the name fool you. Native American rock art provides us with many clues in our search for the history of the continent's native inhabitants. The painted or carved symbols are not writing, as we know it, but they were created to convey information, to tell a story or legend. Their meanings are not always known, and are sometimes debated among scholars. Petroglyphs generally predate any given written language, so it remains an integral part in studying the indigenous peoples. So when you think of a petroglyph, imagine someone hitting the google plus button long ago and sharing their personal story with you, with us.
Ethnographic information has suggested that rock art served several functions. Some rock art styles could be boundary markers for clan territories or guides to water and food resources, while others may record historical events such as astronomical phenomena or the arrival of Spanish explorers. Some rock art motifs resemble the visionary imagery of trance states, which Native American shamans entered to communicate with the spirit world.
Rock art can range from simple scratch marks to elaborate motifs. Some common abstract design elements include circles, concentric circles, spirals, dots, and meandering lines. Representative designs include human forms and animals. Human forms with horns or radiating wavy lines and animals such as the lizard and rattlesnake are thought to be symbols of power or spirit helpers.

Native American Rock Art, Symbols, Signs, & Myths
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Native American Rock Art, Stone Symbols, Myths, Legends, and Signs

Native American Signs, Symbols, Legends
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Native American Symbols and Solstices

Native American Rock Art and Stone Symbols
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Native American Rock Art and Stone Symbols

(Right) Winter Solstice on Northern Hemisphere. Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences, and ancient cultures and early civilizations, such as the Native American, performed methodical observations of the night sky.
The ancient Incas celebrated a special festival to honor the sun god at the time of the December solstice. In the 16th century ceremonies were banned by the Roman Catholics in their bid to convert the "Inca Civilization" to Christianity. A local group of Quecia Indians in Cusco, Peru, revived the festival in the 1950s. It is now a major festival that begins in Cusco and proceeds to an ancient amphitheater a few miles away.

Judaculla Rock, Petroglyph
Judaculla Rock is a soapstone boulder carved with symbols, perhaps from Indians, dating from 12,000 B.C. to 400 A.D., and is sacred to the Cherokee.

Judaculla Rock is North Carolina’s best known and largest example of an American Indian petroglyphs site. In the modern and generic sense, it is a public attraction and a point of interest, and is commonly identified as a boulder covered with ancient and mysterious engravings. It is much more. Judaculla Rock is one of several petroglyph boulders within a 15 acre area that is an archaeological site of great significance. Broader still, the Judaculla Rock site is but one landscape component of a prominent Cherokee legend that chronicles the vast supernatural and physical realm of Judaculla.
Judaculla is the anglicized pronunciation of Tsul Kalu, as documented by the Bureau of American Ethnology’s James Mooney in the late 19th Century. Mooney, along with several other visitors to Cherokee territory, recorded varying tales of a legendary giant. By all accounts, Judaculla was a human-like giant with supernatural powers, who traveled between This World and the Underworld. On a 1900 map by Mooney, Judaculla Rock is mapped along with principal Cherokee towns and other notable major features, suggesting its relative importance to the Cherokee people. The name of the giant - Tsul Kalu – means “he has them slanting,” being understood as referring to his eyes. Of his otherworldly powers, the slant-eyed giant primarily was considered to be the Master of all Game Animals. In their daily lives, the Cherokee included his name in their formulas, rites, and rituals to ensure success in hunting.
The geographic region associated with Judaculla includes at least 12 prominent place-names or features that give testament to his reign, encompassing an 800 square mile region. Kanuga Town, and a mound that was located there, is the initial setting for the Judaculla story, and the hometown of his wife, her mother and brother. Judaculla lived atop and within the great Balsam Mountain Range, more specifically at Tanasee Bald and the Devil’s Courthouse. The Tanasee Bald area was called Judaculla Old Fields by early settlers and was considered to be both Judaculla’s farm and one of his Underworld entryways.
On the next mountain top over from Tanasee Bald, Judaculla sat upon his great mountain top judgment seat with a commanding view down upon all of those who may partake in the hunt of his game. The place was later misnamed the Devil’s Courthouse, due to early American visitor accounts of Judaculla being a type of Devil. Located just below Tanasee Bald and the Judgment seat, are the ridgetop balds of Judaculla Ridge and Old Fields Ridge, said to be huge fields once farmed by Judaculla. Looking Glass Rock is a nearby granitic dome mountain, and the place where Judaculla is said to have seen his own reflection. When wet or icy, the granite cliff faces reflect light and only a giant could stand so tall to see himself at those great heights.

Judaculla Rock, Native American Rock Art
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Ca. 1930s stands Milas Parker who owned the land with the petroglyph. Courtesy cousin Jerry Parker

There are four principal explanations and beliefs to the surrounding area and origin of Judaculla Rock: Cherokee legend Tsul Kalu, ancient civilization, alien civilization, and even the gods inhabited the area.
The glyph origin story tells of Judaculla in chase of rogue hunters, and he leapt down from his mountaintop fields and landed in the Caney Fork creek bottom lands (a distance of over 10 miles and 3,200 feet). As he landed he stumbled and put out a hand to keep from falling. His hand pressed against a giant boulder to steady his massive frame. In so doing he left several indentions including an impression of his hand. Then with the with the nail of his right index finger, he drew a sharp line across the face of the rock that was to remind people that harm would come to those who crossed it without first going through the appropriate rituals. Shining Rock, is yet another place of reverence for the Cherokee, and also the general location for petroglyphs. The Cherokee know Shining Rock area as “Where the tracks are this way.” Here, Judaculla’s children left tracks in the rocks while on their way from Kanuga to their home at Tanasee Bald.
Researchers in the Cherokee Studies program at Western Carolina University recently have deciphered the term Cullowhee as a shortened and anglicized form of Jutaculla-whee, meaning Judaculla’s Place. Cullowhee is located six miles northeast of Judaculla Rock. As at Kanuga, a mound once was present at Cullowhee, on what is now the Western Carolina University campus.
Today the Judaculla Rock is owned by Jackson County, having been donated in 1959 by the Parker family, very conscientious caretakers who still own the surrounding lands. Since 1959, the one-acre county-owned area around the rock has undergone a variety of improvements that concluded with unintended negative impacts. In 2005, worsening site conditions led the North Carolina Rock Art Project and Western Carolina University professors to initiate preservation efforts. In 2007 Jannie Loubser of Stratum Unlimited and soil scientist colleague Douglas Frink were hired to complete a conservation plan for Judaculla Rock. Loubser’s initial condition assessments found nearly one-half of the rock had been covered with sediment since the 1920s, most since the 1960s.
Loubser’s ethnographic, historical, and archaeological work at the site resulted in the most extensive documentation of this cultural resource to date. He believes petroglyphs on the Judaculla Rock are the most extensive and complicated known to exist not only in North Carolina but also in the entire region east of the Mississippi River. With a meticulous study of the petroglyphs formation, Loubser developed the first tangible chronology for the rock. Soapstone quarrying began in the Late Archaic period, roughly 3,500 years ago. More recent cupules, nested rings, cross-in-circle, and stylized figurative motifs probably date to somewhere between the Middle Woodland to Late Mississippian periods and perhaps even into the early historic period (late 1700s). Glyph carving was episodic and the chronological placement of these probably falls within the Late Woodland to Late Mississippian periods—or about 500 A.D. to 1700. Loubser devoted a large section of the Judaculla report to identification and interpretation. He makes an appealing argument for the rock being a three-dimensional picture map of Judaculla’s world—a highly stylized scale-model of the surrounding sacred landscape with its mountains, rivers, trees, villages, and spirit beings.
The Cherokee’s post European/American contact story is one of strength and perseverance. The well documented 1830s Trail of Tears tragedy split the Cherokee into two groups now known as the Cherokee Nation and Eastern Band of the Cherokee. Even in the theater of intense cultural conflict and displacement, many Cherokee maintained an intimate relationship with Judaculla Rock. The Eastern Band of the Cherokee has emerged as a principal partner in efforts to protect, enhance, and celebrate the Judaculla Rock cultural site.

Native American Signs and Symbols
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Total Lunar Eclipse on Winter Solstice

(Right) Total Lunar Eclipse on Winter Solstice.
Future improvements will include the distinctive touch and perspective of the Cherokee including interpretation and signage that will be in both English and the Cherokee language. Both the enduring story of Judaculla, and that of the Cherokee People is one of permanence and fortitude, whose signature on the mountainous Southern Appalachian landscape continues to stand the test of time.
Judaculla Rock, Solstice & Equinox Markers
Ray Urbaniak, Rock Art Researcher specializing in Solstice & Equinox Markers and author of "Anasazi of SW Utah: The Dance of Light & Shadow."
On a recent visit to the Judaculla Petroglyph Rock, Ray Urbaniak concluded and noted several unique and unpublished facts:
  • In addition to the grooves and figures the rock has a lot of cupules, circular indentions in the rock, that are among the oldest forms of Rock Art that have been found in the world, some dating back as much as 50,000 years.
  • Large deep groove was very similar to many Solstice & Equinox Horizon Pointers I have recorded in Utah.
  • Exact horizon view was obstructed by recently planted reeds or bamboo plants, however, on a slight hill the view was 304 degrees.
  • Compass direction read 304 degrees. It was close to the Summer Solstice Sunset point.
  • Compass pointed to a natural viewing point on the horizon. It indicates that the rock was selected because it was positioned to view the Summer Solstice Sunset and was therefore the logical place to peck in a Summer Solstice Horizon Sunset pointer.
  • Google Earth Summer Solstice Sunset simulation confirmed setting. (Google Earth Sun is a great tool for simulating sunrise and sunset on the Solstices and Equinoxes from any GPS location.)
  • Rock was most likely used as a Summer Solstice Sunset observation point and possibly as a Winter Solstice Sunrise observation point as well if viewed in the opposite direction.
Ray later checked the declination (correction factor for Magnetic North vs. true North) for Sylva, North Carolina, and also checked the U.S. Naval Observatory web site to find the azimuth (degrees clockwise around a circle starting at due North) for the setting Sun on the Summer Solstice for the Sylva, N.C., area. This turned out to be 298.3 degrees and the declination correction factor for Sylva turned out to be minus 5.3 degrees. Therefore 304 minus 5.3 degrees was an almost perfect match of 298.7 degrees.
Both of these solstice pointers need to be observed directly for visual confirmation, but it is highly likely that this is the first Solstice Marker to be confirmed in North Carolina.
“It has been suggested that some sites appear to be related to comets or solstice observations. But again, there is no site in North Carolina thought to serve this purpose,” concludes Urbaniak.

Judaculla Rock, Interpretation by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Research Laboratories of Archaeology

Rock Symbols of Unknown Origin?
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Stone Symbols of Unknown Origin? Alien Civilization? Alien Signs?

Native American Rock Art, Myths, Culture
Winter Solstice Stonehenge.jpg
Winter Solstice and Sunrise at Stonehenge

Judaculla Rock, located in rural western North Carolina, is a large soapstone boulder whose surface is covered with carvings. The rock has sometimes been described as depicting a map of a battle in 1755 between the Cherokee and their enemies. Some people believe this battle was between the Cherokee and the Creek Nation, while others believe the Cherokee fought with the Catawba. In reality, the carvings are probably much older. Archaeologists studying soapstone quarries believe the Judaculla Rock was probably carved during the time archaeologists call the Late Archaic, which dates from 3000 to 1000 B.C. Outcrops of soapstone, used by Native Americans in the past to sculpt pipes, beads, bowls, and bannerstones, are located near the Judaculla Rock. Archaeologists think Native Americans camped at, or near, the rock when they came to quarry the stone.
(Right) Winter Solstice Sunrise at Stonehenge. Worldwide, interpretation of the Winter Solstice has varied from culture to culture, but most cultures have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations.

James Mooney, a researcher at the Smithsonian Institution who collected southern Indian stories, recorded the Cherokee legend of Judaculla Rock in the 1880s. According to Mooney's story, a being named Judaculla (called by the Cherokee Tsul-ka-lu, or the Great Slant-eyed Giant) was a giant hunter who lived atop a mountain at the head of the Tuckaseegee River in Jackson County. Judaculla was very powerful and could control the wind, rain, thunder, and lightning. The carvings on the boulder represent scratches made by Judaculla's feet as he jumped from the top of the mountain to the creek below. The seven-toed foot at the lower right hand side of the boulder is said to depict Judaculla's footprint.
The actual meanings of the Judaculla Rock symbols are a mystery. It is possible these figures may represent humans, animals, or figures of religious importance. As late as the 1880s and 1890s, Cherokee groups would assemble at Judaculla Rock to hold ceremonies. Today the land around the Judaculla Rock has been turned into a small park, where visitors can view the boulder and ponder its meaning. Continued below...

Recommended Reading: American Indian Places: A Historical Guidebook. Description: This historical guidebook to American Indian places features illuminating essays and contributions from leading scholars. It includes 366 places that are significant to American Indians and are open to the public. These include Ganondagan State Historic Site in New York, Kituhwa Mound in North Carolina, Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Illinois, Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa, Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico, Navajo National Monument in Arizona, La Purísima Mission State Historic Park in California, and Nez Perce National Historical Park in Idaho. Continued below...
More than 275 authorities who know and revere these places wrote essays, including Suzan Shown Harjo, Frederick E. Hoxie, Clara Sue Kidwell, Rennard Strickland, and David Hurst Thomas. Tribal culture committees and tribal historians have also contributed essays. Frances H. Kennedy, editor and principal contributor, wrote short entries on more than one hundred of the places. Royalties will be donated to the National Museum of the American Indian. W. Richard West Jr., the museum's founding director, is the primary adviser to American Indian Places.
"This will become an indispensable guide to those special places that remind us that every place we think we 'discovered' was already someone else's home." --Ken Burns, filmmaker
"A highly readable, extremely responsible and brilliant blend of guidebook entries and background essays by the most knowledgeable scholars and writers in the field of American Indian history and culture today. My earlier journeys sure would have been enriched with this wonderful book in the car. It opens up a brand new American experience for the adventuresome vacationer and armchair traveller alike." --Peter Nabokov, author of Where The Lightning Strikes: The Lives of American Indian Sacred Places
"American Indian Places is an indispensable guidebook to all of us who share the ancient human landscape of this continent. These are the landmarks of the intertwined histories of American Indians and those who came later. Descriptions of 366 places, written by nearly as many authors, have been gathered together in this remarkable book, which holds special meaning for American Indians." --Dean R. Snow, president of the Society for American Archaeology
"Anyone who is interested in the truly beautiful, distinctive, and spiritual places in this country will find this book all but indispensable. It is a precise and comprehensive guide to Native America, the definition of a landscape that is timeless and unique, above all an evocation of the sacred earth." --Scott Momaday, School for Advanced Research

Native American Rock Art and Symbols?
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Ancient Civilization Symbols? Alien Signs?

Judaculla Rock, The Webmaster
My name is Matthew Parker, nephew to Milas Parker who sold the Judaculla Rock many years ago, and we trace our Parker lineage to the site located in Caney Fork, North Carolina, to ca. 1750. Presently in the residence adjacent the rock is Cousin Jerry Parker, son of Milas, who also owns the adjoining land (hundreds of acres) with some additional petroglyphs.

The following is the unique occurrence of immediate family birthdays: me, Winter Solstice; only son, Summer Solstice; and wife and mother of our son, Spring Equinox.
I never thought much about solstices or equinoxes, but the remote connection to ground zero is an intrigue. Ray Urbaniak, Rock Art Researcher specializing in Solstice & Equinox Markers and author of "
Anasazi of SW Utah: The Dance of Light & Shadow, has a gift for discovering, uncovering and interpreting Rock Art. And his findings of the solstice markers on Judaculla serve only to add to the story.
The Summer and Winter solstices are significant to some while meaningless to others, but both generally, universally, relate to religious and spiritual beliefs. At Stonehenge, for example, folks gather for each of the annual solstices. One may also enter the solstices in any given search engine for an exhaustive return on the subject.
Jesus, and his cousin, John the Baptist, were born exactly six months apart, with Jesus born on the Winter Solstice and John on the Summer Solstice. The Talmud even has some interesting information on both the solstice and equinox, while the Maya and Inca also place much significance on the events. Perhaps, more than anything else, it merely explains to my family why I am a total night owl and my boy is not.
Many questions have yet to be answered about all those scribbles and scratches on the continent's many petroglyphs, but one thing is absolutely certain, the rock art was meant for others to see. But are we the others?

(Related reading and references listed below.)

Recommended Reading: Discovering the Mysteries of Ancient America: Lost History And Legends, Unearthed And Explored. Description: The nursery rhyme begins, "In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." Less well-known is the line that follows: "…to learn if the old maps were true." How can there be "old maps" of a land no one knew existed? Were others here before Columbus? What were their reasons for coming and what unexplained artifacts did they leave behind? Continued below...
The oceans were highways to America rather than barriers, and when discoverers put ashore, they were greeted by unusual inhabitants. In Discovering the Mysteries of Ancient America, the author of The Atlantis Encyclopedia turns his sextant towards this hemisphere. Here is a collection of the most controversial articles selected from seventy issues of the infamous Ancient American magazine. They range from the discovery of Roman relics in Arizona and California's Chinese treasure, to Viking rune-stones in Minnesota and Oklahoma and the mysterious religions of ancient Americans. Many questions will be raised including: What role did extraterrestrials have in the lives of ancient civilizations? What ancient pyramids and towers tell us about the people who built them? Are they some sort of portals to another dimension?
What prehistoric technologies have been discovered, and what can they tell us about early settlers, their religious beliefs, and possible other-worldly visitors? Did El Dorado exist, and what of the legendary Fountain of Youth? Was Atlantis in Cuba? What are America’s lost races and what happened to them? Discovering the Mysteries of Ancient America brings to the fore the once-hidden true past of America’s earliest civilizations. Frank Joseph is the author of The Atlantis Encyclopedia (New Page Books), as well as a dozen other books on history, prehistory, and metaphysics. He has been the editor-in-chief of Ancient American magazine since its first issue in 1993. He lives in Wisconsin. Wayne May is the founder-publisher of Ancient American. Laura Lee is the award-winning producer and host of the nationally syndicated "The Laura Lee Show". David Hatcher Childress wrote the best-selling Lost Cities series. Zecharia Sitchin is the author of the best-selling Earth Chronicles series. Andrew Collins is world-renowned for his consistent bestsellers, including Gateway to Atlantis.

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Related Reading:

Recommended Reading: Sacred Images: A Vision of Native American Rock Art. Description: Sacred images: A Vision of Native American Rock Art brings together the talents of four Utah wilderness photographers and the storytelling skills of its indigenous peoples to present the visionary power of Utah rock art.  Photographers Craig Law, John Telford, Tom Till, and Philip Hyde reveal prehistoric and historic rock art images on boulders, cliff faces, and overhangs. Continued below...
From the Inside Flap: Utah has long been known for its spectacular landscape. But not as many people know that Utah's prehistoric rock art is equally as impressive. In fact, Utah has thousands of rock art sites, including a large number of the finest panels to be found anywhere in Europe or America. The sites are tucked among the arches and reefs and along the walls of the winding canyons. Whether pecked or painted, at least ten distinct styles of rock art can be seen in Utah--including the oldest documented Barrier Canyon style--representing and art-making tradition with a time span of at least 8,000 years! Art historian David Sucec provides perceptive analysis for the photographs. Leslie Kelen's "conversations" with members of the Ute, Paiute, Hopi, and Northwest Shoshone tribes inform us about rock art from the Native American point of view--its historic significance, cultural impact, ritualistic importance, and sacred nature. This book of magnificent photographs and insightful text is the next best thing to hiking there yourself. The images gathered do not reflect isolated or occasional artistic phenomena, but reveal an interrelated and interacting artistic universe.
Recommended Viewing: Paint the Rocks (DVD). Description: Come Close and Experience Ancient Prehistoric Rock Art From Many Secret Locations in Utah, Arizona, Australia, South Africa, Puerto Rico, Mexico and More! Photographed by Tom Till. Native Wood Flute Music by Paul Michael Meredith Brings an Air of Mystery to Your Journey! Continued below...
Locations Available with Optional Subtitles In English or Spanish. Entertain and Relax - Inspire Conversation - Set the Mood - Bring Your Home To Life! -- Earth VideoWorks DVDs are 'the most creative new idea for entertaining to come along in quite some time.' They will transform your blank, black TV into a colorful, fascinating gallery of art - alive with music. Your TV will become an interesting, ambient background and a conversation piece while entertaining guests! All Earth VideoWorks DVDs are set for continuous play! Director L.H. Deutman, founder of Earth VideoWorks and videographer, is a contemporary artist and nature photographer whose work has been displayed in Sedona and Santa Fe galleries.
Recommended Viewing: What the Bleep Do We Know!? (DVD). Description: WHAT THE BLEEP DO WE KNOW?! is a new type of film. It is part documentary, part story, and part elaborate and inspiring visual effects and animations. The protagonist, Amanda, played by Marlee Matlin, finds herself in a fantastic Alice in Wonderland experience when her daily, uninspired life literally begins to unravel, revealing the uncertain world of the quantum field hidden behind what we consider to be our normal, waking reality. Continued below...
She is literally plunged into a swirl of chaotic occurrences, while the characters she encounters on this odyssey reveal the deeper, hidden knowledge she doesn't even realize she has asked for. Like every hero, Amanda is thrown into crisis, questioning the fundamental premises of her life that the reality she has believed in about how men are, how relationships with others should be, and how her emotions are affecting her work isn't reality at all!

References:;; cousin Jerry Parker; Ray Urbaniak,; Scott Ashcraft, Pisgah National Forest Archaeologist, for publication May 2010; A. S. Ashcraft and D. G. Moore, “Native American Rock Art in Western North Carolina,” in Collected Papers on the Archaeology of Western North Carolina, edited by D. G. Moore and A. S. Ashcraft (1998), pp. 59-88; J. H. N. Loubser and Douglas D. Frink, “The Heritage Resource Conservation Plan for Judaculla Rock,” on file at the Office of County Manager, Jackson County (2008);

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