Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rock piles in Gloucester RI

Reader Chris writes:

Last year I discovered what I believe to be a very interesting and significant cairn site in Glocester RI. Maybe you know of it or have been there? I have made a few visits and have many photos. I am just getting started building a web site that will feature articles about historic and prehistoric lithic sites. Today I started a photo gallery that features some of the photos I have taken, to see a few photos of the Glocester site I am talking about go to The few photos show only a fraction of what is there. Have you heard of this place? If not, would you be interested in going there? To me, the place is mind-blowing. In my opinion it is right up there with Parker Woodland in terms of magnitude.


JimP said...

Wonderful site. I wish I wasn't so far away or I would go visit it in a heartbeat.

I very much wonder what the sign above the chamber says.

Chris Pittman said...

The sign says "SHEPHARD'S HUT." There are still at least 7 sheep farms in Glocester so it seems possible that this structure was used or even built by a shepherd at some time in the past, perhaps it was a shepherd that built the wooden roof. The area is wooded now but was certainly cleared at one time in the past. There are stone walls on the site that appear to be typical colonial-era farm walls as well.

JimP said...

It appears to me that the chamber originally had a more narrow opening. The left side of the present entrance has tumbled down. You can see the stones lying on the ground there.

It certainly makes sense that Glocester would have a concentration of sheep farms. That section of Rhode Island is called the Northwest Hills. The mean temperature is lower than nearer the coast. The climate and topography are more ideal for woolgrowing than elsewhere in the state.

JimP said...

My impressions of the site:

1. It is VERY typical of sites all over Rhode Island -- particularly in the southern part of the state. Similar sites that we know about are in Johnston, Coventry, Hopkinton, Exeter, West Greenwich, Charlestown, North Smithfield, North Stonington, CT, and one or two others I'm probably forgetting.

2. The balanced boulders are rocking stones quite common to Rhode Island. Two of the most famous of these include Drum Rock in Warwick and Rolling Rock in North Kingstown -- neither of which are functional anymore. Those in your photos, however, may still work. But be careful of doing damage when trying to make sound with them.

3. The chamber is special. It is undoubtedly not in its original condition with many of the stones having tumbled down. I doubt it originally had a stone roof because there isn't quite enough tumbled down stones there for that, in my opinion. From the view inside the chamber, it appears to have been built -- at least partially -- on exposed bedrock.

4. It's very hard to say if the chamber was built by a shepherd or if its original purpose was as a sheepfold. The only time in our history when such a structure was necessary as a sheepfold was when wolves were a nuisance. That hasn't been the case since the early 1800's.