Friday, April 02, 2010

Along Falulah Brook

Driving slowly by, seeing rock piles in the shrubs next to a brook. We stopped and parked. and went in to see this pile:Another view:The brook is called Falulah Brook and it is in Fitchburg, not too far from Wright's Ponds where I sketched this similar shaped and similar sized pile: That one was also next to a body of water as reported here. You may recall I have been pursuing "rock piles with tails" in the northern parts of Fitchburg - the northwestern part of Middlesex County, and following the idea that they are found more next to water. This has turned out to be a pretty good hypothesis and so it is tempting to see the rock pile next to Falulah Brook as another confirmation. On the other hand there is enough stuff along the brook that is mill-like to suggest caution. In terms of the "tail", on these examples the structure looks more like a space missing from pile, more akin to a hollow. On the other side of the street, a bigger smeared out pile:This is such a mess it is foolish to speculate about. But that apparently doesn't stop me. I am embarrassed by the voice over, but it is worth it to show you the pile. :

Then I poked around in the vicinity, seeing some things that are distinctly Native American:
And a few feet down the brook, following a dirt access road, I came across truly big game:It is a big mound with a collapsed inner chamber or remnants of a hole someone dug in the front. Here is a side view:A few feet further down the brook, another large mound. But a bulldozer has been right through it:This pile had two hollows in it, one with some fresh damage and maybe caused by the bulldozing, another on the back side with the same moss cover inside the hollow as on the pile - a much older hollow.

There had obviously been some bulldozing here and down at another crossing of the brook. Possibly the water management people (since this is part of the Fitchburg Reservoir land) had cleared an obstruction or something. It was starting to look pretty bad:
So I pretended to not see this and did not look too carefully; then reversed course. Probably I should have continued down the brook to see if there were more mounds along it.

Because of all this modern activity, it is harder to argue that this is a pristine Native American site, or even a Native American site for that matter. With the brook being a potential energy source for the mills (it shares a name with the Fitchburg Falulah Paper Company), and not knowing what mill ruins look like, it is not a clear picture to me. Given my bias, I am going to go with the initial comparison of the first rock pile, mentioned above, and the rock piles at Wright's Ponds a couple miles away in Ashby. So there are at least some Indian mounds here. The really interesting question is whether the large mounds are from the same time period/culture as the smaller ones. We are, after all, talking about mounds with hollows, some of them 10 across and others 30 feet across. For my money, the small piles are older.

I also think these hollows look like tails. Maybe there is more than one kind of tail on a pile: one kind being the vestigial remnant of the edge of a hollow, another more deliberately built as a wall jutting out from a rock pile. I also am wondering if these "mounds" might not have served several different death-related, mortuary, functions - some for the preparation of remains and others for the housing of the remains. For example, on one tail in Carlisle, the rock at the end of the tail was flat and level and looked like it had been burnt.

Returning towards the car, spotting another small mound part way up the hillside:Closer:
Most of the arguments about how the mounds along Falulah brook have to be bi-products of one or another type of practical,mill-related activity, are contradicted by this other pile twenty yards up the hillside. There is no mill activity up there, just walls and a few other decrepit piles:Here is the view back towards my car:Aside from the particulars of this Falulah Brook site, there are reasonably similarities with the site at Wright' Ponds; enough to consider this part of the same "Wachusett Tradition" - a product of the culture I have been tracking from Apron Hill in Boylston to Woodbridge Rd in Carlisle and back to northern Fitchburg. But now with these large mounds we have a connection to something slightly different. I have seen big piles like those somewhere else related to Wachusett, in particular in the Manoosnoc Hills of Leomonister. And finally this is getting close enough to Muddy Pond in Westminster to add this to the collection of places under discussion.

Update: I went back to look at this site and cannot convince myself this is ceremonial. There were some gravel/sand borrow areas that might have left rock piles behind. So I just don't know.


Ted said...

We saw some piles that had hollows, mostly in the center but toward the edges as well that kind of looked like this. Thought they might be plundered by artifact hunters. Do these hollows go right to the ground or are there still stones at the bottom of the hollow?

pwax said...

A good question, and I should look more carefully for this.

In general terms: there are different forms of hollow. For small piles with a hollow near the edge, I can see that there are not a lot of rocks left at the bottom of the hollow. For other situations, there are rocks. For other situations, I cannot see cuz everything is tumbled down inside the hollow.