Monday, October 25, 2010

Bears Rocks, Pennsylvania

I thought I wouldn't be posting again for a while, but our son is home from a very flat area of Ohio and wanted to get to the mountains, so I found myself at Bears Rocks on the Kittatinny Ridge yesterday. To my surprise, the propped rock I referred to in a previous post had been rebuilt, see above. One can never know, but it probably wasn't done by traditional people, as some other curious constructions had also been created.
Above is one of the new stone constructions I spoke of, a swirl of piled stone with a seat visible at the center back. I suspect this was put together by partying visitors, and they may have reconstructed the propped rock, too. There's no way of knowing, but it's interesting to see that these things are happening.

Below, a gratuitous autumn shot. Those in the picture probably aren't very old, but some moss and lichen communities are aged, possibly in some cases thousands of years old. The forests present when Europeans arrived are all but gone, but these ancient communities of mosses and lichens, especially those tucked between stones on rocky ridge tops, have remained for the most part undisturbed and are representatives from that time we all wish we could visit or conjure in our minds.
Okay, now re-posting the photos that caused a little controversy. The first one below is of an indentation in the rock at the very highest place at this lookout, a natural stack of rock about 20-25 feet high, overlooking the propped rock. I've been coming here for about 40 years and always noticed this hollow, partly because of its placement and partly because of the relative smoothness of its sides and floor. It's probably 10 inches to a foot in diameter at its widest point. Earlier I suggested it might have been used as a mortar for healing herbs by indigenous people who wanted to permeate them with some of the power of this impressive place, that looks out over a broad valley to the north and a partially obscured but equally broad expanse to the south.

Doug Watts posted a comment below saying it is a xenolith, meaning that at one time there was another kind of stone embedded in this one and when it came loose it left this hollow. He seems to think that this eliminates all possibility of human use.

Paint and the darkening, which could be soot, are no doubt from the partying young people mentioned before.

The second picture is of another hollow in stone some distance away from the main part of the lookout. I took this on the same day for comparison with the one above. It and a few others I found were all much rougher looking than the first, and have much less of a worn look. The sides in particular are rougher and slope more gradually.
I re-post these because a couple of people asked me to. I am not saying that I know whether the rock bowl was ever used as a mortar. I sent these photos to Norman Muller at his request and he pretty much agrees with Mr. Watts. I have a great deal of respect for Norman's accumulated knowledge on these subjects, so I'm inclined to think he's right. However I leave a little door of possibility open, partly because at a lookout I was shown in Warren County, New Jersey I saw a similarly worn indentation in rocks, in the shape of an animal paw.


Douglas Watts said...

That's a xenolith. Look it up. If you're going to try to analyze bedrock ledges you need to brush up on undergrad or high school level geology. You're arguing from personal ignorance here, ie. "because I don't know what it is it could be anything." This is why bedrock geologists and undergrad texts exist: to answer these easy questions.

Geophile said...

I'm glad you told me. I'll take it down. Thanks! I like learning new things.

Geophile said...

It isn't unthinkable, though, that such a remarkably placed hollow in the rock would have been used for the purpose I mentioned, whether it was naturally formed or not.

Anonymous said...

You shouldn't have removed your pictures based on the opinion of one reader. Without the pictures, there can be no discussion.

Geophile said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim MacSweeney said...

Take a look at: