Three Hills Creek (23WA1702)

Credit for identifying the Three Hills Creek site goes to Eugene Diesing and Frank Magre, early members of the Missouri Archaeological Society. It is not included in their 1942 article suggesting that they located the Three Hills Creek site in the late 1940s or 1950s. Bob Bray (research archaeologist at the University of Missouri - Columbia) visited the Three Hills Creek site in the 1960s and left 3 pages of fieldnotes that are archived at UMC; it is from clues in Bray's fieldnotes (shared by UMC) that I was able to find the property owners and receive permission to visit the site. Carol Diaz-Granados visited the Three Hills Creek site five times during her dissertation research (Diaz-Granados and Duncan 2000: 37) in the 1980s.

This site is situated on private property and it is not open to the public. The Three Hills Creek site belongs to the "Big Five" group defined by Diaz-Granados as comprising Washington State Park A, Washington State Park B, Madden Creek, Wallen Creek and Three Hills Creek .



Carol Diaz-Granados reports that the cross in circle motif appears 5 times at the Three Hills Site which is remarkable; this motif is also described as a quartered circle. Bray (n.d.: 2) reports that the Deising counted 6 examples of cross in circle at the Three Hills Site. This cross in circle is situated on a boulder that was designated as cluster 3-A by Diaz-Granados (1993; illustration 61.17). A chalked image published by Diaz-Granados and Duncan (2000:Plate 25) appears to be cluster 3-A, but the image was reversed during publication. Scale is 20 cm. I can confirm four cross in circle motifs (Clusters 1-C, 1-D, 3-A and 3-B). Ironically, three additional cross in circle petroglyphs (Cluster 1-B, Cluster 1-D and Cluster 2) appear in chalked photographs taken by the landowner during the 1980s. My plan is to study the problematic petroglyphs with oblique light at night to see if the cross patterns can be discerned. There is a good likelihood that the site has at least 7 cross in circle petroglyphs!


Four examples of cross in circle motif that I can confirm in 2018:


.......................Cluster 1-C...........................Cluster 1-D................................................ Cluster 3-A..........................Cluster 3-B......
Circle and cross motifs visible in 1980 era photographs of Three Hills Creek:

........Cluster 1-B.........................Cluster 1-D (second in this cluster).........Cluster 2..............

The cross in circle motif (actually two circles) on cluster 3-A is directly associated with a very deep fissure that cuts across the top of a very large boulder. The cross in circle motif is well known from its use by many historic Native American tribes as well as its roots in the "Southeastern Ceremonial Complex" (Waring and Holder 1945:3-4). The cross in circle motif literally emerges fom the east side of the fissue at the Three Hills Creek site; the emergence/birth of the sun. The diameter of the outer circle is 16 cm and the diameter of the inner circle is 12.5 cm. Scale is 20 cm.


Photograph taken of cluster 3-A by the landowner after it was chalked in the 1980s. The cross in circle motif in cluster 3-A was originally published by Wellman (1979).



Three figures are positioned opposite of the fissure from the circle and cross in Cluster 3-A. Two figures are very distinct while the third, smaller figure is somewhat indistinct. Scale is 20 cm.



Our (Neathery Fuller and Michael Fuller) impression is that the three figures on panel 3-A are headless humans with splayed legs. In fact, two of the figures appear to be shown with the head adjacent to the decapitated body. Scale is 20 cm.



Photograph taken by the landowner of Cluster 3-A showing a figure on the east side of the boulder that represents a human figure with several associated "dots." We could see three dots while Diaz-Granados (1993:illustration 61.17a) saw four dots. One way to interpret this figure as a female spirit being that has given birth to several babies. Scale is 20 cm.



Digital drawing of cluster 3-B by Neathery Fuller based upon a tracing made on clear vinyl that was placed over the boulder.



The pit and groove petroglyph (10 cm left of the cross in circle) on cluster 3-A. The pit meaures 4 cm in diameter and the groove measures 11 cm in length. Scale is 10 cm.



Photograph of cluster 3-B at the Three Hills Site. The petroglyphs in this cluster may represent birds with their wings spread in flight. A circle and cross design is directly associated with the bird petroglyphs. Scale is 20 cm.



Photograph of cluster 3-B taken by the landowner after the petroglyphs were chalked in the 1980s.



Cross in circle motif in Cluster 3-B as accentuated by an oblique light. The circle is not perfect but ranges betwen 8 and 10 cm in diameter. The wing of a bird touches the edge of the circle. Scale is 10 cm.


Equal in significance to panel 3a is a large boulder that has a number of petroglyphs associated with a tinajitas (Spanish, basin feature); Diaz-Granados designed this boulder as cluster 1-B. Tinajitas are a common feature associated with the petroglyphs at Wallen Creek, Madden Creek and Washington State Park. Scale is 1 meter.



Photograph taken by the landowner after cluster 1-B was chalked in the 1980s. The Tinajitas in cluster 1-B was originally published by Wellman (1979:Figure 821).



Closeup photograph taken by the landowner after cluster 1-B was chalked in the 1980s. Two square petroglyphs (probably lodges) appear in the lower left side of the image. A circle and cross design can be seen in the upper right side of the image; it is adjacent to a design that can be interpreted as either a bird in flight or a bird foot track.



Closeup photograph highlighted with red dots using photoshop. This photograph was taken by the landowner after cluster 1-B was chalked in the 1980s.



Photograph taken by the landowner after cluster 1-A was chalked in the 1980s.



Photograph taken by the landowner after cluster 1-D was chalked in the 1980s. A cross in circle is visible on the right edge of the image.


Photograph of the cross and circle outlined using photoshop. The original photograph was taken by the landowner after cluster 1-D was chalked in the 1980s.



Cluster 2 contains the image of an upraised hand with open fingers as well as the pit and groove motif. Scale is 20 cm.



Photograph taken by the landowner after cluster 2 was chalked in the 1980s. A raised hand with open fingers is very striking and this petroglyph is still preserved. A very faint cross in circle and can seen along the lower left edge of the image.



Two lifesize hand prints are show in one portion of Cluster 2. This photograph taken by the landowner after cluster 2 was chalked in the 1980s.



Cluster 1-D at the Three Hills Creek site contains over a dozen elements including a very prominent bird (Woodpecker, Eagle, Hawk, Thunderbird) that carries a cross in circle motif in its beak. The bird is still very distinct while the cross in circle motif is very worn. A very prominent tinajitas is situated as if the bird is flying toward it with the cross in circle. Diaz-Granados and Duncan (2000:Figure 6.3.c) illustrated the bird carrying the cross in circle in its beak. Bray (n.d.:2) suggest that the bird carrying the world symbol is a woodpecker because of its long beak. The left wing of the bird somewhat resembles the one of the eagles at Washington State Park with a square lodge sign at the termination of the wing. Scale is 20 cm.



Photograph of Cluster 1-D taken by the landowner after the chalking of the site. The cross in circle is clearly visible.



Photograph of the cross in circle motif in Cluster 1-D with red dots outlined using photoshop.



On the vertical surface of cluster 1-D (beneath the bird) is a human figure. Scale is 20 cm.



Digital drawing by Neathery Fuller based upon a tracing done of cleaer vinyl draped over the boulder. One fascinating possibility is that the bird carries the cross in circle to escape from two serpents that can be seen above and below the bird. The lower serpent has a wing design behind its head that is similar to a winged serpent in the central panel at Washington State Park A (23WA1). The circle measures 15 cm in diameter. The great bird measures 22 cm in length with a wing span of 25.5 cm. The splayed leg figure beneath the great bird measures 19 cm in length.



Photograph of cross in circle in Cluster 1-C at the Three Hills Site. The diameter of the circle is 14 cm. Scale is 20 cm.



Photograph of cross in circle in Cluster 1-C at the Three Hills Site outlined using Photoshop. Scale is 20 cm.



Photograph of a circle in Cluster 1-E at the Three Hills Site; the diameter of the outer edge of the circle is 18 cm. It is possible that this petroglyph originally inclued a cross within the circle. Scale is 20 cm.



Cluster 5-A at the Three Hills Creek Site consists of a square petroglyph.



Photograph taken by the landowner of Cluster 5-A at the Three Hills Creek Site after the site had been chalked in the 1980s.



Photograph taken by the landowner of Cluster 5-B at the Three Hills Creek Site after the site had been chalked in the 1980s.



Photograph of part of Cluster 6 at the Three Hills Creek Site after the site had been chalked in the 1980s.



Photograph taken by the landowner of another portion of Cluster 6 at the Three Hills Creek Site after the site had been chalked in the 1980s.



Cluster 7-A at the Three Hills Creek Site consists of a very worn petroglyph of a open hand with splayed fingers. Photographs taken in the 1980s show the fingers chalked and an eye in the center of the hand; Diaz-Granados (1993:illustration 61.11d) and Diaz-Granados and Duncan (2000:164) illustrate the splayed hand, but do not show the eye. The hand and eye motif is a well known symbol in the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (Waring and Holder 1945:Figure 1.VII, 4). Though heavily worn, I see an oval depression in the palm of the hand that appears to be a representation on an eye.



Chalked photograph of Cluster 7-A taken by the landowner in the 1980s showing the hand and eye. It is very similar to examples executed on pottery vessels as well as examples engraved on shell from Spiro Mound.



Photograph taken by the landowner of Cluster 8 at the Three Hills Creek Site after the site had been chalked in the 1980s.



Photograph taken by the landowner of a cluster that does not appear to have been numbered at the Three Hills Creek Site. The photograph after the site had been chalked in the 1980s. This panel must be relocated and related to the rest of the site because the photograph could show two human figures involved with a version of the ballgame .



Photograph of cluster 2-A taken by the landowner after the petroglyphs were chalked during the 1980s.



Photograph of cluster 2 at the Three Hills Site. A very tight spiral/serpent is the most prominent petroglyph on this cluster. Scale is 10 cm.



Photograph of cluster 4 at the Three Hills Site. Scale is 10 cm.



Photograph of cluster 4 at the Three Hills Site with outlines sketched using Photoshop. Scale is 10 cm.



Photograph of cluster 5-B at the Three Hills Site. Scale is 10 cm.



Photograph of cluster 5-B at the Three Hills Site with the square outline accentuated by oblique lighting. Scale is 10 cm.



Photograph of petroglyph cluster 1-E at the Three Hills Site. Scale is 20 cm.



Photograph of petroglyph cluster 1-E at the Three Hills Site; several pit and grove motifs are visible. Scale is 20 cm.



Michael Fuller records the GPS location on cluster 3-A and discusses the site with one of the property owners. Other member of the family are examining the petrogyphs further downslope (south) from cluster 3-A.



The central boulder (cluster 1-B) at the Three Hills Site is pointed out by the landowner, Neathery Fuller and Michael Fuller.



Just past the last cluster of petroglyphs is a flat dolomite boulder that definitely resembles a projectile point. It may have been a natural feature that was seen as a supernatural emblem. Scale is 20 cm.



The Three Hills Creek rock site is situated 148 meters (486 feet) from a periennal spring that was used as a reliable drinking source by the landowners for over a century. The spring is at the same elevation as the rock art site.




Grooved axe found on the farm property at Three Hills Creek in the 1940s. The raw material is felsite. The axe measures 10.24cm in length, 6.38 cm in width and 3.94 cm in thickness. The axe weighs 388.4 grams. The axe is typical of the Middle Archaic Period (approximately 5000 to 3000 BC) in Missouri. The petroglyphs at the Three Hills Creek Site probably date (based on the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex motifs) to approximately AD 1300.


Bray (n.d.:2) quotes numbers compiled by Gene Deising on the Three Hills Creek Site: Thunderbirds (16), Woodpecker (1), Other birds (8), Humans (5), Man/Bird (1), Hand (5), Footprints (4), Bird Tracks (19), Dog (2), Animal Track (1), Butterfly (1), Serpent (4), Horseshoe (female symbol) (12), Cross (2), Bi-lobed arrow (1), Spiral (3), World (9), Sunburst (1), Circle (8), Circle-Cross (6), Wavy lines (10), Rake (1), Arrow (6), Arrowhead (2), Square (house) (4), Lemon (22), Cup (31), and Cup/Cone (46).
Many thanks to the property owners for protecting this significant site, granting permission for our visit to the site and sharing their photographs of the petroglyphs. Special thanks to Candace Sall, associate curator of the Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Missouri - Columbia, who provided the critical clue to the site's location in Bob Bray's fieldnotes. Loving thanks to Neathery Fuller who has accompanied me on dozens of trips across Missouri as we patiently relocate and document these significant sites.


Bray, Robert
n.d. Three Hill Creek Site - Bonne Terre - St. Francois County. Manuscript on file at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Missouri - Columbia.

Diaz-Granados, Carol
1993 The Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Missouri: A Distributional, Stylistic, Contextual, Functional and Temporal Analysis of the State's Rock Graphics. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri.

Diaz-Granados, Carol and James R. Duncan
2000 The Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Missouri. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.

2004 Power, Wealth and Sex in Missouri Rock-Art. in The Rock-Art of Eastern North America. Edited by Carol Diaz-Granados and James R. Duncan. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.

Diesing, Eugene H. and Frank Magre
1942 Petroglyphs and Pictographs in Missouri. Missouri Archaeologist. 8(1): 8-18.

Waring, A. J. and Preston Holder
1945 A Prehistoric Ceremonial Complex in the Southeastern United States. American Anthropologist 47(1): 1-34.

Wellman, Klaus F. 1979 A Survey of North American Indian Rock Art. Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, Graz.


Webpage constructed 6 March 2018

Webpage updated 19 March 2018