Documenting Historic Rock Art in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Last week, while my wife was giving a welding workshop at Arrowmont (below), I was able to sneak away and meet up with the Park archaeologist at Great Smoky Mountains National Park (who happened to be a co-author on a recent grant proposal) to get out and see some of the historic rock art and sites in the area.


Our travels brought us high up into the mountains, where the water was cold and fast, and the views were increasingly breathtaking. While I quickly found out just how out of shape I was, the scenery and discussion was worth it. I learned a lot about the Park, and about the surrounding area. It was interesting too to hear how the Park manages their efforts between two SHPO offices (North Carolina and Tennessee).

When we arrived at the site, I was able to take photos of each feature. While some were much higher on the walls, others were more accessible. This first image is a cross, and is on the interior of a large sheltered wall (rock shelter). The second image (two images) is a historic-era trail marker meant to help guide some of the Park’s earliest visitors to a nearby (4mi.) lodge. Needless to say, I am now tinkering with both in Agisoft and DStretch  in my free time to see what else might be lurking in the shadows.




In addition to the rock art, incredible waterways, and scenery, I was also able to spend some time meandering the Appalachian Trail. It was a great reminder that many of the best (intangible) things in life are simply there for the taking; it’s just up to us to make the effort to get there.


Should you find yourself in the area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, take some time and spend a day roaming through the mountains, and fly-fishing in the streams. It may be the most highly visited National Park in the US, but get a mile or two in on any of the trails, and you’ll have plenty of time to yourself.


Written by zselden

I am a research associate in the Center for Regional Heritage Research at Stephen F. Austin State University, where my work is focused at the confluence of archaeology, art, engineering, computer science, and the humanities. I am particularly interested in the application of 3D technologies to archaeological problems, geometric morphometrics, network analyses, archaeological theory, and archaeological science.

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