Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Rock Piles from Norfolk CT

Visiting friends in northwestern CT, we had occasion to go back and see some rock piles on their relative's land. Several years ago I had proposed looking for rock piles at a particular spot, which I saw on a topo map, along a forest road in there, south of Mt. Canaan. That time we saw rock piles on the way to the proposed spot as well as at the proposed spot - which I thought was a good demonstration of the idea that rock pile sites could be predicted by topography.

This time when we visited I had my digital camera and was determined to get some pictures of the rock piles. So we went back out and drove along the same road. In the end we saw rock piles at five or six points along about 1 mile of road. The first site remains the most substantial.

I remembered a turtle-shaped pile from there with white quartz an its back. Here it is, with a head-like larger rock sticking out to the right:

And here is a view of the "quartz" which actually turns out to be light cream-colored quartzite cobble - a very common type of rock in these woods and in this soil. (Note the light-colored rock at the center of the closest edge of the pile.)

Nearby there were other piles with strategically placed quartzite. Often the cobbles seemed worked. In this picture the "turtle" pile is in the background and in the foreground the pile has several noticeable pieces of quartz:
Here is a closeup:
As I continued to explore the site, I kept seening more piles with noticeable cream-colored quartzite cobbles:
There were many low piles in the hay-scented ferns:Most still exhibited the light colored cobble:
There were a surprising number of piles, big and small, hidden in there under the laurels. The owners of this land have no idea anything like this is here.
Why is this site here? It is on a steep slope next to the forest road, with a bit of a wet spot heading off southeast. I imagine this may be a spot with an interesting view over water in that southeasterly direction. The next day I went back and explored this site more carefully (this first time I had friends and family along who were not comfortable traipsing into the laurel). There is a gully which passes this high point as it turns to the southeast. There are rock piles along the southern side of the gully and occasional ones further back, continuing for 1/4 mile. The majority had a white or cream-colored blaze. Here is a view of the gully:
I have to wonder what does that white rock or rocks mean? These piles do not seem to be burials as many are built upon small boulders. Also the view to the southeast is suggestive of something else. (Actually the site spans a watershed divide so there are also views to the northwest. I saw more of that the second day.)

Norfolk CT was an early industrial town that produced iron before and during the revolutionary war (and up to the civil war?). This had to do with the bog iron present in the ponds, the fast flowing water, and the availability of forests for wood to make charcoal. On one of my first visits to Norfolk, I heard about the charcoal burners who were gypsies that had lived in the woods burning charcoal. One picture of them in a Coalbrook periodical shows a group of dark-skinned, dark-haired people, who I guess might be American Indians. They were living comfortably in these woods. Today I could see what looked like numerous old roads crisscrossing the area I was exploring. I don't see why not guess it was the coal burners who made the rock piles. But I also have to wonder about the quartzite "blaze" in most of the piles. What is its purpose? What is the function of most of these piles?


JimP said...

Middlesex County in MA is full of stories of so-called, "gypsies," that were actually Indians.

pwax said...

This is in Norfolk CT but I gather the word "gypsies" may have been used a lot for American Indians.