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The meaning of the Judaculla petroglyphs remain a mystery to us. In the late 1800's ethnologist James Mooney documented the Cherokee legend of Tsul'kalu', a slant eyed giant. Tsul'kalu' was considered a great hunter who lived in nearby mountains. As legend describes, the giant leaped down off his mountain to a creek below where he scratched the rock with his 7 fingered hands. Other versions say he scraped it with his toes. Over time the name Tsul'kalu' evolved to Judaculla.
As long as 5,000 years ago, prehistoric Native Americans used the area around Judaculla to mine soapstone, a rock valued for its heat-retaining properties. The Cherokee, later residents of the area, considered the site to be sacred. The first carvings on the Judaculla Rock appeared about 1,500 years ago. According to Cherokee legend, they were created when Tsul-Kalu, the Great Slant-Eyed Giant, jumped from his home on the ridge above to the valley below, leaving a strange imprint.
Two other engraved rocks are said to be in the area: one was buried in a mining accident and the other, perhaps, is also buried. Dominated by mining the mineral-rich mountains, the area has never been fully excavated. In a limited dig, archeologists found quarry tools near-by and have speculated that the soapstone rock could have been engraved around the time that soapstone bowls are dated too, either between 3000-2000 BC or around 200 BC. Currently the rock is quickly eroding and evades study.