Michael Fuller

Website created 9 October 2020. Feel free to share this webpage, but do not use/borrow the images without permission of Professor Michael Fuller.


A thousand thanks for Mark Leach for securing permission to visit the St Louis Footprints in their safe home (Indiana), and to Alan Westfall for getting access to a 3-D scanner and other essential equipment. Thank you to Alan Banks for providing access to an original copy of the 1887 report by McAdams and to Dr. Carl Campbell for consulting on the question of the St. Louis Formation.

Dr. Michael Fuller examining the surface of the stone for any faint designs. Two faint designs were identified: a circle pattern inside of the oblong petroglyph and a circle/oval pattern outside the oblong pattern (opposite the footprints). They are so faint that they are not included in this blog.

What does the oblong area represent? My first impression is that it is the outline of a palisaded Mississippian town - possibly the St. Louis Mound Group. This is a colorized version of the 19th century plan of the Matthews Site (23NM3) prepared by Porter (1880:Plate C); it was an oblong shaped town

Petroglyphs functioning as a map are not unheard of in Missouri. One prominent case is the Commerce Site discussed by Norris and Pauketat (2008). 

Where were the St. Louis footprints located before being taken to Indiana? Hall (1816:8) describes the in situ footprint petroglyphs as "about one-fourth of a mile below St. Louis." Thomas Hart Benton's letter of 1822 to Henry Rowe Schoolcraft indicates that the petroglyphs were "in front of the town of St. Louis" and visible at "low water" on the bank of the Mississippi River; the bedrock shelf was 100 to 200 feet wide in some places. This would be a setting very similar to the surviving Bushberg footprint at the Bushberg-Meissner Site (23JE367) along the Mississippi River, downstream in Jefferson County, MO.

The Geologic Map of downtown St. Louis indicates that the St. Louis Formation (dark blue) is exposed from a point several blocks south of the Poplar Street Bridge (Interstate 70) and extends for approximately half a mile (800 meters). Upstream, the exposed bedrock is the St. Genevieve limestone (light blue)and downstream the bedrock is covered by alluvium (yellow). My reading of the geologic map says the likely location would be between Russell Blvd. and Arsenal Steet. What if the alluvium did not cover the formation as it does, today? St. Louis formation exposed on the surface goes as far south as Bates Street. This could be significant because the prominent site of Sugar Loaf Mound is situated between Bates and Meramec Street. It is so very, very fortunate that the petroglyphs were removed to Indiana because the intense industrial activity began in the area downstream from the modern-day Poplar Street Bridge. 

An 1887 drawing of the three petroglyphs was published by McAdams (1887:31); he did a poor job of redrawing the details from Schoolcraft's report.

<-McAdams drawing

<-Schoolcraft drawing (1825:171). An oft reported legend that the Harmony religious community believed the footprints to have been left by the angel Gabriel (Smock 1981). Nothing in Schoolcraft's or McAdams writings suggests that it was believed to be angelic in origin by the Rappites.

Owen (1842) printed an "it is said" letter that the Rappites though the footprints to be of Jesus. It is interesting to speculate on these reports.

<-Owens 1842 drawing.


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, Dept. of Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis.

Diaz-Granados, Carol and James R. Duncan

2000 The Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Missouri. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.

Hall, John E. (Pseudonym Oliver Oldschool)
1816 Of the Aborigines of the Western Country. The Port Folio, 4th series, Vol. 2, No. 2.

Harrison, Richard W.

1997 Bedrock Geologic Map of St. Louis 30' x 60 ' Quadrangle, Missouri. United States Geological Survey. 


1887 Records of Ancient Races in the Mississippi Valley. C. R. Barns Publishing Co., St. Louis.

Norris, F. Terry and Timothy R. Pauketat
2008 A Pre-Columbian map of the Mississippi? Southeastern Archaeology 27(1):78-92.

Owen, David Dale

1842 ART II. - Regarding Human Foot-Prints in Solid Limestone. American Journal of Science and Arts 43(1).

Potter, W. B.
1880 Archaeological remains in southeastern Misouri. in Contributions to the Archaeology of Missouri, by the Archaeological Section of the St. Louis Academy of Science Bates, Salem (Mass.)

Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe

1825 Travels in the Central Portions of the Mississippi Valley. Collins and Hannay, New York.

Smock, Jim

1981 Interview with Norma Roberts on 30 November 1981. Wasbash Valley Visions and Voices Digital Memory Project (http://visions.indstate.edu:8888/cdm/ref/collection/folklore/id/3544)

Thompson, Thomas L.

2001 Lexicon of Stratigraphic Nomenclature in Missouri. MoDNR-Division of Geology and Land Survey Report of Investigation 73. 

Mark Leach tracing the outline of the toes on the right foot. Tracing on to clear plastic allowed for an accurate pattern of the foot without impacting the petroglyph.

St. Louis Footprints site

It is interesting that Henry Rowe Schoolcraft's description in Travels in the central portions of the Mississippi Valley (1821:175), which was summarized by McAdams (1887:31), describes the oblong petroglyph as having some resemblance of a scroll, whose greatest length is two feet seven inches and greatest breadth twelve and a half inches. McAdams inserted the phrase "roll of parchment" after the term scroll possibly to fuel the curiosity of individuals who wanted to see the petroglyph as belonging to a lost race of Mound Builders. 

Scale is 20 cm. The foot prints show up best with raking light. The toes on the right foot print are in a concrete restoration.

Alan Westfall doing a 3-D scale of the stone with specific interest in the oblong petrogyph.

The St. Louis Footprints petroglyphs were cut from the bedrock of downtown St. Louis and taken to New Harmony, Indiana. Mark Leach, Alan Westfall and Michael Fuller visited New Harmony and were graciously received by two local historians who stayed with us during 2 hours of measuring, photographing, and 3-D scanning. Mark Leach and Alan Westfall are citizen archaeologist involved with several projects in Chesterfield, MO. Michael Fuller is a professional archaeologist; yes, we visited and documented the site during the Covid-19 pandemic. We took all of the necessary precautions in terms of social distancing and wearing masks. The block of limestone measures 98 inches (249 cm) in length and 42 inches (107 cm) in width. The color ranges from 10R6/1 (Reddish Gray) to 10R6/2 (Pale Red) in terms of the Munsell Soil Color chart. My assumption is that the faint red hue comes from a historic/modern episode of leaf burning or paint.

Drawing made on 2020 by Fuller, Leach and Westfall. Scale is 30 cm. The top foot measures 25 cm (heel to to toe) and the bottom foot measures 25 cm (hell to toe). The length of 25 cm is approximately the average size foot for adult males in the USA. An early 20th century postcard in the collection of the Image Collection of Indiana University - Bloomington shows damage to the right edge of the stone; the top half of the right foot has been reconstructed out of concrete.

The St. Louis Footprints archaeological site is one of the first archaeological sites described and debated in the literature concerning the prehistory of St. Louis. The three petroglyphs are currently safe on private property  in New Harmony, Indiana. 

The site is discussed by Carol Diaz-Granados (1993:497-8, 753) in her dissertation and reported as 23SL880. Archaeological Survey of Missouri has no record of a site form for that number. A thorough discussion of the 19th century history of the footprints can be found in Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Missouri by Diaz-Granados and Duncan (2000:11-14). Scale is 20 cm. The two footprints and an oblong petroglyph were pecked and abraded into the surface of the St. Louis Formation which geologically dates to the Late Mississippian-Meramecian Series.

Closeup of the oblong/rectangular petroglyph. Scale is 10 cm. 

Another "unusual" thought is that the oblong petroglyph resembles the twisting outline of time on the Wajaje Winter Count that is on display in the Museum of Native American History in Bentonville, Arkansas. The Wajaje winter count was made by the Teton Lakota tribes in the late 1800s and traces events from AD 1758-9 until 1885-6. Thank you to Matt Rowe, curator at the MONAH, for permission to use this digital image.

Next to the footprints is an oblong shaped petroglyph that measures 83 cm in length and 39 cm. in width. Plan made by tracing on clear plastic; scale is 30 cm.