Judaculla Rock

Posted by | September 29, 2016

No other rocks in the area have similar markings, although there are many other boulders in the vicinity. Some of the pictographs on it appear to be animals and animal tracks, while others appear to be human figures, suns, and geometric figures.

Judaculla—or Jutaculla— Rock is one of the greatest archaeological mysteries in the United States. The largest petroglyph in North Carolina, and one of the largest in the Southeast, is named for a Cherokee legend about its formation. Judaculla Rock sits in the Caney Fork Creek valley in Jackson County, outside of Cullowhee. The details of the petroglyph’s formation, as well as its origin and purpose, are unknown to scientists.

Judaculla Rock petroglyphsArtist rendition of Judaculla Rock engravings.

The soapstone slab is about sixteen feet long by eleven feet wide. The designs on it appear to have been produced in a variety of manners, including incising, pecking, and smoothing. These methods are evident upon close examination, but are becoming more difficult to identify with the continued erosion of the rock.

In the late 19th century, Cherokee groups were known to hold ceremonial assemblies around the rock. Additional outcrops of soapstone, used by Cherokees then to sculpt pipes, beads, bowls, and bannerstones, are located near the Judaculla Rock. Archaeologists think the Cherokees camped at, or near, the rock when they came to quarry soapstone. Furthermore, due to recent excavations of the areas surrounding Judaculla, scientists now postulate that the rock was part of a larger grouping of soapstone creations.

James Mooney, a researcher at the Smithsonian Institution, 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 Tsu’ Kalu— the Great Slant-eyed Giant) was the greatest of all the Cherokee mythical characters, a giant hunter who lived on the southwestern slope of Richland Balsam Mountain at the head of the Tuckaseegee River in Jackson County.

Judaculla was very powerful and could control the wind, rain, thunder, and lightning. He was known to drink whole streams down in a single gulp and stomp from mountain to mountain as one might over ant hills. (In fact, according to Sequoyah’s Cherokee translation of the Bible, the word ‘Goliath’ was renamed Judaculla.)

One legend claims that the markings are hunting laws that Judaculla ordered. Another has it that Judaculla jumped from his mountaintop farm and landed partially on the rock, producing scratches, while running a band of American Indians off his land. The seven-toed foot at the lower right hand side of the boulder is said to depict Judaculla’s footprint.

The rock was once thought to depict a map of the 1755 Cherokee victory over the Creeks at the battle of Taliwa in what is now Georgia, or perhaps a victory over another enemy, the Catawba.

Archeologists now know that the Judaculla Rock predates the Cherokee habitation of western North Carolina, but its exact time of origin is unknown. It is currently dated from the late Archaic Period, between 3000 and 1000 BCE, when evidence first appears of Native American societies forming mound societies.

The North Carolina Rock Art Survey has organized a Judaculla Advisory Committee composed of site owner Jackson County NC, members of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Tribal Historic Preservation Office and Tribal Elders, the Office of State Archaeology, professors from nearby Western Carolina University, and members of the surrounding community. The Advisory Committee agreed to pursue a formal recording of the petroglyphs along with a condition assessment and conservation plan. You can read about their progress so far in the Winter 2008 issue of the North Carolina Archaeological Society newsletter.

sources: www.cs.unca.edu/nfsnc/rock_art


Footsteps of the Cherokees, by Vicki Rozema, John F. Blair, Publisher, 2007

10 Responses

  • Sara Morgan says:

    I just recently found out that there is one more rock on Indian mound road near Judaculla on a private residence that also has these same markings !

  • Chris Brackin says:

    SARA, I am very interested in knowing where this other rock is. Is there a photo, or etching of it? I’d like to compair the two for my research. Thanks for the info.

  • The traditon of Judaculla Rock can also be found in various other places in Appalachia. Cherokee meetings were sometimes found at sacred rock formations similar to Raven Rocks, a name found at various Southern Appalachian locations, and Sizemore Rock. These are in southeast Kentucky. The Sizemore Band (Whitetop)is related to Cherokee Chief Arun Redbird (Aaron Bock or Aaron Sizemore) who lived and worked in areas connected to Cherokee Chiefs Butterfly and Dragging Canoe in southeast Kentucky and other Appalachian Cherokee areas. cherokeeempire.bravehost.com

  • […] Appalachian History: Stories, quotes, and anecdotes […]

  • Marshall Ramsey II says:

    This appears to be a story of an ancient sea voyage and the stars that they sailed under. At the bottom of the stone just right of center, there are four dots that appear to be stars in the form of the constellation Cassiopeia. Near the northeastern edge of the rock there are three stars in the form of an upside-down triangle with a fourth star a short distance from the bottom star in the triangle.

    To the right of Cassiopeia is what appears to be a Viking long boat with unfurled main sail. The boat appears to be broken past the mast to the rear of the boat.

    The symbol right beside (left) the boat is an octopus. You can tell this by the bulbous head and the eight legs, or tentacles, attached to it. It appears, in part, to be the story of how Vikings came to this country, yet had their ship destroyed by a giant octopus.

  • Darrell Pierce says:

    Nephilim. Product of the watchers and human women. There are newspaper stories all over the world about discoveries of giant skeletons 7-15 feet and some even taller. The articles appeared in local newspapers here in the US in the 1800s and early 1900s until the evolutionists who came into control of our scientific research facilities began a concerted effort to confiscate, eradicate and obfuscate anything of this nature due to its detrimental effects on their theory.

  • gary says:

    I’ve also heard of old carvings found in trees near what is now Robbinsville and an area just south of Topton. Does anyone have any more knowledge of these tree carvings?

  • Linda says:

    Why are they not protecting the Judaculla from the elements so it can continue to be studied? There is a structure over one like this in Western Tennesse.

  • Jamie says:

    Hi, I have been looking for any information on a rock that’s about 24’x30′ flat top oval shape with carved writings on it that consist of x,l,-,_x sort of like Hebrew writings or Aztec symbols. The symbols on it were obviously carved very long ago, because you can see the rounding of the edges of everything from years of weather. I seen this rock in the 80’s at an very old pike county woman’s home. She said her son found it in the mountains while hunting. I tried to buy it but she wouldn’t sell. She kept it on her night stand in her bedroom. If anyone knows anything about this rock, pleas email me. I would love to know what happened to it or what anyone has found out about it. You can contact me at gegejustice@gmail.

  • Cal Yonce says:

    Recently I have travelled to Fairbanks, Alaska and visited the Museum of the North at the college. On display was an artifact called the “Seal Stone”. I was immediately taken back with almost an eerie feeling. The same feeling I had upon first visiting the Judaculla Rock. The similarities might just be coincidence but it could prove useful for those who are researching theses fascinating hieroglyphs.

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