Friday, February 26, 2010

Niches in Mind

Reader Ted Hendrickson writes:

Recent visits to Gardener's Lake Chamber site and the Pike/Marshall preserve in Ledyard, CT has us wondering about stone walls and niches. On the shore of Gardener's Lake, just over the Bozrah town line is this chamber, reported on by many others.We decided to explore the area and came across some stone walls built off to the south of the road lining walls that lead to the site. They had the appearance of enclosures for animals, being squarish spaces with openings appropriate for gates. Noticed that built into them seemed to be purposeful niches.
Or were they spots that stones had fallen out of or been removed?
We weren't quite sure. These walls enclosed a space about 30 feet square with two openings. Interesting.

Last weekend we hiked in nearby Ledyard, CT, up a north-south lowland flanked by two ridges. Along the east side ridge we spotted this wall.

It ran roughly east west quite a distance in a pretty straight line, tall and single stone thick as it rose to the top of the ridge. As it hit the rock outcrop at the ridge edge, it stopped with a tall face and what appeared to be two niches built into this west facing terminus.
The wall picked up again at the base of the rock face and continued across the wetland and seasonal stream, up the next ridge and terminated several hundred yards beyond into a swamp. Here is the niche face in the distance from the other side of the wetland up the other rise. You can see it in the center with the wall continuing below.
The niches were positioned to face the setting sun, although the rays at this time of year fell a little from the south, perhaps the summer solstice would be a direct hit? Just north of the wall end was what appeared to be an enclosure that extended from the wall had stones running along the outcrop drop-off. Roughly triangular in shape, it too had an open view over the wetland to the west.
A hundred feet north of the wall niches and enclosure was a propped boulder sitting on the same steep ledge with its open side facing the wetland to the west.
We searched for any other signs, expecting to perhaps see some rock piles or cairns, but did not spot anything else, except perhaps a propped boulder (?) on the west ridge on the other side of the wetland.
It is a nice area to hike with marked trails, but surrounded by development and some farms.

Any thoughts appreciated. We are trying to learn.

10 comments :

pwax said...

One comment is that the triangular enclosure at the corner of the wall is a lot like Mike H.'s example from Opacum Woods, Sturbrige.

pwax said...

I don't know if this is relevant about enclosures having 2 openings. FFC tells me someone told him that European graveyards have 2 openings - one to enter and another to exit. This also seems to be true at a couple of ceremonial sites and, in any case, seems noteworthy.

Chris Pittman said...

A local guy near the Gardner Lake chamber told me that the niches in the wall (which he described as a barn foundation) were built to contain beehives. Who knows?

James Gage said...

The niches are to small for beehives.

Chris Pittman said...

Near the barn foundation with the niches is a typical colonial stone-lined well. The stone walls and layout of that part of the site are what I would consider to be typical for an abandoned farm. I am inclined to believe that the niches in that wall had some kind of prictical use related to agriculture. Some observers have interpreted the chamber as an early ice house. On the other hand, Gardner Lake was most certainly in an area that was fairly heavily populated in prehistoric times.

pwax said...

I would say that boulder is certainly not from an abandoned farm.

Ted said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ted said...

At the Gardener Lake site, I too had an impression that the niches had some practical purpose related to the interior of the space enclosed by the walls.

Just to be clear, the other wall in the post with the end niches and the boulders are from another site all together, in Ledyard, CT. These (if they were indeed niches) were much more perplexing, especially with the apparent enclosure attached and near by propped boulder...

JimP said...

Similar niches occur on a farm site at Parker Woodland in Coventry, RI.

Anonymous said...

Is that ledyard site off of lambtown rd. If so there is more stuff there that I have found