Please remove your shoes. Walking barefoot on a living sacred site is a humbling experience. That’s my advice to anyone visiting Jeffers Petroglyphs that wants a deeper experience at this sacred land.
Petroglyphs are images carved on a rock face. The word comes from the Greek “petra,” meaning stone and “glyphe,” meaning carving. Petroglyphs are found world-wide and are among the most enduring forms of human expression.
The pink rock face covers an area 50 yards wide and 300 yards long. It is part of a 23-mile is Sioux quartzite ridge. The quartzite at Jeffers is one of the oldest bedrock formations in Minnesota, deposited as sand more than 1.6 billion years ago. To American Indians, rock formations emerging from the earth provide a link between the physical and spiritual worlds. Such places are chosen to record visions, events, stories or maps.
Jeffers Petroglyphs is a special place for visitors and American Indians. To the contemporary American Indians who reside in and around the state, it is a spiritual place where Grandmother Earth speaks of the past, present and future. Modern day descendants of those who left these markings continue to believe that this is a place of worship, a prayer place no different than that of church, synagogue or mosque.
The earliest carvings at Jeffers Petroglyphs were created as much as 7,000 years ago. The most recent were made about 250 years ago. This long time span makes Jeffers one of the oldest continuously used sacred sites in the world. http://sites.mnhs.org/historic-sites/jeffers-petroglyphs/history
The site preserves more than 4,000 American Indian images. Among the earliest carvings found here are images of buffalo and atlatls, or throwing sticks. Atlatls and darts were used to hunt buffaloes before the bow and arrow were developed 1,200 years ago. These symbols, along with thunderbirds and turtles, remain important in American Indian culture today. It’s interesting to note that there aren’t any carved bows and arrows. Also “missing” are glyphs representing horses, indicating that the site was no longer used by the late 1700s.
The fact that these petroglyphs still exist is amazing to me. They must have been carved deeply into the rock originally, meant to last while exposed to the elements. A lot can be learned when you remove your shoes and look down.