Thursday, January 16, 2020

Native American Social Dance - Greenfield MA

The Nolumbeka Project presents a Native American Social Dance and Stomp Dance, Saturday, February 1, (snow date 2/2), 1-4 p.m., Greenfield Community College, Cohn Dining Room, 1 College Drive, Greenfield, MA. All welcome.  A rare opportunity to learn and participate in Northeastern Woodlands Native social dances, led by Annawon Weeden, Mashpee Wampanoag, Congressional award honoree as culture-bearer for the Northeast and James Moreis, Aquinnah Wampanoag, father and culture bearer. Opening words by Chief Roger Longtoe Sheehan, Elnu Abenaki. All ages. The single file call and response dances will be taught and are fun and easy to learn. Bring rattles and shake out the cabin fever!  Snow date? www.nolumbekaproject.org Free, donations appreciated.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Acton's Trail Through Time: Information, dis-information, and missing information

I went back to Acton's Nashoba Brook Conservation Land. I did a lot of poking around there in the past, slowly forming an opinion. How many bad ideas did I have to try out and discard? Nashoba Brook was the great "teaching" experience. But that was 20 years ago. I expected to see new rock piles this time and was not disappointed. I found several new clusters but trying to compare them to locations on my topo maps, I can't tell whether I saw these places in the past. Here is a self portrait:
I could describe the sites but you have heard this before. I take away two things from this walk. One was the way I sub-consciously hunted down the rock piles. I cannot really describe this other than to say: I found the hilltop and headed west, downhill, knowing that I would have to cross several wetlands and knowing that I could pin down the rock piles between the hill and water.

The other thing I come away with is an emotional reaction to the "Trail Through Time" interpretive panels I encountered at the bottom of the hill when I got back to the trails. Frankly they are a bit lame, presumably because they are based on information from Indians who learned about these things from people who, themselves, had spent little time understanding the overall phenomena. It is sadly generic. In fact Mark Strohmeyer and the Mavor and Dix team had spent a lot of time at Nashoba Brook. I spent many days walking there and showing it to locals, and I spent several walks there showing the place to the Indians. Today's interpretive signs tell nothing of the history of the place, how those panels came to be. Nor do the signs contain anything that is accurate or specific to this place. I wrote down some reactions when I got home:

Revisiting Nashoba Brook and being gratified to see the interpretive panels and the little 3-dot indicators of rock piles that I recommended. But being disappointed at the incorrect information (saying marker piles in a row are “unusual”) the disinformation (the newly coined Algonquian representing non-existent categories). And saddened at the missing information: no real acknowledgement of the role of water and the key role of Nashoba Brook with many springs flowing out of the hill from the south.
I took a hike there recently heading uphill and left after the bridge, then swinging around more to the west until I got to the highest place on the hill, where I turned west and headed down past a series of valleys, each with a spring, two out of three with rock piles. This all happens between the green trail and the yellow trail, near the hilltop. These were new sites to me and not all are on the Acton trail map. After seeing three different sites with rows of evenly spaced “marker” piles, I came to an interpretive panel for the “Trail Through Time”, which informed me that piles in a row were “unusual”. Later on the trail, a cluster of three marker piles, forming a ‘L’ rather than in a row, was given a freshly minted Algonquian name and interpreted as something different. Well, I suppose I should not be picky. We have replaced the agrarian myth with an archeological myth. But what is most saddening is the missing information and the failure to explain how this site is connected to water “from head to toe” – meaning: water sources on that most porous of hills to the south, Spring Hill, drain down into Nashoba Brook and then down from the rocky hills of Acton into the rich alluvial flatlands of Concord, around the Assabet River. Most of the springs have sites and, of course, these woods are the first place suitable for rock piles , uphill from Assabet River. So this failure to connect the Nashoba Brook Conservation Land to the brook itself is a disappointment.

Let me end by saying that marker pile sites, which are thought to be calendrical, are the most common type of rock pile site (and represent ~90% of the piles at Nashoba Brook). The piles may be on the ground or up on a boulder - whichever is needed to locate the pile where it needs to function. The standard characteristic is even spacing of the piles. This arrangement tends to form a grid when the piles are clustered, or form a set of 'tic marks' when the piles are in a row. Almost invariably, marker piles are found in associated with a burial, which is usually represented by a larger and less conspicuous mound, to the side of the marker piles. 

Monday, January 13, 2020

Remember Phillips Hill, Hudson MA

I just came across this photo (here) and can't resist posting it.

A little "Valley of Kings" - new rock piles, where I already looked many times

I took a stroll through parts of Woods Hole to show rock piles to a friend, and ended up finding new piles in more than one place - just for the price of looking again and being a few yards away from where I had been previously. It just goes to show how easy it is to miss these things.
 Boy that's hard to see!
From the side, you can detect a familiar shape - a broad horseshoe with its back against the hill (to the right). Ten yards away, at the top of the slope, is a pavement and a small collection of marker piles.
That makes three different mounds in the same half acre valley. A miniature valley of the kings.

I suppose the pavement at the top is the same age as this new leaf-covered mound. It shows you how differences in topography can affect the appearance and weathering of a pile. As for the mounds being hard to see, I only saw the third one that one time. It is not worth braving the bull-briar to find it again.

To finish the story, the above site is behind the fire station, north of the main road a few steps. Driving through the parking lot behind the Woods Hole Oceanographic's Quissett Campus, here was another new pile. Again, for the price of driving through a different parking lot:

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Best of 2019 from Joshua H in RI

Reader Joshua H. writes:
here is a photo of all the most important artifacts from my first year collecting in RI. The top left greenish yellow stones are made from serpentine rock

there is a resharpened smoky quartz hardaway side notch with fluting and terminal hinge fracture, a black argillite serrated point that's similar to atlantic phase, a green argillite guilford round base,

an ancient rhyolite biface blade that's serrated, a red rhyolite cobbs triangular round base, a broken red rhyolite spearpoint that may be Kirk stemmed or Wapanucket (I think) but also looks similar to a benton,

a marblehead rhyolite hell gap point with quartz phenocrysts, red rhyolite short kirk serrated I think, a small quartzite point that looks similar to a RI and CT clovis point types

and a green argillite koens-crispin point as well as a few other broken points including a peachy colored quartzite spearpoint that looks early archaic/late paleo.

I had an amazing first year collecting to say the least. All artifacts were collected from the beach or the edge of Point Judith pond.

[Update]
I misidentified this as a union side notch but it's a Dalton-greenbriar, greenbriar or Hardaway-Dalton I think

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Best of 2019

Since I moved to Cape Cod I have done little exploring. There are still plenty of woods out there. My main finds of the year were: Quisset Wildlife Management area in Mendon

And my most recent finds at Sippewisset:
There was a bit of good writing and I found myself pre-occupied with worked fragments of quartz, found in strange settings in Woods Hole, like this Levallois Technology blade from deep in the glacial clay during construction:

Well, I will be up in Concord and may get some exploring in if there is no snow.

Have a good new year everyone.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Flume Pond - Sippewisset, Falmouth MA

Been a while since we had a standard report:
Flume Pond is a Falmouth "300 Hundred Committee" conservation land. Several stone walls (in light blue) cross a ridge of higher ground next to a pond, that was probably connected to the ocean at one time. Along the north side of a ridge are a couple of "grids" (upper dark blue outlines) and on the south side, where another wall comes down to the very tip of an inlet, there were several features: a large boulder connected to the wall, a couple of small rock piles (lower dark blue outline) and a linear earthen "berm" (orange line) that parallels the wall and the water. I would have called it a ditch except it is above and parallel to the water. This spot, by the inlet, is a place where brackish water is coming up directly under the oak trees.

You walk along the ridge following a stone wall. Right at the beginning is a vernal pond and a small bit of wall wraps the pond. Next to the vernal pond, a fine example of a split wedged rock:

You keep going along the trail for a minute and see a rock pile off to the right. An older trail leads down to the water on the right (north side) to a place where a boat would be easy to launch. As the trail goes down to the water a small collection of rock piles appear. Upon investigation there are several different clusters of piles out along the ridge, and all the way to the tip of the higher ground sticking into the pond.


I poked around more carefully and would say there are 20 or so piles in the whole area. Yesterday I spent a while looking closely at the first collection of piles on the northern side of the ridge and going down to the water. I started to notice the piles were a bit evenly arranged along lines and started looking for missing piles where the "grid" had me expecting them - ending with my brushing leaves off of several piles I did not see at first. Then I tried to memorize the layout and, getting it at least viusalized, was able to record the layout with bits of dead leaf on a rock:
(Click in to see it better.)

I also explored more extensively in a bulbriar patch that covers the southern side of the ridge. Where the inlet cuts into the land and meets another stone wall, there were a couple of little rock-on-rocks right down at the edge:
 Looking south over the final inlet:
Just to the side of this, as shown in the map fragment, was an unusual earthen feature. Like a stone wall, parallel with a stone wall (shown in previous picture) but made of earth:

Otherwise this is a site with several different typical "grids". In my experience these are usually found near larger mounds, often lower and less conspicuous than the piles of the grid. I did find a larger "bump" with a few rocks poking out that might meet that description.