Situated in the middle of a patch of prairie, surrounded by rural farmland, is a place I have meant to visit for some time. For at least 7,000 years, the Jeffers Petroglyphs site has been visited by Native Americans who left their mark on the hard stone surface. Depictions of animals, hunting equipment, and human figures are just a few of the more than five thousand exposed petroglyphs.
The Minnesota Historical Society has a special event during the last two weekends of the season. Instead of closing after the final tour, they keep the area open until about 7:00. This allows visitors to be out in the area as the last rays of sunlight hit the glyphs. Difficult to see during most of the day, these carvings become much more obvious and the natural red color of the rock is also exaggerated nicely. As a photographer, I decided to visit during this event.
The last tour started at 3:30 and the sun was still too steep to see anything at that point. The tour guide had a spray bottle, though, and would occasionally spray a glyph so that it was easier to see. After the tour was over, everyone milled around for awhile and waited for the sun to get a little lower. It was a lot of fun chatting with other visitors.
If you view the higher-resolution image, you can get a more detailed view and even zoom in a bit on your screen. How many petroglyphs do you see? The human-carved works appear as pockmarked lines or shapes. The majority of the straight, narrow lines were created by glaciers. A depiction of a bison is in the center of the image.
This is a close-up of one of the bison glyphs. There were several more bison around this one, including a calf. Bison were very important to native people in this area, so it isn't surprising to find many of them depicted.
Got to hand it to them!]()
Here's an interesting one. This hand print isn't actually a "print." The person who put this one into the stone had to use some sort of chisel, because it's actually carved.
Bird? Plane? Hedgehog?]()
Some of the artistry appears to be a little abstract. I'm not certain as to what the last one is depicting, but perhaps it's a bird.
Visitors are encouraged to walk on the surface and get a better view of the glyphs, but there is a condition. This must be done barefoot. Besides protecting the carvings from damage, this is a sign of respect.
Lonely Tree on the Rocks]()
When the last rays of sunlight turned the prairie red, it was time to head back to Mankato. I took a few last photos on my way out, though.
For more information about the area, visit their website.
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