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Do you recognize this writing system?

Do you recognize this writing system?


This stone disc was part of the enormous collection  of Native American artifacts assembled by General Gates P. Thruston of Nashville, TN.  It contains symbols also found on the Tugaloo Petroglyphic Rock and the Forsyth Petroglyphic Boulder in North Georgia.   The Tugaloo Stone contains engravings of Bronze Age ships and boats, typical of Scandinavia.   Do you recognize these symbols from a known archaic writing system?  If so, please tell us in the comment section.

A broad selection of the Thruston P. Gates Collection is on display at the Tennessee State Capital Museum in Nashville.  The majority of his donated 100,000+ artifacts are held in storage by Vanderbilt University in Nashville.  Many of the collections’ stone statues are currently on loan to the McClung Museum at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.


Tugaloo petroglyphs before detailed analysis and enhancement . . .  the stone is owned by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources


Thruston P. Gates was an attorney and a Union Army officer, who was designated military administrator of Nashville during the last few months of the Civil War. he also served as military governor during Reconstruction (1865-1872).  He liked Nashville so much that he married a local lady and lived there the rest of his life.   He claimed that much of his original collection was “given him” by soldiers erecting earthen fortifications around Nashville.  That is dubious because almost all of Nashville’s Civil War fortifications were on hilly terrain, some distance away from the bottom lands where Native American mound builders lived.

Gates almost always labeled his artifacts as being found in Tennessee . . . mostly from southeastern Tennessee and the Nashville Area.   However, People of One Fire proved in 2016 that most of  Thruston’s “Tennessee” stone and ceramic statues were actually on display in homes near Etowah Mounds, Georgia before the Civil War and were examined by pioneer archaeologist, Charles C. Jones, Jr. at that time.  They were stolen by Union soldiers in the 1st Ohio Volunteer Regiment when they were camped next to Etowah Mounds in September 1864.  The soldiers also pilfered the mounds. General  Thruston P. Gates was their commanding officer!   We also proved that Gates corresponded repeatedly in the 1880s and 1890s with less than honest, self-styled archaeologist, John P. Rogan.  This was after Rogan was fired from being the supervisor of the Smithsonian Institute excavation of Etowah Mounds in the mid-1880s.  

Rogan was fired because he suddenly stopped producing trophy artifacts for the Smithsonian in Mound C, which is known to have been chock full of burials and burial offerings.   Afterward, while supposedly unemployed and penniless, Rogan purchased an expensive piece of real estate in nearby Cartersville,  hired an architect then constructed what was then Cartersville’s largest commercial building!  I was the architect for the restoration of the J.P. Rogan Building in 2000.  Throughout his life,  Rogan continued to place ads in regional newspapers, offering to guide “gentlemen of means” to Indian mounds in North Georgia that contained large amounts of high quality Indian art.  In 1925, he also assisted the famous archaeologist, Warren K. Moorehead, in his renewed excavations at Etowah Mounds.

It is documented that Rogan ravaged two mounds directly adjacent to the site where the Tugaloo Petroglyphic Stone was found.  We strongly suspect that the stone disk, illustrated above, came from one of those mounds, not Tennessee.   If you can translate any of the symbols on the petroglyphs pictured in this article,  your assistance will be greatly appreciated.

Formerly on display at the Forsyth County Fairgrounds, this unusual petroglyphic boulder is now owned by the University of Georgia.


One of the boats, engraved on the Tugaloo Stone . . . after micro-analysis and enhancement.



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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.


    • They could well be the earliest forms of runes. Almost all of these symbols are also found in Bronze Age petroglyphs in Southern Scandinavia. We are hoping that some European anthropologists or North American experts on the Bronze Age can help us.


        The Tugaloo petroglyphs have inscriptions similar to those seen on the Namoratunga petroglyphs.

        Ancient Astronomy in Africa
        Namoratunga is a possible archaeoastronomical site on the west side of Lake Turkana in Kenya, believed to have been founded around 300 BC.

        In particular,

        Namoratunga Petrogylph Sketch
        – a representation of the cattle brands as rendered by H. Price scetch

        • The Tugaloo glyphs date from 1800 BC to 1200 BC. A Scandinavian archaeologist matched the glyph and pictures of ships to glyphs of that period in Sweden. The locations in Georgia and Africa may be derived from a common source in Scandinavia, but definitely date from long before 300 BC. Remember there is public architecture in Georgia as early as 3540 BC.


      The round stone at top appears to contain archaeic cuneiform pictograph symbols.

      • Could be William. The Genetics Lab at the University of Kobenhavn (Copenhagen) has traced the blue eyes and red/blond hair of Scandinavians to a people, who once lived in the southeastern tip of Iran and were associated with the Indus Valley Civilization.


    The Forsythe stones remind me of Australian aboriginal dot paintings that depict landmarks and stars as a means of telling stories.


    WOW ! i wish I could read that writing. I am studying the Bronze Age Minoan/Bronze Age Linear B script writings so have a fascination for this subject. Thanks for a great post.


    Phoenician Alphabet , Which is based on the laws of Nature. And is ordained from sacred geometry in the flower of life. Which the Flower of Life is a sound vibration. Life+Creations’ Historical Artifact Recovery


    Check out the Metcalf stone found in Georgia and also Mohenjo-Dano Seal . “Minoan Linear A script of Yuchi


    Scandinavian year zero is about year +/- 2000 BC. Economically during the Bronze Age, northern-Europe and Nordic Scandinavians were late-comers. For instance, the Romans did not recognize Nordic as a taxable people until around 150 BC. Scandinavia was not recognizably settled and civilized until around 800 BC. There had no influence in any matters concerning Native America.

    While the Ancient Michigan Copper Culture around 4,000 BC existed long before Scandinavia started to thaw-out to sustain any meaningful sedentary settlement.

    Scandinavia appears to have been a Minoan Amber slave trade colony.

    • Where did you get the 4000 BC radiocarbon date for the copper culture? Canadian archaeologists have dated the earliest stone ruins there at around 3500 BC. Southern Scandinavia was part of Doggerland. Its cultural phases are the same as southern England. Prior to around 2500 BC, the same people lived there as a Scara Brae. They were not exactly dummies, but apparently had not entered the Copper Age to any great extent. The oldest copper artifacts in the museum where I lived in Sweden were dated at 2500 BC.


    My first impression was a similarity to the Indus Valley script.

    • That’s my impression too, Brian, but I am not an expert on such things.


    OK….. I’m seeing it from another direction entirely and have not done study of ancients texts so here goes.

    It seems like a simple sketch of where to cast a hook or net…. as in geographic features found in streams and rivers. The fish show the main downstream flow, the hooks show a side flow, verticals are rock/ shore features that control the flow which comes down the Y and swirls as indicated by the curved lines bottom left. This is where a deeper area is created and a circular backflow often brings food that is easy prey for fish and is often a good spot for bathing. logically in this sequence a further image would be a open concentrics starting on left and going counter clockwise.

    • You can see why I was so baffled. I am not a expert on ancient writing systems. What you are saying makes a lot of sense.


    Not even close to being knowledgable about languages, but I agree somewhat with Dansby. I see it as a pictograph showing a fishing weir, the two platforms with a fish bridge or fence in between; fishing with hooked lines in deep water before the fish fence and nets on the shollow side afterwards.
    Is it possible that this was some form of picture reference / written lesson for younger members of the tribe? Interesting note on pictographic art, I’ve had several professors of art and history tell me that native americans can dismember pictures and designs faster than any other ethnic group, pick out key elements, and that they are more visual learners, pictographic and mnenonic.


    Richard Thornton, I came across this article and saw some amazing similarities to a project I have been working on for some time. I am not an expert at all, but to me, the characters on a stone box from Utah look very similar to the Tugaloo glyphs. I would love your opinion on the matter, but I can not attach the photo here. My email is if you would like to send me an email, I will send the photo for your perusal. 🙂 Thank you for this interesting article.

    • There are multiple ships on the sides of the Tugaloo Stone. This is a style of art seen in Bronze Age Scandinavia.

      The edges of the Tugaloo Stone contain a Bronze Age Scandinavian writing system, which no one can translate yet.

      Parawan Gap, Utah contains many petroglyphs that are not seen elsewhere in the Southwest, but are very common in North Georgia. Parawan means the same thing in the Ute language that Apalache does in Creek. Obviously, Utah had visitors from Georgia.


        Absolutely fascinating. I have a photo of a ship petroglyph in Parawan that is identical to the Tugaloo stone ship. It was very old and worn when I last saw it and I doubt that many even know it exists (if it still does). If what I am working on relates to Bronze Age Scandinavia, it would make perfect sense. What does Parawan and Apalache mean?!


    I’ve studied up on Tugaloo. It is such a unique culture of its own, and the site expandes on both sides of the tugaloo river. It is a very neat situation and culture. It even had its own pottery style and era! Can you give me the source about The man digging at one of the mounds? Thank you for all the info that helps me better understand the True history of the area.

    • Cyrus Thomas was the first archaeologist to dig there – around 1885 – for the Smithsonian. He excavated two mounds on the Georgia side of the river, not knowing that there were eight mounds on the island. Robert Wauchope poked around the site in 1939. Joseph Caldwell fully excavated the island in 1957 and 1958. His client was the US Army Corps of Engineers.


    Could this be the same type of writing as the Brush Creek Tablet? If it is, it should be translatable using the same method. “The inscription on the tablet taken from the mound in Brush Creek Township is composed of three different forms of ideation, which are made out to be Demotic
    or Enchorial, Hieroglyphic and Greek.” ~History of Muskingum County, Ohio, 1882.

    • Could be . . . but I am just not that knowledgeable on ancient writing systems. I wrote a team of scholars and professors in the UK that specialize in such things, asking for help. Sorry . . . I have enough to stay on top with, just being an architect. LOL


        I completely understand. I just thought I would toss that out for a lead. 😉


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