Monday, February 28, 2011

The first rock pile site acknowledged by the Indians

In Carlisle MA the Indians came and looked at stone piles and agreed that the piles were their own ceremonial objects. There had been a "medicine man" trail that passed somewhere nearby but no one remembered the details, no one remembered where it was. So this property, given to the town of Carlisle by Mr Benfield, became the first acknowledged Native American ceremonial site in the northeastern US. In one description "the cat was out of the bag". This led to other things such as USET resolutions and the listing of the Turner's Falls airport rock pile site as a national historic landmark. It is fair to say that I first noticed the rock piles at this site and pointed them out to FFC who started making a fuss about such things and got the Indians to visit.

Here is a link to an article in the Carlisle "Mosquito" about the property. Other articles from that newspaper can be found by searching on words like "Indian" and "stone pile" here.

The site is at the edge of the woods, with a wide opening to the right where a marsh edges Spencer brook:
Saturday FFC invited me for a stroll out to the Benfield property, where the Carlisle Trail Committee is building a platform out in the middle of the marsh surrounding Spencer Brook. I got some nice photos of the place from Louise Hara - a friend of my friend. So I thought I would show them.

One of the abutting landowners, Tim Fohl, spent a good deal of time looking around at the rock pile site and noticing stone walls and their relation to the brook. I believe he has done some research into old channels and earthworks within the Spencer Brook marsh and there may be other thoughts, but one result of his interest was a focus on the brook itself and the wide expanse of sky visible there. This might have contributed to what they are doing today. The trail committee asked the Native Americans (in this case probably the Narragansett historic preservation officer) about building a platform and were told to avoid using straight lines or corners. So (looking in the opposite directions from were the first picture above was taken) here is a view of the brook and the trail leading to the platform they are building:Here are the assembled trail committee, getting reading to start work:Here they make an oval:Here are a couple of friends, pwax on the left, FFC on the right - pretty well pleased with themselves.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

Templeton Site: 10,000 year old secrets revealed

LHAC Lecture Series presents "The Templeton Site: 10,000 year old secrets revealed"
Saturday, March 13th 3:00 pm

The Templeton Site, 6LF21, located in Washington Depot was excavated by IAIS (formerly the American Indian Archaeology Institute) more than 30 years ago. At the time it was the oldest dated human camp site in New England (10,190 years ago). This was an undisturbed, deeply buried, single occupation camp with evidence of woodworking, hunting, hide working, bone working, food preparation, and tool manufacturing. This one site destroyed the stereotype of Paleo-Indian camp placement, environment, lithic procurement strategies and selection, and long term site preservation. Presented by Dr. Roger Moeller, former Director of Research of IAIS and author of “6LF21: A Paleo-Indian Site in Western Connecticut (available for purchase in our gift shop).
Fee: $5 General Public; Litchfield Hills Archaeology Club members Free

Museum Building at the Institute for American Indian Studies
38 Curtis Road
Washington, CT 06793
Tel. (860) 868-0518

Roger lives up the road from me and also wrote: “Stone Walls, Stone Lines, and Supposed Indian Graves,” about a site in Granby CT quite a while ago before I met him. I wonder if photos exist of these...

I got to it from here:
which has lots of interesting things like:

Stone Heaps and On Going Traditions

Contemporary Archaeology in Theory: The New Pragmatism By Robert W. Preucel

Confronting colonialism: The Mahican and Schaghticoke peoples and us (Russell G. Handsman and Trudie Lamb Richmond).

Page 486
Image captured from Google Books

Historic contact; Indian people and colonists in today's northeastern United States in the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries

By Robert Steven Grumet
(Stockbridge is on the Housatonic as well)


Ongoing Tradition or Idle Folly?

Reader Rob writes:

I was exploring an old Indian trail last Fall in Waterboro Maine to see what I could find when I came across this structure. Judging from how the moss was absent on the tops of some of the rocks used in the structure, I believe that this was recently built. Your discussion on possible ongoing traditions brought this to mind. I myself think that perhaps a hunter or logger built this to fill in some idle time.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


To keep off the dull times lately, I've been looking at paintings that might include zigzag stone fences in the stage of being formed gradually and haphazardly as field clearing stones are "thrown up" against wooden rail fences, just like it says in all those stone wall books, from Eric Sloane in the middle of the last century to Professor Robert Thorson in the begining of the present century.
 Click these two to see more:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Check out the links

If you haven't done it lately, check the links to the right. They are doing a better job than me finding stuff to blog about, while we wait for the snow to go away.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Good News for the New Jersey Lenape

Just saw this posted somewhere: Legislation to have New Jersey officially recognize the Nanticoke Lenni Lenape Indians, Ramapough Lenape Indians and Powhatan Renape Indians as American Indian Tribes was approved Thursday by the Assembly.

It goes on to say that the bill "would allow the three tribes to establish eligibility for federal education, job training and housing benefits and protection for the sale of artwork, qualify for public and private grants, protect the ability to engage in traditional religious practices, preserve and protect burial sites and artifacts and ensuring that handicrafts made by tribal members may be sold as “Indian made.” Could be a very good thing. Maybe someday, Pennsylvania?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Just a thought

It may be that in order to understand rock piles one needs to understand the political situation of modern Native Americans.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Haydenville MA rock piles

Reader Chris writes:

I didn't find any great rock piles in 2010, though it wasn't because I wasn't out looking. I uploaded some new photos to my site today of some not-too-impressive rock piles I spotted in Haydenville, MA on some hills near old fields. I suspect that they may be field clearing piles though there were a couple of subtle features that left me wondering. The link for the pictures is What do you think?

Monday, February 14, 2011

The "Inclined Cairn" at Oley Hills

Norman Muller writes:
Attached is a photo of the Inclined
Cairn at the Oley Hills site, showing the four cobbles of quartz, three of which are nearly on a horizontal line.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

Burnt woods and buried walls

by theseventhgeneration
Here are some links to old writings. The first is "A tour of four great rivers...the journal of Richard Smith" by Francis W. Halsey. It contains two references to burning.
Page 64

page 72

The second is from "History of Pittsburgh and environs" by George Thornton Fleming
page 19

Incidentally, Thomas Ashe "Travels in America" looks like fine reading as well.

Next are two different writings about some strange, ancient stone walls. First is from "American architect and architecture, Volume 11"
page 48

Second is "A New and Popular Pictorial Description of the United States" by John A. Lee & Co.
page 583

Stone and Snow

Boulder in the distance above, the crop below, at the Hamburger Edge of Watertown CT, photo taken by the entrance to the Grocery Store as the sun was setting.

Snow-less views from the other side of the fence:

"The Prophecy of the Fourth Crow"

I'd never heard this story until yesterday when I found it, reading an old magazine in a doctor's office. As I looked for an image to add to my post, I found this one that looks to me to be a turtle with the wings of a crow...

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

One end of another formed stone pile at the Longswamp site

Here's a passage from the talk James Mavor gave at a NEARA meeting October 31, 1998, after Mark Strohmeyer's death. Found it interesting reading and thought some of you might, too.

"... I want to convey something of the way that Mark thought, worked and wrote about the New England stonework, by quoting one of his letters to me. Under the date of April 2, 1995, he wrote,

'And then in your booklet (Mavor, A Line of Stones to the Sun [which I also have a copy of, with Mark's notes]), you present the compelling statement - "If the stonework is conceived as native American, we have an opportunity to participate in a sacred landscape and to learn the respect for it that is universally traditional among native Americans." These are beautiful and strong words and it is an experience I have witnessed as I speak about the stonework. People who live in the communities where these stones make the landscape vibrate, innately sense the meaning of the stonework and are very moved by its presence. Hearing and learning about the stonework require that you reexamine the land and your environment in which you have lived all your life and come to see it in a different way and - in many cases for the first time - come to understand how you are eternally connected to aspects of it. In the towns of Carlisle, Actone, and Concord, Massachusetts, where I have spoken, people have been consistently overwhelmed by the experience of redefining their world - and thus themselves - through the way the native Americans understood the same land they live on.

'I have found that the critical breakthrough point for people is when they come to accept that these sites are not dead; they are not buried only to be recovered by a different people one thousand years later. When I speak about how the native people are still using these sites today for the same purposes they were originally placed, I often hear gasps coming from the audience. But I continue to reinforce there is noting to fear; that they should welcome this information - that this is for them, too, if they want to see it and participate in it. The power of the stonework's meaning begins to come clear when it is realized that its continued use and maintenance has transcended thousands of years - including fairly recent genocide, disease, war and poverty - surviving and thriving through a system of oral tradition. When the inevitable question comes up - how old are these rows and mounds?, I answer, "14 thousand years old - as well as one day old." Meaning that whenever the stones were placed, they came from an ancient concept of the natural world which is revived each day they are seen.' "

I enjoy his phrase, "in the communities where the stones make the landscape vibrate".

Monday, February 07, 2011

Another Museum Recognizes Stone Piles (and something fun to poke around on online)

Formed rock pile at the Longswamp site

Yesterday I visited the new Sigal Museum in Easton, Pennsylvania, at the suggestion of Fred Werkheiser. I was pleased to find an excellent full-room exhibit on the Lenape that included a photo of the above structure from what we've been calling the Oley Hills Site. On the sign about "sacred sites" they call it the Longswamp site, which locates it more accurately.

In the ten years since I was introduced to the rock piles and their mystique, things have certainly come a long way! There was even a CD, containing a power point presentation on the sites, for sale in the museum gift shop. I couldn't get it just then, but I hope to soon.

In connection with something else, I've been going through old papers from 2001, and I came across an email (That was back when I used to print out emails I wanted to keep. Wise, as it turns out.) I was copied in on, in which it is suggested that people interested in this topic should browse the reports of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian. In particular the 1890-1891 issue is said to be relevant.

These are now online, as perhaps some of you may know. For those who don't, it's something to peruse should we get another storm or something else that allows you time for fiddling. The email recommends pages 690 to 701, but I imagine there's more to be found. Anyway, here's a link to the introduction of that year. You can use the table of contents to move around. Just click on the page number. Enjoy!

P.S.: I couldn't access the link that Norman Muller gives in the comments, but he has excellent articles on the Oley Hills/Longswamp site here and here.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Yuriakh site in Russia.

Really early stone tools here. This includes Oldowan-style pebble choppers, core and blade technology, and some monofacial tools.

Soothing sites of summer

I strongly recommend heading over to Larry's blog and watching his virtual field trips. A nice antidote to being snowbound.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


I have been noticing a complete absence of tracks. Finally forced the birds to show themselves today by tossing out more and more birdseed. Anyway, nobody is going out in this stuff.

Hubbard's Hill Chamber

Rounding out the set of 3 chambers in Concord [that I know of], here is the one on Hubbard's Hill.
It took me about 10 years of looking for these chambers before I found/got access to them all. I heard there is another possible one built in a wall somewhere near the Emerson cellar hole in Estabrook woods.