Friday, May 03, 2013

Solved: Grooved Stone Mystery

Several years ago I found an inquiry from a man in West Virginia who knew someone who found a carved rock (pictured above) thinking that it may be a petroglyph of some type. Today I stumbled across the original I decided to look again to see if anyone had figured out what this was. Read the original inquiry...I think you'll be surprised by the identification:

A few days ago, a gentleman was walking in the woods, in an undisclosed location in WV, when he happened upon a curiously carved rock. This particular gent has been all over this ground, for years, and had never noticed this rock carving before.

He came back and reported the find, and so far no one else has ever noticed it before either. Keep in mind these gents have been all over this territory hunting and such, and are keen observers due to that pursuit. No much gets by them, but no one has noticed this rock before.

I went out this morning in the company of one of them to see this rock for myself, as I was not a little dubious.

The rock itself is embedded in the bed of a small mountain stream, around 200 meters or so away from the nearest road, up a small hollow. The stream I think is mostly dry, but has had some water running in it lately due to heavy rains. The area it's in is little frequented, and mostly uninhabited.

The circle is 22 inches wide at the inside edge of the circle, and 21 1/2 inches tall at the inside edge of the circle. The depth that the circle is cut to is between 5/8 and 3/4 of an inch. The orientation of the stem of the central "tree" is east by north-east.

I did a cursory search of Google images (just the first 20 pages) and found similar, but not identical, figures. They were the Norse "World tree" (Yggdrasil), the Celtic "Tree of Life", and a Buddhist figure somewhat resembling the carving. None of these explains how THIS carving would be found in the middle of nowhere in West Virginia, with this obvious patina of age.

The "branches" of the central "tree" vaguely resemble the layout of the surrounding hollows. There has been some lively discussion today of whether or not this could be some sort of "map" of the surrounding one or two square miles. Some say it most likely IS, others are equally certain that it ISN'T. So far, no theory has been advanced as to why anyone would take the time to rock-cut a map of such a small area.

An idea has been advanced that it is some sort of Indian carving, but no purpose for it has been suggested.

Why the "tree"? Why the circle? Why in the middle of nowhere, off the beaten path, in an uninhabited area? Why in the middle of a stream bed? Who would take the time to carve it, and for what purpose?

Any ideas? Explanations? suggestions for further research? I have to admit my perplexity in the matter once again.

ANSWER: Believe it or not, this is a pine tar kiln stone. It is grooved to allow pine tar to be directed to a storage vessel. It was confirmed by the National Forest Service and a North Carolina archaeologist in Asheville. Here are a few links that explain the process:

Tar Kilns
Forest Industry in South Carolina
Tar - Wikipedia

Mystery Stones

Wood: A History

Tapping the Pines: The Naval Stores Industry in the American South

Old-Time Country Wisdom & Lore: 1000s of Traditional Skills for Simple Living



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