Friday, August 31, 2007

Ceremonial Stone Landscapes on Wikipedia

By Geophile
It is with some timidity I offer the link to Wikipedia's new (still in progress) page on ceremonial stone landscapes. It is taking me a while to understand the particulars of the Wikipedia structure, so this is anything but perfect, and will be subject to many revisions. I'm sure many of you will have suggestions and I appreciate them, but it may take time to incorporate them. I also intend to create an entry for the Oley Hills site, course not giving a location any more precise than Berks County, Pennsylvania.

Here's the link.

By the way, I tried posting the Rock Piles Blog as a link, but it was removed within minutes.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

More links from Geophile

"Unfortunately, children will not recognize the piles of prayer stones for what they are. The sacred stones will be thrown into the creek and become river rocks again."

New Mexican Zuni prayer stones

Vandals damage Nipsachuk cairn

Norman Muller writes:
One of the cairns at the N. Smithfield site in RI was broken into. Attached is a photo of it.

[photo removed at the request of the -author]

Rock pile site from Pendleton, Kentucky

Reader Anthony R. writes in:
I was doing research on the civil war in my area and I knew of these piles and odd impressions on our land from when I was a child. There are at least five piles. Two are very large and are seperated by about one hundred yards on the ridge tops. We bought 100 acres of land in 1971 and this land was used only as cattle land. This was due to the land was on a hill and not farmable. I even found a tree with damage on it but, was not able to fine another tree with same type of damage. Not even from a woodpecker. I am searching into more of our history but, am not able to find anything else. These images should show some straight lines from where you mentioned farmers did not take the time to stack and the pile is very high about 5 to 6 feet high and 2-30 feet wide on the two large piles. The other piles are smaller and the walls lead toward the piles. If you would please take the time to just view the images and give me an idea of what you think they are and was used for.

Links from Geophile (in the one above, you may want to skip to the last section.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Moonshine swamp from Larry Harrop

Superb pictures. [Click here]

A new rock pile site in Weston, MA

I spotted yet another small hill surrounded by wetland on a Weston Conservation Land map and headed out Sunday to explore the place. I had to walk in from the west and when I got to the hill, I cut left up the western flank of the hill zig-zagging up and down and looking at every one of the few rocks that appeared above the surface. I found one low rock pile and thought I better get good pictures because - you never know - it might be all I would find on the walk. And I was thinking that Weston belongs in the category of "never disappoints" rather than "rarely disappoints". Every conservation land I go into over here has some rock piles in it. I saw two pile on the west side: one flat and buried under the leaves, the other like this:
Now that I look at the pictures, I think there was more going on here than just this one pile. For example the smaller rocks in the background:Or this, nearby:
So I circled more to the north end of the hill and continued trying to keep track of everything on the slope, from down at the edge of the wetland to up higher on the shoulder. First thing over on the north side, there was a small pile on a support boulder and again, I thought this would probably be all that I would see, so I took a number of pictures. But then, continuing to circle the hill clockwise, on the northeast side I found a little group right at the top of the steep part, and after that I stopped wondering about whether I would see any rock piles during the walk. I caught a glimpse of a boulder up at the top of the hill, and went up to take a closer look. And here was a truly interesting structure:
It is about eight feet high and, believe it or not, that is a single course of small rocks (about 8'' across) built like "lace" with numerous holes through it.
What technique! I figure this for a modern construction but there were what looked like old rock piles all around.. Here is my initial reaction to a strange structure.

So then I went around taking pictures of the many, older piles. These were all made from the same kind of brown bedrock, were all completely smeared out with little remaining shape. And mostly covered with leaves. They seemed to be placed along one main ridge and the sides of the ridge, all visible from the highpoint with the boulder and the strange structure. The piles also occurred along a secondary ridge fifty yards to the west. I thought I should photo every pile and then post the pictures. Each pile required a separate effort from someone. I'll put those in separate post. But here are a few examples:
So I walked around the site, scouting down the sides of the ridges seeing maybe around twenty piles. At the southern end of the main ridge - really only about 60 yards from the curious boulder structure - there was another little knoll and a rock pile with a rusted spade, handle-less, draped over a rock. Sort of saying "I am here, I am still working on this site.
Also nearby, a small rock pile with perhaps a collection of alcoholic offerings, or perhaps just the accummulated litter from the trail,
But sombody did those things. Somebody came here and used real stone mason skills. Someone came and cleaned up. It is this mixture of new and old things that makes this site confusing but also interesting.

I think most of the piles would be visible if you are sitting on top of the rock. Did the person who built a lacy wall on top of that boulder realize it? Was someone here five years ago who understood this place?

After that I explored more of the flatter southern end of the hill and there were another two or three clusters of rock piles down there which I'll show in a later post.

Ceremonial Stone Landscape Threatened by Airport Runway

By Geophile
Does anyone know what happened in the case discussed in this article about a runway in Montague, Mass.? I don't remember hearing about it when it was going on, but then I may have missed it. Of course, after reading it, one can guess how it probably went, but does anyone know?

An intriguing quotation from Doug Harris, Narragansett Indians Historic Preservation Office spokesman, "I was told by elders we shouldn't try for partnerships (with town officials) around ceremonial stone sites, because we would have to reveal too much. …"

Facebook Group for Rock Piles

By Geophile
Don't know if anybody who's reading this is on Facebook, but we're starting a group there concerning these sites, partly in order to reach younger people who may be interested in the topic. The name of the group is: Celebrating the Ceremonial Stone Landscapes of Eastern North America. Many college students spend a lot of time on Facebook, so if you know any who are interested in rock piles, consider steering them this way. Not much there now, but more will come and member participation is encouraged. Thanks!

Further note: Facebook is a social networking site, aimed primarily at young people. Anyone can join, but once you do, you can't really see other people's pages unless you request them to friend you and they say yes. However, anyone can join most groups. Sign-ups are at My thought is not to bring people onto Facebook who aren't there, but to reach some of the people who already spend a lot of time there. This is just a stab in the dark, but for a while, I'll keep related news and content up to date and post some photographs that might appeal to the curious. Nothing you won't see here. The challenge is to think of ways to attract those who may be interested.

More re Timreck and David Lacy - Forest Service rock pile site in VT

[Click here]
David Lacy is a good guy. I think this site is in Rochester VT and was brought to the attention of the Park Service by Lisa Gannon, NEARA's Vermont State Coordinator. She says that Larry Hancock originally told her about the site.

Mystery in the Green Mountains

More about "Hidden Landscapes" - Ted Timreck's film about the pre-history of New England and rock piles. From the Burlington Free Press: [Click here]

It is nice for rockpiles to be given such an elegant treatment but this ongoing confusion about the depth of time - motivating the discussion of rock piles by blurring the 12,000 years between when fluted points were used and now - is unfortunate. It is like the Nipsachuk publicity - generating interest in rock piles at the expense of mis-representing them as all being burials. Is this a good thing that before the subject of rock piles gets its scientific "legs" it already be burdened by a couple of large incorrect assumption? Rock piles are not paleo-Indian and they were not all used in burials. Maybe some of the public will end up here and read that.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Italy Hill - a cairn site at the Hi-To Stone Monuments

[Click here]
From western Yates County NY.

A beatiful modern rock pile

Taken by Tim MacSweeney in Hawaii. [Click here].
Dont forget to visit his "Waking up on Turtle Island".

See also his fishing shrine - Hawaiian Manitou stones [Click here]

Curious stone enclosure from northern NJ

Norman Muller writes in:
Doug, a fellow from northern NJ, sent me the attached pictures of an unusual stone construction in the area where he lives. He asked me what it is, and I'm stumped. No measurements were provided of the open, circular structure, except that he said the lintel stone is about 1 ft. thick and 4 feet long, which makes this a very substantial structure indeed, and extremely well built. As you can see, there is no roof, nor is there any indication that there ever was one.
Might it have been an animal pen, I wonder? Anyone is free to speculate.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Light in the Forest

What is that I see, shining gray under the dappled light?

A typical brook scene

I couldn't resist this picture, even though there are no rocks in it. I pass through a lot of very pretty woods.
This was at the beginning of a hot day.

Totally slim pickings - one rock pile on a boulder from Groton

Saturday I tried to reach a Groton conservation land called "The Throne" without much success. It all seemed private where I tried to get in, and when I did sneak between the houses, I did not see much. Just this one rock pile:
Here is a video (hosted directly by blogger):

I continued to explore my "backup plan" in Townsend State Forest and that was even more disappointing.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Stone Mounds of Weston

I found another site in Weston and will report on it later this week.

Volunteers work to protect Missouri Mounds

From the Suburban Journal: [Click here]

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Ancient Wisconsin Astronomers

Have I had this link before? Rock piles in a Wisconsin bog, from Scienific Frontiers [click here]

Back in the saddle

Although I have been back from vacation for more than a week, I still haven't been out in the woods near home since last month. Today, I finally get to go out rock pile hunting to my hearts content. In practise, I'll go until I am tired - usually one hill/water location but possibly two. I am heading for northern Groton and Townsend today. Wish me luck.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Stone Tools from Georgia

By geophileHere are some of the pictures sent in by coferrels of Georgia. Many of the items are quartz.

Hand holding a scraper.

Hidden Landscapes

Norman Muller sent in this link:
It sounds like Ted Timreck's voice.

Searching the internet, so you don't have to

A rock stack in Nevada [click here]

(ran out of time)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

And speaking of stone tools, a stone gouge from Concord, MA

Old pictures

Rock piles from Boxboroughand Bolton
and Carlisle

Solitary Rock Pile - Davis Island, Maine

A reader write in:

I am writing for any information that someone might contribute to the attached photograph of a rockpile. This rockpile is on Davis Island, just off the coast of Port Clyde, Maine. It is located on the south side of the island at the highest point. The history of Davis Island reveals that it was very early inhabited by the
British family "Davis", was farmed, having stone fences in various locations on the island, and eventually
most of the family were killed by Indians. This rock formation appears untouched and only ten years ago was this island pruchased and the XXX family built a home and stay on the island a few months a year. We thought it might have been a staking of one's ownership of property?
If anyone can contribute to the origin of this formation or have any input, we would greatly appreciate your help. If you have any questions, please contact me.
I wrote back that, from the description, it sounded like the pile might have been placed on a headland and used by people out at sea as a location marker for triagulating position - a means of navigation. But I also asked for more information. I got this reply:

It is known that this rock pile is currently 5 foot tall. However, many rocks (of the same style, age and size) seem to have fallen downhill from this formation and are scattered closely around this pile (not shown in photograph). This fits with your theory that the pile used to stand taller. There are no other rock formations such as this on Davis Island, or around this formation to indicate a group of piles suspecting Indians, as you remarked. The farmer’s original rock fences do not butt up to this pile.

This rock formation is at the highest point on the East/Southeast point of Davis Island. Davis Island is off the coast of Port Clyde, Maine and is grouped with Monhegan Island, Burnt Island, and other small islands directly on the Atlantic….. and important as this was the harbor to the St. George River that supplied much to the colonies in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. It is known from history recorded that a Captain Waymouth anchored in this area – but just where? Perhaps this rock pile might give some insight.

So if any readers want to comment or find out more about this, leave a comment and I will pass it along.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rock Pile sites around Long Pond in Falmouth, MA

There are at least three rock pile sites, that I know of, around Long Pond in Falmouth - a conservation land there. I went out to re-explore one portion of the woods there and ended up crossing one of the sites I knew from before, perhaps seeing a new pile or two around the edges, and then continuing on to the path where I found the "arrowhead" the other day, and then on to a hill looking south over the north end of the pond and seeing one more suggestive combination of rocks, a kind of structure overlooking the lake.

As I first came up to the edge of one known site, I found a pile at the point of the highest source of water that drains away down into the pond.
It was nice to see a new pile for the first time in three weeks. And then I came up to a group of piles I remembered:
The piece of land where the cluster occurs is more or less surrounded by swamp and may have preserved its rock pile site because the land here was remaindered within the swamp.

Here is another pile which I thought seemed deliberately symmetric. But it could just be a coincidence.
Here was a rock-on-rock I don't remember seeing before:
But then, I pushed a little furter than before, in through the sweet pepper bush, and came to another small knoll deeper in the swamp. Here was another symmetric pile, facing west. This one seems much more deliberately symmetrical.
It is not a new rock pile site but it is nice to visit again, and it is nice to explore it more carefully and see a few new things. At this site, the rock piles are clustered at the point where water begins to drain off into a gully feeding the pond and this is rather different from the other sites I know from Falmouth, which are most often on the edges of kettle holes.

The undergrowth was pretty thick throughout in there and as I pushed through and up hill and out to the trail, I checked again (as I had been routinely checking) that my camera was in one pocket and my trail map was in another. And it wasn't. This is the map where I have marked all the sites I found in Falmouth and I was un-willing to lose, so I went back and tried to re-construct my trail. Luckily, I walked right back to it.

Back on the path I walked a ways, found that piece of quartz I wrote about yesterday, and then explored around, including being on a hill looking south over the pond. I thought it would be worth going to the "edge" of the hill to see if anything was there, and this was a little structure I saw. We are looking south towards the pond:

Possible Quartz Tools from outside Nazareth, Pennsylvania

By GeophileSeeing your images made me think of this quartz item, which I picked up, among others, after an area at the top of a local hill was bulldozed. I don't go out looking for artifacts, but was searching over the newly-cleared area for quartz with crystals in it, which I've found elsewhere on this hill. This stone has a small crystal on the left side toward the bottom where there's a gap. I was struck with how much your stone and this one look alike.

Other things I've found since the bulldozing are shown here, with a regular teaspoon for scale. The stone on top seem as if it could be a hand-held blade. If you hold it in your right hand with your index finger over the top, it feels just right, and the bottom edge is like a cutting edge. The piece on the left reminds me of an axe blade, and the one on the right is like a manitou stone. It is of a different kind of stone from the other pieces, but has a worn look and feel. The blade in the first picture is shown here with its other side up.

Another view of the same pieces, the first piece now turned back over.

Are these really crafted pieces? I don't know. I do know that there are conflicting stories about whether or not there was an Indian burial ground on this hill. A Lenape town was known to be just a quarter to a half mile below. There is a lot of white quartz here, sometimes including crystals, and the wood with many springs and the quartz piles I've mentioned before is just below. Could these have been ceremonial or burial pieces? I'll probably never know.