Petroglyphs: The Westmoreland Site

Habersham County, Georgia

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner

The image above was achieved by enhancing certain light spectra with Coral Paint Shop then whiting in the actual symbols. I was able to obtain precise documentation of this site with my new state-of-the-art combined GPS-laser measuring device.  However, we do not divulge latitude and longitude of petroglyphs on private land. 

The main boulder is 329 cm (10.8 ft) long and 134 cm (4.4 ft) tall.  This  boulder faces True South, which is about 6.5 degrees different than magnetic south.   The smaller boulder, which was partially covered with soil and debris, faces True West.  It appears to be a stela that was pushed over on its side.   Both stones are high density rhyolite, which suggests that they naturally occurring features of the mountainside.

To identify the barely visible petroglyphs, I took near visible infrared light photos.  Closeup photos of individual symbols were more visible, but probably would have been almost meaningless to most readers.  Using software developed for making old maps and drawings legible, I digitally removed the color spectra of lichen and moss.  I then magnified the photo digitally and “chalked in” the images with a 10 pixal per inch digital spray.

Most of these symbols also appear on the Track Rock, Forsyth and Tugaloo Petroglyphs in Georgia, plus the Nyköping Petroglyphs in Sweden.  I was unable to see any images on Boulder B, but was able to feel with my finger what appeared to be a stylized elk like what appears on the Track Rock petroglyphs, plus many Bronze Age petroglyphic sites in Sweden and Norway.

The petroglyph probably is associated with a large meteorite or comet striking the earth. Note the symbols for a comet above what appears to be an enormous explosion to the south. There were also some smaller explosions, which are portrayed in the lower portions of the boulder.

The only natural landmark, which aligns to the south of the Westmoreland Petroglyphs is Lynch Mountain.  It is a collapsed caldera and 5.2 miles south of the petroglyphs. The site of the two boulders is 2.16 miles southwest of the top of Chimney Mountain and at an elevation of 910m (2001 feet) on a crest of the mountain ridge.  Chimney Mountain reportedly had smoke or steam intermittently coming out the top until the 1886 Charleston Earthquake.  This smoking mountain is what first attracted Smithsonian Institute archaeologist, Cyrus Thomas, to study the area. 

Chimney Mountain is definitely an ancient volcano. Whether it is extinct or dormant is not known. The only geological study of the region only analyzed visible rocks along public roads – not inside this mountain.  All of the rocks in our study area were determined by the 1951 geological survey to be volcanic.  The predominant rock, rhyolite, is generally associated with massive, highly explosive calderas with no visible cones.  The rhyolite was estimated in that study to date from 65 to 134 million years ago, but the geologists did not have the type of equipment now available for studying the chemical, radioactive and magnetic characteristics of rocks.  They merely looked at some rocks with handheld magnifying glasses.

These are photos of the boulders in visible light.

A mysterious geological cataclysm in the Nacoochee Valley.

During the late 1820s and 1830s,  gold miners found several village sites, constructed out of hewn logs, which contained European artifacts typical of the 15th and 16th century.  All were buried under six to nine feet of sand!   In 1939, archaeologist Robert Wauchope was puzzled by a three to fifteen feet deep band of sand, containing no artifacts, which lay under the soil, containing late 18th century and 19th century artifacts.  Beneath the sand was a 4-12 inch band of soil contain a mixture of Creek (Lamar Culture) artifacts and 16th/17th century European artifacts. Below that were artifacts, typical of the region south of the mountains, going back to the Ice Age.  Without looking for them, Wauchope found 35 Clovis points.  However, after a year of searching, Wauchope wrote that he never found a village with Cherokee artifacts in them.  He concluded that whoever lived in the Nacoochee Valley in the late 1700s had very similar lifestyles to those of white settlers on the frontier.

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