- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2008

HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. (AP) — One-hundred-pound stone carvings rescued from a Susquehanna River island 80 years ago have established a lasting record of the breadth and depth of Indian life 4,000 years ago.

Three of the carvings or “petroglyphs” — a tribe’s creation of myths and details on good places for fishing and hunting — are on display at the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum for two years.

“You are touching deep, deep history, the core of humanity,” said Charlie Hall, the state’s terrestrial archaeologist. “These drawings were a means of communication that still communicate to us today.”

More than 30 pieces of the ancient rock art were rescued from a rock island near the line between Harford and Cecil counties before the Conowingo Dam was built 80 years ago. The island is now submerged.

“People knew the drawings were there,” said Ann Persson, the museum’s curator. “Boaters would stop at the island and explore.”

The rescued rocks are now known as the Bald Friar rocks, named to mark the area where the rocks were found. Concentric circles and twisting lines carved into the rocks’ surface, and drawings of fish and the sun with rays extending to the rock’s edges and depictions of water also are common.

The state now owns the rocks. For decades, a Druid Hill Park display in Baltimore was their home, but Calvert County’s Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory has them after a restoration was completed.

“We love having the stones back in the area,” Mrs. Persson said. “You can find rock art all over the world, but it’s neat to have a local example from Maryland’s own Native American heritage.”

Experts think Indians refined or altered their carvings but not substantially from what their predecessors created 4,000 years ago.

“We don’t know exactly when or who, but most probably these were drawn by ancestors of tribes in the area during the 1600s,” Mrs. Persson said.

At the display in the Havre de Grace museum, the largest stone has lines spreading out from a large, flat fish. The second stone is a group of concentric circles — a very common design. The third depicts a sunburst.

“The stones say different things to different people,” Mr. Hall said. “To me, they say these people were very human and thought symbolically.”

Other petroglyphs in the Bald Friar collection include a variety of images. Archaeologists and researchers say they depict birds, wild turkeys and deer. Mr. Hall said these don’t leave as much room for interpretation and speculation because the images are recognizable.

Sandy Demczak, a Pylesville resident who visited the museum, was awed by the relevant history of the stones dating back centuries.

“It’s wild that these drawings are so old,” she said. “It must be something people experienced and wanted to tell.”

The story of the stones, and the humanity they represent, is something Mrs. Persson wants to keep telling, with a daily motivation coming as she works from her office overlooking the Susquehanna.

“We are still living in the same areas, enjoying the same beautiful views of the river,” she said.

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