Judaculla Rock, Sylva, NC

On our first visit to North Carolina many years ago the Lovely Frances (Gramma Fran to the North Carolina children) was struck by the Cherokee Indian story and purchased a book called The Trail of Tears. She has yet to finish it. However we still visit North Carolina and travel throughout the state though mostly in the western mountains. The towns of Asheville and Waynesville are better known than the town just to the west, Sylva. But Sylva is where we hang out.

We visit family and look at the sprouts that are grandchildren. We also drive around and walk around a lot. One day we were in the Information Center in Sylva and saw a flyer describing Judaculla Rock a petroglyph site right here in town; now who could pass that up? So off we went on one of our shorter forays.

The town of Sylva, like most of western North Carolina towns, is located on a road that heads for a mountain pass or follows a stream-lined valley floor; in this case both. The flat land is limited to small flood plains and the hillsides become rocky rather quickly. Such was the land we crossed to reach Judaculla Rock just past Caney Fork Creek.
The Cherokee Nation has been in this area for hundreds of years.
The large soapstone rock was the source of pipes, beads, and bowls for centuries.
At some point, perhaps as much as three thousand years ago, it become a petroglyph site. The dates suggested for the petroglyphs range from about 4000 to 2200 bp (before present). As with all neolithic cultures we know almost nothing of the true meaning of the marks or the reason they were created or of the people who did the work.
(There are sites like Skara Brae, Stonehenge, Callanish, Brodgar,  Zim, and many others that just beg to be understood and all we can do is surmise, conjecture, and guess. They are very intriguing.)

The rock was etched and marked over many centuries (probably). There seems to be no specific language or pattern to the marks though many seem similar. As a matter of fact there is nothing in the markings, as seen better below, that even comes close to something we might recognize. Usually petroglyphs have birds or mammals, prey or predator, weapon or tool, or some sort of reproductive characteristics – these marking are very uninformative. Or, perhaps they are very informative and we simply don’t know what they say.

The image below is on an old post card showing how the individual marks can be outlined in chalk. This sort of treatment is no longer allowed and this is the only information that I have found showing the markings. They could be most anything but I fear the meanings are well lost to the passage of time and the changes that all cultures undergo.

The post card is colored and a bit more fuzzy than the black and white image below. It is the image but the lower copy is from  the  photo itself. The photo is undated but is most likely from the 1930s. I found this on a (sort of paranormal leaning) website that can be found at: http://shadowboxent.brinkster.net/images4/JudacullaRockPhoto.jpg
The website which had the black and white image suggests that the depictions are of microscopic life forms not seen by the western world until after van Leeuwenhoek invented the microscope in the 1670s. Perhaps someone, some group, or some visitor had a microscope in the mountains of North Carolina a few thousand years earlier.
There are no other petroglyp sites with so many markings or any sites with similar markings. They mystery is deep, eh?
It is assumed that the etching predate the arrival of the Cherokee and that the rock was there when they arrived in the valley. There is a legend that Judaculla (a Cherokee mythical character known as a slant-eyed Master-of-the Game) somehow was involved in the marks on the rock. The site is on a trail that connected the Cherokee townhouse at Cullowhee with a reputed townhouse in Tannasee Bald that was “Judacullah’s Place”. None of this made much sense to me so I can’t present it very well.
I spoke with this tourist too see if there was anything that she detected about the site that curled her hair or gave her goose bumps. She had heard nothing, seen nothing, and had had no visceral reactions. I am hoping that she will spend both a moonlit and moonless night out there to see if anything eery happens. So far she is unwilling.
The rock is at lower-center-left mostly hidden by the boardwalk’s decking.

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