Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"Fire Pit" from Northfield

Reader Mike Leonard writes:
As a forester in my own business, I run across quite a few interesting stone monuments.


Update: Dennis Dee writes:
The picture shown is similar to one I found in Woodstock CT. except mine is caved in. The location is near the old Hatchet Pond Reservation.

7 comments :

pwax said...

It would be nice if the Quabbin reservoir woods were carefully mapped - to the orienteering level.

pwax said...

...also mention that I do not see any charring or rust staining [although it is an admittedly small photo]. So no reason to associate this structure with fire.

James Gage said...

Does this structure have a vertical shaft or opening in the top? Or, is the top completely covered? A photo of the top of the structure would be helpful.

pwax said...

According to Mike L. there was no chimney and no signs of charring.

James Gage said...

This structure is a boxed-in free standing niche. These types of niches have been documented at cairn sites. Occasionally, they are found isolated by themselves. Perishable offerings (food, tobacco, etc) were placed in the niche as a ritual offering to a spirit.

pwax said...

Mike G: how do we know what was placed in them?

James Gage said...

The use of offerings by various Native American cultures is well documented. Ethnographic accounts speak of Native Americans placing offerings in a variety of settings: in water (lake, river, or spring), in holes in the ground, crevices in the bedrock, caves, rocky shelves on cliffs, and at sacred rocks. although there are no direct references to Native Americans placing an offering in a man-made niche, it can be reasonable concluded that it occurred based upon the wide range of places were offerings were left. Furthermore, in analyzing the spatial layout of some sites with niche structures, we have found the niches are positioned to work in conjunction with other ceremonial structures like notched sanding stones. Notched standing standings can be interpreted as spirit portal features. Logic suggest an offering was placed in a niche to call a spirit through the spirit portal into a ceremonial area. This scenario is consistent with Native American ritual beliefs and practices.

The Native Americans have been reluctant (for good reason) to share many details about how these sites functioned. We are left with task of piecing that information together from physical remains of the structures, the spatial layout of the site, and scattered cultural references in the anthropology reports.

James