Thursday, July 4, 2019

Piney Creek Ravine Nature Preserve, near Shiloh Hill, in Southern Illinois, has prehistoric rock art.

A secluded rock wall in Piney Creek Ravine Nature Preserve, about 2 miles south of Shiloh Hill, Illinois (15 miles east of Chester), is the setting for the largest collection of Indian rock art in Illinois. It's also home to an extensive collection of old graffiti carvings from more recent times.
The sandstone shelter at Piney Creek contains 200 documented examples of rock art, including petroglyphs (carvings) and pictographs (paintings). An interpretive sign next to the wall explains that the designs likely originated from the Late Woodland (500-1000 AD) and Mississippian (1000-1550 AD) periods.
This sandstone shelter protects the rock art.
An example of some of the better-preserved petroglyphs.
An example of some of the better-preserved petroglyphs.
However, much of the prehistoric art is difficult to see. It's overshadowed by all of the names carved into the rock from the late 1800s and 1900s.
Settlers from 1878 couldn't resist carving their names into the rock.
This Masonic symbol was etched in 1913.
The graffiti presents somewhat of a quandary, however, because some of it is old enough to be considered historically significant in its own right. But it clearly detracts from the much more valuable prehistoric art.
Some people have tried to "enhance" the rock art by outlining it with paint or chalk.
Signs all along the trail warn against vandalism. But the damage has already been done.

While the rock art is no longer pristine, the rest of Piney Creek Ravine is relatively unspoiled. Managed as a State Natural Area, this nature preserve also features a beautiful sampling of the sandstone bluffs, canyons, waterfalls, and shelters that are found throughout Southern Illinois.

A two-mile trail loops around the ravine, but many visitors choose to scramble up and down Piney Creek.
A bluff along the lower part of the creek. Notice how the layers of rock have eroded at different rates.
The creek alternates between gravel and solid rock bottoms. Where the water encounters solid sandstone, it has carved a narrow crevice through the rock.
In other places, the water simply tumbles over shallow ledges.
And in one place along an unnamed tributary of Piney Creek, a trickle of water suddenly drops over a ledge into a canyon at least 20 feet below. 

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 


  1. That is a beautiful place. Too funny that even settlers did some "graffiti.

  2. Thank you for this! I look forward to visiting in person soon and researching this unique Illinois archeological


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