Sunday 20 July 2014

Indian Rock, Champ, And The American Bunyip

Scott Mardis sent me some more pdfs about the "Horned Serpent" and the Lake Champlain area. Among the more interesting items was a petroglyph rock from Southern Vermont called Indian Rock. The creature shown on it was very interesting but not well shown on the rock itself: I have some other versions here and my composite redrawing of the creature is above. Although it is called a "Great Horned Serpent" the conventionalization is different enough that it makes me think it is more like an American Bunyip. The Abnaki and surrounding peoples called it Tatoskok and said it was a snake as big as a tree with a head like a horse's and two hotns on it. The settlers later called it a "Hippogryph" but evidently this was a mistake for "Hippocampus" (and as such it was represented on powder horns also supplied by Scott Mardis) Most of the images in this blog posting are from "Horned Panthers and Erie Associates" by William Fox (2004) but the paper describes several different things and runs them all together. I am doing this as a sort of extraction of what seems to me to be a distinctly different local type.

The Indian Rock petroglyph is at Battleboro, Vermont and is shown below. One commentator thought the long horizontal line at top right represented a long neck turned back but I think this is more likely a bow wave. Bow waves are definitely represented on other similar petroglyphs.

This creature has some very specific Plesiosaur-like characteristics such as the long neck with a small head at the end of it, and a big body with four flippers and a short tail on the other end. The combination of the big ovoid body and four schematic limbs is what reminded me of Australian "Bunyips" in their own rock art.

Above: The long neck can be seen in "Periscope" position.
Below: also associated with large pointed or peaked humps on the back.
Three humps are usual.

This particular brand of Plesiosaur-like "Horned Serpents seem to be more of in the East and in New England proper, and along the St Lawrence seaway BELOW Niagra falls (gold stars on map, the Micmac version indicated by the arrow)

The more usual "Water panthers" or Mishipiziheus are more characteristic of the upper Great Lakes and inland generally. In their case there are catlike eyes and whiskers, and the "Horns" are definitely pointed ears at times.


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