Last night on the History Channel H2, another new episode of America Unearthed was aired entitled, ′The Appalachian Giant′. The opening segment gives us a recreation of an incident in Cherokee folklore of Judaculla, a slanted-eye giant who could leap 8 miles chased away a Cherokee hunting party that had entered his domain. Upon landing from his 8-mile leap, Judaculla craved a rock with one of his 7-fingered hands, creating the Judaculla Rock, currently displayed near Sylva, North Carolina. Scott Wolter visits Sylva, as well as other sites in the lower Appalachians, looking for clues as to who made a series of carved stones, including the Red Bird Petroglyph in Kentucky, and discover their meaning.
So Scott first hits a coffee shop in Sylva for a cup of fresh brew and walks in to hear a local expert on folklore, Tim Hall, talk about the legend of Judaculla to other customers. Wolter buys his coffee, grabs one of Hall′s business cards and departs. Scott then drives to the site of the Judaculla Rock, a massive piece of soapstone and meets with another local expert, Lisa Dawn Frady. She gives Wolter a tour of the site and fills him in on the legends. At first glance, the stone is carved with many, many symbols and markings. None of which seem to make any sense.
Soapstone is unique in that it retains heat very well. At night, the rock almost glows from heat collected during the day. Some markings appear to be Ogham, an ancient Celtic script. Scott is familiar with it from other sites he has investigated. While there are many theories as to who made the carvings, ranging from Cherokees, to pre-Columbian Irishmen, to even space aliens, Wolter is more convinced that the Cherokees did the work and that the stone may be a star map. One thing is certain, the carvings are very old, at least 1,000 years or much more.
Scott then hooks up with Tim Hall, who gives more background on the old Indian legends. Judaculla ruled over the whole region and gave the Cherokee specific instructions as to where they could travel and where they could not without his permission. Some markings on the rock may be a map of the region, noting the rivers and boundaries of these territories. Hall advises Wolter to visit Kentucky to see the Red Bird Petroglyph.
So Scott heads to Kentucky and meets up with local historian Dave Shuffett, who gives Wolter a guided tour of the Red Bird Petroglyph. Originally on the side of a cliff, in 1994, the whole rock broke off and landed on Highway 66. A local man, Jim Burchell, came across the fallen boulder, which weighs some 50 tons, and stayed on site protecting it until it could be moved. The rock is made of sandstone and is loaded with carvings, many of which appear to be European in origin, including more Ogham. Scott checks the rock out with his digital camera/microscope and determines that most of the carvings are old, if not ancient.
For further analysis, Scott needs to check out the site from where the boulder came from. He meets with Betsy Roy, the great-great-great granddaughter of Chief Red Bird. She provides him with more background information and Scott examines the former location of the fallen boulder. Wolter believes that water and tree roots were responsible for the large rock to break off and fall on the highway. They discuss the Indian legends, including those about giants. Betsy tells Scott about how the man who found the boulder also has the head of a giant.
At the Manchester, Kentucky city hall, Wolter meets Jim Burchell. Jim tells Scott about the night he came across the boulder. He then shows Scott what Jim believes is the fossilized head of a young giant that may be 30,000 to 50,000 years old. But Wolter isn′t buying it. The head is made of sandstone and Scott thinks that it is merely a carving, possibly made as part of some Cherokee ritual or sacrifice. Wolter′s final assessment is that both the Red Bird Petroglyph and the Judaculla Rock were carved by the Cherokees, hundreds, if not thousands of years ago.