This is about rock piles and stone mound sites in New England. A balance is needed between keeping them secret and making them public. Also arrowheads, stone tools and other surface archaeology.
I'm intrigued, care to elaborate? I would like to believe there is a cultural link between these historic (or prehistoric) sites and modern Indian populations, rather than simply a genetic link between the pile builders and some people alive today, but from my personal experience that seems unlikely. You have commented here about the myth being created that it was modern Indians who began the call for preservation of these sites. To some extent it seems like asking a modern Norewgian to interpret or explain finds from a dig of a Viking camp. I'm not in any way trying to deny the meaningful and important connection between modern Indians and the cultural heritage of their ancestors, I do not want to diminish the importance of early sites and artifacts to the culture of the surviving population. But the ethnographic evidence regarding Contact-period Indians and rock piles seems mostly limited to large donation piles with little that could be interpreted to relate to what you have termed "marker pile" sites. The scant archaeological record of these places point to dates associated with cultures that may have been different from the population at the time of contact. Known Contact-period sites including burials do not seem to include rock piles, from what I have seen. I have seen some evidence of stone pavements or other similar pile-like features in connection with Archaic-period sites and burials.
Chris, some people who study the sites are convinced some sites are still visited and/or used. Some hidden remnant populations continued to make secret offerings to aspects of the land right up to present day. This isn't a fantasy. I was dubious myself but I overheard things during the time I spent around the Indians that made me certain that they visit special places in secret at certain times of year.But I wanted to ask Pwax just what you did. What makes you say that, Peter?
Geophile I agree that some of these sites are still in use by Indians, I have found offerings at some sites I have visited and on one occasion spoke with a Nipmuc tribal representative who told me some of his people visit one particular place we were talking about to "be with the ancestors." I have a massive amount of respect for current Indians who continue these traditional practices. What I find more difficult to grasp would be an actual continuation of the intent and ritual of the site builders and current users who may profoundly appreciate the cultural and spiritual heritage these relics represent perhaps without completely understanding when they were built, who built them, or what the original purpose was. I can imagine that at least some current use focuses on veneration of ancestors though the original purpose might have been something far different (there may have been many different original uses). Here in Massachusetts vastly different cultures and peoples populated the land at different times, there were great fluctuations in population levels and different stone tool types, living structures, funerary practices, settlement patterns, etc. testify to the diversity of the different cultures that lived here over 10,000 (or more) years. I understand and respect that surviving Indians are the descendants of these original inhabitants and that the history of all the indigenous inhabitants of this region constitutes their shared heritage. At the same time, I do not think that there is necessarily a specific connection between the religious and cultural practices of modern Indians and those of the people that built some types of stone structures discussed here. I believe that some evidence indicates that some of these sites are potentially thousands of years old.
Rambling: Sites are in use today but I sometimes get the feeling they are being "respected" and added to without necessarily an understanding. This includes marker pile sites with new piles built on stumps. Also, looking at some of those pristine and delicate piles from RI, how can they not be pretty modern? Again, the piles might have been reconstructed without complete understanding.I do not think the Wachusett Tradition is modern. It seems to shade into the modern via marker pile sites. I don't know about Archaic stone pavements. They might be smeared out remnants of rock piles or something else.
In the past, the Indians had to go underground with their religion beliefs or get killed by the white guys. I assume that keeping it to themselves continues today.
I think you're right. Certainly not all traditions have been preserved. When does that happen? Some rock piles are probably built for things like vision quests and presumably that tradition has gone on for a long time, but other traditions are probably lost and new ones have developed.Also, I think what you say is true,Peter. We may never know how much any of them know.
But it is not just Native Peoples who perceive these sites and are drawn to them.And a lot of these places are not noticeable due to their stones being moved to build walls and fences.I believe the Norwegian analogy is good.
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