Saturday, June 30, 2012

Light Blogging for a while

I am taking a vacation from work and maybe from blogging.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Mysterious Structures Found in Syrian Desert

[click here] We find similar things here except it is never newsworthy.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A short walk in Groton MA

Groton remains in the category of "always disappoints" towns but I did see something interesting as I was walking in their conservation land. I saw a slight pit in the earth next to a stone wall.There was one rock in the pit that did not look like it fell off the wall. I did not think too much of this until I turned to walk away, took a couple steps and saw another pit with a rock (left foreground):I have read in detective stories that when you dig a hole and refill it, it compactifies over time, to leave a depression in the soil. These pits are very good candidates for actual burials.

I continued my walk and was reminded that Groton was a place of recent quarrying. This may explain why it is hard to find ceremonial structures there. Here is some debris:
And at the foot of the slope, a cleat of some sort:And then I got lucky and saw those orchises:So, OK I am not disappointed with Groton's flowers.

Serpent Thoughts by Brad Lepper

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lots of time staring at the ground

     Friday evening there were heavy rains as summer thunderstorms passed through the area. When dawn came on Saturday there were no clouds in the sky and there was no doubt it was going to be a hot day but I got out in the morning anyway and spent some hours in the glaring sun, searching in a place where I knew the storm would have exposed something new. In many of the places where I look for arrowheads I see footprints of others who have been out there doing the same thing. It is impossible to find absolutely everything and the ground surface is always changing, things are always being exposed and obscured so I will look even in the footprints of others, but after a good storm I always try to be the first person in a likely spot, so I have the best chances of finding something.
     After a few minutes I saw this sticking out of the sand.
     Moments like these are the most exciting times when searching for arrowheads. This is definitely an artifact, probably the base of a stemmed arrowhead. The real thrill is in wondering what you will find when you pull this out of the dirt. It could be a whole arrowhead, it could be a drill, it could be 6 inches long and the find of a lifetime, or it could be just a broken fragment with hardly anything more than what you can see exposed. It could even be just a flake that happens to look just like a stemmed arrowhead base. As I bent down and picked it up I hoped and hoped that it would be a whole arrowhead, and this time I was lucky and it was. Here it is along with some other items I found on Sunday evening in the same place.

     This whole arrowhead in the middle is made of slate. I would call it "Neville-like." The stemmed base on the left is something really unusual, the stem is very square but it has broad and asymmetrical shoulders, this would have been a very unique-looking point. The material is hornfels. The arrowhead on the right is a Stark point made of red felsite, unfortunately it is broken and the tip is missing. I really like this one, it has nice flaking and it was fun to find late in the evening. In the cool air when the sun is going down and animals are active and the earth is covered with long shadows it seems somehow easier to imagine how things might have looked long ago when the Indians still lived on this spot, it is almost like time travel to find something like this in such a setting, and it seems for a moment like this tool was discarded just recently. The people who made these Stark points lived here for centuries but they have been gone for five thousand years.
     Here's another picture from Saturday morning. It was so hot out there in the sun I was afraid I was going to get heat stroke.
     This is a triangular quartz arrowhead. It looks like it might have been resharpened in ancient times. It's the one second from the right in this picture, these are the quartz arrowheads I have found in the last few days.
     The point on the left is interesting, it is very small and is what some collectors would call a "bird point." I am hesitant to assign this to any particular projectile point type because it is so small. Next to it is a Squibnocket Triangle, you can see that it gets narrow towards the tip and I suspect this example was used as a drill. In the middle is the base of a stemmed arrowhead, the tip is missing. This was the only thing I found worth showing in hours of searching last night. The stem has heavy grinding, I don't have any others like this. The point at far right was found early Sunday morning on the Rhode Island coast, the tip is missing. Some people speculate that narrow points like this may haver been used to spear fish.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Our rock pile sites have no European counter parts

I am writing a paper about rock piles and want to quote one of its central ideas. After explaining that site characteristics are commonly seen over and over again, I point out that these characteristics are never seen in Europe. So if a skeptic claims our rock pile sites are from field clearing or another traditional European farming practice, the counter argument is that there is no such thing in Europe and that such claims reflect ignorance not wisdom. But this counter argument can only be made after we recognize the unique characteristics of our rock pile sites. It is unfortunate, then, that European archaeo-astronomy is such a pillar of methodology as it tends to suppress the uniqueness of American sites in favor of attributes that are familiar from Europe. I write:

That these types of sites are common across the landscape implies a cultural preference for these specifics. Anglo-European culture has no such cultural preference. No sites with these characteristics can be found in Europe; and so the sites in Massachusetts must be the legacy of another culture or cultures, purely American, that occupied this landscape.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Pile on Piles

Norman Muller writes:
The recent discussion of piles on piles made me think of a double stone pile in TN, with a newer pile constructed on top of an older one. I equate this with the appearance of Manitou or marker stones at one end of a large stone mound, or similar stones placed against a stone row, such as the one I photographed in Milford, PA. At this last site, I photographed two different Manitou stones leaning against the row. The triangular stone found on the cairn in the photo by Kathy could be interpreted as an act of veneration of a much older manmade feature, as I believe are the examples in the two illustrations.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Row piles and piles with trailing rocks

I should go back and read theseventhgeneration more often. Eg here. The 4th and 5th pictures show something of particular interest on the topic of the complex mound structure. Is this all one construction or was a new pile added on top?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Stone mound out of reach

...Peter wants a better look but......won't cross an electric fence. [This is an example of what I call "hill-side" mound style; as opposed to water-side" as discussed here]

New rock piles in the ferns

Seen in northern Fitchburg. I am afraid my camera is acting up and I did not get decent pictures of a whole WT site.

Got ticks?

In fact I don't. There have been a couple of walks where I picked up a bunch of deer ticks but usually I get at most one or two large, easy to spot, wood ticks. And often no ticks at all. Has anybody seen any mosquitoes? We had them for a few days; not lately.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Personalized Rock Piles with tails

Just the previous weekend, I saw one of these small piles with a larger rock next to it, over near Stuart Pond in Sterling (see here):There was something quite similar over by Scott Reservoir in Fitchburg, in a similar topographic setting - looking southeast over a body of water.

Can we look at some of these pictures (you'll need to click on some of the photos)? I want to say that these seem to have some structure of larger cobbles arranged in relation to each other and in relation to smaller cobbles. Here is a closeup of the first pile I glimpsed through the bushes:
Here the big cobbles form the beginning of an outline. Clearly a rock pile with a hollow but with some additional structure to the side. What about this one? A rock pile connected to larger cobbles in some kind of arrangement:
Not a great example of anything but let's keep going. Here we see something like a rectangular outline with larger rocks in the middle:Here is another small pile with a hollow and some larger rocks to the side:
Here is a nice example. Almost like a little bit of stone wall with a smeared rock pile next to it:
Here is another one, not very clear. But look at the shape of the larger cobbles sitting on top of the shape of the smaller ones.Here is another smaller outline connected to structure.
Do you agree the structure is observable? This site is somewhere roughly where the lower blue outline is on this map fragment.
They also built massive walls around here:This rock pile site also had a few piles built on larger support boulders. Here, I guess the structure is more representational than functional. I should explain that rock piles with hollows are quite grave-like. Unlike sites with large mounds where graves would imply higher status individual burials. At this site the interpretation is of a more egalitarian collection of burials. Also, the sites with large mounds have small satellites piles and here there were none. But there were effigies on boulders.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Broken streak continues unbroken

I spent some hours right after work yesterday finishing searching a place I had been exploring over the weekend. Mostly I was walking in my own footprints but there were some areas I had missed and I like to be thorough, if I do not look in a very systematic way I know I will miss areas where there might be stuff to be found. I found two broken quartz projectile point fragments and also this broken Neville that made me happy. It has the slightly bifurcated stem that is typical for Neville, I do not have any others like this. It's very old. The material is argillite. I have now found 17 broken arrowheads in a row. That's a little frustrating... I spent an hour and a half this morning before work searching in a different place. I didn't find anything at all. Better to find broken stuff than to leave empty-handed.

A first glimpse

I was poking along about where I wanted to, based on the plan I made looking at the map, and saw this:
Is that a rock pile? Are there any others? Yup there's another one over there.This is the moment that I am addicted to. Why don't more people have this hobby?

Chinese Anchor in Ottowa?

[Not rock pile related] Reader Bruce writes:
This is a shot taken a few seasons ago at the waterfront of the Ottawa River. In the west end of Ottawa near Brittannia.
The stone with the hole resembles the Chinese anchor stones found on the west coast - some ancient and some not.

What would be your assessment of this stone, which I spotted after the Spring swell had subsided?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Something not ceremonial

You can imagine how anxious I am to find good stuff. But I just could not convince myself of this one.
There is a nearby ditch to explain a dumped pile. Also it is not flat topped, has no hollow, is not rectangular, and had no satellite piles. Although made of cobbles, the overgrowth suggests a lot of soil in the pile.

A very large corner pile

Interesting structure, wonder how it got filled that way?
Maybe it didn't.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Broken things

When I am out looking for arrowheads I am thrilled by any find but of course the greatest satisfaction comes from finding unbroken tools that have remained intact through all the centuries. Most of what I find is badly broken and a lot of it is just fragments of smashed artifacts. I went out last weekend despite the blazing hot sun and spotted this:
It's broken, but, it's big. At one time objects like this were called spearpoints but now they are generally regarded as knives. The material is purple felsite.
Last week I spent many hours carefully searching. The only thing I found was a tiny fragment of a broken quartz triangular arrowhead. I probably went 8 hours without finding anything at all, that is not unusual. Here is that fragment looking really miniscule next to the big broken felsite blade.
 Yesterday I wanted to dedicate a big chunk of time to searching, I went and spent more than seven hours in two of my favorite spots despite the sun and the unfavorably dry conditions. When arrowheads are wet they look shiny and are easier to spot than when they are dry, many places I search are dusty and the dust will quickly cover everything and make finding anything difficult. But despite this I found a lot of rocks exposed yesterday and I found 12 arrowheads, all of them broken, most are quartz and crudely made. To find so many fragments but not a single intact tool is a little frustrating, I will admit.
This broken quartz Squibnocket Triangle was easy to spot, it is a shame it is broken as it is finely made and very small and delicate.
This broken blade is the largest fragment I found. I'm not sure what the material is.
The most tantalizing thing I found is not an arrowhead at all. It is ground and polished slate (I think) and was once part of a pipe or perhaps an atl-atl weight. Here is part of what was once the outside of the thing, the smooth outer surface is curved and very smooth. You can see the corner of it and part of another face, flat, that still shows ancient tool marks.
Here is the inside, showing part of the bore of a long hole laboriously drilled through the stone. I wonder if the striations in the bore could be from use as an atl-atl weight, I'm not sure. And the piece is so broken it may be impossible to know what this was a part of. I find it very interesting. I will keep looking, maybe there are other pieces to find, in this place.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Overlooking Scott Reservoir


Crossing a field

After it's been mown, I feel exposed:Or before, chest deep in the Timothy:We used to play hide and seek in the Timothy. I feel safer crossing here.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Oldowan Technology at Popular

You wanna see "old" stone tools? Here is some very primitive stuff:

Stonewalling (and All) on Turtle Island

Stuart Pond - Sterling, MA

Let me call your attention to the smaller blue outline on the northwest side of the pond. This is a small early Wachusett Tradition stone mound site and, as far as "science" goes, its presence tells us no more than that this culture was here in Sterling, a bit further south than usual. So it is one small data point. But it was fun locating the site. I have found very few sites since the Upton tragedy and was soothed in a personal way.

I have come to hate logging and the way it is practiced in New England. In my opinion, logging is the most destructive force in the MA woods and once those slobs have hacked into a woodland you can neither walk there comfortably nor expect to find anything intact of a historical nature. I dare say it is not fit for beast either, providing no safe walking for anything bigger than a turkey. Logging here, west of Stuart Pond, made the going very difficult. I was planning on looking at the side of the pond and then heading west and uphill but, instead, ended up skirting the swamps because they were the least logged, and got down in the little valley over there. I ended up not covering much territory. At first I parked and headed in at a "Wachusett Greenways" Trail head. The going was too tough and I ended up walking south on the west side of the pond, following a skidder path. Soon the lake came into view through the trees to my left.
I am seeing this lovely little knoll looking out over the water to the southeast:And I think: this would be a perfect spot for a burial mound (low down with a view over water). Maybe I should take a closer look. So I take a couple steps off the skidder path, look around and, see this to the left:
A "hah!" was forced out of me. So pleasant to see a rock pile where it should be. Not exactly expected and very satisfying. I drove across country to get to pretty much this exact spot.

Let me explain that rectangular mounds with hollows, which I consider to be decrepit burials, come in roughly two styles. One style is built higher on the hillsides and the mounds are five to 10 feet tall. Another style is built next to the water and the mounds are never more than a few inches tall. This has always suggested to me that the water-side versions are older. The design of a mound "with a tail" is more typically present with the water-side version. So since those seem older than the hillside ones I have been calling water-side mounds "early Wachusett Tradition" calling the hillside ones "late Wachusett Tradition". But I have not shown you any mounds with hollows yet so we'll take a look in a moment. Another characteristic of both early and later mound sites is that the large mound or mounds are routinely surrounded by small satellite rock piles. I don't know - I figure they are part of the "machine" for getting the soul up into the heavens.

The site layout was something like this:
So, I stepped off the path, glanced around and spotted a pile down in a dip. Looking around more carefully I could make out a larger pile with some uneven outline but covered with debris. As I poked around there were several smaller piles in the bushes. So not a great site example but fitting the rough description of an early Wachusett site. Let's take a closer look. Notice the rectangular structure of this first pile. Notice the way the individual rocks are lined up following one of the sides of the rectangle.Also notice the way this little flat pile is at the bottom of what looks like an artificially dug hole or pit. It looks a bit as though someone borrowed soil here. But for what? The adjacent road? Or maybe the knoll is itself artificial. An earthen mound?

Here is a view back towards the knoll with the pond to the left:Underneath the fern, behind it to the right, and also a bit to its left, there is rock pile. A bit closer and you can see the individual rocks:Back on the knoll looking at a broader view, where you can see satellites in the background:
Some of the satellites:Quoting Robert Frost, this "gave my heart a change of mood and saved some part of a day I had rued."

Poetry aside, notice that this is a southeastern facing site. One of the things I have noticed about these "Wachusett Tradition" sites is that they violate pan-Indian concepts of ceremonialism. The rectangular mounds violate the "no corners allowed" concept. And the site outlook direction violates the "always face the southwest" concept. Or I could just be wrong that these are burial sites. I have that bias. But if correct, this indicates these sites were built before pan-Indian concepts. To put it more baldly: pan-Indian concepts will not help understand these sites.

CLARIFICATION: There are many ideas that are tribe specific but, in modern times, I believe there is something called the "Pan Indian Movement" (see here) which refers to Native American concepts (and activism) that are shared across tribes. Concepts like: calling it a "powwow"; use of flute; avoiding "corners"; and (as far as I can tell) certain aspects of spirituality.