Washington State Park Rock Art Site "A" (23WA01)

The petroglyphs at 23WA1 are open to the public for viewing; the petroglyphs, plants, soil sediments and all artifacts are protected by the Missouri State Parks. This site belongs to the "Big Five" group defined by Diaz-Granados and Duncan (2000:112 - 119) as comprising Washington State Park A, Washington State Park B, Wallen Creek, Three Hills Creek, and Maddin Creek.

.....................Click here to see digital images of the petroglyphs.................. ...............Click here to see digital images of associated artifacts

Wyatt (n.d.:2) notes that the petroglyphs were widely known in the local community before the building of the park in the 1930s. The petroglyphs protected in Washington State Park were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. Two approaches can be used to date the petroglyphs. Stylistically, several motifs belong to the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex dating to the Mississippian Period (AD 900 - 1400): hawk/eagle (35 recorded by Wyatt in 1959), maces (2 recorded by Wyatt in 1959), skeletal hands (2 recorded by Wyatt in 1959), cross (1 recored by Wyatt in 1959), sun burst (1 recorded by Wyatt in 1959) and coiled serpent (1 recorded by Wyatt in 1959). A serrated Scallorn point found on the edge of the petroglyphs most likely belongs to the Mississippian Period. A Late Wooland Period pottery sherd and a half dozen Woodland Period lithic artifacts (found in the crevice fill that divides the panel on an east-west axis) suggest that there could be a pre-Mississippian component to the rock art. It is possible that some or all of the vulvae (6 recorded by Wyatt in 1959), oval depressions/cupules (over 50 recorded by Wyatt in 1959) and animal tracks (3 sets recorded by Wyatt in 1959) were made during the Woodland Period. Some of the motifs recorded by Wyatt in 1959 have weathered and are difficult to see and photograph.

Plan of the Site A petroglyphs, showing the West - East boardwalk as a horizontal dark band. This plan is based on the research by Robert Elgin during 1959. Carol Diaz-Granados (1993) proposed 12 discrete petroglyph clusters based upon her research at the site.

Carl and Eleanor Chapman (1964:87) proposed that the petroglyphs at Washington State Park were carved in response to game trails and war trails. That is an interesting interpretation that can be easily evaluated. Game hunting does not appear as a motif in ANY of the “Big Five” petroglyph sites along the Big River.

Warfare is clearly a motif at the Maddin Creek Site, but not at the other four sites of the Big Five. "Most" of the Big Five sites share motifs of snakes and fertility, but the exception is Washington Park B. Maybe the best analogy is to a modern tatoo (skin) artist and five clients. Several shared motifs, but no person wants to be the duplicate of the others. Another perspective in that the Spirit Beings sacred to the five sites were not always found at each and every site.

Visiting the site during different months and in different weather conditions has been an interesting experiment. The most awesome experience was to be at the site during the total solar eclipse (Osage, mie phi'n'-ge) on 21 August 2017.

Dozens of eclipse crescents on the concrete next to the Washington State Park Petroglyphs at 23WA1.

The site was particularly "beautiful" when the thin soil between the petroglyph panels were full of columbine (Osage, mon-bi-xon ca-be) and horsemint (Osage, ni-dsi-da) in full bloom on 18 May 2020.

.................................................................Horsemint (Monarda fistulosa) ..................Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)



Chapman, Carl H. and Eleanor F. Chapman
1964 Indians and Archaeology of Missouri. University of Missouri Press, Columbia.

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

Fuller, Michael J., Neathery B. Fuller, and Eric C. Fuller
2019a Total Solar Eclipses and Rock Art in Missouri. Missouri Archaeological Society Quarterly 36(1):12 - 19.
2019b Artifacts Associated with the Washington State Park Petroglyphs. Missouri Archaeological Society Quarterly 36(4):12 - 20.

LaFlesche, Francis
1932 A Dictionary of the Osage Language. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

Wyatt, Ronald
n.d. A Study of Three Petroglyph Sites along the Big River in the Eastern Ozark Highland of Missouri. Unpublished manuscript, Museum of Anthropology at the University of Missouri, Columbia.

Designed by Neathery and Michael Fuller,
St. Louis Community College
Webpage started 2 October 2002
Updated on 19 May 2020