Thursday, January 17, 2008

More about "Indians did not build in stone" from Lion Miles via Norman Muller

Norman writes: More information on stone heaps from Lion. All this activity was in response to the section in the publication Terra Firma #5, which stated that the Indians did not construct large piles of stone.


Hi Norman,
Here's another reference to a large Indian stone pile in Massachusetts. Ezra Stiles, Yale president and student of native cultures, wrote this in his Itineraries in 1762: "Mr. Williams told me that on the Road from Sandwich to Plymouth there is a large Stone or Rock in a place free of Stones; and that the Indians immemorially have been used, whenever & as often as they pass this large Stone, to cast a Stone or piece of Wood upon it. That Stones not being plenty, pieces of Wood is most commonly used, & that there will once in a few years be a large Pile on the Stone, which is often consumed by the firing of the Woods for Deer. That the Inds. continue the Custom to this day, tho' they are a little ashamed the English should see them, & accordingly when walking with an Eng. they have made a path round at a quarter Mile's Distance to avoid it. There is also at a little Distance another Stone which they also inject upon, but pass it with less scruple; but are so scrupulous that none was even known to omit casting Stones or Wood on the other. ... The Indians being asked the reason of their Custom & Practice, say they know nothing about it, only that their Fathers & their Grandfathers & Great Grandfathers did so, and charged all their Children to do so; and that if they did not cast a Stone or piece of Wood on that Stone as often as they passed by it, they would not prosper, & particularly should not be lucky in hunting Deer. But if they duly observed this Custom, they should have success. The English call them the Sacrificing Rocks, tho' the Indians don't imagine it a Sacrifice -- at least they kill & offer no Animals there, & nothing but Wood & Stones. N.B. There is such a heap of Stones accumulated from such a Custom of passing Indians, between New Haven and Milford about three Miles out of Milford upon the Road. Another Heap at Stockbridge by the Housatunnuck Indians."
There are some interesting observations here. One contemporary description of the Monument Mountain stone heap states that it was composed of both stones and wood. Over time, of course, any wood in these heaps would rot away. And, as stated above, the wood was often consumed by fire. This could lead an archaeologist, I think, to see only a relatively small heap of stones. And, of course, settlers often dismantled Indian stone structures for building materials. Common sense informs me that the throwing of stones on a pile over many generations would result in a large structure.

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