Friday, March 31, 2006

"Fishtails" from Westford MA

Looking at the pictures of the piles Geophile calls "fishtails", both hers and the ones from Norman Muller, remind me a bit of some piles I saw in Westford. Here are examples. They are not all triangular but have in common a characteristic flat face on one side.They were from a site with a number of other distinctive features, like small pile with a space and then a larger pile:
I'll say more about the site some other time.

Someone needs to hypothesize why some structures - piles and walls - needed clean faces on one side. That seems to be the main attribute of these "fishtail" piles.

Bear Brook State Forest, NH

Norman Muller writes:

Two to three years ago, in late October or early November, I was taken to Bear Brook State Forest in NH to see a group of about five platform cairns deep in the woods. While all seem to have suffered some collapse or destruction, several preserved portions of carefully piled stone. I am attaching four photos I took that drizzly day. These cairns probably are close in size and construction to the ones you found along Moosehorn Road near the Quabbin Reservoir

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Faint traces northeast of Radio Tower Hill Summit, Andover

I took a lunchtime walk with a colleague and we went back to the hilltop where, a week ago, we found a small gully site with a platform pile on the southwestern side of the summit. This is radio tower hill. Today we went down and around the west side and circled around to the north, down into a valley where one of the main brooks starts. There are always faint traces, like a wedged rock:or a rock-on-rock:
Then we climbed the hill to a slight lower northeastern summit and saw rock piles integrated into a stone wall. Just dumps from a farmer preparing for a better wall? Or just the downhill side refuse that has been scraped off the more plowable land on the little summit? Most of the piles were in line with a trace of a stone wall. But one or two were not on the line. Are they something else? This one had one piece of quartz at one end, was a well-defined oval and was out of line with the trace of wall. If the wall was not there I would have taken this for a legitimate rock pile.

Browning Mountain Indiana

From an interesting article:
"Some Views of the Formations and Structural Stones on Browning Mountain near the Ghost Town of Elkinsville, Johnson Township, Brown County, Indiana"
[Click here]


...out west. From "Scott and Charlie's Trip Out West"
[Click here]
(Make sure to click on the thumbnail of "Mysterious Rock Piles"). It is amusing to note the similarity between this and those ones from Croatia.

Somewhere in Croatia, I think

[Click here]
I saw this picture in the past and wanted to use it to point out that field clearing can occasionally result in quite carefully built piles. Of course here it looks like tidy piles are the only way to leave a little bit of land for cultivation.

In plain sight

This is a link to someone's California (I think) hiking photos, focused on the rock stack/columns that the author and friends came across and built themselves while on the walk. But in the middle of the album is a picture of a real rock pile, they did not even see cuz they were busy photo'ing the moss.
[Click here]

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Rock Pile Focal Points

By Geophile

I have loads of photos of rock piles, especially small and relatively homogeneous ones from what some people call cairn sites, large areas covered with pile after pile, all of them about the same width and height. But some have these anomalous stones or arrangements of stones. The bottom two pictures, from a 'cairn site' in Monroe County, are from a photo CD of very low quality, and the color is poor. The first one, from Oley Hills, shows a rock pile in which there is a section that stands out. The stones seem to have been arranged in a radial shape in the middle of an otherwise flat-stacked pile.

In the one below, a very odd-shaped stone is used near the bottom. While the other stones in this one aren't completely standard either, the pile somehow seems focused on that one odd rock.

Here again we have mostly flat stones with one notable exception, this time stuck in the middle.

As I said, these piles are the exception. I can show you twenty piles or more from the same site as the last two, none of which show anomalous stones the way these do. I've seen other piles, too, that are probably better examples of what I'm trying to show than these are.

But Norman's picture reminded me of that sort of thing. It may just be a thing that happens by chance, but it doesn't hurt to look at all these details.

Rock Whatsits

By Geophile

The second picture in Norman's post reminded me of a form of rock pile I've seen a few places. To distinguish them in my mind, I call them fish tails, but there's no connection with fish, really. They often are built against a small berm, or else a small rise is built against them, I'm not sure. The one below was at a site in Monroe County, PA.

The one below isn't typical, but it's similar to the others, although it's also possible it once was part of something else. It's in Berks County, PA, not far from Oley Hills. The people in the picture are, in the foreground, Frank Maykuth, who grew up a NEARA kid and added that perspective, and the other is Don Repsher, reverend rascal and researcher extraordinaire.

The next one is from the Hackettstown, New Jersey site. Its form, like two of the others, is what you might call the 'Anne Elk' shape if you're a Monty Python fan--small at one end, larger in the middle, and then small again at the other end. It is however, less flat as it faces you.

The last is from the same site as the second, not far from Oley Hills in Berks County. Like the first one above, especially, it is backed up against a small hump of earth, is flat in front, and seems never to have been part of a larger structure of any kind. This one is especially nice to look at.

What is it?

A note and some photos from Norman Muller

I just looked at the Moosehorn Rd. pictures, and most of the platform cairns look pretty broken down. There must be sections with carefully laid up walls, however, for you to call them platform cairns.
On private land in Brooklyn, CT, is one very spectacular platform cairn, beautifully constructed and the largest I have ever seen, measuring some 45+ feet long on one side, and 7' tall. It has collapsed along one side, but it is very impressive even in its partially ruinous condition. This cairn is in a somewhat swampy area, and there are colonial walls nearby. At the same site are two very attractive platform cairns beside a beautiful stream, and I am attaching a photo of one of them.

Cadwell Memorial Forest part 2

We left off the story with Peter holding a camera that still had some room in it for more pictures and Bruce wanting to explore one more of the places marked as having rock piles on the UMass map of the Forest. We got back into the car, drove a short ways, and could see the piles from the car. So we parked and got out to take a look.

This last site was a good ending for the day because we hadn't seen any of this type of pile yet: low ground piles each with one or two pieces of white quartz:
The piles varied a good deal in size and shape and they were not evenly spaced or in lines, but they did consistently have the quartz. I call these pile blazed piles and usually assume they are burials although I could easily be wrong.

Here is one with two pieces of quartz and not much else:
Here was one nicely built pile from in there:
Then this next one was one of several that seemed a bit like a turtle. What is up with that? It happens occasionally with blazed piles - I'll leave a comment below about a theory about that.
The final picture shows a sacred little spot with an accumulation of quartz into a small outline:
So there is more here and it is complicated. Obviously you are not going to have the same understanding of this site, which has small-scale details, as you do of the site we saw earlier at Moosehorn Rd, which has large monumental platform piles and good views.

In the end I took all the pictures available in my camera and we left. On the way home, looking out the car window to the other side of the road, I saw one more rock pile site, east of the road, downhill, just south of Freeman Rd which I think is also in New Salem. The 2006 fieldtrip was an unqualified success.

Terrace walls - from Norman Muller

Norman Muller writes (referring to Geophile's post on Eckville Terraces):

The image just posted on your website of terrace walls near the Delaware River reminds me of a large group of terrace walls that I saw on a mountain side in Blairsville, GA, about six years ago. There, the walls were dated to about 1000 AD by OCR dating.

Here are two pictures of the terraces, with Norman in the second picture.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Cadwell Memorial Forest in Pelham MA

Cadwell Memorial Forest is in Pelham Mass. Click on the link to see the UMass report that led Bruce to this woods. I have to admit that since I was more or less out of "film"before getting there and because these sites were in the heavy bushes, I was left with less of an impression. I remember mostly low ground piles and a few scenes of beautiful piles underneath the mountain laurels.
These three pictures are from a group of piles deep in the woods. They were all made of broken fragments of a nice smooth grey material like a gneiss. To get to them we parked off Parkerville Rd and walked north along a forest Rd. These were right on the trail and, in fact, this is a mountain laurel woodland and you cannot stray safely from the path so everything we saw was along the trail.
This is one more beauty from in there. I thought this pile was great. It was in a different cluster of piles. Bruce noticed that at each cluster was next to a gully of some sort. He said that everything was about gully's.

But all in all the whirlwind does not leave time for reflection. I was tiring out and it was a long walk.
After a while we got back out to the road and the car. Regretfully, I still had 8 pictures left in the camera since I was being so stingey in there. As it turned out there was somewhere else to check and I used those pictures there. I'll save them for tomorrow.

Aerial Photo and topo of Moosehorn Rd Site

Here is Google Maps "hybrid" of satellite+road map images. This is a portion of Rt 202 just north of the power lines in New Salem. You can sort of see the gully developing and edging the main site and draining out towards the bottom of the picture.

And here is a topo of the site. We learn from this that the brook is actually called "Manning Brook" that the two hills involved are Andrews Hill and Harris Hill.

Eckville Terraces

By GeophileAm feeling a little despondent, as I thought I was going out looking for stone sites today and it turns out I'm not. So here's a picture of a lovely woodland scene. A fellow named Kyle Hildebrand took us to this area on the mountainside, which almost seemed to have been terraced. It's in the 'Eck' or corner, where the Kittatinny Ridge curves back on itself before continuing southwest. Without its trees, this spot provides a breathtaking view east across the great valley many miles to the Delaware River. As you can see, the stones were arranged in low walls and rows. Intriguing.

A further thought about Oley Hills--I realized after spending time with some topo maps that the main site is close to the divide between two watersheds. From that same section of hills, one creek flows to the Lehigh and ultimately the Delaware River, and another flows west to the Ontelaunee and ultimately the Schuylkill River. Is that part of the reason for its placement?

Near Cooleyville Rd and Rt 202 New Salem MA

As we continued along south on Rt 202 I noticed a site on the east side of the road. It was on a steeper slope and I could see already from the car that the piles looked equal sized, evenly spaced, and (probably) placed in lines as with a standard "marker pile" site. In the above panorama photo the piles are disappointingly difficult to see in the dead leaves. There are probably about 15 piles in this photo. Maybe 30 overall at the site. Uphill we are facing south east but the only view would be high in the sky against a near horizon. Notice the small gully running down the center of the photo. Bruce said that everything was about gullys on this trip. It is true, everything we saw was next to a brook cutting into the landscape.

Here are a couple of the individual piles.
We have seen sites like this before and in better repair. Is this the same culture as made the piles near Moosehorn Rd?

Moosehorn Rd, New Salem MA

As we are driving south on Rt 202 I spotted a low rectangular platform pile out the car window. "There's a rock pile" and then I saw another and before we could find a good place to stop we had passed the site and gone down to the next side street which was Moosehorn Rd. So we turned around, drove back, parked and got out to take a closer look.
We found several small piles in the woods before coming up to the one I had spotted.

There was another larger pile in there but when I saw it was integrated into a stone wall I erased the picture of it. [Later on I am sorry that I did, because the site had several low walls running through it and obviously part of it] But then as we followed the wall it broke off into separate rock piles much too large to be single drops from a loaded cart. But I could not tell if these might be agriculture related:
But soon I was not giving the "agrarian" hypothesis any more thought.

I decided to take a look over on the other side of the road and went over because I saw what looked like a very substantial pile there right at the edge of a gully, similar to that Big Pile from Fielding Farm Rd that Jic showed me last week. But soon I saw that there were some other large platform piles in here.
The nice thing, though, was that the big piles were intersperced with smaller piles which seemed just as important to the design of the site. In this next picture the pile has a large white feldspar stone in the foreground, seeming to align this pile with another further back which Bruce is looking at. We are on a nearly level terrace above a gully which is curving around behind where Bruce is standing.
But even as we saw these smaller piles, bigger piles were looming in the background. What a wonderful experience that is when you start to suspect greater wonders still. And there they were: monster piles.
You can see these are very large piles, almost the largest I have seen and definately the only ones this size that are nicely made from smaller cobbles. Rectangular and obviously very old and broken down. To me this site had the feel of a mound-builder complex.

Between the large piles, more small ones; obviously part of the organizartion of the site.
Here is one more platform and a detail of the white quartz at the top of the pile.
This site was on a terrace overlooking a gully and facing east and southeast across and down the valley. Bruce pointed out a prominent hill blocking the view to the north east. This hill divided the eastern sky. I was very impressed by several things about this site. It seemed undisturbed and still in its original form. There were about 6 large rectangular platform piles. There were low stone walls integrated into the site (although I payed them no attention). There large platforms were intermixed with smaller piles, and the location would have had a spectacular view to the east and southeast if there were not trees in the way. To me this site was reminiscent of the monumental sites seen in Pennsylvania and Vermont - just a bit like Oley Hills. I have seen broken down rectangles almost as large as these - in Weston and Carlisle, and smaller ones all over, for example in Boxborough. But here was an entire undisturbed example of - may I say- a particular rock pile building culture. Almost pristine. Still monumental. I think Bruce and I were proud to find this site. We know someone will come back and study it someday. Also it is within the boundaries of the Quabbin Reservation, so it is reasonably protected.