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Uncovering MN’s History Through Ancient Petroglyphs

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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COTTONWOOD COUNTY (WCCO) — In Cottonwood County, tribes of Native Americans left simple carvings over thousands of years that recorded their lives. They’re called petroglyphs and a recent discovery at the historic site in western Minnesota has anthropologists looking for more.

Tom Sanders manages the Jeffers Petroglyph Historic Site in Comfry, home to a large slab of surface rock, which is the size of three football fields. Native Americans gathered there over the past 10,000 years.

“It was a ceremony to create them, like communion,” said Sanders.

It became a sacred site where they carved symbols, including things like stars, people, tools and animals. There are also a lot of elk and buffalo.

A rough estimate put the number of carvings at close to 2,000.

For centuries, a heavy lichen cover obscured the rocks, covering up thousands more of the petroglyphs. That is, however, until they discovered a process that help reveal the carvings.

After covering the lichen with heavy tarps for a period of months, it dies and is swept away. To make them easier to see they’ll redirect sunlight using plywood and a mirror…this buffalo hoof print pops to life!

It’s a University of Minnesota grad student Jenny Immich’s job to now record the new findings. They’ll be scanned and entered into a registry for later study,

“It’s preservation, conservation and just using technology in a new way to learn about this site and what we have here,” said Immich.

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