Monday, March 14, 2011

The Case of the Curious Rectangle

Rob Buchanan writes:

With most of the snow gone from the woods of northern Westchester County (NY) I decided to do some exploring in the Blue Mountain Reservation near Peekskill.

I planned to find and document some ruin-like stone structures that I had come across in an earlier walk in th area.

What I found was an intriguing array of stone structures that were all enclosed in an approx. 100 x 200m stone wall.

This enclosure is on the lower western slopes of Mount Spitzenberg. It straddles a NE- SW ridge and runs in a NW - SE orientation.

On the upper part of the ridge a double topped knoll. To the west, at the base of the knoll is an an area of flatter land and a large marsh.

There are three man-made structures on this knoll.

- an enclosure formed by three wall/piles. The eastern wall is prominent and well constructed the other sides are more pile -like. The general direction of its opening is 158 degrees.

- a shallow rectangular outline in the saddle between the two tops of the hill

- a circular stone wall enclosure

These structures are about 10m apart.

To the SE of the knoll there is a elongated rock pile and some smaller piles.

To the next ridge to the SE is a large perched boulder.

On the SW slope of the knoll there is a slight overhang with a low stone row leading to it.

To the N of the knoll there were more rock piles including another elongated pile.

The stone wall that forms the SW edge of the enclosure continues in that direction for about another 600m to the SE. There are no other connecting walls.

There is are more stone walls to the W but do not form any enclosures. There are stone wall enclosures about 800m to the N and on the other side of Mt Spitzenberg.

This is a confusing site. The regularity and size of the enclosure suggest a colonial origin but there are no nearby roads or buildings on the 1892 USGS.

The rectangular stone outline seems colonial/european but the other two structures don't.

I would welcome any input, questions, comments or interpretations from any readers.


pwax said...

I'ld like to make a couple comments. One is: great pictures and congratulations to Rob for the find, one of the first of the "season".

Picture #5 from the top shows a doubly chambered mound that, although not identical, is certainly very similar to ones I call rock piles with "hollows". The main difference seems to be that these mounds of Rob's must have been roofed with some decomposable material - now gone. In this light, the "curious rectangle" looks like a larger, single chambered, version of the same sort of structure - which I interpret as a burial mound.

So, pure speculation though it is, I take it that this is a burial mound complex from the Middle/Late Woodland - like but also different from the Wachusett Tradition of eastern MA.

Tim MacSweeney said...

Somewhere in my files is something about the Paugussett's rectangular fire pits found on a hill top in CT. A concentration of about 20 of them. On the hillside opposite my house, on top of a probable rock shelter site is a rectangular fire pit aka "the bear in the woods" geo cache.

pwax said...

Much later (almost 2015), I look again at these photos, and think: that's not a burial but some kind of "lodge" - like a sweatlodge or ???
Anyway, I have no confidence in my earlier speculations about this.