Jeffers Petroglyphs offers rich opportunities to explore ideas and experiences that have shaped and continue to shape America. Unanswered questions remain about what each carving, or "glyph," represents and about those who left them.
The site preserves over 4,000 American Indian images pecked into solid horizontal irregular shaped Sioux quartzite outcrops. These protrusions of bedrock were ground smooth and flat by glaciers 14,000 years ago. The carvings were created by direct percussion using a hammer stone of Sioux quartzite or a rock harder of equal hardness such as a chert cobble.
The largest outcropping would fit into a rectangle 50 yards wide and 300 yards long. The majority of the carvings are here. The petroglyphs illustrate bison, salamanders, turtles, elk, human stick figures, thunderbirds and various weapons (atlatls, spear points, arrowheads, and lances).
The earliest carvings at Jeffers Petroglyphs were created from 7,000 to 9,000 years ago. The most recent were made in the last 150 to 250 years. They record historic events, parables and prayers of American Indians whose descendants still practice the traditional spiritual system that created the carvings. This long time span makes Jeffers one of, if not the, oldest continuously used sacred sites in the world.
Rock carvings are among the most enduring forms of human expression. Minnesota’s recorded history begins at Jeffers, where American Indians have been coming for thousands of years to worship and record the story of their lives.
The different styles of the carvings represent cultures originating throughout North America. The diversity of petroglyphs traditions and their use through time at Jeffers documents ancient intertribal trade networks that shared raw materials, technology, and diverse life ways strategies between indigenous people across North America. Visitors to the site find a story of North American peoples that cannot be told anywhere else in an authentic, meaningful, and effective manner.