|a view of the first inscribed rock found -- see transliteration below|
[Nyerges is the former editor of Wilderness Way magazine and American Survival Guide. He is the author of How to Survive Anywhere, Enter the Forest, and other books. He has led wilderness trips into the Angeles National Forest for over 40 years. He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or www.ChristopherNyerges.com.]
[An extract from Nyerges’ Kindle book “Ancient Writing on Rock,” also available from the Store at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com, which goes into much more detail about the site and various opinions about it.]
On Halloween day in 2001, I was leading a birthday outing for a 10 year old boy and his friends at the 3000 foot level of the Angeles National Forest. We were getting late, so I led them down into the stream so we could make soap from the yucca leaves. It was a spot where I would never ordinarily go. As the boys and I made our yucca soap, my gaze was drawn to the back side of a large, 10 foot wide boulder with unusual markings on it. There were two large horizontal cleavages and numerous markings across the cleavage that bore an uncanny resemblance to ogam.
I pointed it out to every one and explained ogam to the adults, who seemed underwhelmed at what such a rock might mean.
I returned a week later with Dude McLean to take photographs and sketches. McLean had also been there when I first noted the rock. After carefully comparing my sketches with the ogam alphabet, I was amazed to see that all the marks were consistent with ogam. So I then sent photos and sketches to perhaps 50 “experts” in ogam, linguistics, archaelogy, and other fields and eagerly awaited their response about my exciting discovery.
Ogam is not to be confused with the more ornate runic writing. Ogam employs straight lines across what is called a stem line. The stem line can be a natural horizontal fracture in a rock, or the corner of a standing stone. The 15 consonants are expressed by from one to five lines above the stem line, one to five lines below the stem line, or one to five lines across the stem lines. The vowels, where present, can be a series of dots or other symbols. It is certainly possible to see natural fractures in rock and think you are looking at ogam, especially if you have not studied rock sufficiently to see the difference between what nature does and what man does.
Gloria Farley, author of “In Plain Sight,” responded, saying it certainly looked like ogam, but that she had no idea what it might say since she had all her discoveries translated by Barry Fell, who had passed away. One expert from England responded, saying that since the rock inscription was in California, there was no chance that it was bonafide ogam. Another told me that it was clearly a significant find, but he felt it was more likely some sort of tally system, not ogam. But most of the various world experts ignored me.
So I laid out what I felt was a fairly reasonable scientific method for ascertaining if the inscription I found was, or was not, of some significance.
1. Were the markings consistent with the ogam alphabet. If so, I would proceed to the other steps.
2. Did the ogam letters actually spell anything.
3. Could the inscription could actually be dated.
4. Was there was anything else significant about the site.
5. The final step – if I got that far – was to determine who may have actually inscribed the rock, and under what circumstances. I also reasoned that if I got this far, others could jump in and attempt to answer this question.
Since all the markings were consistent with the ogam characters, I then proceeded to determine the actual sequence of letters. It took me approximately 6 visits in different lighting conditions until I arrived at what I felt was the correct letter sequence. I attempted to confirm my deductions by carefully feeling the indentations in the rock.
Next, with my sequence of letters, I tried to determine if it spelled anything. Ogam was used primarily to express Gaelic, but had also been used in some known instances to represent both Saharan and Basque. I needed experts or dictionaries.
One night, while staring at my photos of the rock and the letter sequence, the two letters MC jumped out at me, and I realized that the rock inscription was most likely written in the most common language of usage for ogam, Gaelic. MC is a very common abbreviation for “son of,” as in McDonald, MacAllister, et al.
I obtained a copy of Dwelley’s “Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary” (copyright 1902-12) and one rainy day about two months after finding the rock, I spent about five hours going through Dwelley’s page by page, looking for letter combinations that might mean something. All the letters I had to work with were consonants. There were no vowells, suggestive of an older or earlier linguistic form, akin to several of the Middle Eastern alphabets written without vowels.
Based on the manner in which the markings were made on the rock, I broke the letter sequence into the following groupings: B- MMH- BL- ?MG-MC-MM-DH-B. I then tried to find words for which those letter groupings would represent. Part of this search was to see what was commonly written on other such stones.
After a few months, I came up with the following possible transliteration: To-memory-Bel- Thy Young Hero- Son of – Mother – Deep/depth/ darken- stone. “Bel” was actually written above the main line of the inscription. So my translation reads: To Bel, in the memory of the young hero, son of the mother (prince?), laid to rest with this stone.” I found at least one stone in which scholars translated “DH” as “laid to rest.” Thus, I had achieved Step Two in my process, and proceeded to the next Step.
Two different geologists, one a PhD, told me that such inscriptions could not be definitely dated. The PhD said that based on his educated guess, the inscription was made between 1500 and 2500 years ago, and he’d say it was 95% certain that it was made by man, not natural forces.
I proceeded to Step Four with various informal surveys of the surrounding area. First, IF the rock inscription was formed by natural forces, it would be logical that there would be many or more such carvings in the vicinity. Within a quarter mile of the stone, I found one possible standing stone, one triangular pointing stone (pointed up a side canyon), and a nearby site that had all the appearances of being an ancient graveyard based on the placement of stones – though I did no digging. A few years after the initial discovery I found another rock near the standing stone with an ogam inscription of B-EA-N-EA, which I eventually concluded must be in reference to Byanu. In time, other features were identified at this site, such as two dolmens, acorn leaching rocks, and other enigmatic features.
Thus, amazingly, everything suggested that this was a foreign inscription, probably someone from Western Europe who came up the canyon and died, or was killed. I shared my work with my friend who was the editor of the local paper, and he sent a reporter to write a story about it. The ensuing newspaper story accurately represented my work on the rock and inscription, and also included interviews with others who said I was making fanciful claims, though none of them had ever gone to see the site.
Though the final chapter of this rock has not been written, it has enforced the belief that our history is not as we’ve been taught in school. Indeed, the schools are often the official gurgitators of the best that academia has been able to collectively come up with. They get a lot of it right, but they fail to see their own blindnesses and prejudices.
My rewards for taking all this time on this multi-faceted research: I have been called a fraud numerous times. I have been listed on a college web-site as an example of “fringe archaeology” and explained away as a fraud.
On the other hand, I was made a life member in the Epigraphic Society. According to Wayne Kenaston, Jr., who bestowed that membership upon me, “Welcome to the frustrations that come with dealing with rock –writing, or epigraphy. You did a very good and scholarly job of deciphering, transliterating, and translating the Angeles Forest Mystery Rock inscriptions. I congratulate you and encourage you to pursue your efforts to learn more about the provenance of the ‘young hero’ whose grave is probably marked by the inscription.”