Baby Rock - page 2

Indian Rock itself is only about five feet high and ten feet in diameter.  Entirely covered with inscriptions, it must have been in use for many years.  The very wealth of writing itself makes translation extremely difficult, since it’s often hard to tell where one inscription leaves off and another begins. 

The Ogham here is typical of that found in the eastern U.S. and in the Midwest.  There are several different styles.  In some cases there are words formed with a traditional baseline and vertical strokes.  In others, a natural crevice is used as baseline.  Other words are inscribed without a base. There are some symbols that appear to be vowel indicators, typical of later forms of Ogham; in some cases a vowel is indicated with an extended vertical stroke. 

Here I must make a disclaimer: I am neither an Ogham expert nor a linguist; I am merely a reporter.  However, with even my scant familiarity with this alphabet, I was able to recognize one word almost immediately.  This was “B-L,” the name of the sun god Baal or Bel in Ogham consaine.  It is found in at least two prominent places on top of the rock.  The letter “B” is a later American form, like a “V” on its side.  The “L” is two short vertical strokes with no baseline. 

Another inscription I could make out appears to spell: “M-G, M-H-M-B.”  The separation between the first and second word is indicated by the way the letters slant.  According to Barry Fell, “M-H-M-B” refers to Mahair Mabon, the Celtic mother goddess whose name is often found on fertility stones.  The meaning of “M-G” is uncertain.  Barry Fell gives the meaning of “fog or mist,” but in Old Irish “mag” is an open field.  This would make sense in the context – “Field of the Mother Goddess.”  I became aware of the above translation on flipping through America B.C.  There, on page 240, I found a picture of an almost identical inscription on a fertility stone in Vermont. 1

I’m aware that I’m on shaky ground here.  We don’t even know for sure what language this is.  I prefer to leave the difficult task of translation to others.  However, it was startling to discover a similar Ogham inscription in California and on a “baby rock” in New England!

Besides the obvious sun marker on top, there are a number of other designs probably astronomical in nature, but less apparent in their purpose.  There are nine sunburst designs.  There are also two other designs with holes in the center – but these are square holes, rather than round. 

This detail I found puzzling, since I could not understand why someone would want a tiny square hole rather than a round one; nor could I understand how they were made without metal tools. 

Then I realized that until the 19th Century, most hand wrought nails were square in shape.  Probably the maker wanted a peg for casting a shadow in the design, but instead of using wood he simply drove a nail into the rock.  The nail may have remained there for years, until it rusted and fell out, leaving a perfect square hole.  This fact would indicate the rock was in use until well after the White Invasion. 

I hope I have conveyed something of my sense of amazement on the day I first saw Indian Rock.  But this was nothing to my sense of amazement later, when I began to examine some of the previous reports filed on this same artifact.

One such report describes the “rock art” in great detail:

The top of the boulder bears hundreds of cupules and incised grooves…  the incised grooves form sometimes complex, parallel-line, radiating, and intersecting-line patterns, often associated with one or more cupules…   

The writer counted a total of 214 cupules.  Oddly, he never mentions that some of them are blackened inside, as if they had been used for burning incense or some other substance.  What I found odder still was his complete lack of awareness of archeoastronomy. 

On the other hand, I was not surprised at the fact that none of the previous investigators had noticed that the rock is covered with writing.  It has been long standing dogma that Indians were illiterate.  In reality, it is the archeologists who are illiterate. 

Finally, what are we to make of this artifact?  What is it trying to tell us?  That the Celts reached California and traded with the Indians?  Possibly, but not necessarily.  There are several other possibilities:

One alternate scenario is that the Ogham alphabet traveled independently all the way to the West Coast and was adopted by the Pomo, Wappo and Mi-Wok.  This is not impossible, since Ogham is one of the oldest forms of writing known; it may be related to Sumerian Cuneiform. 2 On the other hand, I’m skeptical about this idea because of the lack of supporting evidence.  Furthermore, why would a Pomo use the names of Celtic gods such as Baal and Mahair Mabon? 

I would like to propose a third possibility.  Ogham was an evolving and changing alphabet; the early forms were not identical to the later styles. 

It’s my hypothesis that Gaelic or Celtic traders introduced Ogham quite early to the East Coast of the U.S.  Certainly they left plenty of inscriptions to prove that. 

Native Americans would have observed the inscriptions and regarded them as a form of magic.  They began to copy some of the more important symbols, such as “Baal.”  This symbol ceased to be a phonetic spelling and became an ideogram, meaning “God,” “Sun,” or perhaps, “Power.”  The word thus traveled unchanged yet unverbalized all the way across the continent. 

My theory may be wrong, but I can not find a more plausible one.

Meanwhile, Indian Rock sits there in the middle of a horse pasture, year after year, in hot sun and drenching rain, bearing its silent message through the long years.  Formed of diorite, it is a hard, brittle stone that may endure for centuries, or until the creek undermines its foundation and it topples in.  The rock’s message will last a long time, but not forever.   

Some day, I hope a real epigrapher may undertake the daunting task of translating Baby Rock. I hope it happens before our history is lost forever.   

closeup     gnomon

ogam2    star4


1  Barry Fell, “America B.C.” Demeter Press, 1976.

2   See, for example, “Ogam Consaine and Tifinag Alphabets, Ancient Uses,” Warren W. Dexter; Academy Books, 1984.

Note:  There is a great deal more to learn from this rock, and more to be said about it.  I will limit myself, however, to one brief addendum to this first article: Final Word

For a view of some Ogam found in a different area of California, look here.