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Jeffers Petroglyphs Bring History to Life

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The Jeffers Petroglyphs in Comfrey is home to more than five–thousand ancient carvings. Each day during the summer guided tours show people a part of natural history. Today however, the focus was on an ancient spear.

Nestled in the southwestern Minnesota prairie lies a peaceful piece of history.

Site Manager Tom Sanders says, "I want them to have a deeper understanding of our past, particularly of the American Indian and who the American Indians are today and who they were in the past. But it's also everybody's history. Everybody's people used these tools to live in the way that people lived here and what is remembered here and what is carved in the 5,000 carving we have here."

This is an atlatl, a Native American spear–thrower used to hunt buffalo.

Sanders says, "It's simply a hook with a stick on the end of it that fits into the end of a very flexible spear, a long spear that has a little dimple at the end of the spear and you put the hook in it and you throw it and actually all it really does is make your arm really long. Most often people get good really quick. It's a pretty effective tool."

However, it didn't come so quickly for the visitors and I.

Matthew Swanson says, "It's a lot more challenging than I originally thought it would be."

And while challenging for us, the atlatl marked a turning point in history.

Sanders says, "And what's fascinating about them, what's so important about them is that for the first time it allowed people to be big game hunters."

Now, everyone can experience a part of history in its natural setting.

Swanson says, "It's wonderful. They put on a great program out here. It can really give you an opportunity to try it firsthand, which is not very easy. It's a humbling experience."

So whether it's taking in the ancient carvings, or becoming a hunter, the Jeffers petroglyphs are a part of living history. 

Tours of the petroglyphs are available everyday during the summer.