Saturday, August 16, 2008

Grid Stone Found at Spanish Hill

When I first met Ted Keir and was invited to see his collection, I fell in love with one of his artifacts that was found on Spanish Hill in South Waverly, PA. Laughingly, I always called it a "petrified steak" a.) because I am known for my corny jokes and b.) because nobody has ever been able to tell us what it is.

I think it would be helpful at this point to give the readers a little background on the site called Spanish Hill, since although it has been written about many times over the past 100 years, it like the artifact shown here is still a bit of mystery and it has become my own personal passion to unravel that mystery and controversy surrounding it bit by bit...

Here are some images of the hill:

As many of you know, I was published in the Pennsylvania in 2005 concerning this truncated glacial moraine that once had ten acres on its top encrowned with an earthen enclosure which also had a ditch on its interior. This interior ditch feature of course is reported to clearly define the enclosure to be one of a ceremonial nature, as opposed to a defensive one.

“the circumstances of the ditch being within the vallum (wall) is a distinguishing mark between religious and military works.” E. G. Squier

General John Clark drew the enclosure and the dittch location in 1876 and believed that the walls had palisades, but I have never found ANY report of post molds being found, and have to believe this was a mistake on his part.

General Clark was also convinced that Spanish Hill was a place called "Carantouan" by Etienne Brule, who was in 1615, sent to this place to gather up 500 warriors for a Huron battle with the Onnondaga (near Syracuse, NY.) When Brule arrived however - he was met with great celebration and ceremony that lasted three days....and he was late with his warriors to the battle. Long story short - he ended up living with these people for years before he again met up with Champlain and from the story he told Champlain the following map was created:

Note that the Nation of Carantouan was said to be made up of 3 villages and you can see them clearly drawn along the river system which is the Susquehanna River. Note also that the dotted line coming in from the west there (north is the top of the image) does not go to any of the villages though...Instead it goes to what I believe is Spanish Hill...and this is where those ceremonies Brule talks about most likely happened, since it says after it was decided to send the warriors, they had to go and get them (from their villages) and arm them.

"Like the religious structures of the Druids, they were usually places of deliberation and council; within them the priests performed the ceremonies of their religion, and within them chiefs and warriors gathered to consult on public affairs, to make war and to conclude peace." - E. G. Squier

You see, ceremonial and temple mounds were built for hundreds of years east of the Mississippi, and there are many historic records of such places being in use by the earliest explorers to include Captain John Smith who actually named the "Susquehanna" River in 1608.

About the Artifact:

This stone is about two inches thick and on one side has this grid that seems to be "burnt" into it.

- 10 1/2 inches at it's widest points

- average 8 inches wide

- The three parallel lines - running most horizontal above - are 2 inches apart exactly

- The ends seem to be worn down- all the edges are smooth - -there is no rough edge on it.

- To me - the stone seems like it was soft, as the lines seems as if someone ran their finger through clay to make the grid is so hard of a rock today though that it is hard to imagine how these lines were made!

Here is an image of the other side of the same rock:

We were recently sent this website as to a possible explanation as to what the stone may be - and I have to agree that some of the stones on this site do have a striking resemblance to the one found at Spanish Hill:

The following images were sent to me by Vincent Barrows, who owns a website concerned with the Cahokia mound Complex at

This following tablet was found at Cahokia (Mississippian Mound -Illinois)

These websites show many of these artifacts that are referred to as stone tablets. Stone tablets are most well known for being found at Mississipian sites. Walthall (1990) has divided Mississippian cultural chronology into Early Mississippian (A.D. 850 to A.D. 1,150*), Middle Mississippian (A.D. 1,150 to A.D. 1,500*), and Late Mississippian (A.D. 1500 to A.D. 1700*). Mississippian sites appeared almost simultaneously throughout the Southeast around A.D. 850* and were mainly located within river floodplain environments.

It gets more confusing though because stone tablets existed in earlier mound builder cultures even dating back to the Adena times, (1000 BC-AD 100) - see below:

We Need Your Help!
It is my hope that we can find a specialist on stone tablets to look at our artifact and to let us know if this could possible be just that, and if so what time period and culture it seems to be representing.

Any help in this pursuit and to help us understand whatever this rock is would be greatly appreciated.

In the meantime, I would ask all collectors to consider how this conversation began and how it would not have taken place if Ted Keir had not preserved not only the artifact itself, but where it was found. Please remember that artifacts are not just cool items you can sell or hang on your wall. With the proper record keeping, it can be used as evidence in answering yet unanswered questions about our prehistoric past.

That very thought is what SRAC was founded on.

Click here to read a followup article on this stone.

1 comment:

  1. Deb Twigg;
    Excited about the recent addition to your website on the crosshatched stones. This is very interesting and It seems that the crosshatched stones had major significance to the people.
    Some possibilities to consider as for its use:

    * a clan symbol for the serpent clan - the great number of these crosshatched stones were found associated with mounds. Serpent is chosen as spirit guide for the serpent clan people.
    * pneumatic device for recalling tribal legends - Great Serpent (manito) is often used in tribal legends in allegorical way. Perhaps the serpent is related to the water people, for use in rain ceremonies, as rivers twist and bend like the writhing scales of a great serpent.
    * A spirit-stone - the alcheringa the spirit stones were used to represent a spirit, very well described by J.G. Frazier - see
    * A representation of a community or network - the x representing the soul or spirit is a widespread motif. The combination of many may be an indication of many souls working together, possibly in as in a warrior group
    * an abstract representation of ancestry - defined by Carl Schuster and Edmund Carpenter in the book Social Symbolism of Tribal art
    * Calendar system -angles corresponding with solstices
    * representation of a map -latitude and longitude
    * gaming board for use in Divination- Shamans would use grid boards to determine outcome of events, based on placement of sacred stones or burning embers after blowing them across the grids in a pattern
    * tattoo palette for mixing pigment - for use with bone awls to mix pigment that is rubbed into tattoo
    * all/ some of the above
    * none of the above

    Best Regards;
    Vince Barrows