Saturday, February 03, 2007

Queen's Fort Article On NEARA Website

by JimP
The photograph above was taken by Dr. Frederick F. Meli and it shows a boulder worked by stone tools from the Queen's Fort site in Exeter, RI. This photo, with several others, accompanies a new article by Dr. Meli that was published last week on the NEARA website. The article is titled A New Interpretation of the Queen's Fort; Exeter, RI.

Read the article here:

Thanks to James Gage for bringing this to my attention.


pwax said...

It seems scandalous to me that this article does not mention the survey of Queen's fort and the interpretation of it offered in Mavor and Dix's Manitou. NEARA editors should catch that sort of flaw.

JimP said...

But Dr. Meli did not use Manitou as a reference for any of his work. In fact, Mavor and Dix even had the wrong location for the so-called, "Queen's Bedchamber," which Dr. Meli calls the, "Solstice Chamber." He and his students are credited with rediscovering the location of that chamber.

If this had been a site that no one knew about before Manitou, then perhaps I could see your point. But this site was on the National Register long before Mavor and Dix went there. Debates about its use as a, "defensive fort," had been on-going for generations prior to Mavor's and Dix's arrival.

So I would have to disagree with you Peter. Dr. Meli's work was comprehensive, with historical background information, studies of all available historic maps, a complete and independent survey of the entire site including the surrounding acreage, and even correspondence with the Narragansett concerning oral traditions about the site. None of those things were done by Mavor and Dix. I don't see why they should be referenced.

Certainly, an argument could be made that Manitou was the first time in print that anyone offered an alternative to the, "defensive fort," theory and hypothesized about the site in a ceremonial context. But Dr. Meli approached the site from the angle of his background researching mound-builder cultures -- not from the context of New England sacred sites.

pwax said...

I guess I would make this point: Meli appears to be coming to the conclusion that this was a ceremonial site. Since Mavor and Dix already came to that conclusion, scholarship would require Meli to credit them for it. Meli sounds as if he thinks he invented this hypothesis and is un-aware of Mavor and Dix. Giving credit for ideas to the people who first published them is a very standard scientific convention.

It really doesn't matter which "direction" he came from in making the hypothesis. Nor does it matter that Mavor and Dix made some mistakes in their research. Those are irrelevant. The only excuse would be that Meli is un-aware of Mavor and Dix's work. Which seems pretty unlikely but, if true, would be an oversight I would have hoped NEARA editors would catch.

JimP said...

Okay, I see your point Peter. Mavor and Dix were definitely the first in widely distributed print to hypothesize a ceremonial use for Queen's Fort. They do deserve credit for that. However, they were not -- by far -- the first to question the use of the site as a stone defensive fort. That debate had been raging for generations before Mavor and Dix published Manitou.

Walrus said...

I used Mavor and dix, and I cite them in the extended article that will appear in the NEARA Journal, I also want to say that much of there work centered around the spiral, which was rebuilt(According to Charles Devine;s photos of 1980), thus, there propostion was not based on sound archaeological ground.

pwax said...

Glad to hear from "Walrus" on this topic. It sounds like the correct statement would be "although Mavor and Dix made mistakes in there on-the-ground research, they were the first to hyposthesize a ceremonial and archeo-astronomical use for Queen's Fort - something our subsequent (and more careful) research confirms...".

I do not see why the web article contains no reference to M&D. That is my concern. What I am still hearing is: "they made mistakes so it is OK for the web article to not reference them". I think that is wrong.