THE ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST MYSTERY ROCKS
Written by Christopher Nyerges
Posted by Rick Osmon
On Halloween day in 2001, I was leading a birthday outing for a 10 year old boy and his friends at the 3000 foot level of the Angeles National Forest. We were getting late, so I led them down into the stream so we could make soap from the yucca leaves. It was a spot where I would never ordinarily go. As the boys and I made our yucca soap, my gaze was drawn to the back side of a large, 10 foot wide boulder with unusual markings on it. There were two large horizontal cleavages and numerous markings across the cleavage that bore an uncanny resemblance to ogam.
I pointed it out to every one and explained ogam to the adults, who seemed underwhelmed at what such a rock might mean.
Some years earlier, I spent some time learning about ogam, a method that was used to write on stones approximately 1500+ years ago, primarily in the British isles, though examples can be found further afield. Ogam is not to be confused with the more ornate runic writing. Ogam employs straight lines across what is called a stem line. The stem line can be a natural horizontal fracture in a rock, or the corner of a standing stone. The 15 consonants are expressed by from one to five lines above the stem line, one to five lines below the stem line, or one to five lines across the stem lines. The vowels, where present, can be a series of dots or other symbols.
It is certainly possible to see natural fractures in rock and think you are looking at ogam, especially if you have not studied rock sufficiently to see the difference between what nature does and what man does.
I returned a week later with Dude McLean to take photographs and sketches. McLean had also been there when I first noted the rock. After carefully comparing my sketches with the ogam alphabet, I was amazed to see that all the marks were consistent with ogam. So I then sent photos and sketches to perhaps 50 “experts” in ogam, linguistics, archaeology, and other fields and eagerly awaited their response about my exciting discovery.
Gloria Farley responded, saying it certainly looked like ogam, but that she had no idea what it might say since she had all her discoveries translated by Barry Fell, who had passed away. One expert from England responded, saying that since the rock inscription was in California, there was no chance that it was bonafide ogam. Another told me that it was clearly a significant find, but he felt it was more likely some sort of tally system, not ogam. But most of the various world experts ignored me.
So I laid out what I felt was a fairly reasonable scientific method for ascertaining if the inscription I found was, or was not, of some significance.
1. I had to determine that the markings were consistent with the ogam alphabet. Having done that, I proceeded to the other steps.
2. Determine if the ogam letters actually spell anything.
3. Determine if the inscription could actually be dated.
4. Determine if there was anything else significant about the site.
5. The final step – if I got that far – was to determine who may have actually inscribed the rock, and under what circumstances. I also reasoned that if I got this far, others could jump in and attempt to answer this question.
Since all the markings were consistent with the ogam characters, I then proceeded to determine the actual sequence of letters. I had to determine where one “letter” ended and another began, not an easy task when you consider that you are simply looking at straight lines. It took me approximately 6 visits in different lighting conditions until I arrived at what I felt was the correct letter sequence. I attempted to confirm my deductions by carefully feeling the indentations in the rock.
Next, with my sequence of letters, I tried to determine if it spelled anything. Ogam was used primarily to express Gaelic, but had also been used in some known instances to represent both Saharan and Basque. I needed experts or dictionaries. Finally, after many visits to the sight and studying the markings, I determined that the letter sequence was BMMHBLTMGMCMMDHB.
One night, while staring at my photos of the rock and the letter sequence, the two letters MC jumped out at me, and I realized that the rock inscription was most likely written in the most common language of usage for ogam, Gaelic. MC is a very common abbreviation for “son of,” as in McDonald, MacAllister, et al.
I obtained a copy of Dwelley’s “Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary” (copyright 1902-12) and one rainy day about two months after finding the rock, I spent about five hours going through Dwelley’s page by page, looking for letter combinations that might mean something.
All the letters I had to work with were consonants. There were no vowels, suggestive of an older or earlier linguistic form, akin to several of the Middle Eastern alphabets written without vowels.
Based on the manner in which the markings were made on the rock, I broke the letter sequence into the following groupings: B- MMH- BL- TMG-MC-MM-DH-B. I then tried to find words for which those letter groupings would represent. Part of this search was to see what was commonly written on other such stones.
After five hours, I came up with the following likely transliteration:
To-memory-Bel- Thy Young Hero- Son of – Mother – Deep/depth/ darken- stone.
“Bel” was actually written above the main line of the inscription. So my tentative translation reads: “To Bel, in the memory of the young hero, son of the mother (prince?), laid to rest with this stone.” I found at least one stone in which scholars translated “DH” as “laid to rest.” Thus, I had achieved Step Two in my process, and proceeded to the next Step.
Two different geologists, one a PhD, told me that such inscriptions could not be definitely dated. The PhD said that based on his educated guess, the inscription was made between 1500 and 2500 years ago, and he’d say it was 95% certain that it was made by man, not natural forces.
I proceeded to Step Four with various informal surveys of the surrounding area. First, IF the rock inscription was formed by natural forces, it would be logical that there would be many or more such carvings in the vicinity. There were none. I also looked for anything that might be consistent with a foreign presence into what had been Indian territory.
Within a quarter mile of the stone, I found one possible standing stone, one triangular pointing stone (pointed up a side canyon), and a nearby site that had all the appearances of being an ancient graveyard based on the placement of stones – though I did no digging.
Thus, amazingly, everything suggested that this was a foreign inscription, probably someone from Western Europe who came up the canyon and died, or was killed, back when this was Indian territory. I invited various archaeologists, all of whom declined to come and see the rock. I also felt it that my work was solid enough to share with my friend who was the editor of the local paper, and he sent a reporter to write a story about it.
The ensuing newspaper story accurately represented my work on the rock and inscription, and also included interviews with a representative of the Southwest Museum, and a representative of a local Indian tribe, all of whom I’d previously contacted but none of whom ever took me up on my offer to go actually see the rock. In the news article, I was described as making fanciful claims. The Indian quoted said that this was all Indian territory, and he questioned how other people could possible have gotten into the S. California Mountains.
Since the site of the rock is in canyon that was one of the major passageways from the ocean to the desert by past Indian peoples, I asked my friend in a letter if he had ever heard of boats. I also included clippings of the many small boats that have crossed major water ways (a la Thor Heyerdahl), and also of the very large boats used by ancient Phoenicians and Romans, as per the writings of Caesar. My Indian friend never responded.
Later, I was able to bring two forest archaeologists to the site, both of whom told me that it was Indian territory, and that there was nothing else to suggest there could be any evidence of pre-Columbian visitation. I told each of them that my evidence was the stone, but they responded that they were looking for something other than the stone. I was feeling that they were not concerned about examining a possible bit of evidence of pre-Columbian European visitors to North America, but were looking at things through the years of their schooling, and were thus unable to see what was right before them.
The story of this rock also appeared in an Archaeological magazine, and one reader wrote to me saying that the markings on the rock I found were made by Indians sharpening their axes. How did she know this? Because she once visited a very similar rock in Maine, and a brass plaque put there by the park service said that the markings were Indian axe-sharpening rocks. I managed to get a photo of the Maine rock, and yes, the markings were very similar to what I’d found. In fact, all the Maine rock markings were consistent with ogam, and in about 4 hours in my Dwelly’s “Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary,” I found a translation that suggested a warning for mariners to watch for the rocks in the water! Coincidence? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
In 2009, while sitting at what seemed to be a natural entry-way to this site, I noted a rock with more ogam-like markings. Once I cleaned the rock, and took the time to determine if the markings were consistent with ogam, I determined that the letter sequence on the rock, from top to bottom, was B-EA-N-EA. With a little research, I realized that could very well have meant “Byanu,” a minor Celtic goddess. A line on the very top of this rock pointed to what I determined could be a standing stone. Perhaps this was an early American shrine to Byanu?
Though the final chapter of this rock has not been written, it has enforced the belief that our history is not as we’ve been taught in school. Indeed, the schools are often the official gurgitators of the best that academia has been able to collectively come up with. They get a lot of it right, but they fail to see their own blindnesses and prejudices.
I eventually produced a small booklet explaining this find and a BBC documentary is still in the works.
My rewards for taking all this time on this multi-faceted research: I have been called a fraud numerous times. I have been listed on a college web-site as an example of “fringe archaeology” and explained away as a fraud. A few of my Native American friends stopped talking to me.
On the other hand, I was made a life member in the Epigraphic Society. According to Wayne Kenaston, Jr., who bestowed that membership upon me, “Welcome to the frustrations that come with dealing with rock –writing, or epigraphy. You did a very good and scholarly job of deciphering, transliterating, and translating the Angeles Forest Mystery Rock inscriptions. I congratulate you and encourage you to pursue your efforts to learn more about the provenance of the ‘young hero’ whose grave is probably marked by the inscription.”
As a result of my work, I have been sent photos of inscriptions from diverse parts of the United States, and some outside the U.S., and have been told from like-minded people about many of the other mysterious rocks that abound. I am by no means an expert in this multi-disciplinary project, but found a whole spectrum of new questions to answer, ones that I never even considered on that fateful Halloween Day in 2001.
SOME GOOD REFERENCES:
Barry Fell, Ámerica B.C.
Gloria Farley, In Plain Sight
Mertz, Pale Ink
Martineau, The Rocks Begin to Speak
The Angeles National Forest Mystery Rock: Ogam North of Los Angeles?
Brand New, extremely important work by nature expert Christopher Nygeres on his remarkable discovery of an ancient Los Angeles (potentially European) ceremonial site. At least two likely inscribed Ogam stones, sacrificial table, standing stone, dolman, burial stones, circular stone, triangular directional stone, etc. encompasses what has been found so far. Further study of this important site is a must and more information will be revealed in due time. Please visit Chris’ outstanding website http://www.christophernyerges.com
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