Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Menotomy Rocks Park - Arlington, MA (Part One)

by JimP
Once called Cambridge Rocks, Menotomy Rocks Park in Arlington sits smack dab in the middle of heavily populated neighborhoods.The earliest known name of this area was the Devil's Den. A very Indian-like myth is associated with that name -- being based around the notion that the, "devil" dropped rocks while walking through here. The devil, in this case, was likely a demonized version of the Native healing spirit, sometimes called Chepi or Hobbamocho. According to historical records of Narragansett spirituality, this healing spirit was associated with dark, windy places, such as the talus (jumbled boulder) caves that are so common in New England.

I remembered reading a page on Dan Boudillion's website that was a Glossary of Lithic Constructions in New England. In that glossary Dan lists, "Devil's Den," as being associated with talus caves, and says there are dozens of such sites all over New England. Suddenly things started to click, so I began talking with historians in Arlington about Menotomy Rocks Park and the possible presence of a cave. But I hit a brick wall. No one had ever heard of a cave ever being present in the park. I searched for it, but to no avail.

But being persistent, I began setting up interviews with older folks in the town who had been to the park often when they were children. When I asked the very first person I interviewed about a cave, he said, "Oh, yes. There was a cave. The neighborhood kids would hide out in it when they ran away from home or played hookey from school."

Armed with this new information and the approximate location, I went back again to the park to search for the cave. Sure enough, I found it. Here is the cave entrance:
At some point over the last 60-plus years, someone decided to eliminate what they felt was an attractive nuisance, and the cave was filled in with dirt and small rocks. A closer look at the entrance reveals the mound of dirt that now fills in the cave:Although there is no way to know for sure, it appears on inspection that this cave was once quite deep and could even have been large enough for several adults to stand inside at one point in time.

Delighted by the prospect that I could've hit on a very ancient sacred Indian site, I started to look at the rest of the park to see what else I could find. Some of the more interesting features was this double-depression:In addition, there is a wonderful boulder situated on the side of a hill in a such a way that the depression in the top is level and collects rain waterBut what about rock piles? I'll leave that to Part Two.

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