Thursday, April 30, 2009

Muddy Pond - Westminster MA (part 1)

A few weeks ago I took a long drive, speculating that it would be worth exploring around the edges of Muddy Pond in Westminster. This seemed a good choice, in the abstract, as it is a short distance directly north of Mt. Wachusett with good views of that mountain. I first heard archeologist Curtis Hoffman suggest that Mt. Wachusett was the primary focus of religion in Massachusetts prehistory (at least this is what I remember , sorry if I am mis-characterizing). I don't think the mountain was necessarily the sole focus of ceremonial activity, but it is true that the major rock pile sites I have found west of the Nashua River, face directly toward the mountain. I have yet to explore all the principle directions out from Wachusett but this trip to Muddy Pond recommended itself as taking me somewhere with a view towards the south of the mountain.This was one of those times when you step into the woods and immediately see rock piles. But throughout my visit I was unsure if I was looking at post colonial anglo structures in ruin or rather something older. You'll understand my confusion - rock piles mixed with stone walls (linear arrangements of stones), strategic bits of quartz, more walls, some obviously ceremonial structures, what looked like a cart path with a loading dock. My instincts, or at least my prejudices, lead me to think this is a ceremonial site: I does look out towards Wachusett, there are some obvious "graves" nearby. But I remained unsure. For example, I took FFC and my wife to have a look at the site the following weekend, and FFC said many of the stone walls run magnetic north/south. That would suggest a more anglo feeling to the place. So let's have a look.

[Update: rereading the above, the north south orientation of the stone walls here might be because they are pointing at Mt. Wachusett.]

I stepped into the woods on a dirt road, starting at a little Muddy Pond Conservation Land turnout, and there was a rock pile next to the path:This pile had its feet in the water, at the source of the water, so this is a very typical Native American rock pile placement. The pile had one, noticeable chunk of quartz:But also next to the pile was another, made with slightly smaller rocks: Auxiliary satellite piles made with smaller rocks are a typical pattern of field clearing. First they cleared the larger rocks, then they cleared the smaller ones. So this pile left me pretty confused. And a few yards further along the dirt road there was another. But this one seemed part of a stone wall, until I looked more carefully.Actually this is separate from the wall and angled differently (you see the wall off to the to the left above and to the right in the picture below). Note the pot to the left of the pile.
This pile also had a single piece of quartz in about the same relative position as on the first rock pile, but smaller, perhaps inconsequential:
Continuing, I started seeing much more typical smaller rock piles under the hemlocks:[These ones looked evenly spaced and in lines - if you know what I mean]And I started realizing a personal aesthetic ideal: the rock pile poking out of the mountain laurels. Here was another:So at this point I am getting ready to believe I am at a ceremonial site when I come up to some more walls and tumbled ruins that confuse me with their hints of the agrarian.

Here is something we discussed long ago (I think it was first mentioned by Geophile?): flat sided piles built into the side of a hill:One the one hand, this pile had a piece of white rock (feldspar in this case) at its center:But on the other hand, directly in front of the flat surface of the pile was a trench that followed along the slight concave curve of the pile. As if narrow cart could be driven up to this pile and then loaded. So what are we to think?

In one direction is a very typical ceremonial pile: an effigy perhaps.
In the other direction were some tumbled walls:Look at that internal structure though. This was not a wall, instead we are looking at some kind of ruin.I should say that the other "major" sites facing Wachusett also contain large piles and linear, tumbled down features. In my own little theory: out west of the Nashua, we have more monumental-type piles and sites having piles with different characteristics mixed together in a complex organization suggesting overall site architecture. This site at Muddy Pond fits that description. I wonder sometimes if this might be the Nipmuc whose territory included Westminster.

Pushing along further (I was walking south along the "Midstate Trail") I got to a final lookout over the pond to the southwest. Wachusett would be visible here to the left, if the trees were not in the way.This was at one end of another tumbled down linear arrangement of wall and pile. Where it is not stone wall, it becomes earthwork.Near the other end was this lovely pile on a boulder:I'll post some more about this site later.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rocky Narrows Reservation - Sherborn MA

I went for a long drive down to Sherborn and explored what was mostly a sandy white pine area. I did see a curious little earthwork in one place, and then saw a couple of rock piles out on the last knoll stretching into the wetland. Then I erased the pictures later because I forgot to take them off the camera. Too bad. Anyway there was one nice 15x8 foot pile on the top of the little knoll and a second pile, smaller beaten up by the passage of some logging machine. So just for the record:

"Stone Prayers" Video

I always enjoy watching this:

[CLICK HERE] for the high-resolution version in streaming Windows Media format, 640x480, 115MB, with stereo sound.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rock on rock like an animal head

From the Harvard Powell-Reed-Abbot Land, this reminds me of Tim MacSweeney's rocking bear head (here). But this looks like something other than a bear.

A Harvard Wetland Edge

Monday, April 27, 2009

Calendar I and Dairy Hill Photos - authors follow Mavor and Dix

[Click here]
Nice to see some decent color photos of things barely represented by the black and white photos of the book Manitou by Mavor and Dix.

Also from the same source [Click here or here]

Rock pile from Spruceton NY

[Click here]
I found the comments worth reading.

Goodness! look at these [Click here].

Update: I guess Norman M. has been there (see this)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A rectangular stone knife from Eastern Concord, MA

There are three arrowhead hunting seasons: in the spring, after they plow and it rains; in the fall after the harvest is brought in and it rains; and after the winter when the snow melts. The arrowhead I found a few weeks ago was from the winter season but the spring season just started, so I went out to see what was visible - at a place I go. I got lucky.The material is a mottled rhyolite formed with chunks of striated gray material in a matrix of black material with some smaller white crystals. In the first picture, some rust stains near the top of the rectangle suggest hafting. I wonder if it is the same as the material in this point from a few weekends ago (click here) which I found in the same place.

Find all the Conservation Land - newly noticed ACME mapper feature

One problem I have is figuring out where the conservation lands are. Most towns do an incomplete job of listing their own conservation lands online and even when mentioned the mapping is often pretty useless (eg try to figure out the Pepperell conservation land maps).

Anyway, I was just exploring some of the other map views available at
I discovered the option called "Mapnik" shows all the conservation land. Great! I did not know there were all those places in Lincoln.

So many towns do an excellent job of hiding their conservation lands (for example Concord) but now, hah!

Rock piles mention re Nobscott Hill in Sudbury

I was backtracking a readers search terms and came across this:

Just after the large pavilion, you will see on the right, but set in way, the Smallpox Burial Ground. According to a placard at the site, in the 1700s the towns of Framingham and Sudbury buried their dead from a smallpox epidemic "as far away from town centre as possible." The infected were quarantined in a nearby "pest house." The cellar hole for the house is still there. Those who died in the epidemic were buried with no grave markers, although there are creepy human-shaped piles of stones marking the graves.


Scouting around MetroWest's Nobscot Reservation

By Allan Jung/Daily News staff [click here]

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Stone Tool in the Shadow of a Glass of Water

Inyanhoksila (Stone Boy)

"Come in, uncles," shouted Stone boy. They obeyed him, and stepping to the center he said: "Watch me build my fence."
Suiting the words, he took from his belt an arrow with a white stone fastened to the point and fastening it to his bow, he shot it high in the air. Straight up into the air it went, for two or three thousand feet, then seemed to stop suddenly and turned with point down and descended as swiftly as it had ascended. Upon striking the ground a high stone wall arose, enclosing the hut and all who were inside...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Near Oley Hills PA (2)

More pics from reader Michelle. Interesting hints of Native American intent.

A stone sides passage:
A beautiful example of a pile in front of a gap (a very "Hopewell'ian" feature)

One of several stone circles:
What Fred Werkheiser calls "Mulling Holes"
Some rock piles:

Site near Oley Hills in PA

Reader Michelle writes (please suggest answers to her question in the Comments):

I have attached few pictures of what we have found, Fred Werkheiser has been out to see and feels this is an important find, we are only a few miles from the Oley Hills site. Norman put us in contact with Fred..... thats in a nut shell....Anyway my question(s) if you are able to answer would be great or at least point us in a direction to research that would be good too.... Are there any sites or books that show examples of rock on rock layouts and what they represent.... ( other than the male and female which I keep finding)Are there any sites / books about effigies and what they might represent...How do you go about documenting an area... do you start from the center and work out or from one end of the property to the other end? seems that are site according to Fred consists of a cerimonial site and possible burial grounds... and he suggested we map the area... or do I start from one of the many stone walls that lead to this center point.
photo 091 center point

photo 095 this stack is at the entry point into ceremonial area

photo 127 this is a picture of a vein of quartz where the center had been removed, there is a stone seat here also and your feet fall below ground level like a chair.

photo 146 found this stone near a pile of stones in a circular formation.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A plateau in Steam Mill State Forest - NY

by theseventhgeneration
Here is a little spot I stopped at on a whim. I drove past several times and looked longingly at the section of stone wall that is so prominent near the horizon from the road below:After following that section of wall (it runs somewhat east-west) I walked in to this site from the north, walking south, and quickly found the first rock pile. Notice in this picture that there is a crude stone row to the left of this rock pile in the photo.As I continued walking south, I found more rock piles, then some boulders. The site is intersected (east-west) by a recent logging trail. This picture is of an interesting boulder with rock piles nearby. There are a few rocks on top of the boulder as well as one rock next to the void under the boulder. The void itself contains an interesting rock with 3 small depressions in it that appear to be natural, yet appealing.Then, a little further south, this arrangement. The rock on the left is something like rocks on their haunches and there is a small rock pile to the right of the standing stone.
I turned my walk back to the north when I came to a ledge of outcroppings. I walked around the outcrops and found this, which I'm not certain about in antiquity. Maybe it's the very square rock with no lichen, or the tree growing there that has pushed up some of the rocks, making them look un-natural. But the opening faces, generally, to the north.A short distance from there, another rock pile. If you enlarge the image, you can see the boulder with the small void under it in the background, just above and a little to the right of this rock pile.Then, this shot, which, although it doesn't look like much, speaks volumes about the site. This is the southern end of that stone row that runs the length of the entire site, except where the logging trail interrupts it. The stone row is in the middle of the plateau. The tree (soft maple, I think) is huge and is growing right in the middle of the end of that stone row. One of the stones leaning on the tree (pushed up by it is my guess) has a small depression in it similar to the ones found in the rock in the void. Just to the right of the tree there is a quartz rock in the pile.The stone row could have easily been built a little farther to the east where it would have served well as a pasture boundary at the edge of the plateau before it goes down the ridge to the creek below. So, why was it built right smack dab in the middle of this plateau?