I have posted a photo with this article of what most people would call a Thunderbird. This carving was small in size, with a wingspan of about eight inches and was carved on a rock bluff all by itself, nothing else around it. I looked at it at first as if it would be telling me something all by itself and finally came to the conclusion it wasn’t, it need to be worked in conjunction with something else. That something else was a carved map I found later as I was wondering around. This particular “bird” is related to a carved outlaw map and the map was only about one hundred feet from the location of the bird. Both were on the same hillside but different bluffs.
This carving was meant to be worked as a clue along with the map. If you were to start at the beginning of the map and follow the symbols that take you to this “bird” you would have gone through eight separate moves or steps of the map before getting to it. Remember, this carving was only about one hundred feet from the map but the mapmaker took you through eight moves in that one hundred feet. Once you get to the “bird” it is all about how you look at the carving and what you actually see and not what you think you see. One of my favorite quotes is “Is not what you look at, but what you see”. In this instance and in most cases of carvings, you have to see what is there and not what the carver is using as camouflage. In the instance of this “bird”, the only information that is useful in the carving is the line formed by the top of the left wing and the neck. The rest of the bird is there to camouflage those two lines.
If you look at the bird closely, and I will admit this isn’t the best photo, the line forming the top of the left wing and the neck is cut deeper into the rock than the rest of the bird and the corner is sharp and square where all of the other corners are rounded. This is shown better by the shadow than the carving because of the angle the photo was taken at but this will give you the idea of what I am referring to. After banging my head on the bluff for several days I finally realized that I only needed to be looking at the L shape or “90 degree turn” formed by the top of the wing and the neck. With all of the information that could have been imparted by this carving, all it was actually telling me was I needed to make a 90 degree turn off of the line I was just on. Because the left wing was pointed in the direction I just came from I also decided that when I made my turn the next “leg” I would travel would be short, probably half the distance that I just traveled to get to the bird carving. It turned out that the distance I traveled after I made the turn was a little less than half the distance. The leg to the bird was 45 feet and the leg after the turn was 20 feet.
This doesn’t always hold true but, in a lot of cases when you have lines drawn as this 90 degree turn was, the difference in the lengths of the lines can equate to distances because by traveling the first distance it gives you a known measurement to use to figure the second distance.
I have mentioned before the fact that some mapmakers, especially the really experienced ones, will put junk into a carving to hide the actual information. They will also camouflage symbols by making them look like something else but closer inspection will reveal lines that aren’t really connected or lines that are cut deeper than others just to name a few of the ways it can be done. Most mapmakers will establish a pattern of how they make their symbols or hide information in those symbols. Once you distinguish this pattern you will know what to look at and what to ignore.
I will caution everyone again that this isn’t always the case and sometimes things are exactly as they seem. These articles about different signs are meant to show you how they have worked at different locations so you can have ideas to mull over in your head at your own sites.