Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A story to round out the weekend of exploration

George Krusen called me Thursday night to say some ladies from Harvard had contacted him about a cairn they uncovered while cleaning up the back yard. This is a site pretty much across Rt 495 from George's 500 Cairn Hill and, from the description, it almost sounded like this new pile might be of the same type as the ones now gone from that hill. Anyway George gave me directions to it and, since it was right by the road, I decided to drive out there and take a photo - not that I wanted to do any exploring after the long day yesterday. So as I am driving down on XXX XXXX Rd, I am thinking about how these woods are absolutely packed with rock piles and that there are rock piles in every single patch of woods out here. So when I turned onto XXXX XXXX Ln, as directed, I was on the lookout for what I could see out the car window. I passed what looked like a massive field clearing pile on the left, and then came down to where a brook crosses under the road. This is where I was supposed to "look right" and see the pile. I would have seen it anyway.

I took a couple of pictures but concluded that this might be a field clearing pile. Then I took a quick duck into the woods behind, got a couple more pictures and then came out. I did not want to be tresspassing and I was pretty visible. Anyway after that I drove back out the way I came in, I stopped at the field clearing pile on the right to get a picture of that and then was continuing and thinking about that first rock pile and why it was probably a field clearing pile.
  • Somewhat too conical, almost angle of repose
  • The rocks were too young looking (although it was supposedly covered with leaves and vines before it was cleaned)
  • It was right at the edge of a nice flat arable field.
  • It was isolated with no similar piles nearby (most times a rock pile by itself is not credible as ceremonial)
And just as I thought that last, I was looking behind a house on the left (west) side of the road and saw another pretty big rock pile. And I am thinking: "Gee I wish I could tresspass back there, but I'ld get caught, so why not ask permission?" and I egged myself on and finally went and rang the house doorbell. When the man of the house came out, I said: Hello I am Peter Waksman, I noticed you have a big rock pile in your back yard and wondered if you would mind if I went and took a picture of it? He said I could help myself, told me his first name, we shook, and then I went around back to take pictures. Ironically, this pile was much more credible as a ceremonial pile than the ones I had just seen. It was better built, it was a large platform pile with one piece of white quartz and the pile had its feet in the water. It also was isolated unless you count the even bigger piles I then glimpsed behind it. These last could well be field clearing piles too, so I do not know if their proximity lends any legitimate weight to the identification of the earlier pile. Let's go have a look at the pictures. Here are four views of the pile.
Note the white quartz in the detail photo. Also note that the pile is built like a wedge with a steep side almost like a retaining wall visible in the 2nd photo above, and falling away at less than the angle of repose on the other side. I could have been vandalized on that side, or this could be its original shape. On the balance, although this pile seemed isolated, I think it is ceremonial and think it is a standard kind of platform pile.

Across the wet place I spotted something even bigger. I do not know what to make of this.
[Note the kind of assault from falling trees these things can survive.]
This pile is at the bottom of a slope, where rocks would naturally get pushed to, in an "agrarian" activity. Plus there were mixed rock sizes suggesting progressive dumping along the line; or rocks and ledgerock ending in the above pile. I scrambled upslope to get a better look at this thing:
The part off to the left is the "pile" I saw from below. It is like a rock dump at the bottom of a slope. Could it be ceremonial? I don't know. Here is another of these fun panoramas, showing the same "pile" from below:
So the end of the story is that, no, the ladies are probably looking at a field clearing pile. But there are so many different kinds of piles out here in Harvard, the woods are so full of a variety of different types of pile, that it is easy to be confused.

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