Friday, September 30, 2011

Field Find- Broken quartz arrowhead

Early in the week I found a broken arrowhead made of blue Cambridge argillite. Although this was a common toolmaking material for New England Indians, it is not what I usually find. I found it in a sandy place with a lot of chipping debris, that I searched after work. This time of year, looking after work gives me only about an hour to look and that adds an element of time pressure to my hunting, I just look for the easy stuff in the most likely spots I can find. In this spot that means looking for quartz arrowheads, which is the bulk of what I have found there. The argillite point was found after the sun had gone down, as I was heading back to my car. After I got home it occurred to me that there may have been other argillite points in that place that I might have missed because I was concentrating on the quartz. I decided to go back to that place Wednesday after work and look specifically for argillite, in the place I already had searched. When I got there I found that I had ignored a huge number of argillite flakes and broken pieces that were densely concentrated in this area. I got very close to the ground, digging out every little piece that was visible, and studying it. After a few minutes I spotted a tiny section of the surface of a piece of broken quartz that I had not spotted before. This is what I pulled out of the ground:

This is typical of what I usually find in three ways: it is made of quartz, it is triangular shaped, and it is badly broken- in this case one whole corner is gone, about a third of the point. The tip of the point, which is usually dull or broken, is still very sharp on this unfortunately damaged piece. Some would call this a "heartbreaker" because of the missing part but for me any find is a good find and a "heartbreaker" is when I spend a whole day searching and find not even a single broken piece.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Acton MA Cairn Trail Clearing - FINAL UPDATE

Finally we have a plan for the Acton, MA "Trail Through Time" clearing.

Where: end of Wheeler Lane in Acton
When: 10AM, Sunday Oct 16.

Bring whatever might help clear brush - hands and/or equipment.

Rock Site Attributes - comparison between Georgia and New England with a focus on the Housatonic/Pootatuck River System

Tim MacSweeney adds comments about Georgia/New England Comparison:

Proximity to Petroglyphs:
I have only seen photographs of petroglyphs in what is now called New England. I was given a photograph taken along a stream in Oxford CT of face-like petroglyphs just above the above the water level of the unidentified water feature. They were reminiscent of those at Bellows Falls VT. I do not have a report of nearby rock piles at this site.

Located on Ridges: An exception to the rule in the area I am most familiar with is a large boulder with stones piled on one side of it, at what is called Beacon Gap, near the summit of a hill top that overlooks the Naugatuck River, a tributary of the Housatonic River. I have not personally visited this spot, but aerial images suggest more piles may exist. Photos of large boulders on hilltops are often accompanied by stories of these boulders (a single rock “rock pile?”) being destroyed or rolled from their original resting site. This particularly true of “rocking boulders” being moved or destroyed for “safety reasons.”

Most of the many stone mounds I know of are on hillsides.

Amphitheater or Bowl Shaped Sites: Quite close to my home in Woodbury CT, there is a place that meets this description in a smaller scale. Serpentine, linear and zigzag stone rows are associated with (connected to) this feature; the contour of the upper ridge of the bedrock is enhanced with stacked cobbles. That contour is connected to a zigzag stone row. The large ampitheater/bowl face of the outcrop is bisected by a linear stone row that to my eye contains testudinate or turtle shaped compositions in the stacked stones. Nearby, a serpentine row of stones once bounded the head and both sides of a spring and the small stream that was recently destroyed by the CT Department of Transportation. There are several stone mounds between the former spring and the top of the outcrop. The deceased former owner of the property had collected an incredible amount of projectile points from below the outcrop. He related to me that years ago someone offered to take and appraise the collection, but never returned with the “arrowheads.”

In Plymouth CT, I have only once visited a larger ampitheater-like site, with a spring issuing from the outcrop and with some connecting stone rows and a few nearby stone mounds. Many segments of stone rows still exist on the lower slopes of “Mount Toby” or “Mountobe,” as the area is known.

Serpentine Walls with Incorporated Boulders or Bedrock: There is an incredible amount of this kind of stone work, some of it better described as zigzag stone rows, in the floodplain valley where I live. Much of it is carefully constructed and atypical of the “tossed stones from field clearing along a wooden snake rail fence that has long ago rotted away.” Many “points” of the zigzag rows are boulders. Many linear stone rows (often connected to zigzag rows) end near water features, a large boulder at the terminous. In several places the boulders resemble a triangular snake head, although some are rectangular ( & ). I know of one stone row that is close to one hundred feet long which begins as two forks of zigzag stone rows which becomes a linear stone row that ends in a possibly “worked” boulder that appears to be a snake’s head. A gap leads to a linear stone row containing a small mortar like cobble on a carefully stacked circular segment of stone row as well as composite testudinate forms along its length. The row ends in a large rectangular boulder with a stone suggestive of a turtles carapace resting on it. Photos of this can be seen at:
The row could be said to point toward the site of a Burial Grounds (bounded by a serpentine stone row) that will be included in the Ethnography Section. Many water features are bounded by zigzag stone rows throughout the region still called by its Native American Place name, Nonnewaug or “the fresh water fishing place.” A diagonal row of boulders in the river of the same name is quite possibly a fishweir that is slowly being washed away by river action. On the hill above the Burial Grounds, along a stream bounded by zigzag rows, is a place where petroform Bear and Deer heads rest on large boulders, probable tobacco sacrifice stones. The Bear’s Head will rock when pushed and a nearby stone bears pit marks probably made by a drill-type fire starter.

I have seen many segments of this zigzag (and other) stone work carelessly destroyed as well as altered by rebuilding. I believe it to be remnants of Native American Cultural Landscapes. Aerial photography from 1934, available on-line from the CT State Library, shows many more segments of it existed at that time (

Ethnography: The most striking similarity when it comes to rock pile – stone mounds, stone heaps- is the donation pile stories. The statement found in Excavating and Dating a Stone Pile in Georgia ( ) that “every Indian traveler as he passes that way throws a stone on the place” is identical to many enthnographic observations of New England stone piles. Here in Woodbury the same is said of Pomperaug’s grave, and the man known as Sachem Nonnewaug’s grave, as well as a Sachem known as Mauquash in nearby present day Southbury. Woodcut illustrations in William Cothren’s History of Ancient Woodbury ( ) were the impetus for me to look more closely at what I’d always assumed to be “just dumped piles of rocks.”

“Pomperaug on his death-bed, for some cause, chose to be buried by a small rock near the carriagehouse of Hon. N. B. Smith. There was another village of the tribe in Nonnewaug, and a trail led from that village to Pootatuck village, by this grave, nearly on the line of the present street, as has been before stated. This trail had existed some twenty-five years before the settlement of Woodbury. In accordance with an Indian custom, each member of the tribe, as he passed that way, dropped a small stone upon the grave, in token of his respect for the fame of the departed. At the first settlement of the town, a large heap of stones had accumulated in this way, and a large quantity remain to this day…Mauquash was the last sachem, and died about 1758. He was buried under an apple-tree in the "old chimney lot," so called, now belonging to Amos Mitchell, a short distance east of the old "Eleazer Mitchell house." There was still quite a mound remaining over him a few years since. Nearly or quite all these had been sagamores, and several others held this station who did not arrive at the supreme dignity. Some of them became so attached to the villages they governed while sagamores, that they gave orders to be buried there. Such was the case with Nonnewaug, who was buried under an apple-tree near Nonnewaug Falls. A large hillock or mound was raised over him, and remained, distinguishing his by its size from the other graves around him, till within two or three years, when the present owner of the field committed the sacrilege of plowing it down, much to the regret of every antiquarian (Cothren, pages 88-89).”

Tim MacSweeney /

Rock Site Attributes - comparison between Georgia and New England

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]

Landform Constrictions
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.]

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Looking for volunteers. Acton Cairn Trail Clearing - update

Please read the following if you are interested in getting out and seeing some rock piles and helping create New England's first rock pile interpretive trail. Contact this blog and I will forward you the necessary contact information (or just bring you along on the day). The plan takes shape but the date is still un-settled.

Linda Mc Elroy writes:
[Peter Waksman of Concord] has agreed to supervise the clearing of the first site thought to be of Indian provenance that will be incorporated into the Trail Through Time.
I'd like to get a workday set up for the weekend of Oct 15, 16--most likely just a one-day effort. I have to lead an Archaeology Month (Oct.) walk on Saturday morning, but either day I think will work for Peter and Josh, who together will lead the effort. If you are interested in helping, please let me know which day you prefer.
The area to be cleared and brushed out is located on the further (closest to Spring Hill) side of Nashoba Brook, < 1/4 mi from the Wheeler Lane footbridge, on the main, yellow trail. The piles are clustered on both sides of the trail and into the woods on either side. There may be as many as twenty piles in that area. Just beyond the piles and slightly uphill is a very interesting stone foundation in good condition and of early design. So far the only theory for its presence where it is, is that it may have been the pesthouse long been rumored to have been in that general area.
Work to be done includes removal with chain saw of one huge dead tree lying in the middle of the site, cutting of low brush and picking up small deadfall. Debris around the stones themselves should be removed to the degree possible without disturbing the stones.
Once cleared, the site will have a short side trail cut through it. and it will eventually have an educational panel, similar in size and design to the one at the Chamber, erected.
Josh Haines is bringing his chain saw. We could probably make use of one other, if you have one. Otherwise, loppers and clippers, gloves and rakes, probably both garden and leaf would be good. TTT has some of these tools and I will supply what I have when we meet at the Wheeler Lane parking lot. I do not have a leaf rake. We will have to drag debris to suitable areas near the site and pile it up in natural depressions. Could use tarps for that(?)

Stylized Drawing of Fishweir (A Nutty Idea)

"In Folk Medicine of the Delaware and Related Algonkian Indians by Gladys Tantaquidgeon, Gladys lists on page 30: CHESTNUT (Aesculus glabra), “big acorn tree”: …Nuts are ground up for use as a fish poison in streams. This is known as “fish peyote” as it makes the fish "dizzy" and they can be caught easily.”

And I say, "What could be less labor intensive than having some stunned "dizzy" fish flow downstream into your waiting basket at a gap in any sort of fishweir and the Nonnewaug fishweir in particular?"
Click here for the whole Nutty Idea:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Field Finds - Southeast MA arrowheads

Chris Pittman writes:
I spent hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday searching for artifacts in six different places, but at the end of the weekend, despite all the time trekking through muck and being feasted on by mosquitoes, I had nothing to show for it. I decided to head out today after work and give it one more hour. On the way back to the car, after the sun had gone down, I found this little point, missing the tip. This is a different shape from what I am used to, and it is a neat material. The original rind of the stone is still partially visible which makes the flaking stand out. I think it is slate, it could be argillite. I really almost missed this, I will always pick up broken slate but if this had not been lying fully exposed I do not think I would have noticed it. As it was, it took a second after I picked it up before I realized what it was, even though it looks obvious now. I think maybe I will go back there and give a second look to some of the broken slate scattered around. This has a little piece sticking out at the break, I could almost convince myself this was fashioned into a graver but really I think it just broke this way. I considered that it might be a Stark point but I am not sure, similar points around here are sometimes described as Neville. It is the thinnest stemmed point I have ever found, and despite the damage, I am still really pleased with it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Annursnac Hill - Concord, MA

A number of rock piles along the trails on the north side of the hill. I first saw the site years ago but discovered it extends out from the hill into the wetland farther than I realized. Piles in there are pretty smeared out and the further I went into the wetland, the more fern-covered. It is hardly worth showing the photos since it is impossible to make out the rock pile but, trust me, there is one here and it is at least 8 feet across.
See what I mean?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Laurel Swimming - Leominster State Forest

Not sure what kind of rock piles I want to explore, I thought instead I would make sure I got a good walk and exercise by going off trail in Leominster State Forest. There are places over near the top of this map that I always wanted to get to. At the same time, going through mountain laurel is a hard thing to do, so I wasn't sure how far I could get. But my muscle tone has finally recovered from a slow winter and I thought it would be fun. It has been raining so the bushes are wet, the ground soaked.

Starting in from the eastern end of Parmenter Rd (a dirt forest road) I encounter a guy in cammo with a rifle. I said I did not know that it was already hunting season. He said "black bear". We chatted, he mentioned some footprints I could go look at, if I wanted to see a bear tracks (which I would love to see). I said, gee should I be wearing orange? (I am wearing the usual white button down collar oxford cloth shirt.). He said I don't look like a bear. Continuing, I left the main road onto a side road heading in the right general direction. In this forest, you should always take an existing trail if there is one. I saw one old split-wedged rock, so covered in moss you could not see the split.
And I was encouraged to see a short stretch of wall ending at a boulder. There are several like this on these slopes. But higher up, not down near the swamp. Then the trail I was following headed off uphill in the wrong direction, so I dove into the laurels.

I am not going to keep saying it but pushing through laurel is hard work. It is a full body workout and sometimes you rest your arms as opposed to resting your legs. Over the course of the walk I refined a technique of locating the edges of the bush and sweeping it sideways to clear a bit of space to walk through. Any twig thicker than 1/2 inch resists bending and you have to step over or around. At the same time as you make these sweeping motions with your arms you have to high-step to get over either the lower laurel branches or the many downed trees underfoot. I was trying to decide what to call this activity and decided I should call it
laurel swimming. [Don't they have "laurel choked hollers" down in the Carolinas? Anybody actively trying to explore in there?]

Anyway, I finally broke free of the stuff. When I got to the bottom of the valley it was a dark hemlock forest with no undergrowth and boulders underfoot. Comparatively easy going, I continued northward until I could hear the 1st brook. Looking for rock piles down and around, I crossed the brook, and saw a few meager traces of man made structures. Photos are blurred cuz of lack of light.

Leominster State Forest is a good place to go if you want to photo "gloomy":
I wonder if anyone alive has ever been in this spot?

I continued northward taking advantage of the easy footing without underbrush. Already before I left the original trail my feet were starting to get wet. When I dove into the laurels my shirt soon got soaked and then my pants and then my feet became pretty wet. But it was nice warm 74 F out and I did not mind.

Each brook crossing is a challenge. You want to get across without getting any wetter. I am working on a grading system, like grading Olympic diving, involving a combination of points for difficulty and points for excellence of execution. But with stream crossing, there is also an element of choosing an elegant solution. In one case "elegant" may involve using a stick as a cane for balance. In another case, recognizing that your feet cannot get any wetter, using a submerged rock might be an elegant solution. The main goal is to avoid getting zero points by going ass first into the middle of the brook.

Finally as I am heading north, I was pinched between the swamp and the laurels and being unwilling to start wading through actual water I cut back into the laurels. There was a lightening in the growth ahead and I pushed through to a huge split boulder. Walking through the split is always recommended and I could see from the deer droppings that this was a place they liked to hang out. And I climbed up on another boulder to have a look around and try to pick a direction with less dense laurel. Then I hear a branch snap, about twenty yards away through the bushes. My assumption is that the only thing clumsy enough to snap a branch is a human and, with bear hunters out and not wanting to trust that I still do not look like a bear, I say "Hello" in a loud voice. Then I hear some thrashing through the bushes. So I hold still a while. Is it hunter? Is it a bear? I cannot keep waiting, so I push out to the clearer space - from where the branch snapped - and there are huge hoofprints in the sphagnum moss and a rubbering horsey smell. Aah! I think: moose. I was in his nest. He had beaten a trail through the undergrowth like a bulldozer and it more or less was heading in the correct direction so I followed it. The only trouble with a moose trail is that they do not care what they are walking in and I did not want to wade through standing water. So this is still very rough going.
At one point a branch crossed the moose trail and I was sure the moose would have rubbed against the branch. Bending down to give it a sniff, I got a nose full of that rank rubbery horsey smell.

I was pretty tired and figured it was time to start thinking about extracting myself from the woods. I could hear the 2nd brook and I pushed through to it. It is usually a little easier going along a brook so at this point I headed uphill following the brook. Unfortunately this brought me into the middle of a swamp and I set off in search of higher ground. So now it is sphagnum moss underfoot, hopping between tussocks, and fighting the laurel at every step. And there are moose footprints and droppings everywhere.

After a while, I could hear the 1st brook again and I managed to get out of the swamp and back into slightly clearer rocky woodlands. There were some big white birch trees and I kept an eye out for "Chaga" mushrooms. I have a friend whose cancer is not responding to modern treatments and Chaga has some interesting medicinal properties (
see here) that might be worth a try. But I did not see any.

It has been raining heavily. The brooks were full to the brim and rushing at top speed. All the ground was soggy. My clothes were already as wet as they could be. I was thinking of a joke: my feet were so wet they actually would get drier if I stepped in the brook. I am a little tired and sweaty and hot and the brook looked so clear and inviting. I thought about taking my clothes off and taking a dip in the 74 F water. But I have a slight superstition about taking your clothes off in the woods....or some excuse, and I did not do it. I just pushed on uphill and popped out onto the northern end of Fenton Rd, which I recognized. Familiar territory, easy going.

So I am slogging back along Fenton Rd, which I know is about 1/2 mile of dull walking with walls of laurel foliage to either side. So when I saw a side road heading back towards what I figured was the right direction, I took the side road. And it is zigzagging uphill, downhill, back uphill and not really going in the direction I want, so I figured to take a short cut down to the brook, hope to find clearer walking and almost immediately I am saying to myself: You are 2 kinds of fool. First kind for leaving the familiar Fenton Rd and 2nd kind for leaving the trail and getting back into the darned laurels. For fun I tried to see how fast I could "swim" without breaking a leg. And I had to sit down under a bush and rest. I tried to photo my state of dishevelledness:
I pulled myself back onto my feet and pushed on. I was really pleased with my body getting tired overall rather than one part getting too tired to use. I still had plenty of energy and it was still a nice comfortable temperature. I am two kinds of fool but then, how else would I get to see something like this, two garter snakes mating in mid air:
I finally got back out to a dirt road and, what do ya know, it was still Fenton Rd. What the heck? I finally had to pull out a compass to make sure I was walking in the correct direction. But I got out of there and back to my car.

When I got home and was talking about my walk at dinner, I realized that I never did get to the destination I had hoped for - a peninsula that sticks out into the western side of Notown Reservoir over there. I am thinking - you really cannot get there. At least I am not man enough to do it and I sure am not going to camp and make it a 2 day expedition.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Track Rock Gap Petroglyph Site

The Forest Service is charged with protecting and managing significant archaeological and historic sites. In order to better protect Track Rock, the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests conducted an assessment of the site that documented its condition and made management recommendations. This research at Track Rock Gap was carried out by Johannes (Jannie) Loubser, an archaeologist who specializes in rock art research. Loubser made tracings of the figures using plastic that covered the boulders. Careful tracing of motifs that occur on stable rock surfaces is advantageous over photographs for a variety of reasons. Pens were used to trace the outlines of any natural edges, and the pecked, scraped, and incised figures. The field tracings were then scanned and converted to digital format. Nighttime photography was also conducted to provide additional contrast. Halogen lamps were used to side-light the boulders at Track Rock. These photographs illustrate the dramatic day-time and night-time differences in petroglyph visibility on Boulder 5 at Track Rock.!ut/p/c5/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3gjAwhwtDDw9_AI8zPyhQoYAOUjMeXDfODy-HWHg-zDrx8kb4ADOBro-3nk56bqF-RGGGSZOCoCAPi8eX8!/dl3/d3/L2dJQSEvUUt3QS9ZQnZ3LzZfME80MEkxVkFCOTBFMktTNVVJNDAwMDAwMDA!/?navtype=BROWSEBYSUBJECT&cid=stelprdb5221888&navid=091000000000000&pnavid=null&ss=110803&position=Not%20Yet%20Determined.Html&ttype=detailfull&pname=Chattahoochee-Oconee%20National%20Forest-%20Home

Friday, September 23, 2011

"A Huge Rock Pile (google image search)"

And I got this:

(and I mis-took another image as identical in those images: and guess whose photo it was...

Could this be the Huge Rock Pile in Kodiak?

Above: A Buffalo Boulder: with Rocks piled around it(?), but not The Montana "Sleeping Buffalo Boulder:" '...a small monument on the side of the road leading to the springs - the Sleeping Buffalo Boulder. The boulder apparently looks like a sleeping buffalo - to someone. The story of the boulder is that when white men came to the area and massacred the buffalo for fur (buffalo were the primary means for plains Indians to meet their needs), Indians would go to this boulder and leave offerings to appease the spirits. When we went to look at the monument there was a ton of cigarettes and tobacco all over the boulder. I thought it was a shame that someone trashed it until Meg explained that tobacco is considered a valuable possession (due to the strong belief that smoke carries messages and prayers up to the spirits) and to leave tobacco at the monument is a show of respect. As we were preparing to leave two Indians showed up, prayed and left offerings.'

More about that:
The buffalo and another:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kodiak Stone Tools

[Not rock pile related but who can resist a nice stone tool photo?] [click here]

Looking for the Wachusett Tradition at Peppecorn Hill - Upton MA

I first visited this hill with Bruce McAleer who had visited it before. A central gully divides the hill into an eastern and western piece, and we explored the lower flat area on the southern side of the eastern piece of the hill. This is an area of dense concentration of rock piles, as dense or denser than anywhere else I have been. You can see the piles from the parking lot turnout on Crockett Rd between the hill and the lake. I read online that the lake was called the lake beneath the "Great Hill" by the Nipmuc people of the area. So the hill must have been a bit special to them and perhaps the large number of rock piles reflects that. We only explored a small portion of that lower flatter area to the south of the hill and I would be surprised if there were not hundreds of other piles further south and along those brooks.

My exploration strategy has changed in the last year or so. I used to look where hills met water. If you go back an read how I was thinking about things (see here) the low flat areas did not even get a mention. But starting with Woodbridge Rd in Carlisle (see here) and thereafter, I started looking at where low flat areas (rather than hills) meet water because that is where one version of the Wachusett Tradition shows up - the version with rectangular chambered mounds and sometimes tails. What this change in strategy really means is: hunting more persistently along the edges of water - especially headwaters of brooks; and not spending as much time exploring hilltops. So...

I parked off Crockett Rd and headed up the southeast side of the hill. I wanted to check around the summit and then spend time circling the gully that divides the hill in two. The large number of rock piles on the lower southern slopes quickly died out, and the steep rocky hill side above was pretty barren of man made features. At the top of the eastern summit, I did a little zigzag to check the southwestern facing upper slopes, then proceeded down the northwestern side of the eastern slope, getting down to the top part of the central gully. There I headed south following a trail along the eastern side of the gully. There was one rock pile there at the top of the gully:
After that I saw nothing on the eastern side of the gully till I got to bottom, where there is a dam crossed by the path. I crossed to the western side there and started exploring along the sides of the brook that drains from the gully. I wanted to stay back a little from the water, thinking that is best for hunting Wachusett Tradition mounds, and soon saw this looming through the woods:
Another view:[I have looked at several pictures of this mound (and the video) and come away with the impression that there is a lower wider structure built on the grade and a higher more vertical structure built on top of it. the pile is basically rectangular with a very deep central hollow. ]. A last look:
As usual with large rectangular "Wachusett" mounds, there are always smaller outlying rock piles. I can never decide if these are part of the original site architecture, or might have been added later. But I focused on whether there were other large mounds in there. I found 3 or 4 candidates. Like this:
and this:
None of these was as well preserved as the first one but it is clear this is a mound complex not too different from sites in Groton (Blood Rd) and Fitchburg (Falulah Brook).

These mounds were on the western side of the brook on slopes a few yards above the water. We are now on the low flatter slopes south of the western piece of Peppercorn Hill. Above the mounds there was a flat plateau and a road through the woods. There were several piles on the plateau, perhaps marker piles. This one was caught my eye because it is so circular:
It looks out over the valley of the brook. There were also five or so piles up there and several rocks and rock-on-rocks:These are all enjoying a view to the east with that piece of Peppercorn Hill as the horizon.

I went south a bit. Here is an interesting example of a split-wedged rock, larger than usual:
Closeup of the wedge:(Ironically, these "split-wedged rocks" are compelling examples of a completely impractical activity - hardy Yankee farmers are in no way implicated.).

After poking around some more, I headed back north following the edge of the brook. (This brook becomes Mill River which become the Charles River. So we are talking about the very highest headwaters of the Charles River. This erases any theories about these rectangular mounds being a northern Mass phenomenon. Here they are south of the Mass Pike.) I crossed back over the dam to the eastern side of the gully and then headed south back towards my car.

There were also several examples of smaller rectangular mounds. Not sure whether to count these as mounds "with hollows" or as outliers.andLook at how this pile is beautifully placed at one of the springs that gives rise to the Charles River.
After that I went back to my car. Bruce may recall the armchair we found last time (click here). I passed it and today, little more than 5 years later, it is just rusting springs and no chair. At the time we interpreted this chair as an example of the continued sacredness of the spot and its continued use by modern Indians. Given how quickly the chair fell apart, it must have been quite fresh when we first saw it. I believe there were Nipmuc using this site in the last 20 years.

I could not resist photo'ing some the piles on the way out:I found more sites further south and west one time (see here) and you can see by looking at the map that there are plenty of other areas to explore around Peppercorn Hill. I want to get to that wetland at the very top of the map fragment (left of center at top) and low flat areas south of the eastern piece of the hill are quite extensive and, I am sure, full of rock piles.

Heaps of Stones

The Eagle Wing Press of Naugatuck CT published a book entitled "Rooted Like The Ash Trees; New England Indians and the Land" in 1987, edited by Richard G. Carlson. On page 20, is the illustration below, "A replication of a 1793 site-map and surveyors report ordered by the Connecticut War Department to determine the boundaries of the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation. The reservation had already been pared down to under a thousand acres at the time the survey was undertaken."
The text above accompanies the drawing, and below are some details of the map...

There is no credit given for the drawing that accompanies Kevin McBride's contribution called "The Mashantucket Pequot Ethnohistory Project," so one might assume it's his drawing, sort of like assuming a stick is a stake in a stone fishweir but not so embarrassing when it turns out to be a stick... 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How to describe a rock pile site?

I guess one answer is: with surveying and years of careful documented scientific study. But that is hardly consistent with a quick "in and out" style of finding sites and blogging about them. I try to bring the reader to the site in some way. But it is unclear if I should try for an organized description of the place or to make the account anecdotal and chronological. I go back and forth. I think I will tell you about Peppercorn Hill anecdotally.

Concord Oral History Project Interview

 SHIRLEY BLANKE; “Concord Archeology”

“…but mostly I think what people are doing at this point, and I applaud it, is to look at features in the woods. Nobody really knows what they are, and there are things like stone piles..."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Acton Cairn Trail Clearing - update

Now the date is Oct 15, 16.

Details to follow but, leave comments or email if you want to be reminded.

Possible Wooden Stake at Nonnewaug Fishweir

The question is: "Is it a 'stick' or a 'stake?'
Click on the link for "Nonnewaug Fishweir Photos; A Stake at a Fishweir at Stake."

More Field Finds - Southeast MA arrowheads

Chris Pittman writes:
I was able to spend some time in a couple of different places this weekend and I found a couple of things. The long narrow point is missing just the tip. It is rhyolite and I believe is what is called a Squibnocket Stemmed point.