Monday, June 30, 2008

A major site in S* New Hampshire

Norman Muller writes:

On my way to our summer home in NH, I stopped by S*, NH, to see a lithic site that a resident of the town mentioned to me. He has sent me a few images of some of the features beforehand, so I had some inkling what to expect. Still, when I got to see the site, which is on the east side of a large lake, I was blown away, because it soon dawned on me that this is a major New England site, whose size has not yet been determined. I saw only a small portion of it, but it seems to go on and on.
There are cairns and small stone piles of all sorts, from large, very well made platform cairns of the rectangular, square, triangular and irregular variety, but constructed with huge stones, to single boulders placed on top of oher ones. Many of the features I saw are near roads and houses, most having been built in the last fifty years. Some of the boulders comprising them must weigh a ton or more. When I wandering through the woods, stone constructions were everywhere I looked. I was most impressed by the amount of work that undoubtedly went into constructing the cairns, and manipulating large boulders to be placed on top of smaller ones, since a team of men must have been required. None of the features was on what I would call agricultural land: it was all rocky and hardly suitable for growing anything.
One feature that initially took me by surprise was a large boulder placed on some smaller ones. My guide pointed out what appeared to be a long exposed drill hole, 21cm long and 2.7cm in diameter, along the bottom part of a boulder. The entry hole is at the bottom. Once I saw this, I thought of all kinds of problems -- that I had been taken in and that all of this area was the doings of a crazy farmer -- but then I noticed that the drill shaft was slightly bent and not straight. What could have made this? It does seem like a drill hole, since the inside surface is mostly smooth, but with some irregularities that may be seen in the photo. And the boulder does seem to have broken apart along the face, but the surface is covered with lichen and it looks old.
I am attaching a selection of pictures I took yesterday.
Image 2 is of a very attractive cairn.
Image 10 is of a large platform cairn with a niche in one corner, and in the niche was a small quartz stone.
Image 27 shows a large boulder placed on top of another boulder or rounded ledge outcrop, with smaller stones placed around the edges. There were at least a half dozen examples I saw like this such as the next image (31).
Image 34 is of a beautifully made cairn.
Images 35 and 36 are of the boulder with the purported drill hole.
Image 47 is of a huge glacial erratic with small stones carefully piled on top. A half metric scale can be seen on the ground to the right of the erratic.
Image 57 shows some of the variety at this site, in this instance one or two large boulders piled on top of existing ones.
Norman also writes:

That boulder with the drill hole initially bothered me, because I thought it was probably evidence of Colonial involvement. Yet the way the boulder was perched on smaller stones (see attached images) contradicted this interpretation, since there were other boulders in the area arranged in this manner, too. I don't think a metal drill was used, since the hole should be straighter and not bent, and thus the hole was probably made with one with a flexible shaft, meaning something like a reed worked with an abrasive like sand.

Balanced Boulder, Rock Pile, Stone Seats (Swanzey, NH)

by JimP

I love this old photograph! Don't you? This would have been Pennacook territory.

Source: READ, Benjamin. 1892. The History of Swanzey, New Hampshire, from 1734 to 1890, pg. 17. Salem, MA: The Salem Press.

Indian Caches

by JimP

Since things are slow for Peter, I thought I'd liven up the place with a nice little historic reference from Rhode Island.

"On Broad Rock Farm, some of the land owned by College Tom, and still in his family, two of the Indian caches for corn can still be seen. They were small hollows in the ground roughly lined with stone, not more than a foot deep at present; perhaps three feet long and two wide." (Hazard 1893:111)

HAZARD, Caroline. 1893. Thomas Hazard Son of Rob't Call'd College Tom: A Study of Life in Narragansett in the 18th Century. Cambridge: The Riverside Press.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

No new sites to report

I did my share of walking in the woods this weekend and located good woods to explore but to little or no avail - an isolated pile here, a wedged rock there. It will be a quiet week.

Friday, June 27, 2008

U-shaped structure against a boulder

This is in southern Bolton or northern Hudson, near Spectacle Hill. Looking down from the boulder:From the side:There is no reason to assume this is a ceremonial structure. But what is it? It was the southernmost bedrock extremity of a hill, coming down to the edge of water to the south. In this picture the water/south is to the right and back.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A small rock pile site in Berlin MA amidst quarried boulders

My Saturday walk plan was for a hill in Berlin. There were some piles right into the woods from where I parked but after that, not much. So I drove away after only a short walk here and ended up finding a different site. Anyway, when I stepped into the woods: Note the broken up boulder in the background, it was one of several like it.Nothing much to say here except that when there are quarried or split boulders I imagine there to have been lots of rock fragments and it is these fragments which are collected together to form the rock piles.

Heading west out Rt 2

[Not rock pile related] A hot air balloon is not something you see here very often,

CHill part 2 - the upper site.

With reference to the site I started to describe [Click here]
The upper site had a double pile and a circle at the end of a stone wall. Here was my first look:
In the picture, the double pile is in the center, actually it is a pile connected to a larger fixed boulder. An auxilliary pile and another smaller fixed boulder are to the right. Beyond the double pile, to the left and at edge of the picture is the stone circle with the low stone wall not visible in the photo but back in there cutting diagonally across from upper left to lower right (following by coincidence the direction of light and shadow). The circle:This video gives a bit of the layout:
Most of my pictures came out poorly because of the high contrast between sunlight and shadow. It is worth looking at the detail photo of the large double pile:That is a nice piece of quartz, as a grace note. Other piles were in less good repair:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

CHill (in a town nearby to the west of here) part 1

I went to explore the fringes of a hilltop site first shown to me by Bruce McAleer. Let's call it CHill. This site is one of the holiest-of-holies, the largest and most diverse rock pile site in the "sacred corridor" that follows Rt 495 down the valley of Beaver Brook and Elizabeth Brook. Most of the southern half of the hill is still not completely explored so there was a good chance of seeing something new.

I did find a small site in a dip along the southeastern facing edge of the hill with maybe ten rock piles in lines, and a couple of unusual features. Here is a sketch.
This shows an idealized topography with a hill to the right and a rather steep slope to the left. The upper left of the picture shows a higher ridge ending with a slight dip and then a levelling off towards the bottom of the picture. Within the dip is a cluster of rock piles, seemingly formed in lines pointing outward and also an interesting feature of a circular "seat" with a view down a short low stone wall. The most prominent pile in this cluster is a sort of double pile (I'll show it later). I had the feeling that joining two piles was a way of getting two different alignments out of a single structure, except it is not quite right - a fudge factor.

Anyway, a second cluster of rock piles occurs downhill near a ramp-like structure which leads partway up the ridge and stops. Two rock piles visible down here are not visible from the upper site.

So first we can watch a little video of the lower "ramp" site and look at a few pictures. I'll report on the upper site separately.

Here is a static photo of the ramp:Off to the left was the edge of the steepest drop-off. Right along that edge were two rock piles. Here is one, with the view outward to the left. The other:As I look at these two piles, each of them seems to be a small curved "U" structure facing outwards. The first one had an additional feature: a small standing stone behind it:
Here is a last look up the ramp, with a piece of quartz at the center:So here is a site that has completely undisturbed structure, though the piles are falling apart. I'll show the upper site in the next post.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

ACME Mapper - a replacement for Topozone

Since people keep finding their way here to learn about a replacement for topozone, let me mention officially that the best replacment I have seen is ACME mapper: [click here]

In fact it is better than topozone because it uses the full screen and allows clicking to the usual Google/Mapquest-style map, as well as a Satellite view. So it combines in one place most of the different programs I use to scope out someplace to go walking. Too bad it still does not have Google "Street View" access, which I use out here in the suburbs to make sure there is a place I can park sneakily.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

More on Nispachuck - " Piles of rock, or historical burial sites?"

From the Providence Business News [Click here].

From the beginning the emphasis on "burial" has been problematic. It is unfortunate that this is so closely linked, in the story, to the reason for protecting the rock piles. It would have been better if some other reason had been promoted because, now, if the "burial" claim does not hold water there is nothing to fall back on.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The southwest side of the Watertower hill - Waltham

After finding a "marker pile" site on the northeast side of this hill, I was on the southwest side and saw some disturbances and noticed a line of rocks:You can see a rock pile next to it. It is pretty well constructed.Another pile was nearby, not quite so well defined. Blending in with larger rocks. Notice the backgroundWhere you can see a horizontal line through the picture, is the edge of a terrace or berm that is clearly artificial. There was another such berm fifty yards or so down the southwest side of the hill. I assumed these were from agriculture but what is the evidence?

Another scene at the Watertower Hill - Waltham

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Watertower Hill at the old Metropolitan Hospital Grounds in Waltham

I walked in along a road on the north side of the hill and cut up into the woods to my right as soon as there was a bit of slope and a sense of outcrops up that way. I came across a rock pile in the ferns and, not quite believing it, took several minutes to find other piles nearby. They seemed to lie in two lines joined at a corner in a pattern something like this:
where the gray outline is a hole in the ground and the black square is a boulder. Here is a picture of the hole:I am not sure if the hole was in line or not. I think it was tangent to the line.

Lined up like this, these piles might be what I call "marker piles"Here is a detail of the far pile:
A few others along the same line:
It is a stretch to see these piles having one vertical side (a feature associated to marker piles) but it is not impossible. The piles are well defined but pretty beat up.

Just up hill was a place of tumbled boulders in the kind of dis-array that I think of as a biproduct of practical activity. As if they had been tumbled down to here from some disturbance above.It is as though the boulders were dumped down almost on top of a rock pile site. Which sounds implausible.

So perhaps someone can go back and give the place more study. It seems that exploring, in the suburbs of Middlesex County MA, ambiguous sites should be expected.

I should mention that these rock piles are on the northeast side of the hill.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Possible Ceremonial Structures from Johnstown, PA

A reader from PA sent pictures and wrote to ask if the features looked Native American? Some of them do, to me. Note the four blocks of rock: And the sizeable rock pile:Here is something familiar:

Monday, June 16, 2008

A swamp in Concord and a rock pile, well hidden there

Concord MA, Swamp Rock Pile
Out with FFC at a familiar site, but he pushed deeper into the wetland and we came across a slightly higher place and where the water marshalled up to drain away there was a rock pile and a split-wedged rock next to a stone wall.

Mt Rainier

[Not rock pile related but I couldn't resist] View from the Seattle-Tacoma Airport parking lot roof:

Saturday, June 14, 2008

More from Mill Pond Conservaton Land - Burlington, MA

I was walking along on the paths in the southern part of the conservation land and came to a place where the bank at the side of the road was one big disturbed rock pile:
There was a big "borrow" pit nearby with the sand or gravel removed, so it seemed completely natural to assume this path-side collection of cobbles was just discards from removing the sand and gravel. But I had a hard time squaring that practical use with some of the other features nearby going up the hillside.

What was this?
Since I had seen several examples of short stretches of stone wall coming down the sides of ridges a quarter mile away (overlooking the Mill Pond [click here]) the presumption might be that this is another such impractical feature. Here is the view from above:
Starting a few feet from the top of that short stretch was another short wall contouring the hill:
Walking along this wall and looking back downhill I saw several rock piles, all in bad shape:
The solitary quartz could be deliberate or random.
I could not tell what this place was;some kind of site.