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No. 97: Jan-Feb 1995

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The "inscribed wall" at chatata, tennessee

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.

Old drawing of a section of the 'inscribed wall' at Chatata,
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:

(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. To order see here.)

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

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987