Friday, November 30, 2012

Rt 2 just west of Tracy's in Lincoln

Sink me if I didn't spot a pile by the road! A place I have driven past hundreds of times.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sawmill Pond East - another preview

(click in)

Short stretch and marker piles at Henry's Hill - Framingham, MA

This is Sudbury Valley Trustee land. I took a couple pictures of the site there, while coming back from an unsuccessful hunt around the edges of the larger woods. The site is on a little knoll, not the main hill and I always took it to be a typical marker pile site with vertical sided piles.
This time I noticed the highest point of the knoll had one short stretch of wall and a final rock pile:
Looking down the wall from the top, it is about 15-20 yards long. An interesting feature.
On the way out:

Miniscule site on Nobscott Hill, Sudbufy/Framingham

At the furthest western foot of Nobscott Hill, behind some houses
 I saw the faintest traces of a site part way up the slope:
It also seemed the vernal pond at the bottom had a cluster of white rocks in it, revealed by low water:

Mound Builder video

This is via Terry Deveaux from the NEARA bulletin board. com/watch? v=ELu9ARLo0jc& feature=youtu. be

Yellow Turtle(s) in WV

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Some comments on Harry Holstein's NEARA Journal article

The article is titled: COMPARISON OF STONE STRUCTURES AT WEST BOLTON, VERMONT WITH THOSE FOUND AT SITES IN THE SOUTHEAST - Preliminary Observations Based on an Initial Visit to West Bolton. It appears in the Summer 2012 issue of the NEARA Journal.

I was excited to read this article by Harry Holstein, a professor from Alabama who has done systematic studies of a several really interesting rock pile sites down south. Norman Muller introduced him to this blog and there have been several discussions about the southern sites (see here). So here are comments, pass them along if it makes sense:

1. The article includes several maps and created, for me, a strong impression of lots of short stretches of stone wall. Lots more than I see up here. To be sure, there are usually stone walls at rock pile sites. But I almost never see large numbers of short stretches. I can think of only 2 sites here that might fit the description. And nothing approaching the Alabama examples.

What about you guys?

I have not been to West Bolton, VT but the similarity with sites here in MA is not so clear. At least not in the dimension of multiple short stretches of stone wall. But I see pictures of Harry standing behind a rock pile with a hollow and a "tail" and that resonates very strongly. [It is a Lazy 9] This brings up the next comment:

2. It appears southern mounds are more circular than rectangular and are described as almost invariably having a doughnut hole (what I call a "hollow"). This fact is addressed by the article and the conclusion is that it is caused by vandalism. There are many reasons I have started seeing the "hole" as a key element of the pile structure. Here is one argument: Nobody dug a hole in the pile in the previous 2 pictures - low to the ground piles often have the hole. Another argument: it is the main visual similarity between southern and northern sites. Another argument: It is too systematic and symmetric. So rather than dismissing the "hole" as a byproduct of vandalism - let us embrace its meaning as collapsed inner chamber. After all, those piles might have been tombs.

3. The vertical sided piles in the southern sites are a lot like ours. I associate them with the periphery of a site with doughnuts. This is consistent with them having a function related to the doughnuts.

4. I was moved by the discussion of brooks and springs as entrances to the underworld. The possibility of needing a guide struck me as connected to split-wedged rocks that appear at a spring. The implication would be that the wedge is used to end the ceremony in the same way a rock (I think) was used to block a prayer seat after it is used.

I got a rock pile article published

The title is: A Context for Studying Rock Piles in Massachusetts appearing in the Fall 2012 issue of the Bulletin of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society. In it, I give my best arguments for why the most common types of structured rock pile site must be Native American. (1) There are common site types ; and (2) There is nothing comparable to them in Europe.

Anyway, I hope you'll join me in feeling good that a rock piles discussion appears in a more mainstream archeology journal. Of course with Curt Hoffman as the editor, great things are possible.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Superb photos

Over at Larry's.

Walls changing into rock piles - like a line becoming a dotted line

I was thinking about a place I found a few months ago in Sudbury (see here and here) where a stone wall ended in some scattered rock piles. I always thought piles that were in a line that extends a wall could easily be explained as a staging of rocks for building out the wall. But maybe not all the time.

There is a very big stretch of empty woods across the street at the Assabet Wildlife Refuge, so I went and dove in. Unfortunately it is a flat, undifferentiated, white pine barren with a few rocks and a few slightly higher places. So I am not sure where I was when I found another example of a wall ending in scattered rock piles. In this case the scatter ended in a junction with another wall:
Here are the three piles. Notice the larger stone in the foreground of the first picture.

Here is a view of the piles leading up to a junction. Note larger stone in the background to the left:
The wall is doing funny things there - here is a detail of the larger stone:
I almost forgot about this but came across another interesting example, perhaps having no relationship - or perhaps some kind of family resemblance - as follows: Tower Hill in Boylston (of botanical garden fame) has a brook to the east that empties northward into French Brook through a little gully with brief cataracts and waterfalls. 

Just to the right in the above picture the wall ends with a few scattered rock piles in and next to the brook.
You almost can't make them out. But I convinced myself they were really there.

Boulder on Boulder?

Photo by Yoly MolinaCelebrating the Ceremonial Stone Landscapes of Eastern North America
October 5 2012 via mobile near Hamlin, WV 
Yoly (Yolanda) asked if I thought this was humanly created...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Effigy Beach

There is growing concern over the safety of ancient native Columbia River rock art because of housing developments, vandalism and theft. In the past archaeologists tried to keep the locations secret-now there’s a new effort to actually expose the art to the public as part of an educational campaign that encourages ownership. Producer: Sean Hutchinson

Friday, November 23, 2012

A common type of broken arowhead and a conceptual victory down by the river

 A couple of tries at photoing these, indoors.
In each case, the tip is broken and the lower left corner is broken.
Third from the left is an example I found several weeks ago and Chris P asked to see a cleaned up photo. But it is the quartz one, second from the left, that I want to say something about.

For years I have heard mouth-watering stories about people pulling amazing arrowheads out of the mud along the river at Great Meadows in Concord. Heard one again the other day: I guy steps out of his canoe and sees a perfect arrowhead sitting on the sand at the edge of the river. When I go down to the river, I see only mud and dead leaves along the edge. For years I have been scheming about harvesting things more systematically but it was not till yesterday when I started to believe it would be worth it.

I live next to the Great Meadows. For a pre-dinner Thanksgiving stroll, my wife and I went around the Meadows, crossing the main causeway and stepping over to the edge of the Concord River. I  noticed water levels are very low and there was some exposed gravel. Aah, a place to look! I looked down and saw that piece of quartz, retrieved it and found it to be thin at the edges, thick in the middle, and generally arrowhead-like. You can see light through it. [But I only decided this morning that it must be a arrowhead broken in the typical way. Might ha' been some kind of Clovis.]

I could not help commenting to a passing kayaker, that I just found a quartz flake. He replied: "Thoreau used to bend over and just pick up arrowheads. He had a gift". It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut. Thoreau did not need to have a "gift" if he had formed the habit of looking down. What he had was opportunity. In his day the river was not silted, most of the land surface were plowed regularly, and no one had ever picked up an arrowhead before in Concord.
Anyway, I am so tempted to go stand knee deep in the water and feel around for gravel with my hands.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sawmill Pond - Leominster/Fitchburg/Westminster

After several weeks of no luck finding new sites, my hunting addiction causes me to go looking someplace I am pretty sure I'll find something. It usually works to explore around the edges of a known site. So I went back to the location near Palmer Hill and the Westminster Landfill on Princeton Rd [see here where it is clear the map conflicts with today's map. My location estimates are not that good].
I came to a lookout place and thought people had to have looked out from there in the past. Then saw the edges of a rock pile site, as I turned to the side to look higher up the hill:
Note how at ~.26 seconds into the video there is what looks like a foot trail leading off between the structures. At the time I was only aware of about 5 or 6 piles. Here was my first glimpse, followed by some pics as I walked around:
 Here is a pretty piece of quartz:
 The overall scene:
Then I started poking around looking for other piles hidden in the foliage. Is this one?
I headed uphill and spotted this lovely thing:
Is this not the moral equivalent of a niche?
Still closer:
The meaning is hovering near.
A wall crested the summit and I crossed the wall. Following down the other side - a lone rock on boulder seems to announce the edge of  the place:
Later, I looped around and headed back down. There were other clusters of piles there.

Art Kelley

via Norman Muller:
Attached is an interesting black and white photo I just copied, dating from 1958.  It shows Dr. Art Kelly pointing out a stone mound to one of his graduate students somewhere in Georgia. 
Kelly was the founder of the Anthropology Dept. at the University of Georgia, and early on he was interested in Indian stone structures of all types.  In 1955 he hired Philip Smith, then a graduate student in Anthropology at Harvard University, to investigate the aboriginal stone walls in Georgia over two summers, which resulted in the important article by Smith in the University of Georgia Laboratory of Archaeology Series #4 for 1962.  Realizing that there was no future at the time in making a career studying stone walls, Smith instead focused on paleontology, and wrote his dissertation on the Solutrean Culture.  His dissertation is available for viewing on Bruce Bradley’s website.
The black and white photo was taken by Dr. Joseph Johnson of Chattanooga, TN, a physician who was also interested in Indian stone walls.  He paid for Smith’s research for those two summers in the mid-1950s.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

More about PA sites...

...from reader Kim:
Here are some more photos of the third site in Price Twp. We took them from the road. There is a small hill coming down to the road, but no water. Water was diverted to the reservoir years ago, but I don’t think this area was affected.
The second site in Middle Smithfield Twp. is in a swamp. The first site has steep hills on both sides.
Norman Muller writes about this:
 In comparison with the spectacular cairns in Middle Smithfield, PA, I am attaching examples from the Hallstead site in northern PA, near the NY border, and another example from Washington, MA.  The latter has a niche at the bottom and a quartz cobble on top.
In a further email he writes:
Going through my pictures of the Hallstead cairns, I came across this image which seems to show one or two possible Manitou stones leaning against the cairn in the background, and perhaps one against the cairn in the foreground, to the right.   Your reader from PA should take special notice of these in his or her explorations. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Petroglyph Theft

via Norman:,0,6886011.story

Boundary Stone between Leominster, Fitchburg and Westminster

I was wandering around near the right hand arrow and found an interesting standing stone. Coming home and looking at a map I figure it must have been about where that corner is between the three towns: Fitchburg (above), Leominster (to the right), and Westminster (to the left). It certainly makes me wonder if there is another standing stone over there on the left, on Snow Hill. But I am not going to go look. I have already spent too many walks over there seeing nothing. 

Thinking the notion of standing stones was not really validated even though, ironically, I had already found one pointy prominent rock in the middle of a rock pile site. Then I spotted this from above and realized my thoughts were foolish and thought "Now THAT'S a standing stone".
As you can see, though, it turned out to be a very "Anglo" sort of production. 
A few years ago - say in 1848 - this would probably have been standing in an open field, visible from a long way away. Is that why it got so grafitti'ed? Or was it some kind of pride expressed by the surveyors who were laying out the town? And then why was it necessary for Fitchburg to get an extra little piece of land south of Rt 2? There is surely a story there but I think it is not a complicated one: Sawmill Pond is a nice reservoir and Fitchburg needs its water power.
Perhaps the "L" is because this is a corner of Leominster. 
Looking back uphill:

If you want to get there today, you have to work for it.