Sunday, July 18, 2010


On June 3, 2010, I received an e-mail from a Catherine (last name anonymous) who sent me some photos of petroglyph panels in the panhandle of Oklahoma. One of the panels supposedly contained an ancient petroglyph of an Indo/European ship. As back-up material Catherine included links to an online copy of the Winter 1978-1979 (Vol. 29, No. 1) issue of Oklahoma Today magazine, which includes an article by the ubiquitous Gloria Farley about ship petroglyphs in Oklahoma. Now I have written before about my disagreements with Gloria Farley’s epigraphic interpretations of rock art in the area of western Oklahoma and southeastern Colorado as inscriptions in ancient European, Middle Eastern, and African languages and scripts. Additionally I have confessed my lack of belief in images of ancient gods from ancient Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, in rock art in the area of western Oklahoma and southeastern Colorado.

Let me say this, I am sorry I never met Gloria in person. I had close friends who did know her so I think (I hope) that I am giving her a fair review even if I do not believe with her. I think that I probably would have liked her as a person. On December 19, 2009, I had posted a critical book review about a book by Gloria Farley, In Plain Sight: Old World Records in Ancient America (1994), but this book did not specifically deal with the supposed discovery of ship petroglyphs. In that review I confessed that I almost totally disagree with the epigraphic interpretation of rock art in the region being discussed. But my position has always been that until I can offer a better explanation of the imagery under discussion the question has to remain open. I feel strongly that Gloria had a great imagination and would probably have been very interesting to know.

In the interest of fairness I have decided that I should include some of the supposed ship images in a posting and let people decide on it for themselves.

FIGURE 1 - Supposed Nile Freighter.

Figure 1 is identified as an Egyptian Nile ship. It could be a poor representation of a Nile freighter from the last millennium or so but it has absolutely no resemblance at all to any ship image from ancient Classical Egypt, which was the era of Egyptian naval expeditions and exploration.

FIGURE 2 - A rebus reading 'Ship
of Ra' according to Barry Fell.

Figure 2 should speak for itself. Nothing about it looks like a ship. and without the supposed translation by Barry Fell it would never be proposed as such. As I have stated elsewhere Fell is known to alter images to make them fit his interpretations better. Take another good look at this image. It is obviously a dog sled and proof that ancient Inuit explorers accomplished an expedition to the Oklahoma panhandle.

One obvious problem is that we do not have photos of the supposed ships and we have no way of knowing the accuracy of the drawings. In the end it comes back down to Occam’s razor. I just find it to be much more likely that a Native American killed some time pounding on a rock to make an oval shape with a few of lines than that a crew of Middle Eastern explorers in an Egyptian Nile freighter crossed the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, entered the gulf of Mexico to ascend the Mississippi River to the mouth of the Arkansas River, and followed that to the western Oklahoma panhandle, only to end up carving such a crude and unrecognizable image.

I think that a fascinating thesis project for a psychology graduate student might be to use rock art imagery in a Rorschach test and try to analyze the hang-ups and enthusiasms of rock art enthusiasts based upon their interpretations of the images. In reviewing my responses above I suspect that the psychologist would find that I am intellectually conservative with little willingness to adopt radical or cutting edge interpretations (actually I have done so a time or two but that is a story for another time). I prefer to think of my position as careful.

There are a number of other images which I will post in the near future. Anyway, thank you Catherine for the information and pictures. It is an interesting debate and I, for one, have always enjoyed it.

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