The Strange Petroglyphs of Diaton Rock

On the banks of the Taunton River in Berkeley, Massachusetts, is a small museum that houses a single but huge exhibit—a 40-ton rock that was pulled from the riverbank and installed here in 1963—the name of the famous Dyton Rock formerly The city was named after. Where was Dieton found? The rock’s fame lies in the indecipherable inscriptions carved on its face, which have puzzled scholars since the 17th century.

Petroglyphs, which are mainly composed of straight lines and geometric shapes, are known to accompany very basic drawings of people, as well as writing. It almost looks like random doodles made by people who had nothing better to do, but people are convinced they hide a secret message.

The Dietton Rock in 1893.

Diaton Rock is about 5 feet high, 9.5 feet wide and 11 feet tall. The surface is inclined with inscriptions and once faced the sea where it could be seen by any boat or ship. For centuries, therefore, it was speculated that the carving was a message left by visitors to the coast, intended to catch the eye of later marine explorers passing along that path.

One of the first mentions of Diaton Rock can be found in 1680 when the English colonist Rev. John Danforth made a drawing of petroglyphs, which is preserved in the British Museum. However, Danforth’s drawing conflicts with other reports on the rock at the same time. In 1690 the Rev. Cotton Mather described the rock in his book Wonderful Works of God Remembered,

One of New-England’s other curiosities is that of a mighty rock, with a river on its vertical bank, which covered part of it at the time of the High Tide, is engraved so deeply, no living person knows how. Or when about half a score lines up, near ten feet long, and a foot and a half wide, full of strange characters: that would suggest strange ideas about those who were here before us, because that elaborate monument has strange shapes .

During the 19th century, many popular publications and public figures mentioned the rock. The poet and critic James Russell Lowell suggested that it should be mentioned in letters written to newspapers by presidential candidates: “If letters are to be written, the Diaton Rock hieroglyphic or cuneiform script can be used profitably, of which each fresh interpreter is capable of educating a different meaning.” Lowell made other references to rock in his widely circulated satirical writings, and thus may have helped to popularize it.

dieton rock

A copy of the inscription on Diaton Rock.

different theories

One of the most influential theories was put forward in 1837 by a Danish scholar, Karl Christian Renn, who suggested that the carvings were made by Vikings and represent the Norse saga of Thorfin Karlselne and his travels along the North American coast. was called Hop. Where his wife Gudrida gave birth to their son Snoro. Ralne’s theory piqued the interest of the Rhode Island Historical Society, who contacted their friends in Denmark, and together they found sufficient evidence to declare that Hop was on the Taunton River.

Ruffon’s research excited international enthusiasm, and from 1837 onwards, the theory of pre-Columbian explorations of North America by Vikings was almost universally accepted. Dieton Rock forms the final link in a long chain of evidence. Alas, the Viking theory of rock was invented in 1916 by the late Brown University professor Edmund B. Cut to pieces by Delabare. Delabare found stark discrepancies between the actual portraits of the society and the impersonated copies reproduced in Ruffon’s book. Obviously, Ruffen added several lines to the drawings to support his theory.

dieton rock

While studying the inscription, Delabare found what appears to be the name “Miguel Cortériel” and that the date 1511 is written between the lines and the markings. Delebare claimed that the message is an abbreviated Portuguese-style Latin, which can be translated to say “I, Miguel Courtieral, 1511”. At this place, by the will of God, I became the chief of the Indians.

But who was Miguel Cortarian?

Miguel Cortáriel was a Portuguese explorer who set out from Lisbon in 1502 in search of his brother Gaspar who had been lost near Newfoundland two years earlier. The expedition apparently reached the spot where Gaspar’s party had landed, at which point the three ships broke apart to search in different directions. Later, the ship carrying Miguel failed to appear at a designated rendezvous. The other two ships made the return trip to Portugal, while Miguel and his ship were never seen again.

Delabare speculates that Miguel Cortáriel reached Mount Hope Bay in 1502 and sent men ashore near the site of Dyton Rock. Maybe there was a fight with the Wampanoag Indians, maybe a shipwreck, or maybe Miguel joined the Wampanoag for other reasons. Cortariel stayed with the Wampanogs for many years and kept a close watch on ships along the coast. But by 1511, as his hopes of rescue dimmed, he carved the message on the rock where it would stand for future generations.

Delabare’s theory is widely accepted in Portugal, but not elsewhere. This was strongly criticized by American historian Samuel Eliot Morrison in his 1971 book The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages,

Other theories attribute these carvings to the Phoenicians and even the Chinese, who, according to author Gavin Menzies, visited the Americas before Columbus.

There is endless debate among scholars over Dieton Rock, but that doesn’t lead tourists to Dieton Rock State Park, established in 1955. When Roadside America visited the museum, they found they were the only tourists. “It’s not seen all that often,” Park Service employee Milt told him, to which his colleague Bob said, “You don’t see a lot of people.”

References:
#Edward Brecher, The Enigma of Dyton Rock,
American Heritage
, roadside america

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