Thursday, July 31, 2008

Down into kettle holes...

...and over the ridges, through blueberry and bullbriar bushes. I tried to find some new woods to explore down here in Falmouth MA, and ended up not seeing much. But I think the one rock pile I saw was a new one - a damaged pile near the bottom of a kettle hole, on the northwest side.That is a very standard place to see a rock pile. Many of the kettle holes around here have similar piles.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Box Turtles and Hawk Moths - Falmouth, MA

[Not rock pile related - but I was looking for rock piles at the time]. Saw several beautiful creatures today - large and a small box turtles, which are more tortoise than turtle, and a sphinx moth ("hawk moth") of a type whose name I forget.

Here is a box turtle out in the middle of the Falmouth woods:Another view:Here is a smaller one I saw later:Another view:(Pretty cute). So I guess these box turtles are not as rare as I thought.

Back in Woods Hole, here is a beautiful little sphinx moth. I have seen more of these during my life than any other species of the genus. This is what is common around here.An all-time favorite:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Castle in Nova Scotia

This is fascinating. [Click here] and scroll down. Manitou stones and ancient castle remnants.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Creepy Trees

Not rock pile related: [Click here]

A last bit of Northborough outcrop

Leaving the larger site I described earlier, continuing along the ridge, I saw one other small cluster of rock-on-rocks:
The lowest one is particularly nice:

And then this last pile:One last picture looking back the way I came from the south, gives a sense that even the stone walls are involved.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Latest from Nipsachuck - "SFGate: Tribe, developer battle over rock mounds/Rhode Island hills may have links to ancient culture"

Thanks to Norman Muller for the link. A San Fransico Chronicle article. [Click here]

It is too bad the rock piles were, from the start, made out to be burial mounds. It may well turn out that they are not and that leaves no room to argue that they could be for some other ceremonial purpose.

How did this boulder get pushed downhill?

I tried to capture in the picture both the dirt mounded up under the boulder on the downhill side and the trench leading back up hill from the boulder. You can see what happened but not how.

This was on the west side of Edmunds Hill in Northborough, MA.

Largest Mound

I found The Largest Mound photos!

Twisted Apple Tree

Here's something I can't go back and photograph, this old twisted apple tree.
I probably took this photo in 1991, having just read Cothren's History, on the look out for more apple trees after seeing what remained then of the other ones he writes about.

And just before reading Manitou for the first time (while camping at Burlingame and going to the Narragansett Church to see the twisted trees there), which explains why I didn't take a photo that included the Manitou Stone to the right. Perhaps the branches hid it that day.

I've got no idea how old this might be.Was there a mound of stones between the tree and the stone to it's southwest, robbed back in 1840-something? Is it more recent, sort of a secret, a grave of a wandering person who still recalled the treaty and how Nonnewaug was buried nearby although the band had moved along, retaining hunting, fishing and burial rights.

Is it perhaps a winter burial, in the place where the wigwam they died in once stood? I sat by that tree once, watching a winter sunset above the point of that stone...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Expect light blogging for the next several weeks

I have weekends and upcoming vacations away from home and will have little opportunity for exploring, so there will be little new to report and I expect to not be blogging much until later in August.

Friday, July 18, 2008

19th Century Narragansett Memorial Stone Pile

by JimP

More than two years ago, Tim MacSweeney posted on this blog about a visit he made to Fort Ninigret in Charlestown, RI.

Click here to see Tim's original post.

In his post, Tim talked about finding a boulder with stones underneath it. Poor Tim got poison ivy trying to look at the boulder. Afterwards, Tim tracked down an old photo of Fort Ninigret showing the boulder with a number of stones around it. Here's a look:In the Records of the General Assembly for the State of Rhode Island, I found a document entitled Addresses at the Dedication of the Memorial Boulder at Fort Ninigret, Aug. 30, 1883. It includes all of the speeches given at the politically-charged affair, coming on the heels of the detribalization of the Narragansett Tribe. Some speakers, for example, called the Indians extinct -- at the same time, two Indians spoke at the dedication.

Another reference reads as follows:
A granite bowlder in the center of the enclosure is inscribed as follows:
Fort Ninigret
Memorial of the Narragansett and Niantic Indians, the Unswerving Friends and Allies of Our Fathers Erected by the State of Rhode Island 1883

According to the reports, the boulder was taken from elsewhere in Niantic/Narragansett territory. I have strong suspicions that it is the infamous Potter's Hill Rocking Stone which was written about earlier in the 19th century, and then just up and disappeared from history, and the hill.

So, then, is this proof that Narragansett Indians were casting stones on memorial piles in the late 19th century?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Outcrop and Rock Piles (2) - Northborough MA

I was walking in Northborough and came to a nice outcrop with rock piles (see video here), in a more or less south-facing layout. Here is the complete outcrop:
A sketch of the same scene helps to see where the rock piles are (highlighted by the red dots):Most of the rock piles are on support rocks and there is a rounded bump of outcrop at the top of the site. Note how the piles fill the view, evenly dispersed. Note how they almost suggest a checkerboard.

Here is the view from a different angle, a bit to the right and closer:
Let's take a closer look at the pile at the lower left in the last picture:That vertical-sided, wedge shape fits the idea of a "marker" pile, and the even spacing and arrangement of the pile in approximate lines re-enforces the idea this is a calendar site.

The outcrop is along the side of a shallow valley and I could see some rock piles over towards the bottom and on the other side of this valley. Here, we are looking back at the outcrop from one of them:
Here is the one on the other side of the valley.A couple of other views of the main site. Here is one from part way up, looking back down the front of the slope and out towards the valley with those outliers off to the right.
Note the lighter colored stone, which is feldspar - the poor man's quartz.

Here is a view from the top. We are looking down the front of the slope, southwards:
As you can see, there is another smaller outcrop off in that direction and lots of other rocks sticking up as bumps in the forest floor.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


by JimPI don't know how I missed this back in February, but Connecticut Public Broadcasting went on a tour with William Dopirak of the Gungywamp Society. You can listen to the tour via a link on the page below. There are also a series of photographs that go along with the tour, also linked below.

Click here for the main CPB page
Click here for the photos from the tour

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A snaking arrangement of rocks. Man-made or Natural?

This is from Northborough, in the Cooledge Brook area:
A side view:It seems a little "too good to be true" to be natural.

A Mushroom

Monday, July 14, 2008

Split Rock - Wakefield, NH

Norman Muller writes:

...While roaming the backroads near our summer home in Wakefield, NH, I spotted a split boulder in a field.A closer look revealed a cobble in the split and a pile of rocks at the base of the boulder, covered with pine needles and other organic debris.

Not more than twenty or thirty feet away was another large split boulder, and this one had a number of small stones in the split. I had been on the lookout for such features, and this was the first example I have seen in this area. Undoubtedly there is much more to be found.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Random Thought

Why not change the name of the blog to Backyard Archeology? That would help make it clear that there is archeology all over the place in people's backyards.

Rock pile turned into backyard patio - in Norway

From the Aftenposten - News from Norway [Click here]

Nipsachuck News - case dimissed against Advisory Board

From an email:

"The case was brought by the developers of some land in the Nipsachuck area against the RI Advisory Commission on Historic Cemeteries. The developer argued that the Advisory Commission had acted improperly when it designated some historic cemeteries within the proposed development (one of the cemeteries was some of the rock piles that Meli had identified as marking burials). The case was dismissed because the Commission is only an advisory body - it cannot legally designate anything a cemetery - only the cities and towns in RI can do that under state statute. Thus the plaintiff's argument was moot and the case was dismissed. The question of just what the rock piles represent was outside the court's consideration and never came up. It was a case about procedure, not substance."

Update: Subject title corrected, thanks to "Annonymous" commentor.

Bob Miner's Photos on Larry Harrop's Blog

by JimPNice manitou stone! In case you haven't been over to see Larry Harrop's blog, I wanted to draw attention to a site Bob Miner photographed in Rhode Island. This area is a tiny part of an enormous rock pile complex that encompasses multiple towns and stretches clear into another state. Just an amazing and vast area of rock piles.

Click here for Larry's blog.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Monday, July 07, 2008

Lithic Roxborough

A reader writes in with information on a new blog - with rock piles in Philadelphia (I'll be adding the link to the list on the right):

Hi, just wanted to let you know about my blog. I've been examining a forested portion of Philadelphia's Fairmount park (the largest city forest in the world) which was put off limits to development in the mid 1800s. The wissahickon valley ( is boulder rich (And rich in old millworks) and was purportedly a sacred location for the local Lenape. This makes finding a lot difficult, but there are still quite a few interesting features (stone rows, propped boulderes, a handful of standing stones, split wedged boulders).Anyhow, feel free to drop by my blog, Lithic Roxborough, at

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Split Boulder - Mower County MN

Norman Muller writes:
Herman sent me some photos a friend of his, Scott Doblar, took of a large glacial erratic in Mower County, Minnesota.  According to Herman, this has long been known as a sacred boulder, undoubtedly because of the wide split in it and the stones wedged in the split.  While we have long assumed similar split boulders here in the East were considered sacred, it is nice to see visual confirmation that similar practices were occurring in the Midwest, too.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Weathering On Boulders, Burial Cairns

by JimPCame across the following online book titled The Burial Cairns and the Landscape in the Archipelago of Åboland, SW Finland, in the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. It has an excellent section, linked below, on the weathering of burial cairns and boulders, and also a discussion of what we would call, "depression piles."

Isla Raza - rock piles

I think we have seen these before [click here].
Isla Raza (Isla Rasa) is in the "Sea of Cortez" of California.