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Home North Carolina Jackson County City of East Laport Historical Markers Judaculla Rock

Judaculla Rock

NC-107 and Caney Ford Rad, East Laport, NC, USA
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Large boulder covered with well-preserved Indian picture writing of unknown origin. 3 1/2 miles southeast."
     Judaculla, alternately spelled Jutaculla, is one of the greatest archaeological mysteries in the United States. The Judaculla Rock, named for a Cherokee legend about its formation, is the largest petroglyph in North Carolina, and one of the largest in the Ssoutheast. Judaculla sits in the Caney Fork Creek valley in Jackson County, outside of Cullowhee. The details of the petroglyph’s formation, as well as its origin and purpose, are unknown to scientists, but different theories have developed from a variety of reliable and unreliable sources.

     The Judaculla Rock is a slab of soapstone that is about sixteen feet long by eleven feet wide. Due to recent excavations of the areas surrounding Judaculla, scientists now postulate that it was part of a larger grouping of soapstone creations. The rock is densely covered in a variety of forms and shapes, including human, animal and plant form designs. The designs appear to have been produced in a variety of manners, including incising, pecking, and smoothing. The methods are evident in close examination, but are becoming more difficult to identify with the continued erosion of the rock.

     The name Judaculla comes from a Cherokee legend about the boulder’s creation, stemming from the mythical figure of Tsu’ Kalu. The Cherokee believe that Tsu’ Kalu, or Judaculla, was a large, slant-eyed giant who lived in the mountains about the Caney Fork Creek Valley. Judaculla was the greatest of all the Cherokee mythical characters, and the Cherokee held that Judaculla produced the markings on the petroglyph. There are alternate legends about the Judaculla Rock, and one claims that the markings are hunting laws that Judaculla ordered. Another has it that Judaculla jumped from his mountaintop farm and landed partially on the rock, producing scratches, while running a band of American Indians off his land. The Cherokee believed that Judaculla produced the markings before leaving the area.

     It is known by scientists that the Judaculla Rock predates the Cherokee habitation of western North Carolina, but its time of origin is unknown. It is now dated from the late Archaic Period, between 3000 and 1000 BCE, but that is debated. Another theory is that it only dates from around the mid 1750s and illustrates the Cherokee victory over the Creeks in present-day Georgia in 1755. Although the origins of Judaculla are still unknown, various archaeologists and scientists are researching in the area, in hopes of finding the origin and date of this amazing petroglyph.

Hiram C. Wilburn, “Judaculla Rock,” Southern Indian Studies (October 1952)
Max R. Williams, ed., The History of Jackson County (1987)
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006)
Richard Walser, North Carolina Legends (1980)
Catherine Bishir, Michael Southern, and Jennifer Martin, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Western North Carolina (1999)
Bill Sharpe, A New Geography of North Carolina (1961)
University of North Carolina at Asheville website: http://www.cs.unca.edu/nfsnc/rock_art/judaculla.html