Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia

No one knows what the petroglyphs in Track Rock Gap mean. Deep inside the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia, the oval shapes carved into several boulders clearly meant something to the ancient artists, but a thousand years of time stand between us and a translation. The marks range from smaller than a hand to larger than a football, and many have hatches or dots inside them. The Creek and Cherokee tribes both claim attribution for the over 100 petroglyphs in Track Rock Gap. For a while, there was a myth that they were the work of meso-American journeyers, but anthropologists have laid that to rest.

“These are special and rare sites,” said the Tribal Heritage Preservation Office of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in a statement. “They are special sites for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and for all people as part of the Heritage of this region.”

In early April, the United States Forest service announced that the petroglyphs have been vandalized, possibly several months ago. The petroglyphs on two boulders were painted over in bright colors, and five more have been scratched up beyond recognition, probably with a metal tool. It is not the first time vandals have attacked the area, but it is so far the most severe.

“When you are talking about historic sites and culturally sensitive sites, it really is the most offensive thing,” Richard Sneed, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, told press. “It is our history, and to have that defaced and to be treated with such disrespect, it is very sad.”

The Forest Service has not said if or how they believe the petroglyphs can be restored. They do, however, encourage future visitors to be especially mindful of archeological sites, even when “all” they are is marks on a stone in the woods.

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