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North Central Rock Art

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  • North Central Rock Art

    Prayer Rock from SE North Dakota
    Posted by [SDhunter}

    This rock was found on a narrow but high ridge just north east of where I live in South Dakota. It was found on the same ridge as the "altar" that I posted a little while ago. You can see the hand prints on the edge of the rock. They are put there so that the hand fits in with palms facing up. Then there are some long marks in the center. The rock sits here outside of our museum now. I forget any more details. Just kind of cool to see.

    Click image for larger version

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    Posted by [Makoken]
    You know what's interesting, while they look like (carved) palm prints, the thumbs face opposite if you were to put your hands on them. Maybe it is just an optical illusion?

    Posted by [rokhedred]
    Maybe they used it in person on each side...maybe that explains the "palms up" positioning...just throwing a guess out there.

    Posted by [SDhunter]
    I knew that you guys wouldn't be satisfied with just a picture, so I went into the museum today, and got some more information, so here you go Greg and everyone else.

    According to Henry B. Collins, former acting director of the Smithsonian Institute Bureau of American Ethnology, the rock is a prehistoric Indian petroglyph, and some 4500 years old.

    The rock has two human hands, on opposite ends of the top, carved into it. On the bottom edge of the rock, is a sun disk with rays directed across the rock, resembling rays. You can see these ray's from my picture. Above and to the left of the sun disk is a sort of cross with two crossbars and a forked bottom on the vertical bar. On either side of the sun disk there is a smaller character which is difficult to read.

    The sun disk, with its radiating lines, resembles the foot print of a large bird, but is actually a sun dial, which marks the sun's shadow at sunset on the winter and summer solstices, the equinoxes, and three other dates. There is also a short line pointing north.

    This rock has three characters that are identifiable. One, the double-barred cross, (which I can't find an explanation for) This was deeply inscribed. the other two characters, one on either side of the sun disk, are shallower but are readable with magnification.

    The original location was on a high ridge, known to the Indians as "Mountain-Head and to the Early French as "The Head of the Coteau Des Prairie." Prayer Rock has always been considered sacred to the Native Americans.

    To the best of our knowledge, the first written record of this rock was in the journals of Long and Keating in their expedition to the source of the Minnesota River in 1823.

    And to top it off, two times a year, the Lakota Sioux still come to this rock from the Sisseton Indian Reservation, and spend some time here, praying and having some kind of meeting, all in their Lakota language. That was news to me.

    Hope this answers some questions.

    Posted by [gregszybala]
    Thanks Gary. Hate to make you make that drive. but appreciate it. I think we romanticize and take for granted the daily life of people before us, at least I do at times. Then along comes an artifact like this with the solstices correctly represented and whatever might be the significance of the other markings. Would love to know, graffiti, religious, scientific, informational, directional?

    Posted by [greywolf22]
    The long lines may be symbols are the rays of the sun. I have a large boulder on my place in Big Bend that has similar carvings.

    Posted by [SDhunter]
    Greg, It was no problem, I drive by that rock probably 5 times a day. It is in my home town. I would also like to know what the rest means, but the curator only knew that much. I may have to find out from the Native Americans that come visit it. If I do learn more, I will repost.
    I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.