Sunday, October 16, 2011

Complex sites provide a strong argument for ceremonialism

If rock piles are dismissed as merely for some single utilitarian reason like field clearing, quarry tailings, or stone palettes for removal then it would be a bit absurd to try arguing for more than one of these possibilities at a single site.

What I mean is the "single utilitarian reason" camp run out of explanations before we run out of varieties of rock pile. When enough of those varieties occur in a single location, that camp is on the run, they're put to the sword. By contrast, the ceremonial interpretation allows room for many subtle expressions.

Today we cleared rock piles at the Nashoba Brook Conservation land in Acton. The place is both simple and complex - an array of piles with many different details: piles linked loosely to others by a sequence of rocks, piles with a small piece of quartz, piles in lines with some even spacing and some uneven spacing, wedged-splits, and piles generally not in very good shape. They've taken a beating from falling trees and may not all be the same age. Other patches of rock piles appear nearby. The piles are on a near horizon from the point of view of a house foundation on one of two knolls that shadow the flat area of the site.

It will be fun for the Acton Trail Committee to point out the details, leaving their interpretation "to the reader". If all goes well, I get to write the signage.


Tim MacSweeney said...

You got me thinking about my house's foundation when you say:
"piles are on a near horizon from the point of view of a house foundation." The exact date my house was built - or even "begun to be built" - is "lost" in the town records, but now that the leaves are falling, I can just look out the window to my right and see the rock piles just beyond some out buildings. Out my back door, I can see the remnants of a zigzag stone row. Out the front door I can see (or at least know by the tree lines/field borders) of so much more: a stone weir, a Burial Grounds (where that Cothren woodcut of Nonnewaug's stone burial mound was said to been located) and so much more...

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