Thursday, January 08, 2009

Dis-assembling and re-assembling a rock pile - Can it be done?

For the most part this community does not discuss taking rock piles apart. There might be plenty to be learned but the thought is that (a) if you found ceremonial remains, then your discovery would itself be a violation; and (b) we should be able to find useful things to study without going to the ends of actually destroying the subject matter. Still, in spite of these reservations, there are times when a rock pile will probably get destroyed anyway and, conceivably, there are situations where someone might go ahead and pull apart a rock pile and later wish they could put it back together the way it was before they pulled it apart.

Has anybody thought of a way to re-assemble the rock pile as it was - each rock back in its original position? It is an interesting engineering problem. I had some thoughts on the subject and it would be fun to hear any other suggestions in Comments.

So, I had a thought about this after looking at the "Rollstone Boulder" from Fitchburg [click here for a web page]. The story is that there was a very prominent boulder on a hill overlooking Fitchburg. When Fitchburg became an industrial center, or thereabouts, people worried the boulder would roll downhill into the town and hurt somebody. So they chopped the boulder into pieces like a jig-saw puzzle, brought them down to the center of town, and re-assembled the puzzle in a public square, where it was glued in place. I have driven by once and said to myself: "you really need to photo that rock and tell the story". For today though, the lesson is that if the puzzle pieces fit together exactly there is only one way to re-assemble them. Can we apply that to rock piles somehow?

Here is an approach: cover the rock pile with a material like styrofoam that fills in all the spaces: break it up into uniquely fitted together pieces - to take apart the rock pile. Then fit them back together later and remove the styrofoam somehow. That sort of thing might work but getting rid of the styrofoam would be problematic and at best would leave a nasty chemical smear. What about other materials? Frozen water? Etc?

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Depending on the size of the pile it might be easy enough to take the rocks off one at a time, carefully labeling each rock and photographing it as it is removed from the pile. The labels and photographs would theoretically make it possible to reassemble the pile with each stone in its original position. This would seem to be most practical for piles on base boulders that could also be moved, as piles on bedrock or soil might be built on certain contours that might not be present if the pile were reassembled in a different location. This is entirely hypothetical of course as once the pile is moved, the original significance is lost and then it is really just a pile of rocks suitable for incorporation into a fireplace. I do believe that piles that are certain to be destroyed should be dismantled to see if any artifacts or other evidence of their original purpose might be inside, better that such a pile is even rudely excavated by an enthusiast who will share his find than having the pile simply bulldozed over or blasted away and the evidence lost forever. Having said that, I don't think we should ever simply accept that a pile will be destroyed but must constantly endeavor to save and protect these few sites that have survived this long.