Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sacred sites or something else? Structures not unique to Oxford, but questions remain over origins

[Thanks to Norman Muller for the link] Click here
When are our New England archaeologist going to wake up to our most interesting Indian resource?

Short stretch of stone wall Beebee Woods

Between Standish Lane and Ter Huen Dr at the western edge of Beebee Woods, there is a short stretch of stone made mostly from smaller cobbles. The path goes right through it and I think I noticed it before when I entered the woods from this direction. I am pretty sure this is not a standard colonial wall. This was next to a split-filled rock (see black swallowtail wings, below) and I am suspicious of all stonework in Beebee woods.

[I find that the correct spelling is Beebe Woods]

West Edge of the Falmouth Wastewater Treatment Facility

Just mentioning these sites and leaving little clues how to find them. This one is easy: there is a path running in the thin strip of woods between the highway and the facility clearing. Near the northern end is a small kettle hope-ish place with a few rock piles you step past on the path. You will see this in the path:and this next to the path: There there are three or four other piles nearby and, across the bit of valley to the north, a suggestion of other structures. Another small "dot" for my topo map.

Blacksmith Shop Road Site - Falmouth MA

One of the hard to get to sites in Falmouth is back of Brick Kiln Rd. I went back to re-visit the place and explored its surroundings more carefully. Unfortunately my camera battery had run dry and I got no pictures. I walked around for an hour, trying to get a sense of the site layout and doing a little pile grooming - especially where the rock pile was so covered with plant growth that it had become completely covered over. In that case I sometimes make an opening down to a couple of rocks so, when it rains and they clean off, the presence of a rock pile is hinted at. We can get into the ethics of rock pile cleaning but at the moment I just want to mention the context: I was walking east along the edge of the woods and hit a stone wall with a pile next it. Following the wall uphill led back to the site I knew and there was a kind of hill configuration nestling the site - a bit like a kettle hole.

So a couple of days later I was on my way west on Blacksmith Shop Rd (returning from an unsuccessful exploration) and, just before it joins the Service Rd to the wastewater facility, saw a small valley with a stone wall and thought it was a likely spot to take a quick look. Stepping into the woods and over to the wall I was thinking I had been here before and that there ought to be a pile right next to the wall. A moment later I found that pile:
This is actually a pretty big pile - ~three feet high, ~eight feet across. Its placement next to the wall, and the way the valley gave way to surrounding hill reminded me of the layout of the Brick Kiln Rd site, so I followed the wall a bit uphill. Previously at this location I had only seen the single pile next to the wall, so it was a happy instinct that got me poking around more carefully in the bushes nearby. There was a rock pile uphill along the wall
and then two or three more piles deep in the bushes. You had to be looking hard.
I enjoy the way they look in the blueberries. I feel that, like other sites in Falmouth, usually inside kettle holes, these sites are basically calendrical.I hope time will tell. Now that some (or perhaps most?) of these sites have been located, maybe I can map them or someone can study them and learn more about them. For now it is mostly just an aesthetic and the pleasure of finding a site. Here is a view down into the valley:
Too much overgrowth to see more than one or two piles at a time.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Question: West Virginia rock piles?

Does anyone know how to find well-formed rock piles - "cairn sites" in West Virginia?

Update: Norman Muller sent these photos taken by the state archaeologist of West Virginia. Apparently there are other sites nearby.
There certainly seems to be something geometric going on.

Late summer - Beebee Woods Falmouth MA

A swallow-tail wing and poison ivy:
Next to a split-filled rock:
Next to the path in from Standish Lane.

A little later, a late blooming azalea and a black swallow-tail butterfly with all its wings.

Friday, August 21, 2009

More Falmouth Turtles

I stopped to take photos of this really large snapping turtle:A helpful young man stopped his truck and made as to protect the turtle and get it out of the road:Unfortunately he heaved it into the woods. Probably the first and only time that turtle experience being in mid-air and, no doubt, landing hard.

Small stone structures - shelters in the woods

I found a couple shelters at the bottom of a deep kettle hole just north of Long Pond in Falmouth. It looks like one or two somebodies spent the winter here.It is interesting to see how people use rocks today.

Spotting a split-wedged rock

When you see a shadow like that under a rock: It is worth peeking underneath. See the wedge rock?

(This is on the east side of Long Pond in Falmouth, MA.)

Name that flower

Sorry for the blur. Anyone know what this is?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Stone Tools and the Desert Surface Outside of Phoenix

[not rock pile related and out of context].
This is the way some of the desert looks northeast of Scottsdale:
Anything that got dropped remains where it fell and many of the rocks you see loosely scattered around have been worked and used for something. You can tell, in some cases, because of the similarly formed flake scars, that can only have been produced by a coordinated sequence of sharp percussive blows.In other cases you can tell it is manipulated because the outer husk of the rock is weathered.
Pretty place:Look at this dirt. I want to say: it is all debitage going back into the ice age and before:Please click on the pictures; you get a different impression in the magnified view.
A beautiful little graver:
A colorful chopper (note the right edge has wear damage or sharpening):It is mostly monofacial flaking - all flakes removed from one side of the piece of rock.
Lives lived here, one life after another.Update: I mean, it is just a mess. The party is over and now look at the place! But it has been going on for quite a while.

Stone wall destruction moving towards becoming illegal in Massachusetts

[Click here for the Boston Globe article]
More about the "epidemic" of stone all thefts.

Webster Woods - far northeastern edge

I mis-spoke when I said there was nothing interesting on the northeastern edge of Webster Woods in Falmouth. There is one little valley right behind the houses with a small typical kettle-hole-style rock pile site: piles sort of in lines, sort of evenly space. Here are a couple. They may not look like much but with the effort it takes to find them, they should be shown.
These woods are full of outlines that look like a place someone could sit. They consist of a small "U" filled in or stoppered with smaller rocks.

Aren't the heart-leafed lillies (the small green shiny-leafed plant) pretty. This is more of a beach tree and heart-leafed lilly kind of place, rather than blueberry.

Box Turtles, Boundary Markers, and Rock Piles in the Blueberries.

I spent a number of days this vacation in Falmouth MA wading through dense blueberries and bull-brier, hoping to see rock piles. I came across box turtles instead and saw a few stones sticking up above the bushes. Then finally I did locate one new minor rock pile site along Thomas Landers Rd.

Here is an old box turtle:It is interesting that the plates of the shell are not symmetric or polyhedral (compare to the younger box turtle I saw a couple days later, shown below). Is this turtle right handed?

Walking through the bushes, seeing a likely spot for rock piles I was saying, after a number of days of disappointing exploration, "come on, give me a rock pile please!", and a few moments later I saw this:Here is a closeup:
Can you see why, looking for a couple of these in hundreds of acres of woods, is a daunting task? But finding one, leads to exploring more carefully nearby. I circled outward and about 15 yards away, found a second one:The view is towards the hollow in the direction of the first pile. Most of the sites in Falmouth are like this, associated with kettle holes but usually deeper ones than this. It is a pleasant aesthetic but I cannot tell you much about this site except it is like others in the area. The southern sides of kettle holes seem to be preferred locations.

Here is a nearby boundary marker:It would have been nice to see this scene 150 years ago when this was open sheep pasture and everything was visible.

Continuing the next day, back in the blueberries. Here is a much younger box turtle:
I never realized how much the plates deform during the life of the animal. Technically box turtles are tortoises because their lower shell is hinged and these are terrestrial reptiles that live in the woods, not in the water. Anyone know their typical life span? Maybe that older turtle was older than me?

Another boundary stone:
As I was saying, there is not that much to say about two rock-on-rock piles in the middle of the Falmouth woods. But the site is typical in a way and worth documenting. Someday perhaps we can see it with more knowing eyes.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bourne Indian Cemetery

The first interesting rock pile experience this summer was when Kevin Conniff of the Bourne water department took me to visit the Indian Cemetery at Great Herring Pond in Bourne, MA. Here is a view of the cemetery with glints of blue from the water of the lake to the north: Here is a picture of Kevin next to a modern grave.You can just make out a rock pile supported on a rock in the background. Here is a closeup:I was hoping to see rock piles as "graves" there and saw these:Both are reminiscent of what I have found out in the woods but not identical. I was hoping for piles with quartz. I was also hoping for a westward view towards water. One feature I found interesting was a row of rocks placed in the ground. This could have been a line of graves or else just a variant of the stone wall that often crosses a site. It would be nice to know the significance of the flowers at either end of the row. The row is pointing at the lake behind the site.