After a quick detour in Dillsboro and Sylva, we continued towards the college town of Cullowhee. Home to Western Carolina University, Cullowhee is a mountain paradise for recreation lovers. WCU is known for its quality music and arts programs, boasting a quality educational program with a small town vibe.
As we neared Cullowhee, I noticed a historical sign: “Judaculla Rock – Turn Left”
“Mom, we have got to stop! I have always wanted to see the Judaculla Rock. I’m so excited!!!” I was so giddy, I abruptly made the turn without any further direction. “Judaculla Rock is one of the most important archaeological sites in NC!”
“What is it?” My mom, a fellow history lover asked…
“It is an ancient Petroglyph that is sacred to the Cherokee…They have an exhibit on Judaculla at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh.”
“That’s awesome!” My mom agreed as we trekked down a scenic narrow mountain road, with little signage for several miles. GPS wasn’t much help given the lack of cell phone reception.
Coming to a fork in the road noticed Judaculla Road and continued to follow the sign. As we curved the fork, we were greeted with a peaceful mountain valley with golden grass.
“It is beautiful back here…” At the end of the quiet peaceful unassuming road, we found Judaculla Rock – an archaeological wonder Indiana Jones would flip over.
The Judaculla Rock is a rare Petrogylph boulder, revered through the ages by the Cherokee. Petroglyphs are images and designs engraved within a rock’s surface to symbolize important places, stories or events. Judaculla helps to tell the stories of the native people of the Carolinas in stone.
It’s off the beaten path location on back country farmland makes this cultural icon often overlooked, but the lack of visitors is no indication of the lack of historical significance. Judculla is as important as any of the Petroglyphs of Western Native tribes (UT-AZ-CO) and tells a story of North Carolina’s history…
Judaculla Rock is a soapstone boulder outcrop that contains more petroglyphs than any other known boulder east of the Mississippi River. Judaculla Rock contains 1548 petroglyph carvings depicting symbols and the land of the Cherokee.
Archaeologists believe intensive use of the site began over 3,000 years ago, when the soapstone boulders were quarried for making bowls. Petroglyph carving began approximately 1500 years ago and continued until European settlement disrupted Cherokee traditions and life 300 years ago.
After parking our Honda CRV, we strolled down a path to the rock. The exhibit is maintained in a partnership with the Cherokee Nation, Blue Ridge Heritage Foundation, and the Parker Family (who owns the land and has been a steward protecting Judaculla for over 100 years).
The exhibit guides you back in history as you reach the rock. I tried to identify various symbols etched in stone…It really is something spectacular to think that for thousands of years, humanity used this rock…first to make bowls and then as a way to communicate.
One of the rock’s fascinating symbols is that of Judaculla…according to Cherokee legend, Judaculla was a slant-eyed giant who lived high up in the Balsam Mountains. He guarded his hunting grounds from Judaculla’s Judgement Seat to the Devil’s Courthouse (accessible on the Blue Ridge Parkway)
It is said, when a party of disrespectful hunters came through his land, Judaculla chased them down the mountain. The angry giant leapt, landing near Caney Fork River on a large boulder. Putting his hand down to steady himself, he left his mark on the rock’s surface – which can still be seen in the lower right portion of the rock. (The hand print of Judaculla reminds me of an octopus.)
The neighboring town of Cullowhee also takes it’s name from Judaculla…
I highly recommend a history pilgrimage to this fascinating piece of American history.
For more insight…click here
one of the most important cultural and archaeological sites of the Americas.