Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Equinox is Cancelled

I want to express some thoughts about the corona virus pandemic. Perhaps readers would care to add something in the comments? On the other hand, if you would rather think about other things, I'll post some rock piles later.

I am lucky to be 67, getting social security, and owning my own house on Cape Cod. I am retired and already living in a bit of isolation, so staying at home is already what I am doing. On the other hand, worrying constantly if my nose drips, or I cough, or my lips get a bit dry... these make me expect to die - because my lungs are not in good shape. My wife was still working in Cambridge until last Tuesday, when I convinced her to stop going to work. But for the next two weeks, she is self-quarantined up in Concord. After 14 days, we are hoping she can come stay with me. So being alone is "lucky" but a bit unpleasant. We are all in a daze.

I have been taking some precautions. I figured to stock up on food sooner than later, because each time I go to the supermarket it becomes more likely I'll encounter virus particles. That means the shopping cart, the food on the shelves, the payment receipt - all are ways to get infected. So I carry an alcohol soaked sponge in a plastic bag, and wipe everything I touch, as well as my hands. But I am not allowed to touch my face until I get home and wash. Hard to remember!

Also I have been keeping up-wind and more than 6 feet from other people. I do not want to inhale air that someone else just exhaled. But I am desperate to have some human contact. So along with phoning family and friends constantly during the day, I also am taking walks and chatting with people on the street - keeping my distance. My son George says it is not hard to be 95% safe but getting to 99.99% would be nearly impossible. So I am taking precautions but not every possible one.

At the moment people are being friendly and supportive: a large puddle blocking my lane of the road and the oncoming driver blinks his headlights to tell me: go ahead and use his lane. Or waving at strangers as you drive bye. But the other day a guy was joking about being holed up in his house with a gun. I guess that kind of "Mad Max" future is a possibility. It may depend on shortages, if they occur - when people have to start breaking into other houses in order to eat. I suppose that is simply melodramatic. I hope so!

There are a couple of bright spots. One is that with the slow contemplative time passage, I end up doing some chores that seemed to always get postponed. Also thinking harder about some things. Recall: Isaac Newton's theory of gravity developed when he was sent to the country to avoid the plagues of the time. If I was younger I might be spending this time thinking about some interesting technical problem but, old as I am, I am reduced to trying to improve my drawing skills. I have been going out every afternoon to draw pictures of boats, water, and trees.

And this is bringing me closer to my far-flung children. We talk every day on the phone - something we didn't do before. It is a unique chance to get to know them as adults in a way that I would not have otherwise. We are all pretty healthy and will probably survive.

People around here are all taking precautions. The gas station attendant is wearing gloves and asks if I want to sign the slip using my own pen. In a lot of places they are being stupid. I hear Manhattanites are heading for the Hamptons and resuming a summer pattern of partying and restaurants. I heard they are licking a communal wall in Iran. I am sure you all know about the spring break partying of college youths down in Florida. We used to call that a "tax on the stupid". But stupid or not we are all likely to get sick eventually. For me, the goal is to postpone being sick until as late as possible - when the system has adjusted and knows how to handle it. In the meanwhile,  let's try to be comfortable and not too lonely. I am re-watching "Lord of the Rings" and trying to eat more vegetables.

In general, forest fires are good for the forest. Just no so good for the individual old trees. Good luck and best wishes.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Ancient secret of lightning strikes at stone circles revealed

Not rock pile related:

I think this is relevant to ceremonial stone structures in the US is because places with high amounts of lightening do occur. and get noticed. It has been suggested [by Jic Davis] that some rock pile sites may be placed where there is a lot of lightening and, to confirm it, we did find effigies at that place, which might have been thunder-birds. Who knows? Pictures are no longer available.

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Protruding Head Variation (Madison CT)

A Hilltop Row of Stones above a salt marsh, a possible Serpent or Snake Effigy:
The inset shows the view above, highlighted in white, where two rows of stones intersect in an aerial photo from 1934:

    Another stacking method that distinguishes Indigenous Stonework from "imported methods of stone fence building" is one I once described to my mom as "snakes going that way and turtles and other stuff going this way." 


Stone Mounds on Facebook

Greenberry Wilson Mounds - Tennessee

YouTube - Fun starts around 12 minutes in, when it becomes clear he is talking about stone mounds:

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Pits and split wedged rocks from Taunton

I went back to Taunton, to the east end of Rocky Woods Rd (actually Westville), and had a less than spectacular walk. There were a lot of split-wedged rocks and I kept noticing pits in the ground which, had they been lined with rock, might have been called "mounds" (sounds contradictory).
 Pits are not easy to photo, but shadows help show what is there:

A fanciful thought: near a burial you sure don't want spirits from the nearby rocks out and about. 

Horseshoe in a rock pile

Reader Colin sent these pictures from northern Westford/Tyngesborough showing a rock pile with a broken horseshoe:

This is much like the example of a rock pile with a broken plow blade (see here). Taking the USET description of rock piles as "Prayers in Stone", let us pause and consider if a prayer might have been involved with leaving these broken farm artifacts inside a rock pile.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Faces (MD)

 Sherry R. writes, “I read your blog about the little face found in Lisbon (CT):

  I have a collection of artifacts found from 1900-1930 off a farm in Maryland including little faces. The faces look like individuals and are small and flat… I believe they are clay, but not sure..."
{This might be a soapstone pendant, with the obvious break, perhaps?}

"This is a piece of pottery shard on the board and stone beads:"

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Path at end of Clewes Rd, going down to Terhuen Dr - Falmouth, MA

One notes the setting above a kettle hole and the presence of another pile above the path in the bushes. These Sippewissett mounds could have been plentiful before the area was so heavily developed.

More and bigger mounds at Sippewissett - biggest mounds on Cape Cod

I took a friend to see a rock pile I located along the trail, and we both wandered off a few feet to see if there might be other things. My friend went over a little ridge and found a pocket with the largest mounds I have seen on the Cape. I walked up the trail a few yards and decided that there was too much bull-briar to penetrate. Either I did not walk far enough or am too short to see what my friend saw when we walked up the trail together: another mound buried deep in the briar. It always tweaks my ego to be bested at my own game. To be fair, I found the place in general. But I did not explore as carefully as I should have. Now I am thinking of taking a clipper into the vines and carving a trail in there in a way that no one will notice.
Several different features inside the blue outline. There is a pocket of mounds there, and perhaps more to be seen nearby - it is pretty impenetrable west of the trail.
Mound site at Sippewissett, sw Beebee Woods

So here we step into the 'pocket' - completely invisible unless you are right there.
 The lower, larger one seems to have a hollow
The upper one seems to be a "duel chambered" model:

Here is a view out the 'pocket' to the south, from behind the lower mound:
My friend, Johannes Raatz, shows the direction to the south, out the valley:
After poking around for a bit, we went back to the trail and he spotted this one in the bushes. My only excuse for missing this is my being about 6 inches shorter. A great "spot" in any case:
Upon braving scratched legs, we can make out that this mound also has a faint hollow:
So this is quite a wonderful collection of mounds for Cape Cod. If you had asked me two years ago I would have said, the only "mounds with hollows" were the oldest smallest form of them (like Scott Reservoir and like the site off Briarwood Rd, in Acton at Nashoba Brook). But I was wrong, I found a pavement and then a normal "rectangular mound with hollow" over by the fire station in Woods Hole. And now, with after seeing these truly typical larger mounds, it is clear that -yes- these are found on Cape Cod too. 

I'll report next on some mounds under the trail nearby at Sippewisset. Which suggests these hills above Sippewissett might have had more mounds in the past. But today it is very heavily developed.

Potential Site in Albermarle County, VA

Reader Jackson Landers writes:

I've come across a site that I don't quite know what to make of and I would really appreciate your advice.
By way of background, I am a science journalist who wrote for Smithsonian Magazine for several years, a few years with Slate, some work for The Washington Post, etc.
This site is in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, about ten miles outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. It was first settled by Europeans around 1850. The Saponi occupied the area before being pushed out, and they were probably here since around 1200 CE, when they believe that they arrived and introduced agriculture to the people who were here before as hunter-gatherers.
There are at least 40 of these piles, spread out across a ribbon of area of approximately 12 acres.

Most of the stone piles in question here face west, over Ward's Creek, which typically runs year-round and probably contains eels, green sunfish, channel catfish in the spring and summer and perhaps shad 150 years ago before dams were built. The area faced on to is a broad flood plain, suitable for agriculture to the tune of about 200 acres with a small elevated tertiary bench area. There is room for a stockade typical of a Saponi village within the primary flood plain, but the elevated area would be a very tight fit for a stockade and village and more suitable for people passing through.
Around the site at high elevation are what I believe to be old pastures. Wire fence remains are in evidence, with stones littered across the the top of the knob and surrounding areas. There is no place within half a mile where a plow could be dragged due to the stones obvious on the surface. I've read the paper by Charity Moore and Victor Weiss which touches on the transformation of pastureland and the aggregations of stone that I find do not think to fit this model.
A few of the piles involve a base that is stacked in way that could not happen by chance, and I include photos to that effect. None of the stone piles include a visible quartz stone. I should mention that this area has some deposits of blue quartz that are not included visibly within the top layer of any of the piles. Nor are there any split stones in the area which could have involved a wedge.
I have searched the local stream beds for artifacts without result. Though I should say that I have never found a point in this area in spite of having lived, visited and camped here since I was 13 years old and never found a point. Perhaps they are here but I'm not quite programmed to see them. Getting the eyes for snakes, or deer, or mushrooms, or points seems to be an acquired skill. I can find deer or chantarelles, but perhaps points aren't in the algorithm here.
Any advice on how to proceed would be enormously appreciated.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Some rock art links

Reader Alicia writes:

I'm sending, as I said that I would, some more articles on rock art when they were published

Past Preservers’ Expert of the Week - September 2017

Just published:
Fumiko Ikawa-Smith: Her Kind of Woman

Food Archaeology: Chocolate!

January 2019 An Instruction Manual Would Be Perfect!
Anthropos: International Review of Anthropology and Linguistics 114(1):37-56
DOI: 10.5771/0257-9774-2019-1-37

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

An old 'shovel' - from Boxborough

Reader Russ sends:
About 9 inches long with broken tip.  6 inches wide at the top.  If legit it seems like a shovel?

Upper Fall Brook - Westville, Taunton

Glebe Rd is an old road that crossed the lowlands around Fall Brook. If you follow the edge of the wetland north to the highest place you can get with water, there is a small site about where you would expect to find one.

Make what you like of this (found along the way):
 Here we are at the headwater:

Minor tributaries of Threemile River - Westville, Taunton

I thought it would be fun to go a bit further afield, to Taunton. My center of gravity is southern Rt 495 and it was only about 20 minutes from the highway. Instead of walking north from where I parked I saw an inviting "corridor" down into a wetland to south [see here], and I followed it.I followed it until I got to a funny little stretch of stone wall and started seeing rock piles after that, as I continued down the wetland [lowest blue outline].
These piles were not much to look at:

Perhaps the nicest one:

These piles are not of a style I recognize. I did not see any even spacing. I did see a few "gap" piles, like these:

Also this seemed to be a place with many short stretches of wall:
 And fainter:
I could have continued down the wetland because there seemed to be a continuation of the things I was seeing. Again, these are not a familiar style: they are not marker piles, they are not mounds. A few piles were small and circular, like fire rings without charring. There were piles right within the wetland and the "gap" piles suggest a place of movement and pathways. 

Instead of continuing downhill, I cut east and found some more traces on a high outcrop looking east. Here the ridge was modified:

Eventually, I turned north, crossed the dirt portion of Rocky Woods Street, and went down along the north side of the land, south of Fall Brook, heading back west. Eventually I came upon some really old mounds [upper blue outline]. I doubt very much whether anyone would see these, or agree that they are man made mounds. But they are.
 [Here is something very unusual: quartz used to wedge a split rock. My thought is that you would rarely want to amplify the spirit of a split rock.]
 Here is another of those invisible mounds.
and others:

The general observation is that these seem to have two or more large rocks at their periphery and, otherwise, are completely broken down - nth stage decrepit. All of which makes this place, at the very highest headwaters of Fall Brook, seem quite old.