Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Ohio Vs. Kentucky: Legendary Indian Head Rock Snagged From River, Stashed In Ohio
CINCINNATI (TDB) -- There could be a border war in the works after an 8-ton archaeological oddity -- some would say natural wonder or treasure -- called the Indian Head Rock was torn from the Ohio River and taken to Portsmouth for display. The rock hasn't been seen since it was covered by high water after the river was dammed in the 1920s. It had long been a pioneer and early American curiosity, as well as serving as a navigation marker on the river. Flat boaters and steam boaters alike used it to measure depth and distance as a natural mile marker.
Historians and geologists have long debated whether it is a manmade feature or was placed in the river by Mother Nature. The question remains open.
The Indian Head Rock is one of several landmarks scattered around the USA that seem to depict a human face (like the New Hampshire mountainside pictured above, a photo that comes from Indian Head Lodge). Americans have been fascinated with rocks that resemble Native Americans ever since Europeans landed in the New World.
WSAZ, Channel 3 serves the Ohio River upstream from Cincinnati and carried a report that says people on the Kentucky side are claiming "archaeological thievery" after the Indian Head Rock was placed in Portsmouth. There are plans to put it in the city's welcome center. Others think it should be studied and set back into the waterway. It is a legal fact that the nearly the entire Ohio River streambed is in Kentucky, not Ohio. Kentucky may be able to muster a strong legal that its natural heritage was looted.
Historians have studied the rock, although not much in recent years because it has been under water. Early researchers from the 1840s thought the head could have been carved Native Americans, who also may have put some writing upon it as messages. Nobody is sure, though.
In the 1920s, after the dams were built on the Ohio, there was a season of low water and an expedition waded into the river to photograph and map the rock. Volume 30 of Ohio History recorded the results and findings and notes the rock would probably be forever covered by the dammed waters:
"In all probability, neither the Indian's head, nor the rock upon which it is cut, will ever be seen again, as it is hardly within the realms of chance that the dam will be broken at such an opportune time. Unquestionably, the Indian's head was not the work of a quarryman. It bears strong resemblance to other Indian carvings and impresses the mind with the fact that it is thoroughly Indian in its execution. The outline is cut in the southeast corner of the rock and faces east.
"There is another rock, about one hundred years upstream from the Indian rock, upon which someone in recent years carved an Indian profile with feathered head-dress, but this one is not the genuine Indian head, though frequently taken for it."
More on Ohio River petroglyphs is here. There are many mysteries that remain about Native Americans in Ohio, and now there could be a full-blown legal tug-of-war over the archaeology and whether it was desecration to remove a natural wonder from its resting place.