By, John J White, III and Beverley H Moseley, Jr.
Originally published in The Midwestern Epigraphic Society Journal
Our interests include many aspects of ancient culture and cultural diffusion. We are inclined to report on specific artifacts found in books and museums that are relevant to our investigations. Waiting for some organized package of data to arise is quite impractical. While surveying books of interest at the State Library of Ohio in Columbus, we identified two cases of bird petroglyphs that may be rebuses for Ogam inscriptions. Examples of each are shown in Figures 1 and 2, respectively, and we make no claim that these artifacts have not been republished by others with the same idea in mind. We have not seen Burrows Cave artifacts with this particular rock art style, although birds and snakes are plentiful. Figures 3 and 4 show two side views of a Bird Mother statue with multilingual inscriptions including some Ogam lettering. Figures 2-4 are line drawings by BH Moseley.
Figure 1 is a wonderful bird artifact having uneven stroke feathers that are comparable with many examples of Ogam writing translated by the late Professor Barry Fell. The suggested lower Mississippi location is exellent for an interpretation of writing by visitors with Keltic and Carthaginian heritage during the Roman era. Dr Peet called this figure a Thunder Bird, but we prefer to recognize the Earth Mother as a bird symbol accompanied by her Earth Father consort symbolized by the serpent.
Figure 1. This is an alleged Thunder Bird rock drawing, probably from the lower Mississippi River basin (from SD Peet, The Mound Builders. 1903.). Notice the snake figure and the Ogam strokes.
Figure 2 is more likely an Eagle/Sun God symbol, especially if the lowest three strokes are read as B-L for Baal/Beli. The wing strokes may not be Ogam, but they are not particularly natural looking for a flying bird. Swauger reported this artifact to be located on Babb’s Island in the Ohio River near East Liverpool, Ohio. The art was recorded by Harold Bradshaw Barth in 1908-9 prior to local flooding by a new dam. Recall that there are many examples of Ogam lettering pm the Burrows Cave artifacts, a culture with a strong Ohio/Mississippi River exploration scenario.
Figure 2. This Eagle-like figure was found on a Babb’s Island petroglyph located in the Ohio River (after JL Swauger, Petroglyphs of Ohio, 1984).
The near university worldwide of the symbols of the old Earth Mother Culture is a remarkeable feature of our ancient art investigations. This is the most under-recognized aspect of modern archaeological research. Ogam, of course, was popular with rock engravers and later yielded to the use of paper-like media.
Figures 3 and 4 are line drawings of the art on a Burrows Cave Bird Mother statue. Each side view has multilingual inscriptions, including Ogam. One has a Bird Mother symbol near the top and the other has a Serpent symbol.
1. SD Peet, The Mound Builders: Their Works and Relics, American Antiquarian, Chicago, 1903, p.305
2. JL Swauger, Petroglyphs of Ohio, Ohio University, Athens, 1984, p 52.