Monday, November 10, 2014

The Indian Givers

    I rarely promote other books on this site since I generally promote my own book.  I have a few from time to time because of their unique connection with my home state of Kentucky. But in today's post I want to make an exception.  A book entitled the "Indian Givers" is the work of anthropologist Jack Weatherford.
  Weatherford  describes the transformation of the world as a result of the Natives of the Americas. Amazingly, some of the things, devices and ideas that we take for granted everyday had roots in practices and items acquired from the early Americans.
    Though  the book was first published in 1988, the modest 272 paperback is captivating for those interested in history and anthropology. We take for granted the effect the common potato had on the industrial revolution. Or the fact that only excellent cotton came from the Native Americans.  It's a book about gifts to the world from the West.  I've had the book a number of years and though it is older now, it is not out of date. I recently was reminded of it while having a conversation with friends about trade routes and items of the prehistoric people of our area. After digging the book up from its burial in storage and reading some of it again I just had to share it with those of you who have such interests.  
    "Indian Givers" is still available in paper back at and a modest price I was amazed to discover.  Of course my book is also available at here.  
Turkey track carved into rock pointing up Swift Creek
    I would also like to invite you to visit other articles on my blog site here.  For those searching for the lost silver mine treasure there is a lot of good information. Other articles cover some of Kentucky's unique places and history.

Kentucky's Agate found only in four counties in the state is considered one of the most prized 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Salt Festival

The mineral rich water is boiled off leaving the salt crystals
    Just like the gathering of the long hunters and pioneers two centuries ago, folks gathered at Big Bone Lick State Park near Union, Kentucky on October 17-19 to celebrate the making of salt. That's correct, making of salt or more appropriately the rendering  of salt from the amazingly mineral rich waters that flow to the surface from thousands of feet beneath the ground in this unique place in northern Kentucky.
A music maker plays while merchants sell their wares

 The annual festival offers hundreds of school children on one day of the event as well as the general public, a chance to step back in time just for a few moments.  The experience allows one to understand a little better of the materials, inventions and ingenuity of our ancestors. There are folks around the country that reenact the life style down to the cooking, type of food and tools required to carry out the daily activities of living in the 1700's. Entertainment is also provided in the form of music fitting for the times and the folks demonstrating their skills are eager to answer questions, share information as well as perform.

Corn meal making demonstration
    Why a festival in honor of something that we scarcely consider other than checking the package of something to determine the amount of salt contained in the product.  Well, life in our world of North American has not always been that way.  There was a day that salt was one of the most precious commodities sought after in pioneer wilderness days.  Without salt, we all know, we cannot survive. It is a basic mineral required by our bodies to live. In pioneer times is was also the main way to preserve foods and tan hides.  Finding sources of the salt was a major concern for both Native Americans and the newly arriving colonials.
    There are a couple of other Salt related festivals I found by a quick Google search.  One festival is in Norway and one is in Saline Texas honoring the Morton Salt Company. The Salt Festival at Big Bone Lick State Park is the only one that pays tribute to the life and times of early Kentucky pioneers.

Big Bone Lick State Park alone is worth the trip and is perhaps the most famous around the world in the for the paleontology of the site.  Ancient mammoths, mastodons and a lot of other extinct species bones have been and are found at this site. You can learn a little more about the park in the article     Valley of Bones.
     The Salt Festival is an annual event held in October each year and has been held for several years. A good place to check for next years event would be at the Kentucky Events and Festivals Official Site. This is a great site covering all the upcoming scheduled events around the state.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Treasure and Mystery

    Hello to all those who visit this site.  Welcome! Though it has been some time since I last posted, if your interest is in history, geology, treasure hunting or great places in the beautiful state of Kentucky take a look through the archives. There are many interesting topics to explore.
    Of course, I also use this site to promote my historic novel that deals with Kentucky and mysterious treasure.  Based on the most famous and oldest legend in Kentucky the novel is a thrilling tale of discovery and deceit. From the very beginning the reader is taken on two adventures, one of modern day treasure hunters and their fantastic discoveries as well has difficult choices. The second adventure covers much of Kentucky's early history from the days of Daniel Boone, John Finley and James Harrod. The historic records of the times and geographical locations are factual. Only the imaginative words depicting how things might have developed in the state in an alternate course have been added to the historical record.
    I invite you to order your copy in paperback or download to your reading device from your favorite book store or even easier, order right here from the publisher,  and of course

   I truly believe you will enjoy this book especially if you like treasure hunting and solving mysteries. Explore the unusual rock formations of Kentucky, the unique geology and the bountiful history in Swift.

I invite questions or comments anytime. Just post your question and maybe others will join the conversation.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Rock Art

    Rock carvings and markers are an important part of the Swift research. Countless hours of walking cliff lines and studying boulders have awarded many searches with another mystery or another clue in their search efforts. There are literally thousands of ancient markings, signs and doodles even carved into rock formations.  Some have been lightly covered in this blog.  Some of the ancient carvings are quite unusual and certainly interesting.
    This coming weekend (April 4-6, 2014) a weekend event will be held at Natural Bridge State Park about such stone art. Presentation of papers on a variety of  stone carvings will be conducted on Saturday. Field trips are planned for Friday and Sunday.  Listed below is a sample of the type of papers and lectures to be presented. This is just the morning program.  The entire schedule of information is too long to include here in this blog post.

There is an admission fee for the event but it is nominal. If you are interested in rock carvings, this one is the one for you.

9:00 - Cornette, Alan
The High Rock Petroglyph Site (15PO25) in Kentucky
The very unique image labeled The High Rock Petroglyph (15PO25) presently on display at the Red River Museum at Clay City, Kentucky, is a face image and was created for ceremonial purpose to propagate and sustain a Southern Death Cult (sometimes called the Buzzard Cult) introduced from the southeastern United States into Powell County, Kentucky. The face feature incised on one side of a sandstone boulder (5ft x 2ft x 4ft) is one cohesive image identified as that of a Southern Death Cult warrior/shaman. This image exhibits identified and accepted iconic shapes related to earlier Mississippian and Central American, Maya and Aztec cultures and has no connection to a common, laymen belief related to the Paraidolia instructs of the human brain such as one may see in clouds or cluttered wallpaper designs.

9:20 – Sierra M. Bow (University of Tennessee), Jan F. Simek (University of Tennessee), Scott Ashcraft (Pisgah National Forest), Lorie Hansen (North Carolina Rock Art Project)
Portable X-Ray Fluorescence Analysis of the Paint Rock Pictographs, Appalachian Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina
Paint Rock (31MD379) is a well-known pictograph site located on the north bank of the French Broad River in Madison County, North Carolina. This painted panel consists of a bi-chrome red and yellow rectilinear design high up the vertical cliff face. While recording and documenting the site in 2006, New South Associates collected three samples of pigmented rock and submitted for AMS dating and physical analysis via Energy-Dispersive Spectrometry (EDS). We revisited the site in 2013 to conduct a comprehensive, non-destructive physical analysis of the red and yellow paints with a portable X-ray fluorescence analyzer (pXRF). In this presentation we compare the compositional results between the EDS and pXRF analyses in order to determine the efficacy of non-destructive methods over the standard destructive analysis techniques.

9:40 - Jan Simek (University of Tennessee), Sierra Bow (University of Tennessee), Mary White (United States Forest Service), Wayna Adams (United States Forest Service), Randy Boedy (United States Forest Service)
Pictographs along a Section of Dog Slaughter Creek, London Ranger District, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky
In 2012, a series of black pictographs was discovered by US Forest Service archaeologists in a sandstone rockshelter along Dog Slaughter Creek in the London District of the Daniel Boone National Forest. These pictographs include images of various animal tracks, plants, and an anthropomorph that are in keeping with motifs from other Kentucky rock art sites, although painted rock art is far less common than petroglyphs in the state. Portable XRF analysis of the pictographs shows that liquid paints were used to produce the images and that charcoal was the primary coloring agent. The paint recipe used at Dog Slaughter is consistent with prehistoric paint production further to the South in Tennessee, where rock art pictographs are more common than they are in much of Kentucky.

10:00 – Faulkner, Johnny
An Examination of Eastern Kentucky Rock Art Sites
This paper will entail a look at some rock art sites here in Eastern Kentucky and how they were potentially manufactured by past prehistoric peoples. The majority of petroglyphs in Kentucky, on sandstone rock contexts, appear to have been manufactured by pecking into the rock, from both direct percussion and indirect percussion techniques.  My paper will discuss an approach for future archaeologists to focus on the lithic debitage at prehistoric sites that have petroglyph features, to potentially date when the petroglyph was manufactured.   If the prehistoric petroglyph manufacturing tools are identified with associated datable artifacts within "in situ" cultural midden deposits through excavations, archaeologists should be able to date what cultural period the petroglyphs were manufactured.  I have been doing some recent research, focusing on making replicas of previously recorded prehistoric rock art petroglyph motifs, using both both direct and direct percussion techniques with a variety of lithic tools (hammerstones, bifaces preforms and flake debitage).   I will show through replication of petroglyphs what tools I utilized to complete the process. I will have a display set up at the upcoming conference, in conjunction with the Red River Historical Society, with both the replica tool assemblage and lithic waste debitage, and have several replicate petroglyphs that I have manufactured into locally occurring sandstone rock slabs from rockshelters in the Red River gorge area.   Hopefully by comparing both replication tools and replication lithic waste debitage with similar tools and debitage from prehistoric sites, archaeologists may start to get a handle on what prehistoric culture were making the unique rock art glyphs.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Flint Types of Eastern Kentucky

    For those folks interested in archaeology and/or geology you no doubt have considered the flint (called chert by geologists) that all those arrowheads you've seen or in your collection are made from.  The colors, textures and behavior of the amazing substance various greatly and for many years, in fact up until the early 70's only the major identified primitive quarries type of flint were recognized in archaeological research. Little effort or attention was paid toward the raw material of those beautiful and finely crafted tools. Geologist performed little better simply noting in their field work that some beds of lime stones contained chert though sometimes the chert was described in detail.
Paoli chert in limestone -Menifee Co.
    That all changed in the early 70's as the result of pioneering work on flint classification for sources found in the eastern part of Kentucky. This undertaking was done by Larry Meadows, Garland Dever and Ed Henson. Yes, yours truly was fortunate enough to know these two very knowledgeable men. Back in the 70's Larry Meadows and I began to learn the skill of flint-knapping. That is chipping flint into arrowheads and other primitive tools using likely the same techniques that prehistoric people of the region used. It was not a great leap for us to become interested and noticing that not all flint chipped the same and that there were definitely differences in the
material. It wasn't long before we joined forces with what I would consider one of the best geologist around, Mr. Garland Dever. Garland was in the process of doing field work preparing one of the many geological quadrangle maps of Kentucky. And to our good fortune his area was in the same region of Kentucky that we were gathering flint.
    Moving forward in time, the three of us began to notice that a certain textured, color and type of flint was found associated with a single type of limestone. The first type that stood out was one found deposited in a formation of limestone named Paoli. The limestone had long been established as a particular rock formation generally exposed as outcrops along the edge of the Cumberland Plateau and also in Indiana.
The flint (chert) was distinct in nature when it came to chipping. A very glassy texture but had peculiar requirements if shaped into a stone tool. And it seemed to be the same everywhere this type of flint was found either still in the limestone rock or eroded out into nearby creeks. After many tests and cross checks we felt comfortable enough to identify any stone tool or piece of flint that fit the criteria we established as Paoli. There were many other kinds but put them in a pile and the three of us could pick out flint that we called Paoli from that pile. It was a short step for us to reason that why not try to find sources and type the other flint types from our area. We knew that we could not type everything because some of the flint obviously was traded from outside the region. This, of course, made our quest all the more tantalizing as we could help understand trading routes, establish percentage estimates of trading by a particular site etc. So our first type was established.
Haney chert 
    It was not long that we established another type we called Haney flint. Haney has a characteristic that no other flint type from our area exhibited. It contained tiny pseudo fossils called ooilites. With the use of a hand lens one could see the tiny round rings dispersed through out the stone. No other flint from Kentucky had this quality.  The Haney flint was quickly tied down and perhaps the easiest type to identify. It also is rather scarce and found only in the Haney limestone formation which is limited in its outcropping.  In recent years some reports appear that there is a Haney flint that does not contain ooilites. We never attempted to expand but certainly found many stone points made of material that we could not identify positively as Haney. We were confident that ooilitic material from the region was 100% Haney flint. Generally,only small artifacts have been found made of this material as it comes in small lenses or layers embedded in the Haney formation of limestone.
St. Louis green. This specimen has  hole
naturally formed. From Powell Co.
    Next in our  quest came the beautiful olive green flint that shows up in many arrowheads unique in the Red River country.  In time we discovered after many trips to many rock outcrops that this beautiful flint only comes from the massive St Louis limestone formation.  We called it St. Louis chert.  Very hard to work but given the right effort, the end knapped  tool would certainly be an eye catcher. There are other cherts associated with the St. Louis formation but this particular green, rounded nodules was the only variety we attempted to classify.
Boyle Chert
Boyle Chert in Dolomite 
     At the very edge of the plateau of Eastern Kentucky the magnesium laden Boyle Dolomite limestone is exposed along the outer edge of the Cincinnati Arch which forms the central Bluegrass region.  This dolomite produces a specific kind of flint we referred to as Boyle chert. It is characterized by its rusty brown to almost blue color and
contains random fossil fragments.  These days all the once good outcrops seemed to have been destroyed or simply worked out over the years.
 Artifacts made of the better quality of this flint type are often remarkably beautiful.

    The final type of flint and the last one we typed in eastern Kentucky was one we called the Breathitt flint. Of the the five we typed this one is the only exception to the limestone source rule. This flint was discovered to be found in the Pennsylvanian rock types of the coal fields of Eastern Kentucky.  Massive formations of the flint were exposed for study from the strip mining in the area.  Artifacts have been found made of this type but no one really understood the source material. The Flint Ridge flint was by far the most massive amount of layered flint of all the sources mentioned here.  Now those massive outcrops are all gone being removed by the coal companies. Only eroded sources in the small streams can be found now. This type of flint was found in a variety of colors including shades of green, black and tan. The defining characteristic of this type was the grainy texture as well as its flaking behavior.  The Breathitt Flint Ridge type was and still remains the most difficult of the five types to be identified.
Breathitt Flint Ridge
   Our work was published in a section of an archaeological publication of the Cave Run Rock Shelter by the University of Kentucky under the direction of Dr. John Dorwin. Dr. Dorwin allowed us to apply our new classification system on the hundreds of artifacts recovered from the site the University was excavating. Subsequently, our report was included in a section of this complete study.
    From there other students and scholars began to seriously try to type various flints. Literally dozens of flint types have been identified in Kentucky alone and hundreds world wide. But to our knowledge it all "officially" started right here in Kentucky. Now-days no serious archaeological investigation would even consider leaving out attempts to classify flint types in order to identify possible routes and trading patterns. So much has been learned and much more yet to be discovered by simply understanding the sources of the raw materials used by the early peoples of any part of the world.  We had a great time exploring this idea way back in the 70's!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Lost Treasure and Christmas

    I will be posting a new entry in a few days about flint types of Eastern Kentucky. Not so much related to John Swift's lost silver mines but really of interest to those folks who enjoy geology and archaeology information. This site is still dedicated to the famous legend and promises new posts on the subject in 2014.In the meantime, stop by my publishing site and order your copy of my book, Swift. It's a great story that includes all the famous Swift journal information available and some really neat perspective on early Kentucky history.
 The book is also available through and Barnes & Noble com.  Swift makes a great Christmas gift for someone interested in Kentucky history and especially the lore surrounding the oldest known treasure legend in the state. Ordering is easy and secure on line at either of this sites. You can also purchase at most book stores. If they do not have copies in stock most will gladly order it for you and delivery is fast. But order now in order to get delivery before Christmas!

    In the near future I will be post an excerpt from my new book that is now in progress. Some of you have been asking about when my next book will coming out and wondering if it will be the sequel to Swift. In fact, I have started the sequel to Swift but my next story adventure is not on the subject of Swift. The title has not been determined yet but writing is well underway. I am targeting to get the draft completed sometime in 2014. Follow this blog to get updates and preview the excerpt.
    Also, be watching for the forthcoming new entry about flint types. This is pretty interesting, especially to those who just love Kentucky archaeology and geology.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The High Rock Petroglyph

  What do you think the strange symbols carved on this sandstone boulder represent? The High Rock Carving is certainly one of the most mysterious antiquity found in the Red River Gorge country.  We did a previous post  about this strange rock in August, 2012. Discovered underneath a small rock shelter near the High Rock fire tower, the carvings were discovered on one loose boulder in the shelter. In the late 70's the boulder was removed from the rock shelter by the Red River Museum and Historical Society placed at the museum in Clay City, Kentucky. It was felt that vandals and artifact collectors would soon end up destroying the unusual carved stone. In fact some of the surface appears to have been chipped away, perhaps portions already removed by vandals. 
  The carvings have many varied, curved shapes including concentric circles and shapes that may represent animals. Additionally, there are numerous holes and other features. Some of the rock has been lost likely by the weathering of the rock itself.  For example looking at the carving that kind of reminds me of turtle with all the circles and a head made of a circle within a circle, below that one appears what me another of the same thing but the bottom part has been lost to effects of relentless erosion.
  Did early stone age peoples occupying this shelter spend time doodling on this rock? Or perhaps a form of communication, a written language if you will, that has passed with the ages along with those that created it.
Maybe these are the workings of our mysterious John Swift. After all, this stone boulder was found on the South Fork of the Red River in cliff country just like the Gorge. Perhaps, Swift and his company of miners and counterfeiters carved out a map on this rock that was used to locate their precious mines and caches of counterfeit silver crowns. As noted in a previous post one very interesting mine searcher conducted excavations a very short distance down the mountain from this rock. Though he never stated anything about this rock I often wondered if it was an identification marker that help him determine the place to start his actual dig for the ore.  He did find some kind of ore on that mountain, I do not believe it to be silver but it was near this carved boulder.
  Perhaps the carvings represent some group of humans that we have yet to discover their existence. Or maybe the carvings and symbols of alien visitors. The fact of the matter is that no one knows the meaning of these strange markings on this sandstone boulder. I invite you to share your thoughts and post in the comment space below. And you can see the boulder yourself if you drop by the Red River Museum in Clay City, Kentucky. The museum is open on weekends and has an amazing collection of historical artifacts representing the history of the region.