At noon, on a Saturday in August (in fact, it was the hottest day this year) 18 people from Lancaster, York, Dauphin and Perry counties climbed onto a very bare rock in the center of the Susquehanna River to wonder at markings left by natives between 800 and 1,000 years ago.
Perhaps a thousand markings, called petroglyphs, were carved into rocks of the Susquehanna, between Columbia and the Maryland line, over time. About 300 glyphs can still be found in the river, if you know where _ and how _ to look at them.This group went to Big Indian Rock. Its flat surface is 60 by 40 feet across, with not a tree nor a blade of green growth. In the center isa fire bowl, but whether it was created by Native Americans, later American shad fishermen, or simply the weather, is just one more question offered by this old rock.A few answers were provided by the guide, Paul Nevin of Accomac, York County.
Mostly, he raised more questions.Nevin, who earns a living restoring old houses, has earned a reputation for careful research of the petroglyphs that remain below Safe Harbor Dam. "His contribution is amazing, in that one individual has brought these glyphs to our attention, recording them in digital format and with exacting details," said Steve Warfel, who is senior curator of archaeology at the State Museum in Harrisburg.Our Saturday group was outfitted with river guide, lunch and kayaks by Shank's Mare at Long Level. We put in the river below Safe Harbor Dam and paddled upstreamabout a mile to see these symbols carved into rock.This area is one of only a few short stretches of the Susquehanna that still look a bit like the shallow, rocky, wide expanse of river that long served as the chief transportation corridor from the Chesapeake Bay into New York state. It was Iroquois and Algonquin territory when the first Europeans arrived in the 1600s, began trading and changed the culture of the Native Americans along this corridor.This long native history is marked here in different symbols, worked by hand using rock tools against the hard mica schist.Nevin has devoted the past 25 years to the project of finding, defining and mapping these mysterious carvings."Our ability to interpret them is very limited," Warfel said. "We have no living surviving populations to carry on the oraltradi......
The Quillayute is a Chimakoan tribe living
along the Quillayute River, a six-mile river on the Olympic Peninsula. The
fishing village of Lapush is at its mouth.
These stories are adapted from Indian
Legends of the Pacific Northwest by Ella E. Clark, University of California
Long ago, there was a sad time in the
land of the Quillayute. For days and days, great storms blew. Rain and hail and
then sleet and snow came down upon the land. The hailstones were so large that
many of the people were killed. The other Quillayute were driven from their
coast villages to the great prairie, which was the highest part of their land.
There the people grew thin and weak from
hunger. The hailstones had beaten down the ferns, the camas, and the berries.
Ice locked the rivers so the men could not fish. Storms rocked the ocean so the
fishermen could not go out in their canoes for deep-sea fishing. Soon, the
people had eaten all the grass and roots on the prairie; there was no food left.
As children died without food, even the strongest and bravest of their fathers
could do nothing. They called upon the Great Spirit for help, but no help came.
At last the Great Chief of the Quillayute
called a meeting of his people. He was old and wise. "Take comfort, my people,"
the Chief said. "We will call again upon the Great Spirit for help. If no help
comes, then we will know it is His will that we die. If it is not His will that
we live, then we will die bravely, as brave Quillayute have always died. Let us
talk with the Great Spirit."
This article was originally printed in
The Sciences, a publication of The New York Academy of Sciences, July/August
2000. "Recent archaeological findings have
led to revolutionary new theories about the First Americans - and to a
tug-of-war between scientists and contemporary Native Americans"
By Robson Bonnichsen and Alan L. Schneider
Some Crow traditionalists believe that the
world, the animals and all humans were created by a wise and powerful being
named Old Man Coyote. The Brule Sioux have a different tradition: after a great
flood, the only survivor was a beautiful girl, who was rescued by an eagle. She
married the eagle, and their children became the Sioux people. Where did the
native people of the Americas really come from? When did they first appear in
those lands, and how? Just as the Judeo-Christian tradition teaches that human
beings originated when God created Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, so every
Native American tribe has at least one creation story.
Archaeologists, meanwhile, take a different
view of how people first appeared in the Americas. Although they are sharply
divided about the details, they are convinced by the archaeological record that
the original peoples of the Americas migrated from elsewhere. Where they came
from and when they arrived are questions that remain to be resolved. Some
answers, however, are beginning to emerge, and they indicate a process that was
far more complicated than was ever imagined.
In one sense, both scientific theories about
human origins and nonscientific traditions about the genesis of a particular
tribe have something in common. All people and all cultures strive to understand
the world and their place in it. Origin stories - whether traditional accounts
or scientific theories - help satisfy those yearnings. They describe how and
when people came to be on earth, and they explain how people survived and
prospered in their surroundings. But there are key differences as well.
Scientific origin theories are subject to reevaluation as new evidence emerges:
indeed, in the past several years the prevailing scientific view about the
origins of the first Americans has shifted dramatically. Nonscientific origin
theories, by contrast, derive from supernatural or mystical revelation; they
tolerate neither doubt nor revision and must be accepted on faith.
It was found in the foundation of a Wampanoag house around 1800. In 1930, it was moved to the reconstruction of the Aptucxet Trading Post, the first commercial business in what is now the United States. Other than that, there are few facts available. It's a 200 pound stone that has moved around a bit. Some say it was once the threshold of an Indian church, although the inscriptions were buried so as not to spook the Indians. "Experts" claim the writings are from: Vikings (of course), Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Irish Monks (Culdee), and perhaps the most practical of all, an Indian practicing his writing.
A little more information on the stone (and an enlarged image) for the curious. :)
Several theories have been put forth over the years.
The stone was supposed to have been brought in as a stepping stone in the late 17th century when Samuel Sewell, the "hanging judge" of Salem witch trial fame, realized he had been swayed by the general hysteria of the period. He felt deep remorse for having gone along with the death penalties for those innocent people and spent the rest of his life trying to atone. One of his actions was to build churches throughout the area for the Indians. Bournedale was one of the first of those churches. When the stone was brought in to be used as a doorstep, the natives refused to walk on the marks of their ancestors. It was turned upside down and was thus made usable, according to the story. Later the church was destroyed or movedand the stone found its way into the foundation of a home where it was eventually discovered.
Several Nordic scholars and amateur runeologists have attempted to find a message. Barry Fell, an amateur linguist, included it in his book about ancient mysteries in North America and proclaimed it was Phoenician. In each case another "expert" has come along and "debunked" the current solution. Other suggestions include: Irish monks and a 19th century Indian learning his alphabet by practicing on a rock! All that can be said with any certainty is that the inscription is old; it dates back at least to 1800. Beyond that its origin is unknown, and anyone at this point in time can believe any story he wants about it.