Friday, April 30, 2010

White Mountain City

[Click here] Sort of interesting - features that are familiar from our woodlands but found, here, at a ghost town out west.

Wicopee Chamber - from Robert Buchanan

Rob writes:
I thought I saw a post on Rock Piles with pictures of a chamber with an entrance below ground level and steps leading down to the entrance. This reminded me of a chamber in the Dennytown area of Putnam County NY which also has its entrance below ground level.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Simple Hypothesis Testing

Over 8 feet tall in some places, which is a better hypothesis about this pile: that this was dumped from a cart or that it was carefully built by someone?Update: I could see someone coming up with an excuse/explanation of the flat wall. But not the extra corners.
Update 2: covering perhaps 100 square yards (10x10) I cannot see that it would even be possible to dump rocks from a cart at the center of this pile. So, if anyone wants to defend the "field clearing" hypothesis, send 'em over here to address this example.

Frank Karkota's Rocks

See here.

Frank also showed me some nice propped boulders and other features along Snake Meadow Brook:
Here is one from various directions. One side:
another side:
in back:A wedged rock "altar":I'll show some other features in a subsequent post.

Prayer Seat - Snake Meadow Brook, Westford MA

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A spring at the end of a row

by theseventhgeneration
This is a revisit to a site in Arctic China state forest. The focus on this post is one of the stone rows at the site, and a spring that I did not discover when I was out there two years ago. The site is separated by a wide dirt logging road.

Starting at the higher end of the site, where the majority of the rock piles are located, is this small, inconspicuous line of rock piles.Heading down the line of rock piles, on the other (south) side of the dirt logging road, it seems to turn into more of a stone row with only an occasional rock structure poking out above the dead leaves. This one:...then this one which, arguably, may be the end of the row:Further downhill, some strange configuration of rocks next to this boulder. The boulder also looks like it has a couple of shims between it and the very bottom rock, but I'm not certain if that's natural or man-made. The structure in the prior photo is just visible in the background, up the hill at the base of the tree.Suddenly, as from nowhere, this small niche appears with water coming out of it......and a short distance from that, a small pool of spring water appears (with a pretty rock on rock just to the left, although it's cut off in this picture)...
...and then runs downhill into the East Branch Cold Spring Creek.To put this into perspective (not insinuating any alignments of structures to the sunset here), this site has rock structures, a spring, and a nice view of the Winter Solstice sunrise.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Review of new documentary film "Written in Stone"

From James Gage:

Emerson College Professor, Daniel Gaucher's film "Written in Stone" premiered to a small but enthusiast crowd at the Boston International Film Festival last evening (Thursday April 22). This film chronicles the acrimonious debate between academia and amateur research organizations like NEARA over the many stone structures found throughout the northeast. In delves into how academic infighting and politics along with competing egos within amateur ranks came close to completely derailing all scientific research into the subject. At moments, you realize how close the field came to completely imploding upon itself and losing all creditable. The film also highlights the pioneering work of Mavor & Dix, and the work of current researchers (inside and outside of academia) who continue to push for scientific standards of research for the field, reestablish the creditability of stone structure studies, and seek the preservation of these sites. The film showcases, how against all odds, that a paradigm shift is truly underway.

The film puts the history of stone structures research into perspective. It shows where the field has been and its triumphs and failures along the way. It summarizes where the field is currently at including the impact of the Turner Falls Airport decision. It offers an optimist view of the future but emphasizes the need for NEARA, academia, and amateur researchers to capitalize on the shifting paradigm to preserve these sites, place the field on a solid scientific footing, engage in cooperation with each other, and give serious consideration to all the theories about these structures especially the Native American theory.

The film's producer Daniel Gaucher does a brilliant job of explaining the complexities of stone structure research and the competing theories about them. Gaucher offers a very balanced review of the history of the field and the many theories which have come and gone over the years. He does so in manner that is understandable to an audience not familiar with the subject. The real testament to the power of this documentary is that the audience "got it", they grasp the issues and came away with a solid understanding of the subject. For many of us who have spend many hours trying to explain what we do to the general public, we know from experience just how difficult a task it is to explain rock piles so that people understand them.

There will be a free public viewing of the film on Sunday May 16 @ 11am in Stuart Street Theater in Boston. See the website for details

California Quarry and Overlook Mt. Cairns

A link from the NEARA bulletin board:

Through my blinders, this looks like "hollows", "tails", and "ski jumps". In other words, pretty much the same culture as I have been writing about. Let's call it the "Inland Empire" for a moment. It is particularly interesting that the Hudson River is less of a barrier than the Nashua River; as if to the east of the Nashua some other culture was blocking this Inland culture. Perhaps Norman M. can comment on the similarity with the Oley Hills site.

Update: Norman corrects me. The Nashua River is not a real boundary.

Big Messy Rock Piles surrounded by smaller ones

Continuing from where I left off here, I had just pushed my way through the mountain laurel and fallen branches, sniffing out small ground piles when I came up to a nice "mound" in the woods. Nicer anyway than the previous "big messy" rock pile but, like it, surrounded by smaller outliers. In retrospect, I should have looked for a piece of quartz on this one but instead I was looking for "hollows" which I take to be collapsed inner cysts but which other people speculate could have been a place to sit - interpreting the whole pile to be a prayer seat. I did not have much luck photo'ing any hollows but they were there and I also tried capturing them with a video:

These piles are on a large hill with slopes facing towards Mt. Wachusett towards the southwest. But this site with the "big messy" piles actually is facing north - a rare direction to look out over. Reviewing the video, it is still hard to see what I am calling "hollows". But watching it a couple of times, I do start seeing some structure: there are rocks that poke up through the dead leaves that provide outlines - after a fashion. Around the first "hollow", notice a curved line of such rocks and along the left side of the second "hollow" there is a straighter line of such rocks. Can you see what I am talking about? [If the first, left-hand hollow was a place for a person to sit, then the right-hand one would have seated between five and ten people.]

I noticed more site layout around this second large pile. Here is a kind of alignment of rock piles: There were also many small nondescript piles, perhaps worth more attention:
Also some of the piles were larger and better preserved. Look at this one:closer: Here are some others: [Love that sense of pushing through the laurel to see these for the first time].

These piles have the characteristic feature of one side being slightly flat and vertical, a characteristic I think of as having an astronomical function. Whatever its purpose, the presence of such piles here, near these mounds with hollows, shows exactly the same site structure as many of the sites I have been finding this spring and calling the "Wachusett Tradition". It is the most common type of site I see out here west of the Nashua River.

Gosh, I forgot to mention, there was another little pocket of rock piles that seemed to have a larger "manitou stone"-shaped rock sticking out the top:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Site geometry from theseventhgeneration

Have a look at this.

Overhanging rock with smaller rocks placed under the overhang

This reminded me of a type of feature theseventhgeneration has been writing about (eg here).Update: But I am not sure it is the same thing. Here the rocks under the overhang may be propping up the flat rock to keep it level.

The return of color to the woods

After a winter of pretty drab photos it is always a pleasure to start seeing some brighter greens, which happened a few weeks ago, and finally some flowers. Goethe expresses a nice thought: that when the sun comes back, people start dressing in bright colors even before the flowers come out. Anyway, here are the first colors I have seen in the woods this spring.

Some shad flowers in the rain:some blueberry flowers in the rain:and a bright bit of fungus:

Turtle Cairn - Spruceton NY

Robert Buchanan writes:

Attached is a picture of a turtle cairn taken on the Sunday field trip to the Spruceton site. The site has many well constructed cairns including 3 turtle cairns.

The eye of the pictured cairn was formed by a notch (or cavity) left by a stone that had fallen or been removed from the conglomerate head stone. This cavity collects rainwater and so forms a wet mark around the eye that can be seen in the image. Update: Norman Muller sends this photo from Killingworth: Hard not to agree that these two examples are very similar.

Big messy rock piles surrounded by smaller ones

You may not buy this as a ceremonial site.

I am pushing through the laurels on a hillside in Leominster and come to a big messy pile. Is it just discarded rock?Not really. On the one hand, these are not random sized rocks but selected for as a certain size - not too large to carry nor too small. On another hand this is not at any kind of "angle of repose"; and finally there are lots of other little rock piles in the vicinity of this larger one. You can see some piling on the boulder to the right, and we'll look around more in a moment:[Let me digress briefly. To argue this is a ceremonial pile, you might also say: "why would they clear a field with a big pile in the center of the field when there are stone walls and discard piles along the walls and no reason to depart from that as a rock disposal strategy". I think this argument is self defeating: if you keep bringing up field clearing as a hypothesis, you are keeping that hypothesis alive rather than killing it with neglect. The right way to defeat a hypothesis is to support a better one.]

Taking a look at this pile from a different angle, there is a piece of quartz (click to see where the red arrow is pointing):closer:
closest:A nice piece. This was the only quartz I saw on the hillside, although I did not look carefully. A solitary piece of quartz in a rock pile is a familiar pattern. Here is another view of the quartz (it is on the right):Would you agree that there is a somewhat circular depression (a "hollow") with the quartz on the right hand lip of the depression? The pile was a mess and I could not make much of its structure but I was hoping to see hollows.

Let's look around some more in the vicinity. Smaller piles all around:
Weary old things.In spite of my bravado I was still doubting if this was a ceremonial site. The site does follow a plan I have been preoccupied with lately: a central large "mound" with hollows, surrounded by smaller outliers [see here]. But I persisted, spiraling outward from the center and seeing more and more little ones.

Then I push through some brush and..."woo hoo!"
For me, that is a nice looking mound. We'll take a closer look at it in a subsequent post. At this point in the walk, I stopped being uncertain about the site.

Wall corner piles and wall "bulges"

Walking up the northwestern side of North Manoosnoc, saw discarded rocks piled up in a tidy right triangle in the corner of a wall - a not uncommon feature:Then something a little less common, an isosceles triangle built along a wall. This looks a bit like a bulge in the wall but actually there is an older, lower wall coming in perpendicular to the main one (on the left side of the picture) and there is rock piled up in each of the two corners formed between the lower wall and the main wall.

After that, it was pretty much rock piles and ceremonial features, giving me pause in overly hasty dismissal of these wall features.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Overlook Mountain, Woodstock NY- NEARA field trip

From Peter Anick the NEARA coordinator for Massachusetts:

Here are a few shots from the NEARA field trip. We hiked up Overlook Mountain near Woodstock NY. It is an area with a history of Native American activity, forestry, and slate quarrying, so the usual difficulties with interpretation apply. But the features were impressive, including massive elongated cairns, stone on boulder rockpiles, and “serpent walls”.

Here’s one of the giant cairns. The wall is curved around the two trees in front, leading one to wonder whether they (or a previous stump that had been forested) were there when the structure was built.Many stone on stone features at several sites on the hillside. We debated whether the moss on some stones on this pile indicated recent rearrangement or different moisture retention of those stones, which did appear to be more porous.

A short wall terminating in a large boulder could be interpreted as a serpent effigy, especially given the mouthlike crack.