Washington State Park Rock Art Site "B" (23WA02)

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.

Mace or rattle (crowned with feathers) petroglyph at Washington Park "B" site (23WA01) on October 23, 2012.
North 38 degrees 05.010' and West 90 degrees 40.452'
The mace measures 37 cm in length and 13 cm wide at crown. Scale is 10 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.

Mace or rattle (crowned with feathers) as it appeared on 16 October 2013.

Labelled mace (crowned with feathers), ballplayer and second mace as it appeared on 30 January 2016. Scale is 20 cm.

Labelled mace (crowned with feathers), ballplayer and second mace as it appeared on 30 January 2016. Scale is 20 cm.

Map of the petroglyphs including the two maces and ball player from the sign board a the site.

Mace petroglyph (wet from rain) at Washington Park "B" site (23WA01). Scale is 20 cm. Photographed 15 September 2012.

Cliff Richey, an independent researcher living at Pueblo de Oro on Mindanao in the Republic of the Philippines, made an excellent observation that the several of the petroglyphs at Washington State Park collect rainwater "intentionally." It is a very interesting thought that some/many of the petroglyphs were meant to collect rain water as part of a sacred ritual. In fact, the mace petroglph was almost impossible to recognize when I visited the site on a dry afternoon.

Bird track petrolgyphs (wet from rain) at Washington Park "A".
The central length of each track is 12 cm. Scale is 20 cm. Photographed 15 September 2012

Cluster of 3 maces at Washington Park "A".
Scale is 10 cm. Photographed 13 September 2014

Cluster of 3 maces at Washington Park "A".
Scale is 10 cm. Photographed 13 September 2014

Large bird track plus two cupules at Washington Park "b".
Scale is 10 cm. Photographed 13 September 2014

Bird track photographed on the morning of March 4, 2018. Scale is 20 cm.

Two cupules at Washington Park "B".
Scale is 10 cm. Photographed 13 September 2014

Digitized sign board drawing. The original term for the scepter like images may have been something like the term ke-xtha-tse (Osage "war club") and the ball player image may have been described by a term such as Ta-be' Do-do (Osage "Ball warrior"). What if they are not maces? What if they are gourd rattles. Just a thought.

Mace adorned with feathers. Digital photograph 28 September 2003.

Ke-xtha-tse (Osage "war club") with the handle on the right side and tri-lobed head on the left side. Other designs are visible.

Mace petroglyph outlined in chalk during 1973.

Three maces, bird track and ballpayer petroglyphs photographed in 1979.

Three mace petroglyphs photographed in 1979.

Two bird tracks (in the foreground) and three mace petroglyphs (in background) photographed in 1979.

Mace and associated pits photograph on the afternoon of 2 April 2016 at Washington State Park. Scale is 20 cm.

Mace and associated pits photograph on the morning of 4 March 2018 at Washington State Park. Scale is 20 cm.

Drawing of the mace and associated pits from the display at Washington State Park.

Map of the Site B ruins installed in 2012 by the Department of Natural Resources.
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."

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.


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.

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.

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.

Designed by Neathery and Michael Fuller,
St. Louis Community College at Meramec
Constructed on 22 September 2002.
Revised 8 March 2018