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First Elephant Found at Barnesville
Happily, each trip to the Barnesville Track Rocks continues to turn up a new find of one kind or another. The last trip gave the Midwestern team its best animal petroglyph to date. After previously locating two other animal carvings thought to be elephants, dogs, rhinos, or hogs (we couldn't agree on which), a third faintly visible pecking of an animal with an extra long snout was located. This one truly looks like an elephant (see the previous page). it has beautiful tusks, a short tail, and the head and back of an elephant.
This petroglyph is so old and weathered that one can walk right by without noticing it, this is , unless the sun is shining just right. We are told that it stands out sharp in early morning or late afternoon sunlight. Evidently the lower angled rays of the sun produce better highlights and shadows on opposite walls of the peckings and enhance legibility. Unfortunately, our visit occurred about noon and even the photographs we took are hard to read. They proved to be unsuitable for reproduction but a rubbing taken on stiffener cloth with a black crayon was obviously an instant success. The original rubbing renders a petroglyph that is 18-inches wide.
How the memory of this animal came to the Track Rocks, we do not know. Either the engraving is so old that the artist was recording a mastodon or, more reasonably, it dates to a later period associated with ancient colonist from the Mediterranean who were famililar with the elephant.
Going along with the last assumption, it is interesting to note that the 1975 radio carbon dating of core samples from the Grave Creek Mound (less than 25 miles from the Track Rocks) gave a date of 200 BC for its construction. This corresponds well with the time period for the use of the Iberian-Punic script found on the tablet removed from the mound. The script also identifies people who were familiar with elephants and Carthaginians.
Not long before the construction of the Grave Creek Mound, the Carthagians General Hannibal utilized this enormous animal as a kind of shock weapon in warfare from Spain to Italy. It was the counterpart of our modern day tanks.
Another factor confirming this first millennium date for pecking the elephant petroglyph is the Track Rocks Goddess Symbol (See Goddess Sign by George Murray in MESJ Vol 1., No.1 and an update in this issue). This symbol carries a brief ogam script which also dates to the Carthaginian period or, at least, within easy memor of it.
This Track Rocks petroglyph is not the first rendering of an elephant in America. There were many of reports of tablets, steles, petroglyphs, and sculptures depicting elephants. Wisconsin even records an enormous elephant effigy earthwork. Many of these were reported in the early 1800's, long before it was fashionable to deny the presence of ancient mariners on this continent prior to the coming of Christopher Columbus.
Adding to these examples are the Elephant Stele of Quenca, Equador and the African Elephant Pipe-Bowl, both attributed to wide ranging Libyans by author Barry Fell in America B. C. Additionally, Fell reports elephant petroglyphs in another of his books, Saga America.
These reports add surprising testimony to the memory of this magnificent animal by ancient mariners from around the world who have recorded it in stone across America. Their ports of origin range from the Mediterranean, Scandanavia, Japan and, no doubt, India as well.
So far as we know, the Barnesville Track Rocks elephant petroglyph is the first rendering of this animal in Ohio. We are indebted to the residents of Barnesville, Ohio who assisted in the location of various Second Elephant Found at Barnesville engravings on the Track Rocks. Some of these people, we are happy to report, have become members of the Midwestern Epigraphic Society. We hope they will continue to track down leads on unusual monuments and markings in eastern Ohio.