Clay County

one of the petroglyphs

19 Feb 2011.  We spent the Saturday in Clay County.  We went especially to see the Red Bird Petroglyph rock, known to locals for over 200 years.  “Petroglyphs” is just another word for rock engravings.  The story, mystery, and ensuing controversy intrigued me.  I wanted to see this rock for myself.  The symbols on this stone were scratched into it probably with a metal tool, like a knife.  No one really knows how old the markings are.  Some are probably older than others.  As you can see in the photo at left, some of the symbols have been traced with modern gray paint, presumably to help define the markings.

In 1989, this stone was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, being named the Red Bird River Shelter Petroglyphs.  It was removed from the National Register in December 2003, but remains a point of curiosity and interest to visitors.

An information board posted at the site states that the rock “contains eight Old World alphabets…extinct when Columbus arrived in the New World,” including “first century Greek and Hebrew, Old Libyan, Old Arabic, and Iberian-Punic, Ogam (ancient Celtic code), Germanic Runes, and Tiffinag-Numidian.”

There is some debate as to whether these symbols actually represent these ancient alphabets.  There are some who believe the symbols to be of Cherokee origin.  These folks believe the original Cherokee symbols were altered to produce ‘evidence’ that there were Europeans in Kentucky previous to the Cherokees.  This would mean that the Cherokee did not have possession of these lands from prehistory; therefore, the government wouldn’t have to pay retribution to the Cherokee for the lands that were taken from them.  One has to wonder, who was knowledgeable enough, 200+ years ago here in Kentucky, to perpetrate such a hoax.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a staunch supporter of the Native Americans; and I think we owe them more than we could ever repay by way of monetary retribution.  As badly as I hate to admit it, in looking at these symbols on the Red Bird Petroglyph, I see more of the ancient European style than of the Cherokee.  The Cherokee alphabet has more curves.  The ancient Europeans’ alphabet was mostly straight lines, such as you’ll find on this rock.  Lord knows I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination.  That’s just my opinion.  I hope that you readers will do your own research and decide for yourselves.

On a lighter note, our trip to Clay County also gleaned a nice experience at a beautiful, secluded, rustic campground called Big Double.  We were traveling North on KY66 near Marcum, when we saw a sign for Big Double Campground and picnic area.  We decided to take a chance on the picnic area because it had been a long time since breakfast.  We turned off KY66 and drove for what seemed like forever back into the wilderness. I kept praying that we didn’t meet another car, because the road didn’t seem wide enough for two, and there weren’t many wide spots to pull over.  After driving for a couple of miles and seeing nothing but forest, the view suddenly opened up to a beautiful cleared field complete with picnic tables, and a wooden walking bridge over Big Double Creek, which flows by the campground.  There are even fancy concrete outhouses!

Be aware, if you want to camp at Big Double, it is very rustic.  The only amenities are garbage cans and the outhouses.  The forestry service has also posted a sign about how to not attract bears.  No tellin’ what might come out of this remote forest at night.  During our visit, I spotted a bobcat track on the creek bank, plus many deer tracks.  Just for your information, there have also been Bigfoot sightings in this region.  I’m just sayin’…

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