Sunday, March 9, 2008

Carved Maps, When is it a mirror image?

The simplest and probably most annoying answer to this question is, sometimes. When you are dealing with carved maps there are several different tricks the mapmakers used to hide the information in the map. This is true for just about any mapmaker whether it was an outlaw, a Spaniard, a pirate, etc. One of the most common tricks was to make the entire map so it has to be read in mirror image or so that one or more parts of the map are in mirror image/reversed.

There are times when trying to interpret a map that figuring out which parts, if any, need to be looked at in mirror image is the hardest part of the map interpretation. People will tell you that there will be a symbol that says the map or a certain portion of it should be looked at in mirror image but this isn’t always so. I have found that more often than not, there isn’t any symbol or sign that indicates the map should be mirror imaged. This leaves it to us, the intrepid treasure hunter, to figure it out on our own.

I have found two simple things to look at when first encountering a carving that will hint to whether the map or part of it needs to be looked at in mirror image. The first and most obvious thing to look for is the “hole” symbol. It has been my experience that most carved maps will have a symbol that indicates the hole. This can be a square or regular U, a drill hole or dot, a carved circle, a circle with a dot, etc. The indicators for the hole can be several things but in general, the hole symbol should be the last symbol on the map. If you look at the map and see that the hole symbol is the first symbol then it would stand to reason that the map needs to be reversed or mirror imaged so that the hole symbol is the last symbol on the map, reading from let to right. The hole is, after all, what you want to find and there has to be symbols that lead you to it. I will say at this point that you should keep in mind that a drill hole can be used for more than one thing and doesn’t always indicate the hole so you can have drill holes anywhere in a map.

The second indicator that one or more parts of the map may need to be looked at in reverse or mirror image is if the map is broken up into obvious parts. By this I mean “lines” of code, as if there were separate sentences or the parts can be broken up into sections where it is obvious that several symbols are a group and there is more than one group but they are all close enough together to be one map. You can also have a section of a map distinguished by another by having it surrounded by a circle or a box or even a triangle. Anything that appears to separate part of the code from the rest can indicate “separate” sections of the map and anytime there are separate sections to a map I would say you have a better than 50/50 chance that at least one section or part of the map will need to be reversed or mirror imaged.

The easiest thing about mirror imaging or reversing a carving is a computer. Although computers can make us reliant on technology and therefore a little stupid at times compared to the mapmakers of long ago, they do make reversing an image as easy as loading it into a photo program and making a few clicks on the mouse. I can’t say it enough, get a good digital camera and take photos, lots of photos! A good camera is as important as a good metal detector.

And now to confuse you a little. I have run into two maps so far that have “garbage” in them. These two maps had the hole symbol about two-thirds of the way through the maps and the hole symbol was disguised. In both cases they used drill holes to indicate the hole but earlier in the maps they had used drill holes to indicate other things also. This was done so that you would pass by the hole and continue trying to work the last third of the map, which takes you nowhere. It was basically garbage added at the end of the map to take you past the hole and confuse the crap out of you. And it worked, for a VERY long time! The remedy for this is looking at the carving very carefully and having a lot of patience and persistence. You’re probably still going to go past the hole a few times but you will eventually see your mistake and know to ignore that portion of the map.

You should always keep in mind that there are very few absolutes in treasure hunting. It is very rare that one site will work exactly like another site, especially outlaw sites. By posting the information that we are, Okie and I are trying to give you some ideas and to get your brains wrapped around some of the tricks that were used. This way you can formulate your own ideas when in the field based on your own particular circumstances.

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