Thursday, May 23, 2019

A possible calender site on the Uxbridge/Douglas border

North of Rt 16 on the Uxbridge/Douglas border is a nice open woods. I walked in from Rt 16 on the east side of the brook and began trending uphill, thinking: going up to the top of the hill is a bad habit I acquired from Bruce McAleer and there is rarely anything at the top except a few hilltop sites in Harvard and Boxboro, and Henry's Hill in Framingham. I walked along and came to a valley between summits and a stone wall, and thought: I can go left or right, I'll go right further uphill. There were a few traces around, like this damaged pile:
A moment after turning further uphill, I saw a distant rock-on-rock and, as I came up to it, I was happy to see it was part of a sequence of rock piles:
A view from the side:
The even spacing is a characteristic of what I call "marker pile" sites - where the piles have the properties of "tic marks" dividing the horizon as would tic marks on a ruler. They were nice piles but a bit old:


 The telltale blaze of a piece of white quartz on some of them:

On the hilltop was a magnificent sight. 
A boulder with marker piles, marching along beside it...
… and extending to all the places where shadows from the boulder would be cast by a western sun or moon. Of course this is my fantasy construction for what is going on at this site. I do believe it is a type of sundial but it will take someone more systematic than me to go out and see where the shadows fall. Here are other views:



A few other things on the northwest shoulder:
I doubt many will visit this site but it is highly recommended for students of astronomy, because it is a natural location with regular features, waiting to be measured.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Variations in design of rectangular burial mounds

Variations in design of rectangular mounds with hollows. Styles A-D may be tall and up to 40 feet across; styles E-H are usually low to the ground and less than ~15 feet across. Style I is a crescent shape, usually ~20 feet across.

This is a shape classification not a rock pile classification - because large or small examples of the same shape may be different types of rock pile.

Examples:
Type A Blood Hill
 Type A Franklin
Type A Northborough
Type B Hopping Brook
Type C Hopping Brook:
 Type D Callahan State Park
 Type D Blood Rd
 Type E Ashby West
Type F Woodbridge Rd
 Type F Apron Hill
Type G Falulah
 Type G Hobbs Brook, Lincoln
 Type I Nod Brook:
 Type I Scott Rd

A split in the Rock Pile community

I had an article rejected by NEARA journal editors. It was about the hypothesis that the larger mounds with central 'hollow' are burial mounds - a simple New England expression of a nationwide mound culture. The article included a typology that I find useful (see next post).

The reason NEARA editors gave for refusing to publish this hypothesis is that it is too sensitive a topic. The NEARA organization would not want to be an accomplice to vandalism or violations of the NAGPRA laws. In fact, this policy does protect the organization from an existential threat (i.e. burial mounds vandalized because of scientific reporting, here in New England) but there is a genuine scientific downside:
  • It excludes comparison of New England stone mounds with earthen and stone mounds outside New England. For example, mounds in Ohio, central America, and Egypt are all thought of in terms of burial. To deny this role for New England stone mounds implies they are outside that spectrum.
  • It obliges limited or superficial explanation of features: for example alignments and proximity to water. What is left after excluding basic assumptions, like death and the underworld, may not be worth much.
  • Ultimately it leads to ignoring what may be the most important piles at a particular site. Lacking any coherent interpretation the burial mounds remain invisible, all the more likely to be abused by passersby. 
In the end, I cannot see how burial mounds or sites that are funerary can possibly be protected without divulging their function. How can they be properly "protected" if the sites are lied about? Also how will it work if "secret" topics are to be discussed on field trips and in conferences but not in publication? How is that going to work?

I heard something about climate change denial that seems to apply to rock piles: you cannot suppress the truth just because it is uncomfortable to you. Yet NEARA is implementing a policy of censorship. It is ironic, since many of the recent directions and priorities of organization derive from an open sharing of information, including from this blog. I think it is inappropriate for a "research" society to muzzle its researchers, especially for fear of condemnation.

And I would be glad to hear what readers think, both about the particulars of allowing mention of burial into discussions of rock piles; and about the more general topic of NEARA endorsing a politics of secrecy in its role as a research organization. At a minimum, the organization should stop pretending to be about public "education".

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Ceremonial Stone Landscape Presentation (Orange MA)

Presentation to New Salem (MA) Historical Commission
Hosted by Sarah Kohler
Thursday, May 2nd @ 4:30PM
Stage on Main
17 South Main Street, Orange, MA 01364

     Sarah Kohler will be giving a presentation to the New Salem Historical Commission (of which she is a member) of her ongoing research. This is a posted, open public meeting & anyone is welcome to attend.
    The presentation will focus on the artistic, pragmatic, mathematical & astronomical components, contained within the precolonial stone constructs and stone landscapes that are extant in our region.
    A series of large, framed photographs, showing details of her subject will be on view in the gallery during the presentation.