Thursday, May 22, 2008

Manitou stones in Holliston MA

A reader from Holliston writes in:
Now, those manitou stones: am I just seeing manitou in every triangular, upright stone I come across? Or, are there that many? I've probably seen over 100 both large and small that all end up pointing to something bigger and better or pointing in the direction of a possible pathway, or else I'm imagining things. I have included a photo at the top of this e-mail, I hope it comes through OK. It's a view of a tall, approximately 6 feet, triangular stone that sits just in front of two gargantuan boulders with many splits and cracks in them. My question, among a multitude of others, is, how can one tell the difference between colonial quarrying and Native American splits? does anyone know how they went about splitting rocks, or did they just find them that way, or move two stone close to each other?


Norman said...

Could very well be a manitou stone, but I'd like to see different views of this stone and the boulders against which it was placed. The back of stone looks worked, but maybe that has to do with the angle at which it was photographed, or the type of stone itself. It seems so evenly split.

James Gage said...

There are three different but related classes of structures (1) Manitou stones (2) triangular stones (3) standing stones. the classic manitou stone looks like the upper torso of the human body with a "neck" and "shoulders" outline. This outline is generally formed by two corner notches, one on each side of the stone. The "shoulders" can be either horizontal or sloping. Mavor and Dix have some great examples in their book Manitou. Triangular stones are just that, triangular in shape. They can be free-standing, integrated into another structure, placed on top of another structure, or even placed in a horizontal position. Some triangular stones are also standing stones. A few triangular standing stones have "shoulders" and so far most of this type have been found to be alignment stones. Standing stones come many different shapes and sizes. The top of the standing stone can be tapered, flat, uneven, or triangular. The stone can be a slab, angular stone, boulder, etc. Standing stones can be free-standing or integrated into another structure.

Native American quarrying is fairly technical subject. It is by far much easier to identify historic quarrying methods. Please see the historic quarrying section of our website for photos of common historical quarrying methods.

James Gage

Norman said...

I used the term "manitou stone" in a general sense, in that it is usually commemmorative in nature, signaling something significant nearby, be it a large or small stone mound, a large boulder with phenomenal attributes, etc. Maybe we need a different term to cover the different shapes.

pwax said...

Functional issues should constrain classifications.

Norman said...

Let's just stick with the term 'manitou stone' for those stones that look like head and shoulders and those whose shape is more diffuse. Mavor and Dix show a variety of shapes and call them all manitou stones.