When you are working on a map that has been carved into a rock you have to have a good idea of who made the map. I don’t mean the exact person or group, although this would be very helpful, what I am talking about is if the carving is Spanish, Outlaw, French, etc. Knowing who made the carving will help in how you decipher the carving. For the purpose of this article I will stick to outlaw carvings and try to cover some information about Spanish carvings in another article.
I have written about outlaw carvings before and have said that in most cases the cache spot will be fairly close to the carving. In a lot of cases you can see the spot where the cache is located from the spot where the carving is made. There has been a lot written about how the KGC supposedly put down their treasures and that they would supposedly take you for miles and any carving they may have left behind would show topographical features. Part of this it true, the part about symbols being topographical. However these are generally not topographical in the sense that you can see them on a topographical map.
Outlaw carvings will show you a picture of what you are going to do or what you will see when you get to the point you need to be at. Most of the distances you will deal with in outlaw carvings will generally be 100 feet or less in length. It has been my experience that on a “standard” map, one that isn’t loaded with tricks, the distances will be fifty feet or less. I always tell the people I talk to that they should use the KISS method (Keep It Simple Stupid) as much as possible. Not that I am implying that anyone is stupid because I have to remind myself on occasion to use this method. You need to think of the carving you are looking at as more of a set of instructions instead of a map. The mapmaker will be telling you to do something specific and in doing so you will arrive at a specific spot. I will also tell you that the people making these carvings were rarely sloppy in what they did. If a line was crooked or went past or through another line, it was intentional. The same goes for lines not touching each other when you think they should. A simple description would be two lines that look like they form a V but don’t touch at the point. If they don’t touch then they are more than likely two separate lines hidden to look like a V to confuse anyone but the mapmaker.
The more devious the mapmaker the harder it is to work the carving. Being devious apparently came with the experience they got from the more maps they made. Some mapmakers were very precise in their information while others were pretty rudimentary. Carvings can have reverses in them or what would better be described as mirror imaged, they can have numbers that need to be used and you have to figure out what to use them for.
Some symbols on a carving will be an instruction on how to travel. As an example of this I have added a photo at the top of this article of a single symbol from a map carving. Keep in mind this is only the way it worked at this particular site and the way you use a symbol can, and most likely will, vary from site to site because the symbol is based on the terrain.
At first glance this would look like the letter J but closer scrutiny will show a lot of detail in the instructions. First, notice that the top half of the vertical line of the J is slanted. This part of the J told me to go in a straight line down hill, hence the slant. The break in the line at this point tells you that when the ground levels out you will go straight a short distance and then curve to the left. In this case, once you took the straight line down hill you hit a creek that went straight and then curved to the left. If you look at the curved line on the J you will see that the bottom side of the line is “hollowed out”. This was telling me that one side of the J was higher than the other and this matched the bank of the creek I was following. I will also say at this point that when you looked at the carving the bottom of the J turned to the left on the carving. The creek also turned to the left but this terrain would actually make the J backwards if you were following the symbol itself.
The last little short part of the J was telling me to look on the high side of the bank of the creek I was following just after the curve in the creek and I would find my next clue. The next symbol on the map after the J was a drawing of a large rock that stuck out of the bank, one of those “part of the earth” rocks that never move. The symbol was a very good representation of this rock and it was obvious when you saw this rock that the symbol was depicting it however, until you actually saw the rock you had know idea what that next symbol was. On that rock was a carved line giving me a direction to go and when I looked at the next symbol in the carving it gave me a picture of the terrain I would cross if I followed that line. The symbol after that one depicted the next thing I would find after following the straight line across the terrain. I will say here that the complete distance covered by following the J symbol was less than 40 feet from start to finish.
Explaining carved symbols in detail requires a lot of time, space and photos. It’s not something that can be covered completely in a short article on a blog but at least this may give you an idea of how to look at things.
As the blog progresses I will try to explain some different symbols that I have found and tell you how I arrived at the conclusion I did. Hopefully this will help you to be able to look at the symbols you find and break them down so they make sense.