Tuesday, July 31, 2012
To identify debitage it is helpful to know how stones are broken by nature and how that is different from rocks broken by a person. I am going to make some general comments, please note that there are exceptions to every rule and different settings and circumstances can produce different results. I am not a geologist and base this on my study of archaeological site reports and also my experience looking at thousands of rocks in places where I find artifacts and also in places where I don't find anything. Some types of rock are soft and frangible and these could perhaps be broken by frost or other natural processes but the types of stone used by Indians for tools were generally hard and not likely to be easily broken. Quartz is a type of stone that is very hard and was generally widely used by prehistoric people in what is now Massachusetts. In some places it was used more than in others, and some cultures had a strong preference for other materials, but quartz tools are found at nearly all sites in southern New England where Indian artifacts have been recovered, and some archaeological reports go as far as calling quartz debitage "ubiquitous" at these sites. Quartz breaks unpredictably and I believe that attempting to make quartz tools produces a lot of debitage for every finished point so there is a lot of it around. In dirt and gravel, and in and around waterways, quartz is usually found in the form of round pebbles and cobbles. These pebbles can be broken by glacial action and sometimes by moving around in water. When this happens, usually the pebble is broken, it tumbles around and the broken piece becomes more or less worn, and then it is broken again, and so on, producing a rock with breaks showing varying degrees of wear. If you find quartz pieces on the ground that have multiple broken faces all of which show no appreciable wear, especially when no part of the original smooth outer surface of the pebble remains, you are probably looking at something broken by a person. Quartz often does not break conchoidally and it generally does not show flaking so looking for a bulb of percussion or concave flaking is not really helpful when evaluating broken pieces of this material. In my experience if you find an area with multiple small broken quartz pieces that include flat sharp flakes and jagged broken chunks, and you can rule out crushed stone/gravel laid down in recent times and rocks broken by vehicles, you have found a prehistoric site.
When I find a site I will pick up the debitage and take it home. I do this to keep the entire artifact assemblage intact for possible future archaeologists who may want to study these sites. I also like to study the flaking and materials. Sometimes I go through my piles of debitage sorted by site and I find broken tools I did not recognize at first. Also, I don't want other arrowhead hunters to come by and see this stuff and find my spots. Last night I spent a little while in a sandy place, here are the flakes I brought home.
Last week on Wednesday I searched a spot where I have had some luck this summer. I found a lot of chips and flakes before I ever found a tool in this place. I was pleased to spot this sticking out of the dirt:
Monday, July 30, 2012
There's more cairns in there, some modern, some perhaps older, perhaps added to...
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Jeff from Rhode Island here, I just wanted to alert you and your readership at RockPiles about an incredible blog called rifootprints relating to prehistoric and colonial indian history and culture in Rhode Island , nearby CT and MA. A treasure trove, I would say.....
[PWAX: adding a permanent link to the right]
I live in Connecticut and just recently, while hiking with my children along the rivers, have been finding some interesting rocks. One of these rocks I am almost certain, is a bird stone. I am sending you two pictures, one of the six inch bird stone, and another of a three inch rock with markings. ... I was hoping for your opinion as to whether or not my artifacts may be of native American origin.[PWAX: I am especially impressed with the inscribed pebble. Those are pretty rare in New England. Maybe a dozen exist? Not sure about the bird stone - other photos will be posted later...Here they are.]
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Friday, July 27, 2012
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Thursday, July 19, 2012
http://www.whitefeatherforest.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/land-use-strategy.pdf - page 26
- that looks identical to another image captioned:
Rock of cultural significance near Mikiaimi Falls [Photo Credit: A. Chapeskie]
http://ontarioparks.com/english/planning_pdf/white/background_info.pdf page 26
Last year I visited Hovenweep National Monument along the Utah-Colorado border and took photos of the remarkable Anasazi architecture found there. The two photos attached are of the Holly House Unit, one of the most visually impressive archaeological sites I’ve ever seen.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
So last winter while exploring Libby Hill I expanded my exploration to around May’s Meadow, a beaver bog that’s about a half a mile away. I followed a deer trail down past some cliffs and saw a rock perched on a boulder in such a way that looked as if placed there rather than natural. It looked to be a marker. I searched the area for anything I could find, but nothing came up. I decided to try again when the snow was gone.
In May I relocated the stone; it looked as if it were made to fit the boulder. If it were a trail marker, then it did stand at a place where it was easy to get down through a small ravine. One would hardly need a marker for that though. I went down into the ravine and didn’t need to go far when I saw the small stone circle. It’s about five or six feet wide and is nestled amongst some boulders at the base of a rocky ledge. It’s not truly a circle; it’s backed by two large rocks that form something of a niche. The back end of this niche is blocked by a couple of stones. The top of the niche remains open. Nearby is a boulder that is raised off the ground about a foot or better. On a ledge above the stone circle is a place that has a crescent shape collection of stones. I don’t know if it’s part of the site or not.
One thing I can add about this site; It sits at a cross road where animals can move through the ravine. It would be a good spot for a hunter to sit and watch.
I don’t remember who I told about Libby Hill last winter. I suspected that there’d be something along the way from Little Sebago to the Royal River. This was the most likely rout from the Sebago Lake Region to the coast. The top of the hill once had a farm that belonged to the family that gave the hill its name. Beyond the old farmstead’s walls and cellar holes just west of the hill’s summit is a boulder with an odd peak that caught my eye. Next to it is a stone wall that I believe to be part of the old farm, but I’m noting it none the less. Further down the hillside from these were what looked to be boulders with rock piles on them and cairns; it was hard to say with the snow covering them.
I went back in May to find out that they were indeed cairns and rock covered boulders and not too far from those were areas with many rock piles. In the same area is a wall of sorts that looks more like an elongated rock dump. Further tromping on the hill led to the discovery of more rock piles and what may be a cairn or perhaps a short segment of stone wall that was started and abandoned. I wish I could tell you one hundred percent that this was not any part of any past farming activity, but the farmstead wasn’t more than a shout away from most of these sites. There is one small site that I’ll post later that I doubt was made by White farmers.
This entire site is owned by the town of Gray which maintains trails throughout. The town in order to gain revenue has had this land logged over many times. Both the trail building and logging has taken its toll on some of the piles. With this in mind I also remind you that this was farmland as well. The Libby family also operated some small granite quarries on this hill. At the risk or sounding like a broken record – the farm was abandoned around the time of the Civil War and had returned to being woodland by the 1890’s.
[Rob continues] As I said, I had visited this site many times to get better photos. Each time I searched new areas. On the Lynx Trail I came across some small piles which scattered into the woods. I’m sure I hadn’t seen them all; most were easily hidden by the ferns and bushes. Further along the trail is a structure which I can’t decide if it’s a cairn or a short wall that was started but soon discontinued. I submit it for your speculation.[...to be continued]
Despite this, I have been getting out and looking. I have found artifacts at three different sites so far this month. The first two are favorite places that I visit again and again. They were inhabited by different cultures, the artifact assemblages are different. Here is a broken Stark point in situ at the most productive of the sites, I was lucky to go there after it had rained and find some things just waiting to be picked up.
Monday night it rained a short time. I hoped this rain might have created some improvement in the new place so I went there last night after work. I don't think a drop of rain fell there, the conditions seemed to have gotten even worse. Sand was blowing around in the breeze, the ground (in those places where the ground was visible) was covered with crusty dirt clods covered with dust. Very, very few rocks were visible. I occupied myself with picking up broken pieces of crockery I could see here and there, I decided to keep the pieces that have decoration on them. Perhaps there was a home here at one time. I know there are flakes and chips there but I only saw very, very few. Walking along the edge of a sandy spot, I spotted a familiar shape lying among the clods and dust.