Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hilltop Orchard - Northborough, MA

Across the street to the south of Cadwell Mem. Forest in Northborough, there was what looked like an attractive hill - based on the topo map. On the ground it turned out to be an old orchard, with apple trees mixed in with the maples and oaks etc. At the top was a nicely built cairn that was seemed to be part of the stone wall up there and not ceremonial. It was well built:The western side of the hill was steep and I did see a low stone row that I think probably was a ceremonial structure:
Mt. Wachusett lies roughly in that direction.

Small site, Cadwell Memorial Forest - Northborough, MA

There seemed to be a practice in there of building rock piles in single long lines as if precursors to a a stone wall that never got built. I'll skip those photos. But I did stumble on one small site where the piles were clustered at the edge of an outcrop looking southwest over a wetland.

Small treasures from northern Estabrook Woods - Concord, MA

There is more to explore up in that woods, so I did a loop at the northern end and saw a couple of nice ceremonial structures. It is interesting that the Indian "hand of man" still sits pretty heavily on the northern end of the Estabrook woods, almost as conspicuously as the Anglo "hand of man". The Indians must have lived up here and I continue to speculate about Kibbe (or is it Kibby?).

Somewhere not far from Middlesex School is this lovely split wedged rock:I looked for steel drill holes but did not see them. Still the regularly spaced indentations along the upper edge suggest that some kind of harder tool was used to at least get the split started.What would the Gage's say about that?

Then I walked northeast along some kind of northeastern fork in the dirt road (called Estabrook Rd) and passed a remnant of a rock pile:I was surprised at how much "new" unexplored territory there was along there. Deeper in and downhill there was a breakout zone with a single large rock marking the start of the water, with a pile on the rock:And there was a little knoll down in there with a wall crossing it. At the high point was a break in the wall and someone had borrowed some rocks from the wall to make this small structure:
I think I now recognize this. It is a small prayer seat enclosure, that has been stoppered with a single round stone in the middle. One speculates that closing the "U" was done after the seat was used. The flat plat, on the right in the photo above, is also a common feature. There is good evidence of "U" shaped prayer seats, some with very high enclosing walls (especially ones we see from out west (like this) and there must have been a reason for such high barriers around the supposed seated person (see also comment here from the Wolbach Farm in Sudbury). Here in Estabrook woods, it is a humbler affair. The view outward would have been through the gap in the wall.By the way, the gap in the wall seems unlikely to have been to accommodate vehicles, since it leads directly down into the swamp and there was no trail through the gap.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Nice new material being posted at Stone Ruins, Cellar Walls

See link to the right, or go directly: Stone Ruins, Cellar Walls

That Turtle on the Mound Again

Testudinate is what I titled that post with the apology for the blurry photo.
And I must confess that I can't remember exactly where it was - as well as whether it actually was on a mound and not in a stone row.
But this morning I went through some folders to look for what I saw before and after, to jog my memory, and found a better photo of the mound/stone/rock pile/heap or whatever the Native American name was in the Quirpi dialect and put together this post: That Turtle on the Mound Again...

Rhyolite - the gold of stone age world

(Not rock pile related)
I was just reading an article about Stonehenge [Click here] and they were mentioning that the blue stones had been transported 225 KM from their source in the Preseli mountains and no one knows why, since there were other materials available much closer to the Stonehenge site. Then the article mentions that the blue stones are of rhyolite. Is that correct? In Concord MA where there is no good arrowhead making material, rhyolite is the commonest imported or "exotic" material. Around here anyway, rhyolite was precious. They had to be transporting hunks of it around and trading it etc.This leads to an idle speculation: the use of blue stones at Stonehenge would have represented a huge symbol of wealth - like building doors of gold or walls of bronze. Prehistoric conspicuous consumption. But that is probably wrong, they had metal by then didn't they?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Middle Woodland Blade of Quartz - Woodbridge CT

My father dug this up while transplanting a dogwood tree on Rock Hill Rd, Woodbridge CT. It remains the best thing in my collection. I believe it is about 1K years old because the shape matches things called "Middle Woodland" in the literature and online.
My dad always thought it was ceremonial because it was too brittle to use, but I think it could also have been a knife.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Another Brewerton Point

It is about 1.5 inches long.

Pretty Flower

I have forgotten the name of this plant, and whether or not it is a native species.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Site in Pachaug Forest, CT - from Larry Harrop

This is an outstanding photograph:
[Click here]

See other pictures from the site [Click here]

Friday, May 22, 2009

Insomnia, site classification, and a wetland's edge in Carlilse

Can't sleep, I find myself thinking about the sites I looked at over the last several weekends. I am falling into the habit of making a longer drive to explore far from home on one of the weekend days but making a shorter drive to explore somewhere near to home on the other day. This has had me exploring far away in Sterling and also near to home in Carlisle for several weekends in a row. I am seeing different types of rock pile sites in both places but, by coincidence, there have been some interesting parallels between the sites in both places. So one weekend I am at a cellar hole in Carlisle and the next I am at a cellar hole in Sterling. One day I am looking at rock piles clustered along a wetland's edge in Sterling and the next day I am at the same kind of place in Carlisle. And this helps me notice similarities that I would probably miss otherwise - if the observations had not happed so closely together in time to make the connection.

So I just reported on a site in Sterling at the headwaters of Rocky Brook where I noticed a few things that might barely be noteworthy:
  • small rock piles clustered along the edge of a wetland
  • at the headwaters of a brook
  • split rocks
  • an elongated triangular shaped rock-on-rock
These features would not naturally jump out as particularly noteworthy or significant in their coincidence, except that I saw the same things together the next day in Carlisle. Having driven to Sterling the day before, now I was near home up at the north end of Two Rod Road [Two old dirt roads run north south through Estabrook Woods; one to the west called Estabrook Road and one to the East called Two Rod Road. Kibbe's place from two weekends ago was on Estabrook Rd.]; and exploring near the "Malcolm Meadow" conservation land, and I headed off in a new direction into the woods, to explore along the very northernmost fringes of the large wetland there. Maybe this is the northern fringe of Yellow Birch Swamp but I think it might, instead, be called the "Great Carlisle Swamp". Anyway, it was wet and soggy and I had the most abysmal brook crossing possible: taking a hard fall in the middle of the brook. This threw me off a bit but I was taking some nice pictures in the drizzle.

Here was a magnificent split wedged rock:Then after my fall I spotted a rock pile and...away we go. I photo'd this little combination:
Had I not just last night been blogging about "elongated triangles" I would not have noticed that the upper rock in the picture is the same triangular shape. Maybe I am just imaging that this is significant.

Here are two rock piles in the ferns, at the wetland's edge:The near pile had a very interesting and distinct feature (and not something I saw in Sterling). It had a vertical "fin".(Further away)I see these finned rock piles occasionally. I am remembering one I saw at the Conant Land in Carlisle a while ago, also at a wetland's edge.

What a beatiful spot with the piles in the ferns:Most of the piles, unlike these visible ones, were so low and covered with dead leaves that you had to step on them before you noticed them. I started a bit west of the northernmost edge of the wetland but worked my way around to the eastern side, and stopped seeing piles. But I continued southward on the eastern side of that swamp (hey how about a map fragment?)
After not seeing much I did see one quite different type of rock pile: a larger oval mound, completely buried, perhaps ten feet long:A trail and a couple of long boardwalks took me back across to the western side of the swamp, then north and back to my car where (not atypically) the police were waiting to snarl at me about where I parked.

But let's come back to that first cluster of piles on the northwestern extreme of the swamp and some characteristics:
  • a wedged rock
  • small piles clustered along a wetland's edge
  • an elongated triangular shaped rock-on-rock (propped up at an angle)
  • a finned pile
You'll have noticed that this is largely the same list of features I wrote down above for the Rocky Brook site in Sterling. This similarity in features is the basis for thinking these sites are examples of the same thing, the same type of rock piles site: A type of ceremonial site occurring at a wetland's edge. But more than just this nice little comparison one can see the outlines of a methodology that might be useful and might not rely on noticing similarities only because they are seen on adjacent days of a weekend. Namely: listing the observed features and keeping track of such lists. I am probably too lazy to do it but it makes sense to try. Because there are things that would not seem particularly noteworthy but if you wrote them down, made a collection of feature lists, and occasionally took the lists out to examine them for similarities, would help to see subtle similarities that you would miss otherwise. For me, I would not have thought those elongated triangular shapes would be significant; and perhaps they are not. But I am definitely going to keep track of that pattern and notice it, even look for it, in the future.

So I think we are making some progress towards recognizing certain basic site types. Let me list the ones I can think of and let me work on tidying up the ideas over time - eliminating them, modifying them, so to speak: savoring them. I don't know to what extent these classifications are real or generalizable outside of my Eastern Massachusetts/ Middlesex County sampling territory.

Wetland's Edge Sites - sites with small piles clustered along a water's edge, etc.

Monumental Pile Sites - big rock piles and short stretches of stone wall, mixed with smaller piles; all with a sense of overall site organization and layout.

Cellar Hole Sites - with piles on boulders around a cellar hole and pile-gap-pile features.

Marker Pile Sites - with piles evenly spaced and somewhat in lines. Some piles with vertical sides, etc.

"Burial Pile" Sites - sites with low circular ground piles not in any pattern, having one or two pieces of light rock (usually quartz), with a few piles built on boulders near the edges of the group.

I do not know where effigy rock piles fit into this, they might be mostly a feature of the wetland's edge sites and I failed to see that perspective last weekend. That big oval pile on the western side of the Carlisle swamp was something different again. I have seen things like that in a few other places but they are not part of a more comprehensive feature list; not that I can describe anyway. It seems to me there may be some merit to writing down these feature lists, or at least thinking about them collectively when looking at a site. It makes sense to include topography and other landscape features in the list. There may be some merit to writing down minor observations - since they may turn out to correlate with other sites, but you wouldn't notice, you wouldn't remember where you saw that before. All of which may, in the long run, help to get a sense of the different uses and different cultures that left these rock piles in the woods.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rock-on-rock like a bird - confluence of brooks

This lovely example was at the place where a smaller tributary of Rocky Brook meets the main flow out from Hy-Crest pond. It was placed a few feet in front of and in line with the split of a large split rock. I am sorry I did not photo the relationship. It was the only thing I noticed in this area which was mostly low wetland. I had pushed onwards to get to the confluence.

First Lady Slippers of spring

As they say: spring is here and winter is not far behind. For those not familiar with it, this is New England's showiest orchid.

Headwaters of Rocky Brook - Sterling, MA

As I mentioned here there are frequently rock pile sites at the headwaters of the brooks in Sterling. I explored in there last Saturday and found one small example. At first I just saw a couple of rock-on-rocks suggesting there was something more than the random going on:Walking a few yards down towards the edge of a wetland area I saw a few more and then a distinct grouping, which I was quite taken with.A closer view:I tried to make a video clip of this and posted it the other day here. Looking along the wetland edge it is hard to ignore that the piles are lined up along the edge:Well not exactly, but they sure are clustered along the edge. Here is the view back in the other direction:Walking back up hill slightly, here is where a spring rises up and contributes to the water. Look at the split rocks:Note the rock-on-rock is shaped like an elongated triangle. A few feet away, this other rock-on-rock shaped like an elongated triangle:It looks like some kind of animal head. Two rocks in this shape near each other suggests a deliberate reason. Walking slightly further up hill a few more yards from the wetland edge and only a few feet from the road (Justice Hill Rd) were a couple of slightly larger piles:and more rock-on-rocks:Back to my car. My little fantasy is that saying a prayer or performing a ceremony for the water happened over and over again here. The piles are not layed out in any overriding architecture but follow the contours of the land and the water.

Stone structures from western PA and from OH

Norman Muller sent some links to an underground chamber and a cairn from OH.
Murray Tunnel
Murray Cairn

He also forwards some pictures from Larry Mulligan of a similar "tunnel" from Titusville, PA.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Ancient Waterways" Group on Yahoo

NEARA just formed a private Yahoo group. But how 'bout this one? [Click here]

Finnish Burial Cairns

From Norman Muller:

This book-length study of cairns in Finland probably has a lot of important information that can be applied to what we find here in the U.S. I've not yet read it, but it looks very thorough.

Barbour Brook, NY

by theseventhgeneration

The trail map reads "A high point (2000'). Trail descends to a rock field in hardwoods..." So this is really a bonus find:The flat boulder near the bottom, but not on the bottom, makes up the entire base. There are also trailing rocks to the right. My flash was going off, so the picture doesn't do justice to the fact that the large, flat boulder has a perched look to it.

Just downhill from there is the cellar hole:
Then, further to the southeast, the pile-gap-pile. All of these features run parallel to a stand that was clear cut several years ago and is now impossible to walk through.
This is in the background, just behind the pile-gap-pile. You might be able to see my half meter stick in the depression, in front of the stone row. When I hopped down in there to pick up the stick, I heard rocks beneath my feet. I stuck my hand into the ground cover to see if I could feel a rock and pulled up a piece of aluminum (maybe an old sterno?) so I stopped at the thought of someone having used this as a latrine.

There is something like a mound just a bit further to the southeast from the pile-gap-pile, with only a piece of stone row going over it. Still dry, it looks like the "rock field", but then changes to a break-out zone very suddenly.
Just below the break-out zone and also at the end of the clear cut, the water runs like a stream just behind this stone wall. What is fascinating about this is that the water goes completely under the wall, so you can walk right up to that break in the wall and your feet won't get wet. There is a single layer of stones that connect the wall and they are above the water level.Right there at the break in the wall, notice the stone to the right? Here is a close up:Is it me, or does it look similar (yet smaller) to these stones?

Then uphill from the break-out zone and stone wall, I don't know if this is natural or placed, but I found it stunning.