Located in a field in the rural Caney Fork community of Jackson County is Judaculla Rock, a soapstone boulder covered with mysterious carvings. The lines, circles and squiggles appear to form distinct shapes, but exactly what they mean, and who carved them, is a source of much debate.
As long as 5,000 years ago, prehistoric Native Americans used the area around Judaculla to mine soapstone, a rock valued for its heat-retaining properties. The Cherokee, later residents of the area, considered the site to be sacred. The first carvings on the Judaculla Rock appeared about 1,500 years ago. According to Cherokee legend, they were created when Tsul-Kalu, the Great Slant-Eyed Giant, jumped from his home on the ridge above to the valley below, leaving a strange imprint.
Over time, others have tried to decipher the symbols. Are they a map of the area? The story of a hunt? Religious, perhaps? Often, different people see different things contained in the carvings.
“Depending on different people’s perspective, the eye will form different connections,” says Laurie Hansen with the North Carolina Rock Art Survey. “However, what the original person was intending to convey or put there, we’re not sure.”.