Monday, April 28, 2008

More on the "Indian Look"

(More Questions than Answers)
I should really clarify my "Indian Look" post.
It's just one type of "look," and not the "one and only look" by any means.
And what should I call this particular "look?"
It greatly resembles the style I see often along the shore in eastern CT and into Rhode Island, even those "lace walls" on Martha's Vineyard.
Is it an old influence from someone who visited that area, someone who migrated to this area from there, and any number of similar guesses...
The look is "atypical" of what you might expect of a stone fence built as I find in one of the comments: "If you google "tips for building a stone wall" some things that come up are "flat side down", "fit stones closely together", "two over one, one over two", and, my personal favorite "gravity and friction alone hold a dry mortarless wall together". When I see a wall that defies some of these suggestions, I take a closer look," that 'theseventhgeneration' made.

(This just prompted me to go to the "Two Headwaters" site to look for the writers actual name, which I didn't find - but then saw all the posts about stone rows I had missed since the last time I looked. Reading through the most recent posts there just now I see a very different "look," along with familiar "atypicalities" that would also make me ponder the Native American origin of the rows. "Constructions on constructions" is a great insight I found there a feeling I often get puzzling about the older row or newer fence question.)

And Jim comments: "I think it's probably more accurate to say that there's a difference in style between pre-contact, contact, and post-contact period wall and fence constructions. Because remember that Indians made up a large portion of the slaves who built stone fences in New England in the European style. The stone masonry tradition continues among New England's Indians to this very day." I'd add in that besides "slaves," you also have that cheap labor source of Indian People and those stories of "bottle walls." The builder gets "paid," in the contents of the bottle when a certain point is reached.
The rows near where I live are the ones I can make the best guesses about. Who else but Native People would have built a serpentine row around a burial grounds? Why does the row turn into a zigzag after that? I don't know; it just does. Why are there rather large and wide linear rows connecting to them sometimes - and why do they heve, as they near the stream that flows over the Falls, a large end stone? I don't really know either; they just do. What about that mound swamp where zigzags abound, yet there's a linear row as well very close to the mounds? How about the double row of a lacey nature (intersected by another with a high "wave" in it that seen in other rows by other people in other places) that contains mounds that resemble turtles, that turns into a zigzag that runs over an outcrop and just ends there? It's also where a newer road runs over this row, where some of it remains, like a "construction over a construction" and has been sort of re-used as the retaining wall for the fill used to build the road?

It's so much easier when I see a linear row that looks like "turtles on turtles on turtles," like the one partially destroyed when they re-routed my road. It had a large end stone where the water flows, probably anciently a glacial lakeshore, and linked up to the zigzag row that was just bulldozed away without a second thought - the first being "It's a wall of no importance."
Zigzag rows, carefully constructed are easier to define as having the "Indian Look." They are the antithesis of "rocks thrown up against a snake fence during field clearing, that remain after the wood has rotted" theory.
Especially when they contain those testudinate stones, sometime identifiable as a box turtle or a spotted turtle, at the points of the zigzag.
So: please don't think I mean there's just one "Indian Look." I was just pointing out one that I see that resembles others that I see that other people see, remembering an old African wisdom that says,"What you see is an illusion of what you see until you learn to see what you see."
As the "long look," the perspective seen before the curtain of greenery obsures that view, maybe we should take note of what plants remain in these areas surrounded by stone rows, use our imaginations to think about what the Native Land use scheme might have been, search out the old names attached to these places that might indicate what was once there - the cranberry swamp or "the place where the _____ grows" - any sort of clue as to what was once maintained and kept clear by scheduled burning that maintained the Garden that this Turtle Island was.

Think about the great number of new and formerly unknown Indian sites uncovered by the massive forest fires of recent years out west; imagine the controlled ground fires of a thousand years ago around here. Look back at: or and think about that "burning" question about one of the many purpose functions of a stone row, whatever size or shape it may be...

1 comment :

theseventhgeneration said...

I think you hit the nail on the head with "I see a very different 'look,' along with familiar 'atypicalities' that would also make me ponder the Native American origin of the rows." That's what I would say about New England stone walls compared to ones I see here in NY.