Montreal teacher makes prehistoric find
A Montreal archaeologist is hoping the rare example of Indian rock art he rediscovered will encourage people in the region to share stories of other possible treasures.
Francis Scardera found the red ochre-streaked rock face along the Indian River drainage system in upstate New York.
He says it is a prehistoric work of art, which, in North America, means it dates back between 500 and 2,000 years.
Scardera reported his find for the first time in October at the Conference on Iroquois Research, but is hoping now to be able to find even more.
"I'm convinced that there are a lot more out there," he says, referring to Indian rock art long believed to have been washed away by centuries of weathering.
He hopes that when people get news that there are ancient works of art in this part of North America, that others may offer up tips on where to find more.
Location was a mystery for decades
The last time the rock face was seen was in a 1920 photograph, which was kept by a museum in New York State, but Scardera says the exact whereabouts of the rock were lost.
So the Loyola High School archeology teacher took that photo, along with aerial photos, and spent years trying to pinpoint the exact location of the art.
He was thrilled when he stumbled upon the Indian art, and shared the news with others who had also been curious about where the art lay. He was also the one to inform the owners of the land what secrets their property held.
Red ochre painting
It is uncertain which Indian tribe is responsible for the art, Scardera says. It could have been Oneida, Mohawk, Algonquin, Iroquois, or a number of other tribes which frequented the Iroquoia area at that time.
The area is known to archaelogists as the land covered by the modern-day St. Lawrence Valley, southern Ontario and Quebec, nestled betwen the Adirondacks and the Great Lakes.
The red ochre drawing might represent people standing on a boat, although Scardera says it is too difficult to surmise what the art depicts.
Red ochre powder, which was often used as a dye or paint, was likely mixed with animal fat for consistency, Scardera says. And he says that animal fat could could be carbon-dated, which will allow experts to figure out with some certainty when the painting was done.
Picture rocks are extremely rare in that area, experts agree.
It's believed that there are only two other known works of Indian art in the northeastern U.S., and they are both in Maine.