Boyd County Serpent Mound, Kentucky, US

Boyd County serpent mound's neighbourhood shows serpent mounds may be associated with places called 'cat' or 'ket' Wed 27 April 2022

Plan of Boyd County serpent mound. Source: The Stone Serpent Mound of Boyd County Kentucky

From Symbolism of the Great Serpent in the Adena and Hopewell Cultures:

In 1988, Sara L. Sanders surveyed a stone serpent mound situated on a ridge top overlooking the Big Sandy River in Boyd County, Kentucky on the property of Ashland Oil (7). The present authors recently summarized several details of this site in Ages of the Giants: A Cultural History of the Tall Ones in Prehistoric America, (Serpent Mound Books & Press, 2017):

At the time of Sara L Sanders’ survey in 1988, the serpent was 191.4 m in length, the head being 25.6 m long and 11 m wide. The tail was 7.2 m at the widest point and 2.05 m at the narrowest. The serpent was composed entirely of sandstone, the head facing east towards the River. The piled sandstone integrates natural “float rock” into the design. On a lower ledge below the serpent, a semi-circular stone structure 5.2 m in diameter built atop a sandstone outcrop has been interpreted to represent an egg. Sanders considered the Kentucky Serpent to be immediately comparable to the more famous earthen serpent in Ohio.

Boyd County serpent mound location. Source: The Stone Serpent Mound of Boyd County Kentucky

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Boyd County serpent mound location

Note Boyd County serpent mound's location is at 'Catlettsburg', Kentucky. Similarly:

From The Races of Ireland and Scotland, William Cook Mackenzie, 1916, p281:

I come now to a second meaning of "Cat." I find that in numerous instances, it is associated in Scottish topography with a fort.

The Catrail, or Pictsworkditch, is a trenched fortification, of which traces are said to remain, extending from the vicinity of the junction of the Gala and Tweed to the mountains of Cumberland.' 1

Cat - castle at Stonehouse (Lanarkshire); Catcune Castle at Borthwick, Edinburghshire; the Castle of CadboU (or CatboU) Ross-shire; Cadzow, the ancient name of Hamilton, Lanarkshire (the castrum nostrum de Cadichou of Alexander II. and Alexander III.); Cademuir, Peebles-shire (where there are four hill-forts); and Druim-chat in Ross-shire, where there is the remarkable vitrified hill-fort of Knockfarrel; all these may point to a connexion between "Cat" and fort.

There is one place, however, that shows this connexion suggestively, viz., Cathcart, which may take its name from the ancient castle on the river Cart. The oldest forms of the name is "Kerkert," thus equating Cat or Cath, apparently, with Cym. Caer or Car, a fort. Even at the present day, Careart is probably a more common pronunciation than Cathcart. Place-names with the prefix Caer or Car, like the towns with the Dun prefix, were originally hill-fortresses. It should be added that in Scottish topography, "Cat-Hill" sometimes takes the form of "Kettle."

Apparently, Cat in this sense is a relative of Cym, Cader (probably derived from Cadyr, strong), which word we find in Cadder, Lanarkshire, where there are remains of Antonine's Wall. But the most notable example in Scotland of Cader, a hill-fort, is Caterthun, where we find the Gae. dun Anglicised as thun, and tacked on to the Cym. Cader, Caterthun thus meaning by a pleonasm, the hill-fortress. Caer is a variant of Cader, and as we have seen, Cat and Caer are equated. The members of this group are probably related, either to Cdd (Cym.), a battle (the Gae. form of which is Cat), or, more probably, to Cym. Cadw, to keep, preserve, or guard.

Nennius mentions a place in Wales which he calls Cetgueli, the modern Kidwelly in Caermarthenshire. There was an old fort at Kidwelly, and there can be little doubt that we have here another form of Cat, a fort or castle.

The third and most important meaning of Cat is associated with a word in Scots dialect, Ket, which means exhausted land, or a spongy peat (Ketlands). To this category Caithness, Keith, and other place-names of a kindred character belong. The English word "heath," originally meaning a treeless, untilled plain in the Teutonic languages, has been evolved, in Skeat's opinion, from an Aryan base, kaita, a pasture, or heath. Kluge is in practical agreement with this by bringing the Teu. heide from the pre-Teut. kditi. In 0. French, gatine means a desert. 2

A further meaning of "Ket" in Scottish nomenclature is associated with water. There is a streamlet in Wigtownshire called the Ket; there are various Keith waters; and a stream in Lanarkshire called the Kittock. The Ketlochy, a small burn, runs through Dunkeld like a sewer. The word comes from O. Ic(elandic). Keyta, foul water. This etymology seems to be confirmed by the method formerly followed of catching salmon on the Keith in Blairgowrie. Clay Avas thrown into the river, and the fish were caught in nets while the water continued muddy. Finally, "Keith" is applied in Scots dialect to a bar laid across a river, to prevent salmon from getting up. This meaning may be allied to Ger. Kette, a chain.

Decidedly, there is more in the roots Cat and Ket than meets the eye.

More sources on this mound:

The Stone Serpent Mound of Boyd County, Kentucky: An Investigation Of A Stone Effigy Structure, Sara L Sanders

  • The Stone Serpent Mound in Kentucky and Other Monuments.
  • Brisbin, Lansing G., Jr.
  • 1976
  • This paper not found but see Mystery of the Stone Mounds for more.

© All rights reserved. The original author retains ownership and rights.

  1. I understand that the very existence of the Catrail is now questioned. 

  2. In old maps of Sutherland, the word Chatt appears in the topography as signifying, evidently, the nature of the land which it defines. Kettings, Coupar-Angus (old forms Kethynnes and Kathenes), seems to mean "heath-pastures." There may be some association between land of this character and the Tir Caeth, bondsmen's land, of the Welsh. 

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