Who Made the Track Rock Carvings?
It is very likely that the Cherokee, and possibly the Catabwa and Creek as well, made the carvings at Track Rock. The Blue Ridge Mountain region of North Georgia, the Carolinas, and Tennessee has experienced an overlap of different linguistic groups over time, even though the mountainous region was most recently dominated by Iroquoian-speaking Cherokee. The neighboring Creek and Catabwa languages are respectively Muskogee and Siouan branches of the same root linguistic background of the Cherokee. These three groups had broadly similar social structures, economic and political systems, and religious practices.
The Cherokee have a number of accounts relating to Track Rock and the area appears to have been important to them. No references to Track Rock appear in the ethnographies of the Creek and Catabwa. However, either group, or both, may have contributed to the creation of Track Rock.
How Were the Carvings Made and How Old Are They?
The earliest evidence for carvings at Track Rock dates back at least 3,600 years. These carvings were the result of Native Americans removing pieces of soapstone to make bowls. The soapstone at Track Rock Gap has a soft, yet durable make-up. This makes it easy to carve and efficient to use, and it is particularly well suited for cooking, as it holds and radiates heat without breaking.
Most of the carvings visible at Track Rock are more recent. Based on a comparison with other such sites, Jannie Loubser concluded that most of the figures were carved in the last 1,000 years. Early American explorers describe the Track Rock site, so we know the carvings were made before 1800. Our best understanding of the site is that the carvings were made by Native Americans during repeated visits over several hundred years beginning around A.D. 1,000.
The carvings at Track Rock were made in one of two ways. Many of the figures were created by pecking. Hard rocks, or hammer stones, were used to create the shapes by repeated blows in the same spot until the desired shape was created. Alternatively, some of the figures were created by incising or carving into the rock. A hard stone would be rubbed back and forth to create the design. Although soapstone is considered a soft rock, it is still rock and rather hard to carve. It took a lot of time and effort to create these figures that have lasted a thousand years.