One of our favorite anomalies over the years has been the ancient "inscribed wall" at Chatata, near Cleveland, in Bradley County, Tennessee.
The above quotation marks are intended to warn the reader that said wall may not be man-made, and its inscriptions may be natural rather than artificial.
Section of inscribed wall.Click and drag photo to resize.
Close at hand is an old drawing of a section of the "inscribed wall" at Chatata, TN. Note the triangular marker stone projecting above ground level. The history of the Chatata wall is long and convoluted.
Discovered over a century ago, new facts are still coming to light today, as reviewed by D.E. Wirth in a recent issue of The Ancient American.
The wall was originally almost completely buried. It attracted attention only because its course was marked on the surface by stones projecting from the ground every 25-30 feet over a gently curving arc about 1,000 feet long. One of these surface stones seemed to be inscribed with strange symbols.
Excavations, supported at first by the Smithsonian Institution, revealed a 3-ply sandstone wall-like structure seemingly cemented together by a reddish mortar. Splitting the sandstone sheets revealed diagonal rows of markings like those illustrated.
At first, both wall and inscriptions were proclaimed to be artificial. More recent studies by geologists point to natural origins for the wall, the mortar, and even the inscriptions themselves.
The latter may be no more than the burrows of mollusks. This interpretation does make sense because the so-called inscriptions were almost completely covered by the "mortar" -- hardly a good way to convey messages!
Also, the inscriptions themselves do not really look regular enough to be man-made. For these and other reasons, the Chatata wall now seems more of a geological curiosity rather than an archeological anomaly.
Nevertheless, at least two nagging questions remain:
• Why were there regularly placed stones on the surface over the wall?
• Early investigators also reported seeing inscriptions of animals, the swastika, the serpent symbol, and other recognized Indian symbology. Whatever happened to these inscriptions?
(Wirth, Diane E.; "An Ancient Wall at Chatata, Bradley County, Tennessee, Ancient American, 1:20, September/ October 1994. Also: Rawson, A.L.; "The Ancient Inscription at Chatata, Tennessee," American Antiquarian, 14: 221, 1892. Reproduced in our handbook: Ancient Man.
Comment. An incredible variety of complex markings occur on rock surfaces. Often human origins have been proclaimed only to yield to natural explanations. See ESX6 in Neglected Geological Anomalies. Ording information at the above WWW address.
From Science Frontiers #97, JAN-FEB 1995. © 1995-2000 William R. Corliss
by Alexandra Edwards
Every day Bradley County, Tennessee draws people from all over the country by its beautiful scenic mountains, rich green forests and historic charm. But did you know that a century ago Bradley County, Tennessee drew world-wide attention by news of an ancient and mysterious buried wall, 700 feet long, bearing hieroglyphic inscriptions?
News of an alleged buried wall, bearing strange markings thought to be hieroglyphics which represented some ancient language, was first reported in the Cleveland Herald as early as 1891.
The wall was described as being 2 1/2 feet thick, built of stones about 2 feet square and 10 inches thick, having three tiers of stone in which the strange characters appeared only on the west face of the middle tier.
Old Drawing of the inscribed wall .Click and drag photo to resize.
The wall was said to run over 200 yards along the crest of a ridge and that above the wall at intervals, a stone was found protruding about six inches above ground level. These stones were thought to be markers showing the course of the wall.
Later in the year of 1891, an artist from the Smithsonian Institute made sketches of a section of the wall and impressions of the characters.
The Smithsonian Institute actually displayed a segment of the wall from 1900-1902 when it was returned to the owner because there was question as to whether the markings constituted an inscription.
Excitement over the mysterious wall dwindled over the years but arose again in 1920 when J.L. Hooper, son of Isaac Hooper, came across the wall while hauling stone from his 80 acre farm at Chatata.
Hooper Mill was described as being 7 miles SW of Charleston and 13 miles from the railroad in Cleveland, TN. Hooper's farm was said to have looked no different from other neighboring tracts of land except for one stone, shaped like a flatiron which protruded from the ground, bearing strange characters.
The stone aroused little interest among local country folk until it was dislodged by Hooper.
He observed that the stones entire surface was inscribed with strange written characters and that it was supported by a solid foundation.
Curiosity prompted further investigation which revealed a wall, three piles thick and about three feet high. Demolition of the wall revealed the inner ply, the western face of which was smoothly dressed and completely covered with the hieroglyphics first noted on the out cropping rock. Each ply was made of small size stones cemented together with a red clay unusual to the area.
Again, the discovery of the wall created little interest within the local community, some saying the inscriptions were from Indian tribes. The entire story would have remained unrecorded if it were not for a noted New York professor visiting Cleveland one year later.
Legend has it, the professor, A.L. Rawson was staying overnight in a Cleveland hotel but on hearing mention of the find, extended his stay a few days to visit Hooper Farm.
After viewing the wall Rawson was keen to have the inscriptions deciphered. Employing a capable staff of cipher experts and expending $35,000, the hieroglyphics were declared to be old Hebrew and the inscription of religious and historical nature, written by scribes of a nation that were then at war and about to become extinct.
It was Rawson's opinion that the wall had been buried over 4,000 years, the protective covering of earth wearing away with the passage of time, bringing the formation nearer to the surface. He aimed to uncover the entire wall which was said to be located on what was described as a ridge.
Pottery and stone images were also found near the wall which Rawson also declared to be old Hebrew. Citing the story of the Two "Lost Tribes of Israel," Rawson believed that the Israelite tribes entered America by way of the Bering Strait, allowing for the many geographic changes that have taken place during the past 4,000 years.
He declared that the tribes, after locating in the new country, inscribed the tablets with the Mosaic law in obedience to the injunction of Moses, and sealed them away for preservation, making reference to the 7th, 9th and 11th chapters of Deuteronomy, the 8th chapter of Joshua and the 3rd chapter of Judges.
Professor Rawson's translations created a world-wide interest within scientific and historical circles. Historians from as far as New Zealand, Japan, Italy, France, Spain, Cuba and other countries came to visit Hooper Farm.
Not many local folk agreed with the Hooper Farm story however. Some say that although familiar with the story, there was no wall, just stones, and there was no ridge as described.
In a handwritten letter stored at the Cleveland Historical library, one life-long resident gave this explanation, "It was a sandstone quarry, sandstone was cut out of the bed and used for building, when new it was soft and could be cut and sawed and shaped for use, within a few days the air and drying off hardened it."
A former county historian was said to have located the son of J.H. Hooper who said he had heard of the wall but knew nothing about it. Others that have recollection of the discovery have dismissed it as not factual and the history book, Heritage of Bradley County Tennessee, 1836-1998 makes no mention of it.
A 1970 newspaper report says just a huge hole on the Hooper farm remains as mute reminder of the work done by Prof. Rawson half a century before.
Fact or fiction, a sample of the wall's inscription, or a reproduction of part of the mysterious structure would be a visitor attraction for the Cleveland Museum at Five Points and could be marketed once again to promote tourism in Bradley County.