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

Open to the public and protected by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. The GPS location at the end of the boardwalk (east edge of the site) is North 38 degrees 04.674' and West 90 degrees 41.052'. This image of the two anthropomorphs in Cluster 3 was taken on 27 December 2012; the scale measures 20 cm. The "visibility" of the petroglyphs varies with the amount of cloud cover, time of day, and season of the year. My experience is that the petroglyphs are best viewed in the morning and late afternoon; the angle of the sun creates the subtle shadows that help define the images. Viewing the petroglyphs near the date of the Spring Equinox (March 20rd) and Summer Solistice (22 June 2013) was disappointing, but July 23 (2017) was wonderful . In constrast, the petroglyphs were very vivid on the Winter Solistice (December 21st).

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 in the 1960s. Carol Diaz-Granados (1993) proposed 12 discrete petroglyph clusters based upon her research at the site.

Cluster 1 contains at least 20 petroglyphs including the largest petroglyph at the site - the image of bird that Carol Diaz-Granados and Jim Duncan (2000:Figure 5.2A) identify as a thunderbird. Another possibility is that the large bird links to a critical Osage sacred story of the A'hiu-ta-ta (Osage "Sacred Mottled Eagle") that carried the Osage people to their homeland. The petroglyph measures 66 cm in length and 42 cm in width. Scale is 10 cm. Photographed 23 October 2012.

Cluster 1 eagle with a 50 cm scale. Photographed 15 September 2012 during the MAS symposium on rock art in Missouri.

Cluster 1 eagle with a 10 cm scale. Photographed 22 June 2012, the day after the summer solistic.

Cluster 1 eagle without 1 meter. Photographed 21 December 2012.

Cluster 1. Scale is 1 meter. Photographed 23 March 2013.

Cluster1 eagle. Photographed 17 October 2013.

Cluster1 eagle. Photographed 30 January 2016.

Photograph of cluster 1 outlined in chalk during 1979.

Park sign from 1979 illustrating and discussing some of the petroglyphs in cluster 1.

Photograph taken by Robert Elgin in 1959 of the petroglyphs in north half of cluster 1. He established a 1 foot grid system over the site, chalked in the petroglyphs, then drew the petroglyphs.

Photograph taken by Robert Elgin in 1959 of the petroglyphs in south half of cluster 1. He established a 1 foot grid system over the site, chalked in the petroglyphs, then drew the petroglyphs.

Horned anthropomorph petroglyph in south half of cluster 1; photographed in 1979. Possibly a Ba-hi'xtsi (Osage "Elite") or Wa-kon'da-gi (Osage "Priest or Shaman")

Cluster 2 includes at least 33 petroglyphs including another very prominent bird image. Scale is 20 centimeters. Photographed 21 December 2012.

Cluster 2 prominent bird petroglyph. Scale is 50 centimeters. Photographed 15 September 2012 during the MAS symposium on rock art.

Cluster 2 prominent bird petroglyph. Often considered talking, but maybe the beak holds another bird or a man? Scale is 20 centimeters. Photographed 23 July 2017.

Cluster 2 prominent bird petroglyph. Often considered talking, but maybe the beak holds another bird or a man? Scale is 20 centimeters. Photographed 23 July 2017.

Cluster 2 bird petroglyph detail; photographed 21 December 2012. Scale is 20 centimeters.

Cluster 2 bird petroglyph detail; photographed 23 March 2013. Scale is 1 meter.

Cluster 2 bird petroglyph detail; photographed 22 June 2013. Scale is 10 cm.

Cluster 2 bird petroglyph detail; photograph 17 Octover 2013.

Cluster 2 bird petroglyph detail; photographed 22 June 2013. Scale is 10 cm.

Cluster 2 bird petroglyph detail; photographed 30 January 2016.

Chalked petroglyphs in cluster 2 during 1979.

4 toed foot in cluster 2 on 23 July 2017.

Park sign from 1963 illustrating and discussing some of the petroglyphs in cluster 2.

Cluster 2 on 22 June 2013 with 10 cm. scale. The pencil outline of the one thunderbird was done by an idiot somewhere between December 2012 and March 2013.

Cluster 2 on 17 October 2013.

Cluster 3 includes at least 74 petroglyphs including a coiled snake, two anthromorphs standing side-by-side, and dozens oval shapes. Scale is 20 centimeters. Photographed 21 December 2012.

Cluster 3 coiled serpent petroglyph. Scale is 1 meter. Photographed 15 September 2012 during the MAS meeting on rock art.

Cluster 3 coiled serpent petroglyph. Scale is 1 meter. Photographed 24 July 2017.

Cluster 3 thunderbird in lower left corner. Scale is 70 cm. Photographed 24 July 2017.

Cluster 3 closeup on the winged and coiled serpent petroglyphs. Scale is 25 cm for each color section. Photographed 24 July 2017.

Cluster 3 coiled serpent petroglyph. Scale is 20 centimeters. Photographed 21 December 2012.

Cluster 3 coiled serpent petroglyph and two figures. No scale. Photographed 18 March 2013.

Cluster 3 coiled serpent petroglyph and two figures. 10 cm. scale. Photographed 22 June 2013.

Cluster 3 coiled serpent petroglyph and two figures. 1 meter scale. Photographed 30 January 2016.

Chalked petroglyphs of the two anthropomorphs in cluster 3 during 1979.

Oval petroglyphs in cluster 3. Scale is 1 meter. Photographed on 15 September 2012 during the MAS symposium on rock art.

Oval petroglyphs in cluster 3. Scale is 10 cm. Photographed on 22 June 2013 on the day after the summer solstice.

Oval petroglyphs in cluster 3. Scale is 1 meter. Photographed on 30 January 2016.

Chalked petroglyphs in cluster 3 during 1979.

Photograph taken by Robert Elgin in 1959 of the petroglyphs in west half of cluster 3. He established a 1 foot grid system over the site, chalked in the petroglyphs, then drew the petroglyphs.

Park sign from 1979 illustrating and discussing some of the petroglyphs in cluster 3.

Cluster 4 includes at least 27 petroglyphs including bird tracks and possible turtle (just to the right and 10 cm further away from the bird track) at Washington Park "A" site. The best defined bird track measures 13 cm. in length. Scale is 1 meter. Photographed 15 September 2012.

Cluster 4 photographed on 22 June 2013. Scale is 10 cm.


Late afternoon photograph of bird track and possible turtle in Cluster 4 at Washington Park "A" site. Scale is 10 cm. Photographed 23 October 2012.



Cluster 4 photographed in 1963 by Dr. H. Lee Hoover, member of the Missouri Archaeological Society.

Cluster 4 - east half photographed on 21 December 2012.

Cluster 4 - west half. Scale is 20 centimeters. Photographed 27 December 2012.

Cluster 4 - west half. Scale is 10 centimeters. Photographed 22 June 2013.

Cluster 4. Scale is 20 centimeters. Photographed 21 December 2012.

Clusters 1 throught 4 are located south of the boardwalk. Photograph taken on 27 December 2012. Scale is 1 meter.

Clusters 5 through 11 are located north of the boardwalk. The petroglphs in these groups are not as densely packed as in the four clusters to the north of the boardwalk. Photograph taken on 27 December 2012. Scale is 1 meter.



Cluster 6 was visible to me on 16 October 2013. This date was close to the Fall Equinox (22 September 2013).

Cluster 7 includes at least 11 petroglyphs including a sun pattern that was partially ice covered when photographed on 21 December 2012. Ironically, the ice enhanced the outline of this faint petroglyph. The sun pattern measures 30 cm by 30 cm. Carol Diaz-Granados (2000) interprets the petroglyph immediately to the north of the sun pattern as a crescent moon; it measures 27 cm in length. Scale is 20 centimeters.

Cluster 7 sunburst design on 23 July 2017.

Park sign from 1979 illustrating and discussing some of the petroglyphs in cluster 7.

Cluster 8 includes at least 12 petroglyphs including a round vulvar form. Duncan and Diaz-Granados (2004:205) identify this as a Ushje (female organ of the world) - the entrance to the Lower World/Underworld. Quintero (2009:219) uses the term Uze for vagina in Osage.

The petroglyph measures 20 cm in length and 15 cm in width. Scale is 20 cm. Photographed 27 December 2012.

Cluster 8 vulva petroglyph. Photographed 23 July 2017.

Cluster 8 includes a petroglyph that is probably a anthromorph, but also resembles a bird/wasp. The petroglyph is 19 centimeters in width. Scale is 20 cm. Photographed 21 December 2012.

Cluster 8 includes a petroglyph that is probably a anthromorph, but also resembles a bird/wasp. No Scale. Photographed 18 March 2013.

Photoshop outline of the petroglyph that is probably a anthromorph, but also resembles a bird/wasp. The petroglyph is 19 centimeters in width. Scale is 20 cm. Photographed 21 December 2012. The design is outlined in photoshop; it was not chalked.

Park sign showing petroglyphs of Cluster 9. Photographed 22 June 2013.

Cluster 9 petroglyph that might be a dog? 10 cm scale is directly below the petroglyph. Photographed 22 June 2013.

The petroglphs in Cluster 9 are hard to recognize with the exception of the bird figure in the upper right corner of the image. Scale is 10 cm . Photographed 22 June 2013.

Bird petroglph in Cluster 9. Scale is 1 meter. Photographed 30 January 2016.

Cluster 10 includes at least 26 petroglyphs including three box shape petroglyphs (one with a meandering arrow extending away from it). The box shaped petroglyph in the center measures 14 by 14 centimeters while the box shaped petroglyph to its left measures 21 by 27 centimeters. Scale is 20 cm. Photographed 27 December 2012.

Two box shape petroglyphs in Cluster 10. Scale is 1 meter. Photographed 30 January 2016.

Cluster 11 includes at least 21 petroglyphs including a very prominent vulvar form. The petroglyph measure 26 by 16 centimeters. Scale is 20 cm. Duncan and Diaz-Granados (2004:205) identify this petroglyph as the Ushje (female organ of the world) - the entrance to the Lower World/Underworld. Quintero (2009:219) uses the term Uze for vagina in Osage.

Duncan and Diaz-Granados (2004:Figure 12.2) identify the Ushje petroglyph with the Old-Woman-Who-Never-Dies in Osage religious tradition; this is probably the same as Wa-kon-da Hin-dse-ta (Osage, Spirit Being of Earth). This petroglyph is situated at the extreme north edge of all the petroglyphs clusters. If the clusters of petroglyphs are perceived as "layers", then the Ushje petroglyph could be interpreted as the starting point for the entire sequence of petroglyphs. Maybe. Photographed 27 December 2012.

Cluster 11 vulvar form outlined using photoshop. Scale is 20 cm. Photographed 27 December 2012.

Two petroglyphs in cluster 12; situated at the south edge of the petroglyph panels. The bird and arrow (probably athunderbird) are the conclusion of the panels while the vulvar petroglyph is at the beginning of the panels. Scale is 20 cm. Photographed 27 December 2012.

Michael Fuller taking notes on Cluster 7 on 21 December 2012 - the winter solistice.

Neathery Fuller and Kevin Albrecht (Field Operations Coordinator for the Eastern Parks District, Division of State Parks, Missouri Department of Natural Resources) on 21 December 2012 at Washington State Park.

Neathery Fuller tooks this photograph of me on the day after summer solistic, 22 June 2013 at Washington State Park.

Professors Michael Fuller and Neathery Fuller on the afternoon of 30 January 2016 at Washington State Park.

Coiled snake petroglyph in cluster 3. Scale is 1 meter. Photographed 15 September 2012.

Wandering or bent arrow in the north end of cluster 1. Photographed 23 October 2012.

One way to interpret the dense pattern of oblong shaped petroglyphs in cluster 3 is to envision them as a Ta'-ko Ton-won (Osage, "Sacred City") with a palisade, rows of platform mounds, circular burial mounds, a central plaza and a temple mound with stairs. Another interpretation is that the oblong petroglyphs simply represent ears of corn layed out in rows based upon their color (red, white, blue or yellow) while the circular objects represent squash. Photograph taken in 2003.

An interpretation of cluster 3 as a mound center with palisade wall (in red) and two plazas (in blue). Several Mississippian sites come to mind including Turner Snodgrass, Cahokia, Lilbourn, Towosahgy, etc.

Cluster 3 showing a Tha'-bthin Mi I'-ca-e (Osage "Three Sun Posts") near a large ramped mound (outlined in red). Sun posts have been archaeologically identified at the sites of Cahokia and Lilbourn.

The dished ovals in cluster 3 look like mounds when viewed upside-down. as viewed upside down look like mounds.


We'-ts'a (Osage "snake") among the cluster 3 petroglyphs. Photographs from 27 December 2012.



Oblique view of Cluster 2 taken on 23 December 2017.


Interpreting the meaning of ancient rock art and assigning a date to the images is very difficult. Some anthropologists take the position that the original meaning of the rock art is lost with the death of the artist. Subsequent groups may reinterpret the designs in new ways and modern anthropologist/archaeologists can make only bad assumptions about the original meaning and subsequent meanings. If you agree with the latter assumption, then you probably will not like my radical interpretation of certain petroglyphs as mounds, plazas, and palisades.

I believe that the Native American oral traditions, especially among the Osage, have not been fully utilized by the archaeologists trying to interpret Mississippi Period and Post-Contact Rock Art in the Ozarks region. Archaeologists working in Arizona have found that real history is embedded in the oral traditions of the Hopi, Zuni, Hualapai, and Navajo (Anyon et al. 1996:14-16). I am using the Osage Dictionary of Francis LaFlesche (1932) to postulate possible words for the petroglyphs imagery (somewhat in the fashion of epigraphers working with ancient Maya glyphs and modern Maya dialects). Other word choices in Osage are also possible. At least the Osage phrases remind us that the petroglyphs were made by non-English speaking artisans. It is possible that the artisan spoke Chickasaw and not Osage, but the iconography and oral history point towards the Osage.

A traditional, conservative analysis of the site was written by Diesing and Magre (1942:8-15). O'Brien and Wood (1998) do not offer an analysis of the site in their recent synthesis of Missouri Archaeology. Chapman (1980:229, Figure 6-5) places the site in the Ware Phase and illustrates the photograph of his comparison with the chipped stone maces from Spiro Mound (Hamilton 1952:Plates 38 and 39), but basically ignores the site in his two volume publication. Carl and Eleanor Chapman illustrated examples of the petroglyphs from the site in Indians and Archaeology of Missouri (1964:79). They (specifically Eleanor?) offered the following explanation for function of the site in their popular account:

"The Washingtron State Park petroglyph site was probably the junction of game trails and war trails, and was possibily a consecrated spot where young men were initiated into secret society rites and were taught the mythology associated with the initiation. The rock carvings may have been memory aids for songs and rites that were part of the ceremony. The symbols probably had magical as well as religious meaning, and participation in the ceremonies at the sacred spot could have been the means of imparting the powers of the symbols to the participants."

Chapman recognized that certain iconographic details in the Washington State Park petroglyphs belong only to the Mississippi Period (ca. AD 900 to 1400) in Missouri. Shell tempered pottery sherds, Scallorn points, Cahokia Notched points, and stone box graves (Diesing 1955:Figures 6 and 7) associated with the rock art site confirms the dating of the designs.

The proposal by Chapman and Chapman (1964) that this site relates to game trails and war trails seems almost implausible. None of the imagery clearly relates to either hunting or warfare.

Morse and Morse (1983:256) do not mention the Washington State Park rock art site, but they do make passing reference to several rock art sites along the southern foothills of the Ozarks that they date to the time of Mississippian Consolidation (A.D. 1000 - 1350). They observed that the petroglyphs of this period include sun symbols, footprints, arrows and human figures.

Carol Diaz-Granados and Jim Duncan (2000:113) analyzed aspects of the Washington State Park Site in their recent study entitled The Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Missouri. They identified the following themes in the rock art at the site: Ceremony, games/sport, myths/oral tradition, fertility, and narrative.

My first reading of the Ne ke a (Osage, "Sayings of the Ancient Men") sparked my interest in the possibility that some aspects of the rock art at Washington State Parkcould reflect the Osage oral tradition (as recorded during 1910 to 1914 by Francis LaFleshe of the Smithsonian Institution). That would seem especially true of the panel that is labelled "Fertility and Rain" by the Missouri Park Department

 

The Da'do-ca-ni mo-gthi tha bigi (Osage, "Creation story") includes an episode where the Osage Hunka (Earth People) leader attempts to ascertain why a non-Osage people behave in an evil manner. The latter are identified as the Hunka Uta-nontse (Isolated Earth People) that are afflicted by an evil spirit associated with their permanent settlement. The Osage leader proposes that his people adopt the Hunka Uta-nontse and they agree. The Isolated Earth People bring corn as their offering to the Osage for the generous act of adoption. The life symbols of the Isolated Earth People included Spider, Buffalo bull, Bull snake, Spreading adder, Black snake, Rattlesnake and Red Boulder (La Flesche 1995:37). A coiled snake is represented in cluster 3 at Washington Park Site A.

It is possible that the two figures in the "Fertility and Rain" panel might relate to another Osage myth related to origins of corn and squash. The supernatural being called Buffalo Lift Your Head tossed his body against the earth three times. Each time he produced colored corn and squash. The Osage classified corn as a male plant and squash as a female plant; these important food sources were wedded by the actions of Buffalo Lift Your Head (Burns 1984:192). The footprint petroglyphs at Washington State Park might also be related to the Corn Songs that include references to women's footprints on the hills of corn (Burns 1984:59).

Look closely at the image of two human-forms, the object jointly held by the two figures, and the symbols that I interpret as village house structures and a temple mound. Maybe this is an example of rock art by the Hunka Uta-nontse! The scepter style mace and other Mississippian Culture motifs in the rock art point to an artisan originating from the mound centers such as Cahokia, St. Louis Mound Group, Lilbourn, Towosaghy, Campbell, Snodgrass, etc.

The petroglyph of a mound with associated astronomical sighting poles is paralleled by actual discoveries at Cahokia Mound 72 (Fowler et al. 1999) and Lilbourn Mound 2 (Chapman and Evans 1977:83, Figure 23).




Bibliography

Anyon, Roger, T. J. Ferguson, Loretta Jackson, and Lillie Lane
1996 Native American Oral Traditions and Archaeology. Society for American Archaeology Bulletin 14(2):14-16.

Burns, Louis F.
1984 Osage Indian Customs and Myths. Ciga Press, Fallbrook, CA.

Chapman, Carl H.
1980 The Archaeology of Missouri, II. University of Missouri Press, Columbia.

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

Chapman, Carl H. and David R. Evans
1977 Investigations at the Lilbourn Site 1970-1971. The Missouri Archaeologist 38.

Diaz-Granados, Carol
1993 The Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Missouri - a distributional, stylistic, contextual, temporal and functional analysis of the State's Rock Art. Unpublished dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis.


Diaz-Granados, Carol and James R. Duncan
2000 The Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Missouri. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.
2004 Reflections of Power, Wealth, and Sex in Missouri Rock-Art Motifs. The Rock-Art of Eastern North Amereica: Capturing Images and Insights. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa

Diesing, Eugene H.
1955 Archaeological Features in and around Washington State Park in Washington and Jefferson Counties, Missouri. The Missouri Archaeologist. 17(1): 12-23.

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

Duncan, James R. and Carol Diaz-Granados
2004 Empowering the SECC: The "Old Woman" and Oral Tradition. The Rock-Art of Eastern North Amereica: Capturing Images and Insights. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.

Fowler, Melvin L., Jerome Rose, Barbara Vander Leest, and Steven R. Ahler
1999 The Mound 72 Area: Dedicated and Sacred Space in Early Cahokia. Illiinois State Museum Reports of Investigations 54.

Hamilton, Henry W.
1952 The Spiro Mound. The Missouri Archaeologist. 14.

La Flesche, Francis
1932 A Dictionary of the the Osage language. Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 109.

1995 The Osage and the invisible world: from the works of Francis La Flesche. Edited by Garrick A. Bailey. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.

Morse, Dan F., and Phyllis A. Morse
1983 Archaeology of the Central Mississippi Valley. Academic Press, San Diego.

O'Brien, Michael J. and W. Raymond Wood
1998 The Prehistory of Missouri. University of Missouri Press, Columbia.

Wyatt, Ronald
1959 Summer Fieldwork at Washington State Park, Missouri. Missouri Archaeological Society Newsletter 134:7-10.



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Updated on 24 July 2017.