Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Stone Chambers of Whitcomb Ave - Littleton, MA

On my way between sites on Saturday, I stopped to take some pictures as I drove south on Whitcomb Ave in Littleton. Here is one stone chamber directly next to the road on the west side of the road.
This one was published on p.282 of Manitou, where it is called the "Northern Chamber at Oak Hill". Here are some interior shots:(This is called "corbelled" ceiling, with the rocks arching closer together towards the top).
In this other view of the interior, the little black spots to left and right, slightly below the midline of the photo, are pictures of blast holes left in the bedrock. That certainly dis-qualifies this chamber as being ancient but, given the large amount or recent and even modern ceremonialism in this area (the valley of Beaver Brook and Rt 495) it is possible it was made by Indians living here.

Here is a second very well preserved chamber about a quarter mile north of the previous one, also west of Whitcomb Ave. If you drive along slowly, just as the road dips to go over a brook, look west into the woods and you may see this one. It faces out over a brook and is only a few feet above the brook level. Neara friend Derek Gunn noticed this as we drove by one day.
The entrance was blocked off in recent times to discourage kids from falling down in there.According to the landowner, this chamber was used as a cool storage place for milk. Well, everyone has a story. Here are some interior views:
Although this looks like the first chamber above from the outside. From the inside you can see that it is not corbelled and that the roof is made of these large flat slabs. This style is called "Post and Lintel". Sadly, the proximity of these two chambers, so similar from the outside, argues against the interior (corbelled or not) as being significant or even a determinant of the people/culture that made the chambers.

Finally, right across from this second chamber, facing it across the gully, something caught my eye in the stone wall:Could this be the entrance to a third stone chamber? I could not see far into it:Perhaps someday someone could check it out. If it is indeed a stone chamber, filled completely with debris, it promises to be a pretty undisturbed archeological context.

So that is two or three chambers visible from Whitcomb Ave. As you drive along there are plenty of older stone foundations and interesting stonework. Even today, whoever built the new housing development (across the road from the last two chambers) is still building massive stonework. The brook as it continues downhill is sided with massive stone walls.

Finally let me also note that M&D in Manitou try to make a case for the entirety of Oak Hill being part of a single ceremonial context with a "Southern Oak Hill Chamber" matching this northern one and other features. However the southern chamber (which I blogged about here) is a very different type of architecture - most similar to the "Potato Cave" in Acton (see here). Also that southern chamber is really not on Oak Hill anymore, so I don't see any necessary connection between the chambers. It is certainly true that the valley of Beaver Brook and Elizabeth Brook (the Rt 495 corridor in Littleton, Harvard, Boxborough, Bolton, and Stow) is full of ceremonial structures. This is also the area of the "Boxoborough Esker". The actual unifying theme here is that this is the watershed divide between the Nashua River and the Assabet River, so it is an important "crossroad" in the path from Cape Cod to Canada. But there is no reason to think the different features scattered around are part of a unified and grand ceremonial scheme. Instead I think this was a ceremonial area for many different peoples at different times. Also there are huge numbers of sites in this area that were not found by M&D, so their story is not complete and a bit over-simplied. But, once again, they were here first.

3 comments :

JimP said...

Is anything known about the substance that appears to be a mortar repair job inside some of them?

pwax said...

I should have payed more attention.

JimP said...

The thing that strikes me about it is that it looks like it's not original to the chamber -- that it was applied later in an effort to sure up the walls. It doesn't appear that the stones were placed on top of the mortar, but rather that the mortar was applied later in between the stones.