Discovering a Grandfather Rock

petroglyphs monolith herschelMy vocabulary certainly expanded when we stopped to examine a stone filled with ancient writings at an Interpretive Centre in Herschel Saskatchewan. Here’s some of the terminology I discovered as I explored the history of these messages from the past. 

petroglyphs herschelPetroglyphs– comes from the Greek words petro-“stone”, and glyphein- “to carve”. Petroglyphs are pictogram-like images created by carving on the surface of a stone. The petroglyphs on this rock in Herschel are thought to have been carved with an antler. 

BP time- BP time is ‘before present’ time. It is a term used by archeologists and geologists who employ carbon dating to figure out how old something is. The petroglyphs on this rock were probably carved 9000 or 10,000 years BP. 

Grandfather Rocks-Grandfather Rocks  serve as reminders of the longevity of aboriginal peoples’ relationships to the environment and the past. All rocks have a “memory” of the earth’s past, so it is very important to First Nations people to honor that memory and the knowledge of the times that humans do not know.  The grandfather rock in Herschel is on high ground overlooking Eagle Creek. The area around the rock is considered to be a place of power. 

dave neufeld herschel talking stoneMonolith– the rock in Herschel is referred to as a monolith. A monolith is a stone that was put in position by people as a monument or for religious reasons.

Archeologists excavating around the rock

Archeologists excavating around the rock

The monolith in Herschel was first excavated in 1990. David Neufeld our guide from Ancient Echoes told us the monolith is thought to have spiritual significance since various prayer artifacts were uncovered around its base.

monolith HerschelSiouan speakers- the stylistic form of the language on the Herschel stone is associated with Siouan speakers. Siouan is a major family of languages that used to be spoken in the Great Plains area of North America.

Cupules- are circular man-made hollows on the surface of a rock.  The rock in Herschel has dozens of cupules carved into the flat panel facing east and there are many more on the part of the rock that is buried beneath the ground. 

Esoteric– the stone in Herschel expresses the esoteric aspects of the bison hunt- those aspects of the hunt only understood by the members of a particular First Nations group

herschel monolithRibstones– are rocks with motifs that represent an animal’s  rib cage. Erin Dayle Schneider in her research paper notes that on the Herschel rock the rib-like divisions are easy to spot and are obviously the rib cage of the bison. 

Ringing Rocks– some rocks have a percussive quality and when struck sound like a bell or drum. Carefully aimed and repeated blows with a hammer- like implement may have created the cupules on the Herschel rock. Liz Byran in her book Stone by Stone suggests the stone monolith in Herschel may be a ringing rock that provided musical accompaniment for scared ceremonies. Apparently hammering right into the cupules could create the sound of thundering bison hoofs

guide at ancient echoesAs our guide helped us understand the petroglyphs on the rock in Herschel I added a whole new set of words and concepts to my vocabulary. 

Other posts about Ancient Echoes……

Saskatchewan Grizzly Ends Up in Scotland

What Am I Doing On A Birthing Stone

Dave’s Vision Quest

On the Back of A Turtle

Dinosaurs in Saskatchewan

What’s a Buffalo Jump?

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Filed under Canada, Herschel, History, Nature, Writing

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