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I just discovered a petroglyphic boulder behind my house!

I just discovered a petroglyphic boulder behind my house!

 

You never know what surprises with come your way, when you take the dogs for a walk in the steep terrain behind my house.  Two weeks ago it was a hybrid copperhead-water moccasin, curled up on our path.  My right boot was about to pass over it, when I spotted the venom glands, typical of a pit viper. 

Side view of boulder

This surprise was considerably more pleasant. The house sits near the top of a 1900 feet tall ridge, which extends east-west from Alec Mountain then turns northward toward Batesville.  Much of the back of the property is a steep-walled ravine about 100 feet deep.  As I was trying to keep up with the tiger pups,  I came face to face with a carved boulder that I had never noticed before.  It is volcanic rock . . . high-silica content rhyolite.  The boulder is about five feet tall and seven feet long.  It sits on a natural terrace, overlooking the ravine.

The carving of the boulder consisted of deep parallel grooves on the east side, chevrons and a dot near the top and what appears to have been a seated person on the right.  Someone didn’t like that person because the head and upper torso have been chipped out.  I could find no designs on the back side of the rock. 

Allen Boulder in the Sautee Creek Valley

Several of the details on this boulder are similar to a petroglyphic boulder found about 30 years ago in the nearby Sautee Creek Valley.  The Allen Boulder is also volcanic rhyolite.  It was bleached by the owner, prior to being photographed.  These motifs are not seen elsewhere in the United States, but have been found on boulders in Central America and Early Bronze Age Scandinavia.  However, in general the RobRoy Boulder (that’s what I christened it, in honor of Rob Roy the Wonder Dog) most likely represents a coiled rattlesnake with a ruler at its side.

Georgia’s petroglyphs are extremely different than the better known petroglyphs in the Southwestern United States. Some are examples of the Apalache-Creek Writing System, which seems to have started out as a mixture of Bronze Age Swedish writing and the earliest form of writing in the Olmec Civilization.  Several branches of the Creeks migrated from the same region of Mexico in which the Olmec Civilization rose, so this is understandable.  Most are identical to the Bronze Age petroglyphs of certain parts of Northwestern Europe.  Most petroglyphs in the Etowah River Basin are identical to those of County Kerry, Ireland in the southwest corner of that nation.  However, the Shoal Creek Petroglyphs near Waleska and the Etowah River look very Mesoamerican.  On the other hand, the petroglyphs and stelas in the Upper Chattahoochee, Nottely, Hiwassee and Savannah River Basins look like those of Bronze Age Sweden and Denmark.  There is much we still don’t understand about North America’s ancient past. 

Close-up view of some of the boulder’s decorative details.

This is the forearm of the person, wearing a bracelet.

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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.

9 Comments

  1. Bellcamp221@yahoo.com'

    Hey Richard , The RobRoy Boulder is an awesome discovery. You were definitely meant to be where your home is now. The Past calling out to you. I’m sure there’s more to come as you and the pups wander in the woods.

    Reply
    • I didn’t find the Allen Boulder. It has been known about for several decades. However, it is fascinating that it looks like a carved stone in Scotland.

      Reply
  2. dale3927@windstream.net'

    I live close to Amicalola State Park, about 2 mi in the Nat’l forest. Love it here. I went over to the next ridge across Anderson Creek and had the weirdest feeling that someone had been there before me. Tell me I’m not crazy.

    Reply
    • Yes, I had been there. LOL I lived two miles east of Amicalola for six years. Actually, the Amicalola Creek Basin is chock full of mounds, village sites and stone structures.

      Reply
  3. panthergaptx@gmail.com'

    Howdy, Good on you…most of the folks here tell me they have never seen the things I find or step over them as just a rock.

    Any idea when it was damaged?”

    Reply
    • Actually, I think that I walked past this boulder last winter, while hiking but probably was looking at the view down in the ravine, when I got close to the boulder.

      Reply
  4. playclay2013@yahoo.com'

    Hey Richard, I will be in the Warne, Brasstown area of NC later this month (June 16-22) and hope to paddle a section below Lake Chatugue where I saw the petroglyphs years ago…. Would you be interested / able to join for a day paddle. Mid week would suit better on our end. I will have two single person kayaks and hope that my daughter will bring another. Moderate to low water levels would be ideal. You can contact me ahead of time by personal email but I will not have computer access that week.

    Reply
  5. kkakins@gmail.com'

    I would love to live where you can find such things!

    Reply

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