Closeup of the left quadruped (E) in Group 2 at Rock Hollow Site. The angle of the light picks up a line from the mouth of the animal into its body - a heart line? Photograph by Mark Leach.

The open hand petroglyph with red pigment immediately catches the eye when you approach the site. In the palm of the hand, I see the faint outline of an eye; this feature appears in a 1944 photograph (Eichenberger 1944:Plate XV), but was not recorded in the drawing of the panel (Eichengerger 1994:Figure 8). This interpretation was not made by other investigators who probably see the design in the palm of the hand as a natural damage or flaw in the rock. The hand-and-eye motif was used during the Mississippian Period (AD 900 - 1450) on shell artifacts from Spiro Mound (in Oklahoma) and at the Three Hills Creek Petroglyph Site (23WA17022) in Missouri. Reilly (2004:130) noted that the hand-and-eye motif is interpreted "as one of the portals or doorways to the Path of Souls"; a more detailed discussion of this concept was published by Lankford (2004:212) where he suggests a link between the motif and the "Hand" constellation which is called Orion in the European vocabulary of the sky. LaFlesche (1932:138, 301) recorded the term Ta-tha-bthin as the Osage term for Orion's Belt, but also a complex concept of Spirit Beings named as Grandfather and Grandmother.

The Rocky Hollow Site (23MN1) is a group of petroglyphs (carved rock art) that were first published by Eichenberger (1944:45-59) in the Missouri Archaeologist; Eichenberger was one of a dozen early citizen archaeologists who made significant contributions to Missouri Archaeology. The site is protected within a nature preserve and is difficult to reach because of the dense vegetation. The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places during 1974. The distance between three of the four panels is significant and there is a good reason to consider that it is not one site, but three sites. Images of my earlier research at the site can be found on my academic webpage. 

Swallow-tail type of thunderbird petroglyph at the Rock Hollow Site. Photograph by Mark Leach.

Raised Hands panel (Eichenberger Group 1) is primarily composed of a tight cluster of images in one area with a single spiral petroglgyph situated 50 cm above the main panel. Eichenberger's drawings indicate the Raised Hands panel measures approximately 1.9 meters long by 0.4 meters in height; the original report described that hematite from the nearby intermittent stream had been crushed and painted within several of the petroglyphs. Diaz-Granados and Duncan (2000: 119 - 120) described this panel as Rocky Hollow #1 and reported that petroglyphs were repainted in the 1940s. Scale is 10 cm.

Two archers (D and E) in Group 4 at the Rocky Hollow Site. 

Bird petroglyph ("C" with red ochre staining in Group IV. Eichenberger (1944:51) identified this petroglyph as a "double headed eagle or thunderbird".

Eichenberger struggled to interpret the two animals beneath the Crescent moon; he identified the left hand  petroglyph as a bear and right hand petroglyph as “rhinoceros-like.” My interpretation is that it is two deer, nuzzling. I do not believe that the two animals are simply coincidental, but mark something very special beneath the waning moon - maybe... the supernova of July 1054.

The petroglyphs in Group 2 (Figure 3) includes the meandering petroglyph (B on Eichenberger’s plan) that has been proposed as a comet (Diaz-Granados 1993: 496-7; Diaz-Granados and Duncan 2000:Figure 5.10e5, 202). The head of the comet-like petroglyph is arrowhead shaped.

It may be a coincidence, but O’Brien and Wood (1998:271) noted that the animal bone analysis from the Victor Bridge site and the Muskrat Run site, in the Canon Reservoir project along the Salt River, found that fish made up a significant portion of the Late Woodland Period diet. Fish declined dramatically in the diet of the prehistoric groups occupying the Salt River tributary by the Missisippian Period. Why is this significant to the Rocky Hollow Site? Petroglyph Group IV at Rocky Hollow has three fish petroglyphs.

Rocky Hollow

Elk petroglyph "B" in Group 4 at the Rocky Hollow Site. 


Diaz-Granados, Carol
1993 The Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Missouri: A Distributional, Stylistic, Contextual, Functional and Temporal Analysis of the State’s Rock Graphics. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Washington University, St. Louis.
2011 Early Manifestations of Mississippian Iconography in Middle Mississippi Valley Rock-Art. in Visualizing the Sacred: Cosmic Visions, Regionalism, and the Art of the Mississippian World. Edited by George E. Lankford, F. Kent Reilly III, and James F. Garber. University of Texas Press, Austin. 

Diaz-Granados, Carol and James C. Duncan 
2000 Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Missouri. Alabama University Press, Tuscaloosa.

Eichenberger, J. Allen
1944 Investigations of the Marion-Ralls Archaeological Society in Northeast Missouri. Missouri Archaeologist 9.

LaFlesche, Francis
1932. A Dictionary of the Osage Language. Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.

Lankford, George E.
2004 World on a String: Some Cosmological Components of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex in Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand: American Indian Art of the Ancient Midwest and South. Art Institute of Chicago.

O’Brien, Michael J. and W. Raymond Wood
1998 The Prehistory of Missouri. University of Missouri Press, Columbia. 

 Reilly, F. Kent
2004 People of the Earth, People of Sky in Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand: American Indian Art of the Ancient Midwest and South. Art Institute of Chicago. 

Webpage constructed 4 August 2020; Updated 17 August 2020

Bird (B) in Group 3 petroglyphs at Rocky Hollow Site. Eichenberger (1944:51) interpreted this petroglyph as a Thunderbird. Photograph by Mark Leach.

One of the advantages of many researchers visiting rock art sites is that faint details may be recognized only during certain conditions or light and moisture. At least two hand petorglyphs decorate the rock shelter wall between Groups 1 and 2 at the Rock Hollow Site. These were not recognized by Eichenberger, but were recorded by Carol Diaz-Granados (1993;Figure 48.1a). Upraised hand petroglyph occur at sites in Missouri such as Washington State Park (23WA1) and the Mitchell Rock Art Site (23RN1). 

Michael Fuller

Drawing of the Raised Hands panel published by Eichenberger (1944:Figure 8). Another drawing of this panel was published by Diaz-Granados and Duncan (2000: Figure 6.5).

Three masked archaeologists: Mark Leach (Left), Alan Westfall (center) and Michael Fuller (right) Group 2 petroglyphs at the Rocky Hollow Site (23MN1). The comet-like petroglyph is in the dark behind us.

Eichenberger interpreted petroglyph D as a fish connected by its tail to the crescent moon (petroglyph C). We disagree as we see petroglyph D as the feather of a sacred bird, most likely an eagle feather.