Thursday, November 29, 2007

Were marker pile sites built all at once?

A couple of conversations recently caused me to think more about whether the "plan" that one sees at a marker pile/grid site was created by a single planner or by a group of people, possibly at different times. On the face of it, a single plan suggests a single planner. But I have been challenged to re-think this and some other possibilities include: different planners at different times adding to a site, or people at roughly the same time all following the same principles. I do not like the second possibility as it would be more likely to create a site with visible non-uniformities. But then I start thinking about some of the sites I have seen and realize that some have different parts - the Ashland sites I visited last winter (click here and if you have a moment, watch the videos) seemed to include multiple centers with radiating lines of rock piles, and there is no reason not to imagine different people constructing the sites areound different centers. Then last weekend at that "old favorite" site in Stow, there look to be a patchwork of grids, with a couple of piles sitting between patches and being part of more than one grid. This again is a non-uniformity at a single site allow for the possibility of different builders. Then this weekend, I saw something suggesting the site had been used for a long time and added to by different people. At first (I imagine) the bedrock outcrops lined up in a desirable way. After that lines of rock piles, more or less evenly space, were built in parallel (but not quite) with the line of the outcrops. Still later other lines of piles were added; so that today, when I explore, I can see fresh piles in good shape forming lines, side by side with other lines made from piles so old as to be entirely buried in the soil - almost indestinguishable from the outcrops. This picture does not do it justice (these sites are hard to photo) but it shows two parallel lines of piles: the closest pile and the next one are on a line that slants off to the upper right. A little behind and to the left of that line you can see a second line parallel to the first - there is kind of a ridge there of buried rock piles.


JimP said...

I think sites like Rockville -- which you told me you considered to be a marker pile site -- answers that question. The size of the Rockville site so vast, the number of piles so big, that it was likely constructed over succeeding generations.

Indeed, my research (to be presented in a book within a couple of months), as well as Narragansett oral tradition, shows that the Narragansett Indians maintained their traditions almost on an entirely tribal basis well into the 19th century. The common story of how the Narragansetts mass-converted during the Great Awakening of the 1740's is highly exaggerated.

I'll also present strong evidence that Narragansett Indians, particularly men, were often living deep in the woods for at least part of the year during the 19th century.

There is similar evidence of such activity, not quite as widespread, in Massacuhsetts as well. Local histories abound with tales of Indians canoeing up the Charles, Mystic, Concord, and Sudbury Rivers during the 19th century. Summer encampments of so-called, "gypsies," and bands of, "roaming Indians selling baskets," were planting and harvesting along the Mystic Lakes in the 19th century, and living somewhere near Horn Pond.

So even post-contact history supplies the string of generations necessary to make such grid-like sites over time.

pwax said...

Yes that sounds right. Thanks for adding this view.