Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Montville Rock Piles - recent use?

Photographer Ted Hendrickson writes:

Here is something about the Montville site have been visiting; This is in reference to pwax's post of Feb. 2. As he was puzzling over the Miller Hill site, he referenced Mavor's comments:

"...We came across some reasonable answers to the enigma posed by the mound rather quickly, to our surprise, that is, in a couple of years. We believe we now know how the mound was built, when it was built, and the names of some of the people involved. But most important of all, as it turned out, the investigation opened the door to 'invisible Indians', descendants of Native Americans, living among the general population, who prefer not to be recognized, but who carry on many of the old traditions...." It made me think of an experience I had recently. We live in Southeastern CT, where, as many of you know, the "invisible Indians" are no longer invisible but run two of the largest casinos in the world. Both tribes are working to retain and regain their cultural history. The Mohegans have an especially long tradition of this. Being new to this "rock pile" thing we mentioned it to a neighbor of ours who is a pretty involved tribal member. She had no idea what we were talking about. And yet, an experience I had at the end of December made me think that the "piles" may still be actively used.
We stumbled upon this area in early November, looking for the Montville “souterrain”. Turned out we were in the wrong area, just north of the correct zone, but still on Beaverdam Hill. Many cairns, rock piles and covered boulders. The small piles were difficult to spot through the leaf litter, but I shot many of them anyway, not wishing to disturb anything. This was a heady experience, my first convincing encounter with a clearly ritualized local landscape.

I returned a week or so later. Looked for some of the boulders we had seen previous and the large mound we had seen. It was unclear to me if it was field clearance or purposeful. Discarded tire was confusing, the rough panorama shows the large pile that merges with the slope on the other side. When I returned to my car, the police had put a orange sticker on my window that read "suspicious vehicle". I was safely pulled off in, what appeared to me, a parking spot. Hmmm...
I returned at the end of December to photograph with large format camera and poke around the side of the large mound where I had seen some bottles on the last visit. This time I put a sign inside my windshield, "Photographer In Woods" , just in case the police came by again. The glass bottles were gathered into a pile at the base of a sapling, Others were scattered about, some on the mound itself. A small stack was on the flank of the pile with some bottles near it. It looked more recent than the covered boulders in he area. The bottles were not ancient, but not brand new. I would estimate that they might be from the last 30 years, a mixture of bottles, flasks, and jars. Not sure what I was looking at exactly, but it was intriguing. As I was packing up my camera, I heard a car/truck stop on the road, back up and stop. Doors slammed shut. I made my way back to my car and as I was putting my equipment away two men emerged from the woods on the opposite side of the road where I had been. Looked like your average Joe's. As they got closer the lead guy started giving me a pretty big stink about this area being private property and how I shouldn't be there... and what were you taking pictures of anyway, etc., etc. I adopted a conciliatory attitude, apologizing but noting that there were no signs posted and no houses or structures of any kind in view. I assured him I was "just a photographer" only taking pictures, not disturbing anything, just enjoying the landscape. He made no claim to be the owner and I did not think fast enough to ask if he knew who's property it was. Just wanted to exit smoothly and quickly as possible... They left grumbling. I have not had a chance to see if I can figure out who owns this tract, but it would be interesting to find out. Before they left, they pointed out an Nature Reserve nearby where I could wander instead...

It took until I got back home that I realized they might be worried about the site as tribal members but did not want to tip their hand about the significance of the area? So, I'm kind of spooked now until I can figure out who owns these woods and whether I can get permission to investigate further. Its a pretty special place. After seeing some the recent posts I wonder if the large pile is a tumbled down platform mound?

If anyone wants to see more photos go to:
Go to "My Albums" then click on Montville 1, 2 and 3


Norman said...

I am fairly familiar with Beaverdam Hill. If I were you, I would ask one of the neighbors about your experience. There is a family that lives on the same side side as the souterrain and just south of the high tension line. The house sits away from the road a bit on a slope. This person owned land on Beaverdam Hill and should know of other landowners.

I once did a deed search of the land with the souterrain, and found out that the previous owner was named Dart, and taxes had not been paid on the property for about 100 years. That was years ago, and perhaps the land has since sold. I'd check up on that. The Montville Town Hall should also have information on landowners.

Ted Hendrickson said...

Thanks Norman. I intend to look at the Town Hall when I get a chance.