Dighten Rock – Who Made the Petroglyphs?

January 5, 2016

Are the symbols on the Dighton Rock Native American? Norse? Phoenician? Chinese? Portuguese? Japanese? All or none of the above? There have been numerous theories about who carved the inscriptions found on the 40-ton boulder in Massachusetts. But no one has been able to say with certainty who first wrote on the rock, what they wanted to communicate, or why.

Description of Dighton Rock

The Dighton Rock is a 40-ton boulder that arrived to the Taunton River when glaciers melted during the last ice age. It measures 5 feet (1.5 meters) high, 9.5 feet (2.9 meters) wide, and 11 feet (3.4 meters) long, and is made of gray-brown crystalline sandstone.

What has drawn attention to the great boulder is not its size, but the petroglyphs across one of its six sides. These carvings have been the inspiration for over 1,000 books and articles, and more than 35 hypotheses. Although no one can say for certain who made the inscriptions, it is certain that they are very old.

Early History of Dighton Rock

Many scholars say that the mystery of Dighton rock began in 1680, when Reverend John Danforth visited the rock. After seeing it, he decided that the carvings on it were made by Native Americans (the Wampanoag Indians to be exact), and that they told the tale of a ship arriving, then a battle between the locals and the newcomers.

Danforth sketched the symbols visible on the top half of the petroglyph (possibly because the rest was under tidal water while he worked) and wrote: “It is reported from the tradition of the old Indians, that there came a wooden house (and men of another country in it) swimming up the river Assonet, that fought the Indians and slew their Sachem. Some interpret the figures to be hieroglyphical.

The first figure representing a ship, without mast, and meer (mere) wrack cast upon the shoals. The second representing a head of land, possibly a cape with a peninsula.”

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