Looking at a carving and deciding if it is graffiti or a treasure map can be the same way. Once you see several maps carved you should begin to get a “feel” for the types of things you want to look for in a carving that will help you decide if it is a treasure map or just old graffiti.
What are those things? First, you have to realize that not all maps look like maps at first glance and this is done intentionally. Part or all of a carved map can be reversed or mirror imaged so that it doesn’t look like what you would think. The majority of carved maps left behind by outlaws are done in parts or sections or lines or all three. You have to break the carving down into these parts to understand the map and to see if it actually is a map.
Breaking a carving into parts will normally be based on things that I consider obvious but a non-treasure hunter would just over look. First, is the carving made in lines, if so, then these are your parts. If the carving doesn’t have lines like you would read a story from then you want to start looking for things like the size of the symbols. If two or more symbols are the same size, close together but a different size from the other symbols then this could be a group of symbols that need to be looked at together like a line. Besides using size to group a set of symbols, the size can also tell you that the distances between point A and point B are getting smaller as the symbols get smaller.
If any of the symbols have a circle, square or other shape around them this is a very good indication that the symbols are grouped together and need to be worked together. Any kind of shape around a set of symbols can, and almost always will, have its own meaning or interpretation and be a symbol itself, besides grouping a set of symbols together. A circle can mean a hill, a square or rectangle can mean you are looking for a corner, a triangle can mean you are looking for three points forming a triangle, etc. You have to remember the K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid) theory. Although outlaws were pretty tricky in their ways they also had to be able to remember what they were trying to tell themselves. This in itself means the symbols will normally be somewhat simple to interpret based on your surroundings.
Besides having symbols that are the same size or grouped inside a shape, the parts of a map can be on different pieces of a rock or bluff. You may have a series of symbols carved on a bluff that has a natural crack in it. Although the crack may not be part of the map it could have been used to separate different sets of symbols. The same goes for symbols carved on different levels of a bluff. Even if a bluff is vertical it can have shelves or high and low spots in it. If you have sets of symbols in the different levels this could have been their way of separating the sets of symbols.
Several carvings have been found on large rocks or boulders with the symbols scattered about on the rock. A lot of people try to look at the map as a whole and make sense of all the symbols at the same time. In most cases this will just confuse the crap out of you and take you nowhere. If the symbols are separated on the rock or scattered about, they are done so on purpose, partly to confuse treasure hunters like us and partly to separate the symbols into sets.
It could be that one set of symbols from the carving is the actual map and the other symbols are there to show you how to get started or give you information about things you will find as you work the map. If things are separated, don’t try to work them together, it wasn’t meant to work that way.
Other things you might find that would be a dead giveaway as a map is dots or drill holes. If you have a series of dots or drill holes that make a pattern such as a square or triangle you will want to pay close attention to those. You also will want to look for repeat symbols, especially ones that are at the beginning and the end of a line.
Repeats at the beginning and end of a map will give you very important information about the map. What information? It will depend on the symbol and the terrain and the rest of the map. Hey, nobody said this was going to be easy!
These are just a few of the things that will point to a carving being treasure related. You have to keep in mind that the really good map makers, the ones that got a lot of practice because they put down several treasures, were very good at building tricks or deceptions into a map. Keep your eyes and your mind open. It’s not what you look at, but what you see.
I have said this before and I will continue to say it, there are no absolutes in treasure hunting. What works at one site may not work at another but knowing how something worked somewhere else may give you enough information to make your own interpretation of a symbol or map that you have found.
Maybe that should have been in fine print. :~)