Thursday, January 31, 2008

In the valley of a small brook in Bedford, MA

Honest, it is hard to go into woods that contain crappy useless bits of land and not run into rock piles. I think the footprint of prehistoric and historic Indians was pretty intense and universal. So there is lots of stuff left. You have a split boulder, why would someone bother to wedge it apart, and reach down in there to extract a rock wedge? They wouldn't and, in fact, the split-wedged boulder is still there. Fifty years old or five hundred years old.

So it is really no big deal to be exploring a bit of conservation land in Bedford, walking up a valley formed by a brook - with gravel bars, exposed rocks, routine flooding (a "crappy useless bit of land") and come across a rock-on-rock and a split-wedged rock:

All the bedrock back in there was rust stained. To me that connotes fire, as if these places were burnt over and over. Like this:
And it is not too surprising to be on one side of the valley and spot something curious and rock pile like on the other side:
Up on top, a site for sore eyes: what looks like a rock pile.
But it is really just a mess of rocks on top of an outcrop. Thoughts of field clearing drift by and I wonder if it is necessarily ceremonial or prehistoric. There was plenty of "agrarian" activity in evidence nearby. There was a dam with a small pond and suggestions of old roads.

So, as I walked, I kept vacillating between thinking I was seeing ceremony versus thinking it was nothing. The split-wedged rock was the first reasonably firm identification. Then I stumbled across a rock pile site where I least expected one, in a flat area that could well have been a field. (hard to say in the snow) except the piles would have been in the middle of the field. Here were three faint rock piles.The last one stretched out as it is could be something dumped un-ceremoniously to the side. Except it is in the middle.

And there were some other nice things in there. Like this three pile sequence:
Or this:
I would like to go back when there is no snow. Maybe the nature of the site, whether old or new, agrarian or ceremonial, will be easier to see then.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Questions Welcome

If anyone wants to pose a rock pile related question, please email and I will post the question to the blog where people can try to answer it in comments.

My question: Up here in Concord, MA there are enough inches of snow to make walking still a bit difficult. What are the snow conditions south of the Mass Pike?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Part 2 - More from BPSF, NY

by theseventhgeneration

On the boulder, from the previous Beal's Pond State Forest post, was a nice Manitou stone:

When I first saw it, I thought it must be positioned somehow to a point on the horizon. It faces east:

Then I looked at it from above the closest, upper cairn.

Even looking through the vertical stone leaning against the cairn, the Manitou stone was visible, but it was uncomfortable to look at it this way.

After a hike around, I stopped back at the stone later in the day. I was glad that I did, because I was able to get a nice photo of the afternoon shadow, cast by the stone, against the snow.

And I decided to take a photo of the side view, to show how it is propped, how thin it is, and to take a picture with the half meter stick.

When I got home, I was still confused about the arrangement. I thought about the East/West facing of the stone and how there seemed to be no reasonably comfortable place to sit and look at the sunrise or sunset while looking at the stone.

Then, I looked at this next photo and I could see it. There is a stone at the top of the cairn that has the same shape as the Manitou stone, when viewed from this angle. Also, the horizon is just visible between the cairn and the vertical stone leaning against the cairn.

But, there's one more thing. I enlarged the photo above, focusing on a small stone, pointing down, in that cairn. The stone is pointing to a hole in the cairn, where the horizon is visible. I believe that the sun, depending on the time of day and year, would also be visible through that hole.

The spot where I stood right next to the boulder, to get this photo, was reasonably comfortable. I think it is possible that there is a nice sunset viewing spot by standing next to or in front of the boulder.

Nispashuck update

From the Newport Daily News, via Larry H.

Monday, January 28, 2008

In the Circle and by the Line

At a number of different sites I see what seems to be an aligment and what seems like a good place to sit - a high point of some kind - to look down along the alignment. But it does not work out exactly because the alignment runs just to the side of the place to sit. Thinking about it now, I remember a site in Sterling with faint stone walls (alighments) leading up to boulders (places to sit) but the lines missing the high point of the boulder; and I can think of another site or two where piles line up with a position on a knoll just to the side of the highpoint. Does one sit below the highpoint on the line or at the highpoint but to the side of the line? Obviously a pretty speculative and hypothetical question.

I was reminded of this the other day when I was exploring a stream valley in Bedford and came across a circle of stones on a slight rise of land in the midst of the wetland. It could have been a fire circle or maybe a prayer seat. There were two other rocks poking up on the surface (see red arrows in picture) and they lined up with the edge of the circle. So the line was tangent to the circle, and this seemed significant and made it seem more likely that this was a seat and not a fire ring.
So it was interesting to open a magazine [Ancient American] and come across this picture of earthworks in Wisconsin.
How about those long structures with alternating circles along a line? They say they are effigies.

More from Beal's Pond State Forest, NY

by theseventhgeneration

Farther up the hill from the single rock pile (from my last post), there was more. A nice line of cairns running up hill.

This is the first cairn:

There were a few spots in the line where cairns probably once stood, now rock piles. But toward the top of the hill, there were some very nice cairns in a row, heading SSE:

This is looking back down the hill, along the line of cairns. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you can get a close up of the third cairn in this line. It has a nice niche:

Here is a closer view of that cairn, with the half meter stick inside the niche:

I was really excited when I looked back down the line of cairns again, to the NNW, and saw yet another nice niche in a cairn that I thought was destroyed.

Here is a close up of that cairn:

But, there's more. Near the top of the hill, by the larger cairns, was a boulder and more. Here's one picture:

The rest of the pictures will be in my next post.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Nipsachuck News" - submitted to the NEARA Transit.

I sent this summary to the NEARA Transit.

Nipsachuck News: Prehistoric human remains have been found during excavation of a rock pile in North Smithfield, RI. NEARA member Dr. Fred Meli, at the invitation of the town's board of selectman, has been conducting an excavation to determine the nature of hundreds of rock piles found on land, known as Nipsachuck. This land has long been remembered by Native Americans as an important battlefield in the King Philips War but it is now the site of a proposed large real estate development. The discovery of human bones disrupts the development plan and also comes with a array of moral issues, including Native American attitudes towards disturbing remains and having them laboratory tested; the increased threat of vandalism by treasure hunters; and (what surely is an old favorite topic among NEARA members) the likelihood that traditional New England academic archeologists will maintain their traditional dis-interest in actual New England archeology.

(1) The Valley Breeze: "Ancient remains of young girl found on Rankin Esate"

Dr. Meli write in comments:
Dear Rock Pilers:
I wanted to post a comment on the issues involved in the Nipsachuck Swamp article of 1/23/08.
The original article was riddled with misinformation and erroneous quotes from me, and I was not at the meeting.
The land where the mounds were investigated is private and I am under a gag order, as well as is the conservation commission on location. The fear is that pot hunters and curiosity seekers will trample over the locale.
I have plans to invite some academics and amatures to the site once the owners feel comfortable. Interestingly enough, I have invited professonials all along but was turned down. As for the moral questions of testing, the remains where scattered over a 10 meter area, when the mound was disrupted by ATV ridres and then dug-up, the bulk of the remains were carried off, what was left was collected and stored for analysis.
I have for a long time with my reputation on the line stated that these features are burials and not fieled clearing piles, or forest cairns.
As I stated in an earlier post, the archaeology speaks for itself.
Dr. Fred Meli.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A site in the snow?

Looks like rock piles but are they ceremonial? Hard to say, especially in the snow.

Nispachuck Hill

Has anyone been here? How about that area in the red circle?
[Click here for original]

And while you are at it, could you also check out this, or is this the same as the Rankin Estate?:
"Another proposed site for the mystery swamp fight is the area around Bowdish Reservoir in West Glocester. As in the case of The Blunders, there are mounds of rocks that local tradition says are Indian graves (almost definitely not graves but in fact piles of stones created as farmers cleared land for pasture or cultivation). " [Click here for original]

Friday, January 25, 2008

Beal's Pond State Forest, NY

by theseventhgeneration

I managed to get out today for a quick hike in a new area. I only found one stone pile, but it's a really nice one.

This is the view as I approached it from just off the Finger Lakes Trail:

Walking to the right and looking back up the hill, another view:

And this is the view from the left side. The largest rock is red and this picture shows the color:

But this was what I was most impressed with about this rock pile. It had something like a niche at the base that was so well covered by the large rock on top, it barely had any forest debris in it. Yet, it was easy to see inside. Here is a close up with my half meter stick inside:

Prayers in Stone

It seems like a good time to remember this:

The USET resolution:

Also the blog comments about it from April 2007 [Click here]

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Some Nipsachuck rock piles contain 700 year old human bones

Thanks to reader Tim M. for the scan of the front page of The Valley Breeze, the local newspaper in North Smithfield RI, where the Nipsachuk site has been attracting interest because of the conflict between the commercial real estate developers and land protectors, including Wampanoag's who have a historic connection to the land and modern residents wanting to protect the land and the rock piles on it. Nipsachuk was the site of a famous battle in the King Philips War.

Here is a scan of the front page of the article. I inserted enlargements so you can read the text. So if you click on the picture, you should be able to read it.
I was probably unfair to Dr. Meli, who has achieved an exceptional discovery. I hope the academic archeologists of New England take note.

The link to the article is provided by Larry in the comments.
Getting bones dated in a lab is something the Indians don't like. There are moral ambiguities here.

Nipsachuk - Big news coming

Looks like they found 700 year old bones in a rock pile. Details to follow.

Collapse of Glacial Lake Agassiz drives early people inland

(not rock pile related) This is from and is about the flood caused by a large post-glacial lake flooding into the ocean. [Click here]

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A walk in the snow with FFC

My Friend From Carlisle (FFC) gave me a nice compass for Christmas:
You look through the slit along a feature or in any desired direction then, with the small magnifier angled just so, you can read off the numbers from the dial without moving your head or the relation between your eyes and that desired direction.

I did not want to start paying attention to compass directions because many people already focus on alignments and I wanted to notice other things - like water, stone materials, and ground patterns, pile shape - that kind of detail. But it cannot be denied that there are alignments and I want to occasionally pay a little attention to the compass directions. So I started carrying around a cheap boyscout compass recently, ever since I tried to survey that site in Stow (click here ). The Christmas present gives an easier measurement.

An interesting thing, when FFC and I took a walk this last weekend in the snow, in Carlisle, and we came up to a beautiful wall that seemed to have creatures coming out of it in diagonals that pointed up to the sky,
when we made the compass measurement and discovered that the wall ran roughly magnetic north, it was reasonable to conclude this was not a ceremonial wall. We walked on to look for other things. Like this:
and this:
And then on the way out of the woods along the road:
a rock pile:

I think there might have been a site in this area now filled with houses because further along is a place I know from driving bye and glimpsing rock piles. We also walked by that place on the way back to the car:

And how about this for a road-side rock pile:
This is on East Str. in Carlisle. Perhaps you'll see the piles if you drive bye there. I think it fair to say that there was a site here, although we were not sure about the last one. But there are other rock piles visible in at least two other places along East Street.

Delaware State Forest - Stone Walls

by theseventhgeneration

There were some unusual features to the stone walls I saw the last time I was out in Delaware State Forest, NY.

As I followed the first stone wall up the hill, I came to a break. There was a rock pile in the break and another stone wall continued off in the same direction, but was not attached.

This photo shows the break in the wall. The view, off to the Southwest, is just visible in the background:

After the break, to the left in the photo above, the stone wall began to undulate. It went up, down, and even seemed to disappear in spots. Here is a photo showing the undulation:

And here are two photos showing the high, stacked portions of the wall:

This wall continued up toward the swamp on the Southwest side of the abandoned road which I commented on in the Boulders and Swamp post. I walked away from the stone wall to go around the swamp and, as I went to cross the road, I looked back toward the swamp and could no longer see the wall.

The next wall, on the Northeast side of the road, had two features that I found unusual. First, the wall was more prominent on the slope than at the top of the hill. At the top of the hill, it ran to the west, toward the swamp, but was not visible due to the snow. Second, there was a rock on boulder nearby. I couldn't tell, because of the snow, if the wall attached to the rock on boulder, but it was close enough to make it interesting.

Here is a picture of the wall coming up the hill. The view here looks off, roughly, to the North:

This is a close up of the rock on boulder that is just to the left in the photo above:

There were other vestiges of stone walls that I saw that day. They were so low and covered with snow that they weren't visible in photos. I'll go back out when the snow is gone to see what I can find.