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Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
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  • Monument Name

    Judaculla Rock, Cullowhee

  • Type

    Marker

  • Subjects

    American Indian Monuments

  • City

    Cullowhee

  • County

    Jackson

  • Description

    Judaculla Rock is a curvilinear-shaped outcrop of soapstone with quarry scars and numerous petroglyphs carved by Native Americans. The surface of the westward-slanting main boulder measures roughly 240 sq. ft. and includes scars left by soapstone bowl extraction. It contains more petroglyphs than any other known location east of the Mississippi River. A count of the patterns includes at least 1,458 cup marks, 47 curvilinear units, ten bowl-shaped depressions, ten stick-like figures, nine rills, three concentric rings designs, three curvilinear motifs, three deer tracks, two claw-like imprints, one arc, one cross-in-circle, and one winged shape. The petroglyphs at Judaculla are now thought to have been carved intermittently within the Late Woodland to Late Mississippian periods from about 500 A.D. to 1700. The rock is one of several petroglyph boulders within a 15-acre area. Outcroppings of soapstone boulders behind Judaculla Rock also show evidence of prehistoric quarrying scars where bowls were carved from the soft stone. At the site is a semi-circular elevated viewing platform and interpretive signs.

  • Custodian

    Jackson County

  • Geographic Coordinates

    35.301280 , -83.109860 View in Geobrowsemap pin

  • Supporting Sources

      "Historic Judaculla Rock In Jackson County, Near Sylva, N.C.“ in North Carolina Postcard Collection (P052), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill Link

      Crisp, Adam. “Judaculla Rock Gets a Facelift,” Western Carolinian (Cullowhee, NC) July 16, 2009, (accessed February 14, 2017) Link

      Tabler, Dave. “Judaculla Rock,” AppalachianHistory.net, September 29, 2016, (accessed February 14, 2017) Link

      “Judaculla Rock, Cherokee Petroglyph of Prominence,” North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, ncdcr.gov, (accessed February 14, 2017) Link

      “Judaculla Rock,” National Park Service: National Register of Historic Places Program, nps.gov, (accessed February 14, 2017) Link

  • Public Site

    No

  • Materials & Techniques

    Soapstone

  • Subject Notes

    James Mooney, a researcher at the Smithsonian Institution, first recorded the Cherokee legend of Judaculla Rock in the 1880s. According to this story, a being named Judaculla (called by the Cherokee Tsul-ka-lu or Tsu’ Kalu— the Great Slant-eyed Giant) was the greatest of all the Cherokee mythical characters, a giant hunter who lived on Richland Balsam Mountain at the head of the Tuckaseegee River in Jackson County. Judaculla was portrayed as being very powerful and could control the wind, rain, thunder, and lightning and could drink whole streams down in a single gulp.

    Although most Cherokee were relocated to Oklahoma in 1838 those remaining in North Carolina continue to regard the boulder as spiritually significant and have been active in preservation efforts. Archeologists now know that the oldest carvings on Judaculla Rock predate the Cherokee habitation of western North Carolina.

    In an interesting side note the name Judaculla was used for Goliath in Sequoyah’s Cherokee translation of the Bible.

  • Location

    552 Judaculla Rock Road, Cullowhee, NC. The rock is on the right, and parking is on the left.

  • Landscape

    The rock is situated in a bowl shaped depression covered with mowed grass and some trees. On the west side it’s bordered by a thicket of river cane with more outcroppings of soapstone to the east.

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