Tommy Hudson, from Georgia, writes below with my comments inserted. Readers: please add comments on these topics if you like.
Proximity to Petroglyphs
In Georgia, petroglyphs and petroforms are obviously related. They are often within sight of each other. They may not have been made by the same group of Native Americans, but they may have been part of a similar belief system. The area may have been sacred for a long time, or contain relevant features such as springs.
[PWAX: we do not have many petroglyphs in New England, I maybe do not know what to look for but have never seen any in relation to rock piles]
Located on Ridges
Often, when looking at the best way to get to the top of a hill or mountain, the stone piles are located along, or crossing, that pathway. Rarely are they located at the very top of a hill or mountain. The approach to a summit appears to be the best choice for constructing the piles. All of the recorded serpentine walls in Georgia are located just below the summit. Any ideas
[PWAX: I don't know about mountains, my explorations include lowlands and hills. I agree that piles are not usually at the tops of hills except (for me) in Boxborough/Harvard]
Amphitheater or Bowl Shaped Sites
Several sites in Georgia are in bowl shaped depressions on the sides of mountains. The depressions are two to four acres in size and always contain springs. The bowl forms a "neck" at it's lower end and the springs come together to form a small stream that flows through the "neck." In ten of eleven instances these are the headwaters for major streams in the area. The stone piles are scattered across, and perpendicular to, the "neck" of the bowl. At several of these sites the stone piles are three to four feet in diameter with carefu formal stacked exteriors, and are infilled with smaller three to seven inch diameter stones. Only one of these sites has a stone wall and it is a loosely stacked serpentine wall approximately three hundred feet long with a large boulder "head" on the upper end.
[PWAX: someone who knows the "calendar" sites in VT should weigh in on this topic]
Serpentine Walls with Incorporated Boulders or Bedrock
As mentioned above, several of the serpentine walls in Georgia have boulders at one end. I believe that this indicates the head of a serpent. Boulders are also incorporated into the body of the wall, as if bedrock or larger boulders played a part in their meaning.
[PWAX: Yes I think this is fairly common up here as well]
Anthropomorphic Bird and moth/butterfly shaped mounds are found in Georgia.
Rock Eagle is the most well known bird shape, but there are three other mounds of his type that are lesser known. I have also found several stone piles that resemble the profile of a moth or butterfly with its wings folded. These are
always smaller than the much larger bird types.They are less than twenty feet long.
[PWAX: I have always been struck by how large is the Georgia "Rock Eagle". We may have large effigies but I never noticed that characteristic for a large rock pile. For me this would be a difference between Georgia and New England]
I have several sites located at, or near, pinch points or nick points in the landscape. In addition to the constricted bowl shaped sites mentioned above, I have several sites located on streams with adjacent ridges that intersect the stream in such a way as to cause a constriction in the landscape. These stone pile sites also have nearby petroglyph sites and can be located on the streams both above and below the nick point.
[PWAX: Not sure, I can think of a couple of sites like this up here. Generally I have found so many sites, so many everywhere, that I have backed off from correlating site locations too closely with landscape features]
Serpentine Shaped Mountains
These are sites located just below the high point of a mountain, similar to the ridge sites mentioned above. These mountains, when viewed from a distance, have the profile of a serpent. If the high point of the mountain were viewed as the "head" of a serpent, then the "body" would be the remaining length of the mountain. These are mountain and ridge combinations that are a mile or more in length. These can also be checked on topographic maps. I have quite a few of these sites and I believe them to be an important feature.
[PWAX: I have not noticed this. But see my previous comment. For example Mount Wachusett presents, from the east, as the profile of a beaver but there are hundreds of sites where this view can be seen and just as many in the same area where the view cannot be seen]
Relevant information on much of the above, such as the importance of springs, serpentine walls, and anthropomorphic shapes, can be found in the writings of early pioneers, travelers, ethnographers, and Europeans who lived among the Indians. Over the years I have found that there is quite a bit of information out there on Native American belief systems. I have found that all across North America the beliefs are similar. I think the answers to what has been called "The Stone Pile Problem," can be found in the ethnography.
[PWAX: I do not. This is a discussion we have been having for a long time. I think ethnography has a few interesting things to say but many if not most of the details I am trying to understand are not discussed anywhere and, moreover, are details meaningful to Indians who were already long gone before the Europeans arrived or the historic Indians living here when the Europeans arrived. For example quartz, or manitou stones, or split wedged rocks, or single rocks on rocks, or rock pile arrays and grids. Even something as basic as water or the nature of the underworld seems poorly addressed by ethnography. A good example would be Mt Washington in New Hampshire. The Indians told the white men that they did not "dare go up there" when it is probable they simply did not want to reveal that much to the white guys and, at the same time, those very same Indians might have known little or nothing about what even earlier Indians did up there. Our ethnography about Indians and mountains is obviously wrong. So I consider ethnography generally to have limited value.]
I hope we can solve a little more of the mystery of the "Stone Pile Problem."
[PWAX: I do too. However I do not think of it as a single "problem". Stone Piles are extremely varied and, I think, represent contributions of many different cultures over the past -say- 800 years.]