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Pennsylvania's Elephant Petroglyph on the Allegheny River


A rock shelter near Van, Pennsylvania known as "Rainbow Rock" features the carvings of snakes, a human figure, apparent bird tracks and dots, as described by The Pennsylvania Archaeologist (Vol. 42, No. 3, September 1972).  While these images are common visual components of petroglyphs found across North America, the elephant depicted inside a rectangle on the face of a large stone standing near "Rainbow Rock" is not.

James L. Swauger, an expert in prehistoric rock art with more than seventy published reports dealing primarily with petroglyphs in the Ohio Valley, examined the elephant portrayal. "It is obvious at this time that the figure was carved recently by persons using metal tools, and that it has no relationship to the undoubted American Indian petroglyphs of the site," he concluded in "The Bunola Head, A Forgery", for The Pennsylvania Archeologist, Vol. 30, No. 2, Gettysburg. "Leo T. Sarnaki Carnegie Museum Photographer, concurred in this opinion, as did the half dozen others with whom I visited this site."

While Swauger and company are correct in pointing out that pre-Columbian Indians used stone tools, their assumption that the Rainbow Rock pachyderm must be, ipso facto, a modern fake, because it was carved with a metal utensil, is only an assumption.  Large numbers of ancient arrowheads, spear-points and related items of hardened copper have been found especially in Upper Michigan since the early 19th Century.

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