Dighton Rock Inscriptions

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Dighton Rock Photograph
Photograph of the Dighton Rock Inscriptions

More importance has been attached to the Dighton Rock inscriptions, perhaps, than its value in our local antiquities merits. This may, it is believed, be ascribed in part to the historical appeal made to it, a few years ago, by the Royal Society of Northern Antiquarians, at Copenhagen, on the occasion of their publishing the collection of old Icelandic sagas, relating to early discoveries in America. It is certain that it was not regarded in any other light than the work of Indian hands before that era. There is something pleasing to the human mind in ingenious researches, the results of which unravel, or merely purport to unravel, mystery in any department of knowledge. The interest once felt in the zodiacal stone of Denderach turned upon this principle, although its importance to chronology has long since entirely vanished. It was the same intense ardor to pry into the unknown, which gave edge to the early discoveries of Young, Champollion, and Rossilini in the hieroglyphic system of ancient Egypt. That the celebrated stone of Rosetta did not yield an equally barren harvest with that of Denderach, in the field of antiquarian letters, may be attributed to the discovery of its trilingual character, of which the Greek copy was happily conjectured to be an equivalent of the ancient Coptic.

We have, in our own country, had our interest excited, within a few years, by the inscribed stone of Manlins, giving us the date of 1520 as the period of the first ingress of European footsteps into the Iroquois territory. A different, but still an historic interest arose from the Palladic or Oneida stone, to which the native tradition refers as the monumental evidence of the national origin of the Oneida tribe; and, latterly, our local antiquities have assumed a still more complicated form by the unexplained intrusion of an apparently Celtiberic inscription in one of our larger western tumuli. As the Mississippi Valley has been settled, false religion, basing itself upon the gross impositions of the Mormon prophet, Smith, has led to apocryphal discoveries of various metallic plates, and, in one instance, of metallic bells, bearing inscriptions which have been attempted to be imposed upon the populace as veritable antiquities: but these pretended discoveries have been so bunglingly done as not for a moment to deceive the learned, or even the intelligent portion of the community. It has been easy, at all times, to distinguish the true from false objects of archaeology, but there is no object of admitted antiquity, purporting to bear antique testimony from an unknown period, which has elicited the same amount of historical interest, foreign and domestic, as the apparently mixed, and, to some extent, unread inscription of the Dighton Rock.

As Americans, we are peculiarly susceptible to this species of newly awakened interest. It is but the other day, as it were, that we began to look around the northern parts of the continent for objects of antiquarian interest. Every thing in our own history and institutions is so new and so well known that there has been scarcely a subject to hang a doubt upon, and it appears refreshing to light on any class of facts which promises to lend a ray of antiquity to our history. The Indian race is, indeed, the oldest thing in American antiquity, and they bid fair to take the place of the inscribed shaft and undeciphered medal of the old world. It is on this account that so long-sustained an interest has been maintained respecting the various tumuli and remains of the rude fortifications of the West, of which we must yet observe, with due respect to the descriptive labors of our predecessors, that the speculations growing out of them have added incomparably more to the stores of vague hypothesis than of sound philosophy.

The very nascence of our historic and antiquarian literature tends to create a distrust of its excellence, and we are prone to grasp at suggestions from the other side of the Atlantic, on the remains of ancient art here, as if they were inevitable results of the most pains-taking personal and critical examinations on the spot, when, in fact, they are sometimes thrown out as a mere alternative of puzzled thought or editorial ingenuity.

A very different spirit and mode of investigation is shown in the several papers of the Antiquitates Americana a work devoted to the early history of the ante-Columbian epoch. Before the publication of this work, this epoch was nearly an historical blank; and it has taught inquirers how to bring the arts properly forward, to illustrate obscure points of history.

Having devoted attention to the Indian mode of communicating ideas by pictography, during several years residence on the frontiers, it will, it is believed, further the object which the Copenhagen Society had in view, by separating the pictographic part of the figures, represented on the Dighton Rock, from the confessedly Icelandic portion, and exhibiting them in separate drawings. This it is proposed to do, in the sequel of the present paper.

The materials I had collected in the West, and the study I had bestowed upon them would have enabled me to take this question up, on my return from the frontiers in 1841; but I should not, perhaps, have done so, had not the New York Historical Society, in 1846, placed me on a committee for that purpose.

This trust I executed in the month of August 1847, taking an evening boat at the city of New York, and reaching the thriving town of Fall River or Troy, near the mouth of the Taunton or Assonet River in Massachusetts, early the next morning. This latter point is some ten miles, by the nearest route, from Dighton Four Corners in Rhode Island, directly opposite to which, on the Massachusetts side of the river, the rock lies. This distance was passed in an open one-horse buggy, which afforded a pleasant view of the state of New England cultivation and thrift, on a rather indifferent soil, resting on conglomerate and trap rocks, which support a heavy boulder and block-drift stratum. Most of the larger blocks in this part of the country do not appear to have been carried long distances from their parent beds, as they are not only of unusual dimensions, but without very striking evidences of attrition. This block and boulder drift extends to the Massachusetts shore, and beyond the inscription rock, which latter is a large angular block of greenstone trap, presenting a smooth inclined line of structure or natural face towards the channel. It lies on a large flat in a bend of the river, which is quite exposed and bare at ebb tide, but covered, with several feet of water at the flow, submerging the rock, with its inscriptions. This diurnal action of the tide must have, in the course of years, tended to obliterate the traces of all pigments and stains, such as the natives are generally accustomed to employ to eke out their rock-writings, or drawings. The effects of disintegration, from atmospheric causes, have probably been less, under this tidal action, than is usual in dry situations, but the tide deposits upon its surface a light marine scum, which must render any scientific examination of the inscription unsatisfactory, without a thorough removal of all recremental or deposited matter. There are other, but far lesser sized boulders and blocks lying on this flat, one of which, near to it, has evidently some artificial marks upon it, but being, at the time of my visit, just under water, and much coated with a fine alluvial scum, its character could not be exactly traced. Similar blocks, and ovate boulders of greenstone and other formations, also lie thickly scattered on the main land, on each side of the river. One of the boulders of an angular character, on the Massachusetts shore was judged to be twenty times the dimensions of the inscription block. This feature of the geology assumed a most interesting character, but I had not, in a brief visit, assigned myself time to pursue it.

Dighton Rock
Plate 36 – Dighton Rock Inscriptions

I crossed the river to the rock in a skiff rowed by an interesting lad, called Whit-marsh, who was not the less so for a lisp. He had been across the river to the rock at an earlier hour the same morning, and had pleased his fancy by drawing chalk lines on some of the principal figures, which made them very conspicuous as we approached the rock, particularly the quadruped at the lower part of the inscription, (No. 12, Plate 36); which he had represented as a deer, the long upright lines on the rock, just above its head, being taken by him for horns; and he told me very unpretendingly, that this figure was originally meant for a deer. The morning tide, which was coming in, had reached the feet of this figure, but had not yet covered them, when I landed on the rock. The two human figures without arms, (Nos. 26 and 27,) at the right of the inscription, (as the observer faces it,) the large figure having the usual hour glass shaped body, and on the left (No. 1) of the published interpretation hereafter mentioned, and the chief deep lines and curves in the main devices, between these figures, in which the several copies of 1790 and 1830 coincide, were plainly traceable. The lines drawn in Mr. Goodwin’s plate, on the extreme left of the frontlet-crowned figure No. 1, I could not, with any incidence of the light I could command, make out or identify, which was probably owing to tidal deposits. The first impression was one of disappointment. As an archaeological monument, it appeared to have been over-rated. A discrepancy was observed, in several minor characters between the copies of Baylies and Goodwin of 1790, and that of the Rhode Island Historical Society of 1830; but few devices were wanting in its essential outlines. The most important, in the part, which is not pictographic, consists in the lower portion of the central inscription, which has been generally supposed, and with much reason, to have an alphabetical value. The letters, which appear in the Rhode Island Historical Society’s copy, as published at Copenhagen, are either imprecise or wholly wanting; but there is something in the inscriptive figures upon which to found the interpretations, which will be mentioned in the sequel. It was a clear, bright day, and I varied my position, by movements of the skiff, in front of the rock, to get the best incidences of light. It was evident, under all the difficulties of tidal deposit and obscure figures, that there were two diverse and wholly distinct characters employed, namely, an Algonquin and an Icelandic inscription.

But before I proceed to state the deductions, which are, in my judgment, to be drawn from it, I will introduce an interpretation of the pictographic part of this fruitful puzzle of antiquarian learning, which was made by a well-known Indian priest or Meda, at Michillimackinac, in 1839. Chingwauk, the person alluded to, who is still living, is an Algonquin, who is well versed in the Ke-kee-win, or pictographic method of communicating ideas of his countrymen. He is the principal chief on the British side of the river at Sault Ste. Marie. He embraced Christianity during some part of the period of my residence on that frontier, prior to the time of this interpretation. He had previously been one of the most noted professors of the Indian Me-da-win, which is the name of the professors of the ancient Aboriginal religion. He is also a member of the Wabeno Society, which is supposed to be a modern or new phasis of it. He is well versed in the various kind of the pictographic figures, by which ideas are communicated. He is quite intelligent in the history and traditions of the northern Indians, and particularly so of his own tribe. Naturally a man of a strong and sound, but uncultivated mind, he possesses powers of reflection beyond most of his people. He has also a good memory, and may be considered a learned man, in a tribe where learning is the result of memory, in retaining the accumulated stores of forest arts and forest lore, as derived from oral sources. He was one of the war-chiefs of his tribe, in the perilous era of 1812. He speaks his own language fluently, and is still regarded as one of the best orators of his tribe. Attention was perfectly arrested by the force, comprehensiveness, and striking oratorical turns, of a speech which he delivered, in full council, before the government commissioners at Michillimackinac, in 1836. He had, on another occasion many years before, shown the considerate temper of his mind, by dropping the uplifted tomahawk, which had been raised under a hostile chief, called SAS-SA-BA, to arrest an American exploring expedition, on their entrance, in 1820, into the, until then, sealed waters of Lake Superior.

When I first went to reside in the Indian country, in 1822, in an official capacity, I observed this man to be expert in drawing the Indian signs and figures; I saw in his hands tabular pieces of carved wood, called music-boards, on which were curiously carved and brightly painted, in the lines of sculpture, the figures of men, birds, quadrupeds, and a variety of mixed and fabulous mythological devices, which were said to be the notations of songs.

Such was the man whom I employed and paid, to be my teacher in unraveling these devices, and to instruct me in the several modes of employing their pictographic art. Seventeen years had now elapsed, from the time my attention was first called to this subject, when the Royal Society of Antiquarians, at Copenhagen, embraced, in their publication, the Antiquitates Americana, a full series of the several copies of the inscription on the Dighton Rock. I immediately thought of my Indian instructor, and having taken the volume to Michillimackinac, I dispatched an invitation to him at St. Mary’s, to visit me during the summer season. I did not deem it prudent to run the risk of awakening suspicion, by stating the object of the requested visit. The chief complied with my wishes, bringing with him four companions to manage his canoe.

He said that he had come in consequence of my verbal message, and inquired what had induced me to send for him.

I laid before him the volume, opening it at Plate 12. “You will recollect,” I said, ” that many years ago you gave me instructions in the Ke-kee-win of your nation, as applied to the MEDAIWIN and the WABENO societies. I know you to be well versed in this art, and have therefore sent for you to explain this ancient inscription, which has puzzled men of learning. You have since this time, I know, united yourself to a Christian church, and may think such knowledge no longer worthy of attention; but it is, nevertheless, a rational curiosity. The figures and devices here shown have been copied from the face of a rock lying on the seacoast of New England. They were noticed at the time that the English first landed and settled there; (1620.) They are believed to be very old. Both the inscriptions on this plate (No. 12) are copies of the same thing; only one of them was taken forty years before the other. The last was taken nine years ago. It is supposed, as the sea rises on the rock twice a day, that some of the minor figures may have been obliterated. You will perceive, by studying them, in what particulars the two copies differ. Was the inscription made by Indians, or by others? What is your opinion?”

This was the substance of my remarks. No other facts or opinions were revealed. After scrutinizing the two engravings for some time, with his friends, he replied: ” It is Indian; it appears to me and my friend, to be a Muz-zin-na-bik, (i. e., rock writing.) It relates to two nations. It resembles the Ke-ke-no-win-un, or prophetic devices of an ancient class of seers, who worshipped the snake and panther, and affected to live underground. But it is not exactly the same. I will study it.” He then requested permission to take the volume to his lodge, and asked for a candle, that he and his companions might study it during the evening.

The next day he came at the appointed time, with two of his companions, bringing the book. His principal aid in this investigation was a hunter, called by the name of Zha-ba-ties. I had prepared for this interview, by having present the late Henry Conner, Esq., the most approved interpreter of the department, in addition to two members of my family; all well versed in the Chippewa and English languages. I had numbered each figure of the inscription, in order to give precision to the chief s interpretation.

Chingwauk began by saying that the ancient Indians made a great merit of fasting. They fasted sometimes six or seven days, till both their bodies and minds became free and light; which prepared them to dream. The object of the ancient seers, was to dream of the sun; as it was believed that such a dream would enable them to see everything on the earth. And by fasting long and thinking much on the subject, they generally succeeded. Fasts and dreams were first attempted at an early age

What a young man sees and experiences during these dreams and fasts, is adopted by him as truth, and it becomes a principle to regulate his future life. He relies for success on these revelations. If he has been much favored in his fasts, and the people believe that be has the art of looking into futurity, the path is open to the highest honors.

Archives Of Aboriginal Knowledge Plate15
Archives Of Aboriginal Knowledge Plate15

The prophet, he continued, begins to try his power in secret, with only one assistant, whose testimony is necessary should he succeed. As he goes on, he puts down the figures of his dreams or revelations, by symbols, on bark or other material, till a whole winter is sometimes passed in pursuing the subject, and he thus has a record of his principal revelations. If what he predicts is verified, the assistant mentions it, and the record is then appealed to as proof of his prophetic power and skill. Time increases his fame. His ke-kee-wins, or records, are finally shown to the old people, who meet together and consult upon them, for the whole nation believe in these revelations. They, in the end, give their approval, and declare that he is gifted as a prophet is inspired with wisdom, and is fit to lead the opinions of the nation.

Such, he concluded, was the ancient custom, and the celebrated old war-captains rose to their power in this manner. I think the inscription in this volume is one of these ancient muzzinabiks. It is old it was probably done by the ancient Wa-be-na-kies or New England Indians. Before the white men came, there were great wars among the Indians.

He said that he had selected the drawing of 1790. Part of the figures appeared to have been worn off, and were illegible. It consisted of two parts. If a line were drawn across a certain part of the inscription, which he placed his finger on, it would not touch any part of the figures. All the figures to the left of such a line would be found to relate to the acts and exploits of the chief represented by the key figure, Number 1, and all the devices to the right of it had reference to his enemies and their acts.

I drew a line, in pencil, from A to B (See Plate 36), which completely verified this discriminating observation. I also drew a line to the left of the key figure, from C to D. I had prepared to give exactitude to my numbering of the figures or devices by embracing every thing of sufficient value to stand by itself as a symbol or representative character.

The inscription, he said, related to two nations. Both were Un-ish-in-d-ba, or the Indian people. There was nothing depicted on either of the figures to denote a foreigner. There was no figure of, or sign for, a gun, sword, axe, or other implement, such as were brought by white men from beyond the sea. There were some things, however, which he would mention when he came to them, which did not belong to the ke-keé-win.

Number 1, Plate 36, he said, represents an ancient prophet and war-captain. He records his exploits and prophetic arts. The lines or plumes from his head denote his power and character.
Figure Number 2, represents his sister. She has been his assistant and confidant in some of his prophetical arts. She is also the Ag-oon-au-kway, or Boon of Success in the contemplated enterprise, and she is held out, as a gift, to the first man who shall strike, or touch a dead body in battle.
Figure Number 3 depicts a structure called Wah-gun-ak-o-beed-je-gun. It is the prophet or seer’s lodge. It has several divisions, appropriated to separate uses, marked a, b, c. Part a denotes the vapor-bath, or secret sweating lodge, marked by crossed war-clubs. The three dots, in the centre of apartment b, denote three large stones used for heating water to make steam, and are supposed to be endowed with magical virtues, c represents the sacred apartment from which oracular responses are uttered. It contains a consecrated war-club, of ancient make, marked d, and a consecrated pole, or balista, marked e.
Figure 4 represents a ponderous war-club, consecrated for battle. Such war-clubs, of which figure 35, and e of No. 3, furnish other examples, were anciently made by sewing up a round stone in a green skin, and attaching a long pole to it. After drying, the skin assumed great hardness, and the instrument, which performed some of the offices of a battering-ram, was one of the most effective weapons of attack. (See Figure 2, Plate 15.)
Figure 5. The semi-circle of six dots signify so many moons. The first were continuous, the others broken or interrupted. They mark the time he devoted to perfect himself for the exploit, or actually consumed in its accomplishment.
Figure 6 is the symbol of a warrior s heart.
Figure 7. A dart.
Figure 8. The figure of an anomalous animal, which probably appeared in his fasts to befriend him.
Figure 9. Unexplained.
Figure 10. Accidentally omitted in the interrogatories. It is the usual figure for a human trunk, drawn transversely.
Figure 11. represents the number 40. The dot above denotes skulls.
Figure 12. This is a symbol of the principal war-chief of the expedition against the enemy. He led the attack. He bears the totemic device of the Pizhoo, which is the name of the northern lynx. (L. Canadensis.) The same word, with a prefix denoting great, is the name of the American cougar, or panther.
Figure 13. This is a symbol of the sun. It is repeated three times on the inscription; once for the prophet s lodge, number 3, again for the prophet s sister, number 2, and, in the present instance, for the prophet himself. It is his totem, or the heraldic device of his clan.
Figure 14. represents a sea-bird called MONG, or the loon. It preserves the prophet s name.
Figure 15. A Pim-me-dau-7co-nati-gim, or war camp. It denotes the place of rendezvous, where the war dance was celebrated before battle, and also the spot of reassembly on their triumphant return.
Figure 16. A Sah-sáh-je-wid-je-gun, literally, instrument of the war-cry, which is an ensign, or skin flag, usually borne by a leading man.
Figure 17. An instrument used in war ceremonies in honor of a victory, as in ceremoniously raising the flag, and placing it in rest after victory, to be left as a memento.
Figures 18, 19, 20. represent dead bodies. They are the number of men lost in the attack.
Figure 21. A pipe of ancient construction, ornamented with feathers.
Figure 22. A stone of prophecy. It is sometimes employed to determine the course a war party should pursue.
Figure 23. Unexplained.
Figure 24. has no apparent signification, as a pictographic symbol.
Figure 25. A wooden idol, set up in the direction of the enemy s country, and within sight of the prophet s lodge.

Section of the inscription to the rigid of the line A. B.

This group of devices the chief determined to have relation, exclusively or chiefly, to warlike and prophetical incidents on the part of the enemy.

Figures 26, 27. Two prominent human figures, representing the enemy. They are drawn without arms, to depict their fear and cowardice on the onset. They were paralyzed by the shock, and acted like men without hands.
Figures 28, 29. Decapitated men, probably chiefs or leaders.
Figure 30. A belt of peace, denoting a negotiation or treaty. Such belts were preserved with great care.
Figure 31. The enemy s prophet s lodge.
Figure 32. A bow bent, and pointed against the tribe of Mong. This is a symbol of preparation for war, and denotes, in this relation, proud boasting.
Figure 33. Symbol of doubt, or want of confidence in the enemy s prophet.
Figure 34. A lance pointing to the enemy. This is a symbol of boasting and preparation, and tallies exactly, in these ideas, with the purport of 32.
Figure 35. An ancient war-club, of the character before noticed in Figure Number 4. It is here seen that the enemy possess the same effective weapon of assault.
Figure 36. Has no known significancy.
Figure 37. Unexplained.
Figure 38. Does not belong to the subject, or is unknown.

Section of the Inscription to the left of the line C. D.

The chief, who had evinced a marked degree of readiness and precision respecting the other parts of the inscription, appeared doubtful when his attention was drawn to the purport of this compartment. He said it had been so much defaced that most of the marks appeared without meaning. He thought, from what he could understand, that it was of a geographical character, and gave it this explanation. It appeared to be the territory of the Mong tribe, or confederacy.

Figure 39, 40. Villages and paths of this people or their confederates.
Figure 41. Mong’s village, or the chief location of the Assonets, being on the banks of a river. It may also represent a skin flag used in the war, and the dance of triumph. The first interpretation is given as that to which the chief appeared to attach most weight, and as corresponding with his general idea of this portion of the inscription.

In this interpretation, Chingwauk confined himself strictly to the copy of Dr. Baylies and Mr. Goodwin, of 1790: the reason for this he did not mention. He probably found it fuller, giving some details which exist only in trace, or which are quite obliterated in the Rhode Island Historical copy. He was fully aware that the two drawings of 1790 and 1830 were copies of the same inscription taken at a period of forty years apart, and that the inscription was subjected to the action of the tide. The observer will notice that the primary and leading symbols, such as 1, 2, 3, 12, 26, 27, &c., upon which his interpretation turns, are equally plain in both copies. It will be further observed, that if numbers of the minor symbols and devices which the chief has employed, such as 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, &c., be wholly dismissed from the consideration of the inscription, it would not affect its turning incidents and general purport, as explained by Chingwauk. The interpretation would thereby lose some of its details, but it would still remain homogeneous, and be in entire conformity with the customs and pictorial art of the natives.

Owing to the probable age of the inscription, and its defacement by elemental action, it would require, at this time, a very careful and laborious process of copying it, with every appliance of scientific precision, in order to insure accuracy. No such copy, answering the highest requisites of exactitude, has, in my opinion, appeared. Nothing short of a cofferdam, to exclude the tide permanently while the copying was in progress, would appear to meet this extreme requirement of exactness. With such a preliminary as the basis of operations, the whole surface of the rock could be impressed with a brush, with paper properly prepared, by means of which, inequalities of surface and fragmentary lines might be brought out and restored. It would also be desirable to submit the face of the rock to the process of the daguerreotype, the focus of which should be placed at such an angle as to catch the minutest shades of surface. No such process could be undertaken until the surface of the rock had been duly cleansed.

It will be noticed that Chingwauk has not employed any of the devices, which are here attributed to a foreign origin, except Nos. 18, 19, 20. These devices resemble an hourglass, or a closed cross. Such a cross is a symbol for a corpse in the northern pictography; but it would cease to be so, if it were not closed, as it is drawn in the Rhode Island copy. On the contrary, an open cross is the Roman character for ten. This question of a closed, or open cross constitutes the turning point in its value in this inscription.

I called the attention of Chingwauk especially to the character in close proximity before Nos. 18, 19, 20, which resembles the ancient C, or sign of one hundred, and also to the sign for I, immediately behind them, and to the compound character regularly and closely following it, which Mr. Magnusen has interpreted to stand for men. He promptly threw them out, saying that they had no significancy in the inscription. It would seem by every fair principle of interpretation, that these six characters should be construed together. This view derives force from the consideration of the confessedly alphabetical characters below. By throwing Figures 18, 19, and 20 out of Chingwauk s interpretation, his record loses only the adjunct fact of an acknowledged loss of three men in the attack, while it restores to the Scandinavian portion, what is essential to it. The principles of lithological inscription, as they have been developed in ancient Iceland, appear to me to sanction the reference of this part of the foreign inscription to that hardy adventurous race, who M ere confessedly early visitors to America. Thus read, the interpretation of this part of the inscription furnished by Mr. Magnusen, appears to be fully sustained. Put it in modern characters, it is this: CXXXI men. The inscription below is manifestly either the name of the person or the nation that accomplished this enterprise.

The whole question of discovery turns on this. Not Scandinavia only, but Phoenicia, Gaul, and old Britain, may be considered as claimants.

And here it must be confessed, my observation did not enable me to find the expected name of “Thorfin.” The figure assumed to stand for the letters Th. is some feet distant from its point of construed connection, and several other pictographic figures intervene. If it be not the symbol of an Indian flag, or be thought to have a geographical significance, agreeably to the interpretation of Chingwauk, yet its admission as the character Th. would not serve to determine the name. The figures succeeding the ancient O:

Symbol
Figure

cannot, by any ingenuity, be construed to stand for an F, I, or N. The terminal letter is clearly an X, or the figure ten. The intervening lines are all angular, and in this respect have a Runic or Celtic aspect. So far as they could, by great care, be drawn, they are exhibited in the presumed Icelandic part of the inscription, (Plate 37, Figure A.)

Future scrutiny of this part of the inscription is invited.

A precedence has been given, in point of age, to the Scandinavian, over the pictogaphic part of the inscription. This results, almost as a matter of necessity, from its central and independent position on the rock. That the hint of the purport of such an inscription by foreigners should have been taken at a later period by the natives, to record their own traditions, may be accounted for on natural principles. Indeed, were there anything on the rock to denote the presence or existence of foreigners, in the pictographic part of the inscription, one might suppose that the Indians designed to show, by their drawing, the defeat of the very party of the Northmen, whose landing here in 1001 is contended for, at Copenhagen, whom they are admitted to have driven off. The admission of such a defeat by the invaders, and the use of the great war-club or balista, are circumstances in which the Scandinavian and Assonet record curiously coincide.

A full synopsis (Plate 37, Figures 1 to 50) is submitted. The figures on this plate coincide with those explained by Chingwauk to 41, and figures a, b, and c, of No. 3. The remaining devices appear to be as follows:

Figure 42. is a character rejected by the Indian expositor, as foreign to the pictographic part. It has been explained by the late Mr. Magnusen, to be an old anaglyph for the word men.
Figure 43. appears to denote warlike implements, of a character suitable to the Indian manners and customs.
Figure 44. consists of two characters rejected by Chingwauk, which are believed to stand for the ancient C, one hundred, and 1, a unit. It is upon this rejection, that figures 18, 19, 20, inclusive, between them, are transferred to the old northern or Icelandic part of the record.
Figure 45. is a device on the Rhode Island copy, which does not appear on the drawing of 1790. It is the representative figure of the trunk of a man, or a headless enemy.
Figure 46. is a fragmentary device of the Rhode Island copy, which corresponds, so far as it is perfect, with No. 10 of the drawing of 1790.
Figure 47. appears to be something raised, as a banner, by No. 27. The lines that compose figure 43, appear to have been parts of a device, some essential portions of which have become indistinct.
Figure 49. appears foreign, and has no significance as a pictographic device, agreeably to the papers hereafter introduced.

This leaves as the Scandinavian portion of the inscription, the figures which are denoted in the compartment arranged at the bottom of Plate 37. Of this inscription, figures 44, 18, 19, 20, and 44 bis., are to be read, CXXXI. The figure on compartment 23 consists of two devices. The first has been interpreted by Mr. Magnusen, (Ant. Amer.) as an ancient anaglyph, standing for the word men. The second figure of this compartment is taken from the E. I. C. of 1830. By comparison of this figure with the Runic alphabet, it is thought to resemble, though it wants the down stroke of the letter aur:

letter aur
letter aur

which we are informed was the ancient word for a bow, or money.1

With respect to the characters which should be inserted after the letter:

Symbol
Symbol

R, in the inscriptions of 1790 and 1830, we have felt much hesitancy. There is doubtless something to be allowed for tidal deposit, for the obscuration of time, and for the want of a proper incidence of light. But with every allowance of this kind, and with a persuasion that this part of the inscription is due to the Northmen, it did not appear that the characters usually inserted could be assigned to fill this space. Nor did it appear that the letter R could be recognized. It is certain that the penultimate character is an X, or less probably the cardinal number 10. Some shadowing forth of the intermediate characters is given on the upper margin of Plate 36; but no positive determination can be made of their alphabetical value. Without doubt, the archaeologist is here to look for the NAME of, either the leader of the party, or of the nation, or tribe, to which the adventurers belonged. A careful and scientific examination of the subject, with full means and ample time, is invited.

One remark may be added. Examinations have shown that the great forests and lake basins of America are not without analogous inscriptions. . In the article devoted to ” pictography,” in the following papers, this subject is treated on the basis of personal investigation, and it is believed that the inscriptions which have been copied at various points of the interior are such as will commend the subject of the Indian symbolic and mnemonic method of inscription to respect. It is a subject that will be pursued in subsequent -parts of this work.

Footnotes

  1. Vide Marsh’s Gram., p. 162. 



MLA Source Citation:

Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. Archives of aboriginal knowledge. Containing all the original paper laid before Congress respecting the history, antiquities, language, ethnology, pictography, rites, superstitions, and mythology, of the Indian tribes of the United States. Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott & Co. 1860. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 23 September 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/dighton-rock-inscriptions.htm - Last updated on Jun 30th, 2014


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