Saturday, August 26, 2006

New Photo From Bob Miner

by JimPAnother photo from Bob Miner's farm. This pile almost definitely got this large from field clearing. Note that it was built in the corner of a field. However, the less-than-haphazard construction leads me to believe that it might have started its life as a ceremonial cairn, much like others found on Bob's property. I would guess Bob's grandfather and the farmers before him likely added to an already existing pile. What do you think?

9 comments :

James Gage said...

Cairn stone is smaller than the stone in the wall. The cairn stone size is uniform in size. Field clearings generally produce a wide range of stone sizes which are not present based on this photo. The compact nature, uniform stone size, and use of stone wall to contain a portion of the cairn are characteristics seen in some cairns in central to southern NH area. The NH examples are arguable evidence of 18th and 19th century "underground" continuation of Native American ceremonies. The NH examples for the most part also have other evidence of Native ceremonialism in the same area (small cairns, standing stones, etc).

James Gage
www.stonestructures.org

JimP said...

Thanks for your input James. I shouldn't have been so quick to judge this a field-clearing pile. Especially considering all the other features on Bob's property, the benefit of the doubt should've gone the other way.

pwax said...

Fine picture. I see a lot of piles like this and to me they are the most puzzling. Clearly a field was harvested for the rocks that make up the pile - all the different sized rocks appear but they have been sorted so larger ones are used in the reataining wall and smaller ones are piles on the inside. Sometimes I put this down as "Indian Farmer" or field clearing done in conjunction with ceremony. Because building a pile like this is a lot more work than necessary. But I am never sure about these ones. Around here they are particularly common in Boxborough, with a few nice examples east of there in Carlisle. Maybe I'll dig up the photos.

pwax said...

Now that I read the comments it seems James Gage and I are not seeing the same things in the picture. I see lots of different rock sizes.

Anonymous said...

Initially I wasn't going to comment, but seeing what others have said, I have to agree with Peter that what I consider to be Indian cairns often have many different sized boulders in them: gradations of large boulders on the outside with a fill of smaller stones inside.

Norman

JimP said...

I took James to mean exactly what you guys are saying -- that the stone sizes in this cairn are uniform and grouped together into one dome-shaped pile, rather than intermingled, lacking uniformity, and interspersed into several different humps like you'd see in a field-clearing pile of this many stones. The stones making up the retaining wall and the stones making up the hump are indeed uniform, requiring someone to put in the labor to sort through and separate them. What farmer has the time to do that? I can't really speak for James, but I think you're all saying the same basic thing.

JimP said...

I also want to add that I see another characteristic that I find is common among ceremonial cairns. Particularly in the left side of this pile you can see a number of flat stones here and there that appear to be used in a supporting capacity -- as if to create flat surfaces for added support and stability for stones above them. You don't generally see that in field-clearing piles or colonial-style stone walls.

pwax said...

A couple of other comments. One is that the word "uniformity" appears to have different meanings to different people and so is a source of mis-communication. Using simpler words: I see big rocks and small rocks, separated and sorted out but all used in the pile. I took Jame G. to be saying the rocks were all the same size - which is not what I see.

A second comment is that there is no lichen on these rocks, and they are not even gray - so that tells me this is a very recent pile, probably less than 50 years old. As we have probably already discussed: presence of lichen does not prove age but absence of lichen does prove youth.

JimP said...

I did have the benefit of a private e-mail that James sent me in which he went into detail about his response to me. I know I find myself trying to be as concise as possible in these limited comment areas -- that sometimes can cause this type of misunderstanding. I thought what he said was quite clear given the obvious photographic evidence. I don't think this is a big deal.

As far as your comment about lichen, I disagree. I don't think you can make the statement that absence of lichen proves anything. There are so many different types of lichens with so many different requirements for life. Amount of minerals, presence of nutrients, presence of acids, amount of moisture, amount of sunlight, presence of caterpillars, psocids, snails, or other insects -- they all play a role in how much, or even whether lichens develop or continue at all. The only sure thing is that these rocks provide the substrate -- but lichens require much more than just substrate to thrive and survive.

Lichens are sensitive to environmental changes. Absence of lichen could indicate a micro-climate where moisture is absent enough that the lichen's algal partner has trouble creating photosynthesis. Lichen is also extremely sensitive to pollution. The absence of lichen could indicate the presence of industrial smoke pollutants or other gases -- even in relatively small amounts.

The presence or absence of lichens cannot be used to determine the age of anything, unfortunately. I only wish it was that easy.