Thursday, May 29, 2014
Is Indian Head Rock Ready To Roll Again?
The boulder that may or may not be the fabled “Indian Head Rock” is back in the news for the first time in four years. And not a day too soon.
The controversial stone was first removed from the Ohio River in 2007 when Steve Shaffer of Ironton, Ohio, and several divers from Portsmouth used some flotation devices to raise the eight-ton sandstone rock they found in the Ohio River near the U.S. Grant Bridge.
With hearts full of promontory love and heads full of historical notoriety, the men said they saved the slab and moved it to the Ohio shore because they had feared "it," whatever it was -- historical landmark or quarry of the river bottom -- was in danger of being damaged or lost forever to the unrelenting waters.
Navigation dams have been responsible for the submersion of the rock. In older days before dams, back to 1920, portions of Indian Head Rock lay partly exposed during times of low water.
Was the find a true treasure? What if is was a relic known Indian Rock? A few marks on the rock indicate dates of the 1850's. Maybe early explorers like Boone or Crockett or even Tecumseh had etched early carvings. Or were the marks merely tourist graffiti left by lesser-known individuals?
Some even believed the Charlie Brown-like face was an American Indian petroglyph, so a delegation from Kentucky -- with Dr. Fred E. Coy Jr., a prehistoric carvings expert, in tow -- visited the Portsmouth municipal garage and waited anxiously while the doctor conducted his examination. His expert opinion: “I can’t tell.”
But then, a huge feud over plucking the rock from the river erupted between Ohio and Kentucky. As noted archaeologists began scanning scads of data and respected anthropologists hurriedly humanized gobs of records, the stature of the "maybe" discovery grew and grew. Whether in the river or out, the rock somehow became considered a tool of state education. But of which state?
As always, politicians entered the fray for any possible fortuitous find. Kentucky state officials got involved; they said the rock belonged to them. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway wrote a letter demanding its return.
"This was a registered antiquity in Kentucky and it was taken, and that's theft of an antiquity under the statute," Conway says.
Not to be outdone by rock-headed politicians from the Bluegrass, Ohio officeholders answered. In May, 2008, Ohio Representative Todd Book, along with sixty-six cosponsors, introduced and adopted House Resolution No. 137 in the 127th Ohio General Assembly Regular Session. It was resolved...
Now, all of this hubbub is fascinating to me. First of all, I imagine about every rock in the river is an antique, and second, I have plucked a few stones from the riverbank in my younger days that I considered to be "old bits of geography" but I was never charged with looting a potentially historical artifact. I guess notoriety and size do matter.
Finally, in November 2010, Kentucky moved the rock to the Greenup County Garage for prescribed “temporary storage.” There the rock remains. The courts ruled the rock will not be returned to its original location in the river because the original site "had been compromised."
But what about the latest earthy news? Well, now Greenup County Judge/Executive Robert (Bobbie) Carpenter and South Shore Mayor Cheryl Moore are hoping Indian Head Rock will be a part of the new South Shore City Building.