Inscription Rock is a large limestone boulder on the southern shore of Kelleys Island. The rock takes its name from the many petroglyphs carved into its soft surface. These markings were made by Native American tribes that inhabited the island before European and American settlers arrived. Unfortunately, exposure to the elements has eroded the inscriptions and made them difficult to see. A scale replica, produced from sketches and rubbings done in the 1850s, is displayed next to the rock to help show visitors what the inscriptions once looked like. Inscription Rock is located at the intersection of Lakeshore Drive and Addison Road, a short walk from downtown Kelleys Island or the Kelleys Island Ferry. A wooden platform allows easy viewing of the inscriptions and the replica stone.
The precise age of the inscriptions is unknown. Based on the symbolism and the degree to which the soft limestone has weathered, they are probably less than one thousand years old. As a result, historians believe that they are the work of one of two groups: the so-called “Late Prehistoric” period Sandusky culture, or American Indian peoples living in the region during the period of European colonization. The remains of at least two Native American villages have been found very close to the rock.
Though faded, the inscriptions are some of the finest examples of aboriginal art in the Great Lakes region. No one is exactly sure what the unusual drawings depicted. The most widely accepted theory states that Native Americans used Inscription Rock as a message stone. They would carve drawings marking their passage through the area and noting details about hunting, fishing, and future destinations. In 1969, The Ohio Historical Society erected a cover in an attempt to protect what remains of the quickly-fading petroglyphs.
For more information on the history of Kelleys Island, be sure to stop by the History Museum!
- CategoryNatural Areas, Things to Do
- LocationKelleys Island