Saturday, June 16, 2007

From a reader

My name is Bruce A***, and I've been photographing in the woods for
quite a number of years now, around the area of Ottawa, Canada.
For the most part I've simply enjoyed seeking out patterns of
filtered light and tree limbs, but I've long taken note of the stones and
boulders and little escarpments that live in the conservation areas around
Ottawa. Then I more or less stumbled onto rockpiles.blogspot.com.

Your part of the continent obviously displays a lot more richness in
its rockpiles than my part up here. The trails I walk have their occasional
pioneer house foundations alongside, and one trail is dedicated to the ruins
of a 19th-century lime kiln. But we seem to be lacking in mysterious stone
walls and the rockpiles I've noticed so far seem a bit more ambiguous than
yours. :>

Nevertheless, I trotted out to the woods specifically with rockpiles
in mind the other day, and I've prepared a few shots in a gallery if you're
interested:

http://www.pbase.com/thehangedman/thestones


The picture titled "a subtle cluster" shows the sort of ambiguity
I'm talking about. Its clearly a collection of stones of similar size, but
not the sort of pile that stands out. I've taken to alling these things
"clusters".

The picture "how we say what is human" shows what is pretty
obviously the result of a bored lunch hour while clearing brush, but I use
it to think about how we judge what is manmade and what is natural. How do
we know a collection of stones has been placed by the hand of man and not by
geological action? And then, how to know what was placed in antiquity, and
what was put there five years ago after a grad party?

I'm still learning.

The last three shots - two of a stone with a pronounced, rounded,
groove as well as "tooth" marks, and one of a vertically-placed triangular
stone - are my best indicators so far of the possibility that better things
lie in these woods. Not a 20-minute walk from my house are three glacial
erratics that cause me no doubt at all: they have the rounded-but-ground-up
look of glacial artifacts. But as undoubted natural features, these contrast
strongly with the look of many smaller stone features I'm seeing, which are
squared or angular.

I don't have a dog in the fight over who exactly produced these rock
artifacts. But I will say that I think North America was well-known in
antiquity and although an ocean is a barrier to a tweedy academic, it's a
highway to anyone who's alternative is slow and rigorous land travel.

Won't keep you. Have a look at the pictures. If you like, there's
more woods-walking pictures in the gallery at
http://www.pbase.com/thehangedman/wsst.

Cheers and good luck!

2 comments :

Geophile said...

In my case, I look for a grouping of features. At times I see one rock pile or one split-wedged alone or one propped or perched rock. If that's all there is, of course it is possible that it had significance, but I disregard it for lack of corroboration. I look for a constellation of features--rock piles and a split wedged boulder begin to look like a site. A propped rock or low wall, a couple rock-on-rocks, or a serpentine wall will increase the likelihood that I'm looking at a site.

Of course, in another part of the continent, as where you are, the features that make up a site could be different. I would suggest following small streams to the springs that are their sources. Poke around there and see what you find.

This isn't about whether or not people crossed the ocean. It's about the fact that peoples throughout the world have made stone piles and other constructions in stone in response or petition to the forces they saw as influencing the things over which they had no control, like weather, hunting success, and death of others. People lived on this continent for at the very least 12,000 years, maybe as much as 50,000 years. No matter where they came from originally, it is unlikely they lived in any area for so long and left no mark at all.

And remember, the fact tha a formation may be natural does not mean it had no cultural significance. Unusual perched or propped rocks, whether or not they were moved by man, would at some point have drawn the attention of the people here. Keep an eye out at places like that for any subtle constructions that may refer to them.

Let us know what you find.

/thehangedman/ said...

Geophile said:

"This isn't about whether or not people crossed the ocean. It's about the fact that peoples throughout the world have made stone piles and other constructions in stone in response or petition to the forces they saw as influencing the things over which they had no control, like weather, hunting success, and death of others."

I agree with this. I was merely stating a personal position on ancient navigation.

Although quite a few outlier artifacts have been found in North and South America, they are overwhelmed in number by the artifacts of indigenous peoples.

The full history and nature of indigenous cultures has not yet been described.

/bruce/