Wednesday, February 09, 2011

One end of another formed stone pile at the Longswamp site

Here's a passage from the talk James Mavor gave at a NEARA meeting October 31, 1998, after Mark Strohmeyer's death. Found it interesting reading and thought some of you might, too.

"... I want to convey something of the way that Mark thought, worked and wrote about the New England stonework, by quoting one of his letters to me. Under the date of April 2, 1995, he wrote,

'And then in your booklet (Mavor, A Line of Stones to the Sun [which I also have a copy of, with Mark's notes]), you present the compelling statement - "If the stonework is conceived as native American, we have an opportunity to participate in a sacred landscape and to learn the respect for it that is universally traditional among native Americans." These are beautiful and strong words and it is an experience I have witnessed as I speak about the stonework. People who live in the communities where these stones make the landscape vibrate, innately sense the meaning of the stonework and are very moved by its presence. Hearing and learning about the stonework require that you reexamine the land and your environment in which you have lived all your life and come to see it in a different way and - in many cases for the first time - come to understand how you are eternally connected to aspects of it. In the towns of Carlisle, Actone, and Concord, Massachusetts, where I have spoken, people have been consistently overwhelmed by the experience of redefining their world - and thus themselves - through the way the native Americans understood the same land they live on.

'I have found that the critical breakthrough point for people is when they come to accept that these sites are not dead; they are not buried only to be recovered by a different people one thousand years later. When I speak about how the native people are still using these sites today for the same purposes they were originally placed, I often hear gasps coming from the audience. But I continue to reinforce there is noting to fear; that they should welcome this information - that this is for them, too, if they want to see it and participate in it. The power of the stonework's meaning begins to come clear when it is realized that its continued use and maintenance has transcended thousands of years - including fairly recent genocide, disease, war and poverty - surviving and thriving through a system of oral tradition. When the inevitable question comes up - how old are these rows and mounds?, I answer, "14 thousand years old - as well as one day old." Meaning that whenever the stones were placed, they came from an ancient concept of the natural world which is revived each day they are seen.' "

I enjoy his phrase, "in the communities where the stones make the landscape vibrate".


pwax said...

Wonderful quote.

I am not sure there is anything special about Acton, Concord, and Carlisle. South of the Mass Pike, in places like Holliston and Medford, there are many more sites than up here north of the Pike. But either way, I am so lucky to live here.

What about in NY? Are there sites in just about every undisturbed woods?

Tim MacSweeney said...

I suggest, again, reading Charles Mann's "1491." The entire western hemisphere, half a planet, was a human enhanced environment, briefly seen by the first europeans and described as a crowded place before the diseases etc. removed the "key stone species" responsible for it's shaping. Again I urge all to look at those "stone walls" as at least partially functioning as fire breaks, north to south, east to west, especially if they have the word "mysterious" attached to them.

Tim MacSweeney said...

How does one find some stuff written by Mark Strohmeyer?
I'm embarrassed to say I am not familiar with the name...

Geophile said...

That's why I posted it. Apparently you can't find it anywhere. I was fortunate enough to have these papers given to me by his friend Fred W. Although he gave talks and wrote to people connected with the topic, I don't think he was ever published.

Of course you're right about the whole hemisphere being a human-enhanced environment. I actually was told that first by Bob Redhawk, who said the land was farmed but in a different way, using methods that allowed the forest to stand but increased yield of everything--nuts, fruits, animals...and then was added to by farming in small patches. He even kind of suggested that some of what we call wildflowers were planted in places in the woods near villages for medicinal and ritual painting purposes.

But I also heard that the Pleiades played a part in some rituals and sites. I think there were many reasons the stones were placed, and that ritual was probably one of them. The land was deeply loved.

theseventhgeneration said...

In NY, I would have to say "no" for the area I am in, which is between Binghamton and Oneonta. However, there is a pattern to where sites can be found. For instance, on the high hills between the Delaware and Susquehanna watersheds, sites are frequent.

I often wonder about the effect of logging and reconstruction on ancient stone piles, though. Woods that I see as undisturbed has seen a lot more activity in the past 300 years than I can imagine. Also, I rarely get an opportunity to explore private property.

I can't speak for the Hudson Valley or Finger Lakes, and I only have limited experience in the heart of the Catskills.

Tim, I found something in one of the old books (1800's) about fire. I'll see if I can find it again and post it.

Tim MacSweeney said...

Googling around I found a NEARA article
that references, among others, Strohmeyer - some of the other guys named are MacSweeney and Waksman, who ever they are!

Geophile said...

All of you guys are epic, really. It's an amazing story of cooperation and enthusiasm, great effort with no monetary reward, work for the love of it.

Tim MacSweeney said...

For the "truth" of it as well.
And it's great beauty
And reverence as well.

Norman said...

About the excellent photo that prefaces this section, this is what I call the Inclined Cairn. A good friend of mine, John Waltz, mapped the Longswamp site and accompanied me on many visits to it. One day he climbed on top of this cairn and found a small piece of what I later determined was dolomite, encased in a thick weathered rind. Dolomite is not found on top of the ridge, but in the valley below, and I have often wondered how it got to the top of the cairn, and when. Same with four cobbles of quartz found in the leading face of this inclined cairn. It is found nowhere on the ridge, and Bill Sevon, a geomorphologist for the State of PA who visited the site, said the quartz must have come from a location near where the dolomite was found.

Geophile said...

I have a picture of the side of the cairn with one of the pieces of quartz visible. I'm sure I wouldn't have known about it had you not found it. I think it was Fred who showed it to us. Everyone interested in this site owes a lot to you and your excellent and thorough research.

Did you find that the Oley Hills site was near the divide between the Delaware and Schuylkill watersheds on that side of South Mountain, aka the Reading Prong?