Peterborough Petroglyphs

The Mystery of the Peterborough Petroglyphs

The Peterborough Petroglyphs are the largest collection of ancient rock carvings (petroglyphs) in all of North America, made up of over 900 images carved into crystalline limestone located near Peterborough in Ontario, Canada.

Proclaimed a National Historic Site of Canada in 1976, local indigenous people believe that this is an entrance into the spirit world and that the Spirits actually speak to them from this location. They call it Kinoomaagewaapkong, which translates to "the rocks that teach".
The petroglyphs are carved into a single slab of crystalline limestone which is 55 metres long and 30 metres wide. About 300 of the images are decipherable shapes, including humans, shamans, animals, solar symbols, geometric shapes and boats.

It is generally believed that the indigenous Algonkian people carved the petroglyphs between 900 and 1400 AD. But rock art is usually impossible to date accurately for lack of any carbon material and dating artefacts or relics found in proximity to the site only reveals information about the last people to be there. They could be thousands of years older than experts allow, if only because the extensive weathering of some of the glyphs implies more than 1,000 years of exposure.

There are some other mysteries surrounding these remarkable petroglyphs. The boat carvings bear no resemblance to the traditional boat of the Native Americans. One solar boat — a stylized shaman vessel with a long mast surmounted by the sun — is typical of petroglyphs found in northern Russia and Scandanavia. A Harvard professor believes the petroglyphs are inscriptions (and maybe even a form of written language) left by a Norse king named Woden-lithi, who was believed to have sailed from Norway down the St. Lawrence River in about 1700 B.C., long before the Greenland Viking explorations.

Another vessel depicted in the petroglyphs is a large ship with banks of oars and figure-heads at bow and stern. There is a large steering oar at the stern, a necessary feature only for vessels that are 100 feet or more in length. However, the Algonkian people who inhabited the region never produced anything more seaworthy than a birch-bark canoe or a dugout. Even reluctant archaeologists admit that the ships “do not look like real Algonkian canoes” but steer away from any uncomfortable conclusions about pre-Columbian visitors by speculating that the vessels are simply a shaman’s idea of magical canoes that travel the universe.

Another peculiarity is the figure-heads at bow and stern which resemble birds. The same design can be seen in Etruscan repousse gold work of the 9th century BC. The bird-headed ships were portrayed 200 years earlier, when Egyptian artists carved their images into the walls of Pharaoh Ramses IIIs “Victory Temple” in the Valley of the Kings.

Yet another mystery is the presence in the petroglyphs of a tall figure or ‘god’ which stands with arms akimbo and with a halo radiating rays, presumably from the sun. Cowering before him are two minute humble humans in attitudes of supplication. Scientists think the figure may represent a sun gold but there doesn’t exist any known cases of sun worship among the indigenous people of the region.

Some historians and researchers believe there is more to the petroglyphs than meets the eye. Some maintain that they are in fact a sky map of the heavens based on European tradition from 3100 BC. Evidence includes four signs which are the same as those found for the identical astronomical position at Lewes, England, leading to a possible speculative connection between the Peterborough petroglyphs and the megalithic people of Ancient Britain.

So the petroglyphs of Peterborough remain an intriguing riddle, a sort of code to which the key is still missing.

Tomorrow: Part 2 - ‘Preservation’ of Peterborough’s Petroglyphs: When Non-Indigenous People Just Don’t Get it Right

By April Holloway

Related Links

Petroglyphs from Peterborough Provincial Park

Sacred Destinations: Peterborough Petroglyphs

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