On Halloween day in 2001, I was leading a birthday outing for a 10 year old boy and his friends at the 3000 foot level of the Angeles National Forest. We were getting late, so I led them down into the stream so we could make soap from the yucca leaves. It was a spot where I would never ordinarily go. As the boys and I made our yucca soap, my gaze was drawn to the back side of a large, 10 foot wide boulder with unusual markings on it. There were two large horizontal cleavages and numerous markings across the cleavage that bore an uncanny resemblance to ogam.
I pointed it out to every one and explained ogam to the adults, who seemed underwhelmed at what such a rock might mean.
Some years earlier, I spent some time learning about ogam, a method that was used to write on stones approximately 1500+ years ago, primarily in the British isles, though examples can be found further afield. Ogam is not to be confused with the more ornate runic writing. Ogam employs straight lines across what is called a stem line. The stem line can be a natural horizontal fracture in a rock, or the corner of a standing stone. The 15 consonants are expressed by from one to five lines above the stem line, one to five lines below the stem line, or one to five lines across the stem lines. The vowels, where present, can be a series of dots or other symbols.
It is certainly possible to see natural fractures in rock and think you are looking at ogam, especially if you have not studied rock sufficiently to see the difference between what nature does and what man does.
I returned a week later with Dude McLean to take photographs and sketches. McLean had also been there when I first noted the rock. After carefully comparing my sketches with the ogam alphabet, I was amazed to see that all the marks were consistent with ogam. So I then sent photos and sketches to perhaps 50 “experts” in ogam, linguistics, archaeology, and other fields and eagerly awaited their response about my exciting discovery.
Gloria Farley responded, saying it certainly looked like ogam, but that she had no idea what it might say since she had all her discoveries translated by Barry Fell, who had passed away. One expert from England responded, saying that since the rock inscription was in California, there was no chance that it was bonafide ogam. Another told me that it was clearly a significant find, but he felt it was more likely some sort of tally system, not ogam. But most of the various world experts ignored me.
So I laid out what I felt was a fairly reasonable scientific method for ascertaining if the inscription I found was, or was not, of some significance.
1. I had to determine that the markings were consistent with the ogam alphabet. Having done that, I proceeded to the other steps.
2. Determine if the ogam letters actually spell anything.
3. Determine if the inscription could actually be dated.
4. Determine if there was anything else significant about the site.
5. The final step – if I got that far – was to determine who may have actually inscribed the rock, and under what circumstances. I also reasoned that if I got this far, others could jump in and attempt to answer this question.
Since all the markings were consistent with the ogam characters, I then proceeded to determine the actual sequence of letters. I had to determine where one “letter” ended and another began, not an easy task when you consider that you are simply looking at straight lines. It took me approximately 6 visits in different lighting conditions until I arrived at what I felt was the correct letter sequence. I attempted to confirm my deductions by carefully feeling the indentations in the rock.