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Manitou stone of typical head-and-shoulders style incorporated into a wall






Bird effigy incorporated into a wall









Bird effigy carved from a boulder




Bear-head effigy positioned above a sacred cave





Head effigy boulder

Stone Effigies and Gods

Effigies are found in several forms, including cairns, walls and petroforms, as well as shaped individual stones and boulders: 

  • Cairns shaped as birds, turtles or other animals. 
  • Effigy Walls generally depict serpents, mediators between the Upperworld and the Underworld.  Serpent effigy walls often terminate at a boulder, at one or both ends.  These also often originate at a well, or other earth entrance. 
  • Petroforms are boulder arrangements, built on bedrock or soil, often  depicting humans, turtles, circles, snakes or abstractions.
  • Boulders (both propped and freestanding) and stone slabs were shaped in effigy forms, frequently bird heads.
  • Stone gods occur in several styles.  Manitou stones are one type of stone god, shaped in a head-and-shoulders format.

Stone serpent effigies - Ohio (see: Ohio History and also HERE: "as the sun rises through a notch high above in the Fort Ancient earthen wall on the summer and winter solstices, a pole positioned at the end of an effigy casts a shadow down its length. The two stone 'serpents' are positioned so that one is shadowed at the summer solstice and one at the winter solstice.")

Stone Serpent - in Catlettsburg (Boyd County), KY (listed on the National Register in 1974).  "unique for its much larger size, well-defined serpent outline, strikingly bifurcated tail, and associated stone ring, which may represent an egg."  Also see this link.

Effigy Mounds - of stone and earth in Ohio and elsewhere

Wilkins, G.R. 1981. A rock serpent mound in Logan County, West Virginia. Tennessee Anthropological Newsletter 6(4): 1-4

Rattlesnake Effigy - Kern, Ohio 'Sun Serpent' with solstice alignment; listed on the National Register in 1986.

Destroyed Iowa earthen serpent effigy? - 1/4 mile long, at an extensive stone and earthen mound site extending into S. Dakota, with cup-marked boulders.  The Blood Run site has National Historic Landmark status.

Rock Eagle effigy cairn - Georgia

Petroforms - links to articles containing photographs and plans of petroforms:

The South Dakota boulder petroform of a turtle illustrated below is documented in the Smithsonian Institution's 12th Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology; 1891, p. 40.


A Connecticut serpent effigy petroform:

Stone Gods

Wisconsin- Stone Gods

Below are several early accounts of Native stone gods in the Northeast:

Rev. Timothy Dwight (president of Yale), Travels in New-England and New-York, vol. 1, 1821; p.85:

They also formed images of stone and paid them religious homage. One of these idols is now in the museum at Hartford. Sacred stones exist still in several places: one, particularly, at Middletown, to which every Indian who passes by makes a religious obeisance."

Rev. Ezra Stiles (president of Yale), The Literary Diary of Ezra Stiles:

  • January 29, 1789: At E. Guilford 28th I visited an Indian Stone God which lay in a Fence about half a Mile East of Mr. Todds Meetinghouse . . . . Mr. Phineas Meigs died about 1781, aged c. 73. He told Rev. Jonathan Todd (born 1713) that he removed this stone God from the Bottom of the Hill at the Edge of the Swamp, and put it into the fence. It was removed about twenty Rods. I judge it a Ton & half weight. Mr. Benjamin Teal gave me an account of a Fort or Inclosure by Earthen Walls about 21/2 Miles N.W. from this Image, 30 or 40 Rods long, two Rods wide Trench, Wall ten feet high Inside next a Swamp & five feet next the Hill, being on a Declivity .

  • May 19, 1789: "View[ed] an Indian Stone God [at Springfield, MA], similar to ours in the College Library.
    May 22, 1789: "Visited Rev. Mr. Huntington [at Middletown] who went & showed me another Indian stone God about half a Mile East of his Meetinghouse.

  • September 19, 1794: "[On top of West Rock in New Haven] I spied a carved or wrought stone, which I know to be one of the Indian Gods, of which I have found about or above twenty in different places from Boston to Hudsons River, and particularly between New Milford on West and Medfield Massachusetts on East.

  • October 22, 1793: "Aged Deacon Avery of Groton Pockatunnek tells me that the Mohegan Indians once had Idols : that in the great Reforma 1741 as he called it those Indians brot in & gave up to the English a number of stone & wooden Idols ; & have had & worshipped none since.

E.G. Squier, Antiquities of the State of New York, Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, Vol. II, 1851; p. 170-2:

The superstitions of the Indians extended to remarkable objects in nature. A tree or stone of singular form seldom failed to command their reverence. A stone which, from the action of natural causes, has assumed the general form of a man or an animal, is especially an object of regard; and the fancied resemblance is often heightened by artificial means, as by daubs of paint, indicating the eyes, mouth and other features. . . . [Squier provides an illustration of one stone god, which] was found in East Hartford, Connecticut, and deposited in the Museum of Yale College in 1788. It is thirty-one inches high and seventeen wide; the material is white granite. It is said the Indians placed their dead before it previous to burial, and afterward returned and danced around it.





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