Piasa

The Tradition of the Piasa and the Mysterious Rock Art of the Mississippi

(Read the article on one page)

Along the river of the Mississippi Valley where its banks form the boundary between Illinois and Missouri, there exists thousands of ancient pictographs carved or painted on rocks, on walls in cave shelters, and beneath overhanging cliffs. For hundreds of years these images have been described in the journals of explorers, heard about through whispers of townspeople, scrawled in old town records and in innumerable reports of ethnologists and archaeologists. One would be hard-pressed to find a more enigmatic and curious image than that of the Piasa. Its name is Native American and in the Illini signifies, “ The bird which devours men”.

In the town of Alton, Illinois is a narrow ravine through which a small stream flows into the Mississippi River. Near the mouth of this stream, a hundred feet high up on the face of the cliff side is a modern representation of the Piasa. The image was first written about in 1673 by French missionary priest Jacques Marquette while recording his journey down the Mississippi with Louis Joliet. Marquette describes the image as “ as large as a calf, with horns like a roebuck, red eyes, a beard like a tiger and a frightful countenance. The face was something like that of a man, the body covered in scales, and the tail so long that it passed entirely around the body, over the head and between the legs, ending like a fish.”

The original image was visible until 1847 when the entire face of the bluff was quarried away, however, the legend endures.

The legend of the Piasa Bird dates back to long before European explorers came to region. It has been traced to a band of Illiniwek Indians who lived along the Mississippi in the vicinity north of present-day Alton. This tribe, led by a chief named Owatoga, hunted and fished the valley and the river and lived a contented life until the "great beast" came. In 1836 John Russel, a professor of Greek & Latin at Shurtleff College in Upper Alton published an account of the legend as told by the Illini.

Many thousand moons before the arrival of the pale faces, when the Mastodon & great Magalonyx were still living in the land of green prairies, there existed a bird of such dimensions that he could easily carry off in his talons a full grown deer. Having obtained a taste for human flesh, from that time he would prey on nothing else. He was artful as he was powerful and he would dart suddenly and unexpectedly upon an Indian, bear him off into one of the caves of the bluff and devour him. Hundreds of warriors attempted for years to destroy him, but without success. Whole villages were nearly depopulated, and consternation spread through all the tribes of the Illini.

Such was the state of affairs when Ouatogo, the great chief of the Illini fasted in solitude for the space of a whole moon, and prayed to the Great Spirit that he would protect his children from the Piasa. On the last night of the fast the Great Spirit appeared to Ouatogo in a dream, and directed him to select 20 of his bravest warriors, each armed with a bow and poisoned arrows, and conceal them in a designated spot. Near the place of concealment another warrior was to stand in open view, as a victim for the Piasa, which they must shoot the instant he pounced on his prey. The next morning the warriors were quickly selected and placed in ambush as directed. Ouatogo offered himself as the victim. Placing himself in open view on the bluffs, he soon saw the Piasa perched on the cliff eying his prey. The Piasa rose into the air and darted down on his victim. Scarcely had the horrid creature reached his prey before every bow was sprung and every arrow sent into his body. The Piasa uttered a fearful scream, that sounded far over the opposite side of the river, and expired. Ouatogo was unharmed. There was wild rejoicing among the Illini and the brave chief was carried in triumph to the council house, where it was solemnly agreed that, in memory of the great event in their nation’s history, the image of the Piasa should be engraved on the bluff.

The Piasa

The Piasa. Image Source .

John Russel, in his 1836 report continues, “ My curiosity was principally directed to the examination of a cave, connected with the tradition as one of those to which that bird had carried its human victims. Preceded by an intelligent guide, I set out on my excursion. The cave was extremely difficult of access and at one point I stood at an elevation of 150 feet on the perpendicular face of the bluff, with barely room to sustain one foot. After a long, perilous climb we reached the cave. The floor of the cavern throughout its extent was one mass of human bones. To what depth they extended I was unable to decide, but we dug to the depth of 3-4 feet in every part of the cavern, and still we found only bones. The remains of thousands must have been deposited here.”

Comments

The myths of North America and other continents are strong proof that a monstrous winged lizard lived within the memories of mankind. The only counter-evidence to pterosaurs living just 10,000 years ago is the dating techniques that are championed by orthodox scientists.

"if you look at the transcribed story" Point well taken, LOL

Looks like I should count to "10" before tapping out a comment, Eh?

if you look at the transcribed story, it mentions that the event that inspired the legend took place roughly sometime in the Pleistocene period, by mention of mastodons and the Megalonyx giant ground sloth. around that time there were a number of these teratorns existing throughout the Americas, with the largest, Argentavis, having a wingspan of 7 meters. They, along with a large number of animals, went extinct during the Pleistocene-Quarternary Extinction event..... curiously coinciding with the currently accepted time frame of human arrival in the Americas from the Eurasian landbridge. 'currently accepted'

Tsurugi's picture

"I was a student of Archeology and Geology for many years and bought into the millions of years crap until I saw the light, and it wasn't the Bible. It was realizing that concrete is actually rock, or rock is concrete and it doesn't take millions of years for a house foundation to "set up".
What about the thousands of rock layers? I see deposition like that on construction sites after just one rain event, dozens of layers of deposited sediment, albeit on a much smaller scale, but the mathematics are the same. Imagine the deposition of a Continental scale flood. Just my two cents."

Math Fellow, you are a fellow after my own heart. I live in a geologically interesting area and, over time, I too began to notice things that did not seem to match what I had learned from textbooks. Finding a few things like that resulted in me paying a lot more attention to the stone around me. I began finding many strange and wonderful things, and began to ask questions.

Google, that endlessly patient info-servant with its googolplex of busy internet tentacles, could not help me identify the weird rocks I was finding, but it did find other interesting things for me.

In particular, your comments about rock/concrete reminded me about one very interesting thing Google brought to my attention a few years ago. In Judah there are thousands of rock-cut caves beneath the surface. They're called the Bell Caves.

 

 

These caves have many interesting features....but look at this:

 

So....after the caves were cut, that sediment flowed in and hardened.....wonder how old these caves really are?

Greg,

Thanks for your response.

We really don't know when the animals deposited themselves in the LaBrea Tar Pits, all we have to go on is the Archeological community's storyline that's been perpetuatured and emblazoned for 120 years. But I'll bet the oldest of those creatures walked into the hydrocarbon goop not 2,000 years ago and some as recently as just a century ago. Heck, they've found house cats entombed in 4 feet of that tar, so the "10's of thousands of years" Fairy Tale is so full of holes it just plain doesn't float. That story, as well as, 97% of "modern scientific interpretations" are intended for the consumption of gulible uneducated masses. I'm not including you in that group necessarily, as I realize we are all being lied to on a daily basis about the (theory) of Evolution as though it is absolute fact. The far-fetched backstories and other accompanying fiction are exactly that: Pure fantasy.

I was a student of Archeology and Geology for many years and bought into the millions of years crap until I saw the light, and it wasn't the Bible. It was realizing that concrete is actually rock, or rock is concrete and it doesn't take millions of years for a house foundation to "set up".
What about the thousands of rock layers? I see deposition like that on construction sites after just one rain event, dozens of layers of deposited sediment, albeit on a much smaller scale, but the mathematics are the same. Imagine the deposition of a Continental scale flood. Just my two cents.

Pages

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Myths & Legends

Edgar Cayce (Credit: Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment, Author provided)
For nearly 30 years I have returned to the famous “Sleeping Prophet” Edgar Cayce’s readings as a road map to try and piece together the complex origins of civilization and the creation of Homo sapiens. Cayce (March 18, 1877 – January 3, 1945) was an American Christian mystic born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky who answered questions on subjects as varied as healing, reincarnation, wars, Atlantis, and future events while in a trance state.

Human Origins

Edgar Cayce (Credit: Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment, Author provided)
For nearly 30 years I have returned to the famous “Sleeping Prophet” Edgar Cayce’s readings as a road map to try and piece together the complex origins of civilization and the creation of Homo sapiens. Cayce (March 18, 1877 – January 3, 1945) was an American Christian mystic born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky who answered questions on subjects as varied as healing, reincarnation, wars, Atlantis, and future events while in a trance state.

Ancient Technology

Detail of a star chart dating to the Middle Kingdom.
The calendar is one of mankind’s most important inventions. Calendars allowed societies to organize time for religious, social, economic, and administrative purposes. The calendar, or rather, two sets of calendars, were invented by the ancient Egyptians. One of these was a lunar calendar, which was used mainly for the organization of religious festivals.

Ancient Places

Healing Temple of Aesculapius (Asklepios) by Robert Thom
In the ancient world, many cultures built elaborate temple complexes dedicated to their healer gods - Imhotep in Egypt and Asklepios in Greece for example. These gods were recognized as having the power to cure supplicants from a variety of ailments within sleep and sacred dreams. Those who desired healing might travel many hundreds of miles to reach such a temple

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article