Indian God Rock - Forgotten Petroglyphs of Pennsylvania

A large boulder sits majestically on the bank of Allegheny River, near Rockland, PA. This abandoned rock bears rock carvings that are a thousand years old and used be a popular tourist attractions. Known as the Indian God Rock, it has about 56 different petroglyphs or rock engravings created  between 900 and 1750 C.E. Archaeologists are not sure who created them. 

This is the back side of the Rock, but you can see the entire rock is completely covered with modern day carvings of names. These were carved mostly by European settlers, and the original Native American carvings are actually found on the side facing the river.  

The latitude and longitude coordinates are roughly 41°19'50.0"N 79°49'42.0"W

It is a very large block of sandstone, measuring about 22 feet long and 13 feet wide. This is the best look you can get of this rock’s front and you can see it is very flat and smooth, making it perfect for carvings. 
The Front side of the Indian God Rock which bears the ancient petroglyphs
The rock engravings are gone because vandals have carved over them, and it is impossible to take a good look because of the angle and how it is facing the river.

These strange petroglyphs were officially cataloged by Archaeologist  James Swauger
So, we have to depend on the archaeology department’s documentation. There are about 56 original designs created anywhere between 900 to 1750 C.E. There are many strange figures of humanoids and animals. They also have some carvings which we simply cannot understand.
Humanoid or Spirit Otter? What do you think?
Let me show you some humanoids first. This definitely looks human but it is called the “Spirit Otter” by James Swauger who spent a lot of time documenting the Petroglyphs of Ohio valley.

Here is another figure with arms stretched out and has some kind of an extension sticking out of its head.

This figure looks very strange and neither looks human nor animal. You can see one eye and the mouth and there are some extensions from the head, but it doesn’t have any limbs.

Other than humanoids and animals, they also carved an object. This is the only non-living thing that is seen on petroglyphs in Ohio valley: Bow and Arrow. Looks like archery was very important back then for survival.
Here are some animals. Archaeologists think the above figure is Mishipeshu, the mythical underwater panther which a lot of tribes worshiped including the Algonquian, Monongahela, and the Mound Builder people. However, this theory is inconclusive just like their attribution of Mishipeshu to the Alligator Mound in Ohio.  
Here are some more animal figures and may be you can figure out what they are. One weird fact is that there are no turtles or water birds, which are seen, carved on other ancient sites. This rock also has some other interesting facts attached to it. In 1749, Captain Celeron de Bienville, a French man from Canada buried a lead plate underneath this rock to assert French claim to Ohio valley. He buried several plates in specific locations, but only three of them have been found so far.
If you look at an old photograph, you can see a lot of rocks here. But today they are all gone, because people have removed them in search of this plate which was never found.  This has also made it impossible to have a place to stand and observe the petroglyphs.  Believe it or not it was a popular tourist attraction at one point where steamships sailing in the Allegheny River would stop at this rock, so passengers could observe the rock art.
Modern day graffiti has entirely destroyed the authenticity of the Indian God Rock
It is in the middle of nowhere and you have to walk or bike a few miles to get here and even if you do, you really can’t see the ancient petroglyphs. I was told even if I take a Kayak and see the front side, vandals have completely covered it with modern day carvings making it impossible to see the original rock engravings.

If you would like more information about the Indian God Rock, contact the Venango Museum in Oil City, PA. 


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