Thursday, June 15, 2006

A grid site in Stow, MA - from Journals

by pwax
This is the most complete, well-defined site which I have found in Stow. It is one of the very best examples of a "grid"/"marker pile" site and it is on land that is threatened with development. If any readers are from the Stow area and wish to know more details, please contact me (
Like so many sites around here it has these noticeable characteristics
  • occurs on the southwest side of the hill
  • piles evenly spaced
  • piles in lines
  • some piles have a single quartz "blaze"
  • all piles have approximately the same dimension except one larger "platform" cairn at the lower edge of the site
  • piles built on a somewhat steep slope
  • many piles are triangular
I first found this site when I took a wrong turn, ending up taking a quick peek into the woods and found it where I would not have expected to see a site: on a pretty steep slope.

Quoting from my Journal: "It is unusual for a site to be situated on such a steep slope. Here the piles are almost in a grid and are a bit reminiscent of several sites I have been looking at recently - including Bruce's Beaver Pond in Milford and the Sherry Road sites. There are also similarities with the Acton Spring Hill grid and the Boxborough Patch Hill grid. I think there is a class of sites with stack piles and somewhat even spacing and the kind of occasional alignment of multiple piles which I have been calling a "grid". And I think the nature of the slope is a key to understanding what might be more than one kind of grid. This XXX Hill site is on a pretty steep slope facing southwest over a lowland leading to Elizabeth brook about a 1/4 mile away. Water is here but not that close. I think a pattern is starting to emerge for this kind of site."

Here is a closeup of one pile - I cannot see the quartz in this picture but I know this pile has one piece of it.
One pile was different:
Quoting: "Some piles appear to have a retaining wall or almost vertical sides. Others lack that feature or are too tumbled over. The pictured tumbled pile looks like someone might have pulled apart one example of a stack. On the way in, this tumbled pile is the firsts pile you see and is the closest pile to the road. So it is likely to be a vandalized pile. Some (undamaged ones) are triangular or shaped a bit like teardrops and these are reminiscent of the Acton Spring Hill grid. One pile was significantly larger than others and might be a platform pile:"
In retrospect, I conclude that this pile is the viewing position from which the other piles are visible uphill. Here are some other views:
Quoting: "I guess the site is shaped like a piece of pie cut out from the hill. In the previous picture you can see one of the walls that runs up either side of the site to the top. I did not notice it when I took the picture, but this pile has a white rock to lower right in the picture. Note also the rock-on-rock in the background. Here is a detail:"
The lines of evenly spaced piles is characteristic enough of the site but I think the real clues to what is going on here are in the minor details like this rock-on-rock and the platform pile below. I think I have already written about this rock-on-rock. I hope I do not have to point out that the upper rock looks as if it might represent an animal. I think this cedar tree was planted next to the rock-on-rock and have a guess that this might be a monument to a fallen warrior. Why think that? Because there is a famous Indian battlefield in Sudbury at "King Philips Woods". Those woods are filled with rock piles and a number of rock-on-rock next to cedar trees. So I make a connection with battles - perhaps completely wrong, but it is a hypothesis worth keeping in mind.

Here are a couple more views:
Here is one more from the top of the site where the slope has leveled out a bit. You can see that the spacing between piles is consitent over the whole site. This is a key characteristic.
Quoting: "So there you have it, a very fortuitous find, a lovely site with good integrity, a new type of rock pile site emerging: the stack grid with one (or more?) blazed piles. I counted 41 piles in all. Looking back over what I wrote I see that there are basically stacks with possible viewing platform(s). There is a possibility of other types of piles - more burial like - mixed in between the stacks; alternatively these are simply damaged stacks."

1 comment :

JimP said...

Beautiful site Peter, and dare I say a classic example.