Thursday, December 01, 2011

Parker Hill - Fitchburg, MA

I picked this hill in western Fitchburg for my Sunday walk. Drove up the road next to it until the pavement gave way to dirt, parked, and continued on foot up the road. Lots of dumped rubbish consisting - curiously - of lots of chairs and old TVs. It was like graveyard for couch potato accessories.

One dirt road goes up and crosses the hill east-west just below the summit - a stone wall actually crosses the summit. From there I took another smaller dirt road down the north side of the hill. I wanted to get into the flatter valley in that direction (hoping to find some traces of the "Wachusett Tradition") and wanted to get away from the dumped rubbish. This turned out to be a good move. Half way down the north side of the hill, the road passes through a gap in a stone wall and passes what looked like a donation boulder (because of the sense of random rocks falling off the sides):
I was worried, though, that it was an isolated pile and was only slightly re-assured when I saw something else on the other side (downhill) of the wall. But I was not too sure of this:
Let me parse this view. We are looking at a low, curved mound of cobbles, mostly of the size that you could carry in one hand. On the left, at each end of the curve, are two larger cobbles/boulders and you can see some symmetry of the curved mound between these larger endpoints. Looking carefully there is also a piece of quartz at the center of the curve, just to the right of the center of the photo. There is a second piece of quartz to the right of that. Here is a view towards the center of the pile, taken in a line perpendicular to the above photo:I was still a little worried that this was not a "real" site. The worry started to fade when I came to a "real" rock pile - real because it is carefully built up.
This manifests the ideal of "rock piles poking up out of the laurel". My worries that this was not a site evaporated as I entered a boulder field, with lots of rocks and small rock pile clusters.
So I combed the area, traversing the hill at the same level until I ran out of rock piles, then traversing back, a few feet lower down on the hill. Lots of examples of piles with two larger rocks in a pair:Some pretty old piles - love it when they are moss covered and hiding in the bushes this way:
Now, that first pile with quartz would make a decent example of an older Wachusett mound. But everything else I was seeing felt more like marker piles - evenly spaced, and the kinds of things I expect to see as outliers around Wachusett mounds. Or perhaps each cluster represents an individual little ceremony.The question was: are there any other of the larger mounds in here? I think I found a couple but they were too far gone to photograph well. You see, here the laurel is growing around the edges of the rock pile:Is this cool or what? I'll just show you some more pictures, hoping to convey the atmosphere of the place:Note in the distance is a pile built into the corner of a stone wall. I wonder if this came later or if the walls and piles are from the same date as the rest of this site?

It was a pretty, but somewhat forlorn, place. This is the first decent new site I have found in a while, so I was glad for that also. The location corresponds with the larger blue outline on the map fragment above.

After spending a while at this first site, I continued into the flatter area beyond north and west of the hill. There was a brook, and a large pile of rocks badly re-arranged and driven over by multiple ATV. My guess is that this is just what it looks like: a multiple chambered mound right next to the water. But who can tell? There was a little quartz in the right place:
Not that this pile is of any interest by itself. Perhaps another dot on the site map? But overall another site in Fitchburg, much like the others I have found here.

Update: I want to mention two other sites this site reminds me of: the northern slope of North Manoosnoc and downhill from Fenton Rd - both places a few miles south of here in Leominster. From my point of view this site is pretty typical of what I would expect to find in these hills. The sites are pretty common if you go looking and cover enough territory. That requires curiosity and a car. But how likely would it be for someone to spot a pattern when they only see one site? How inclined would someone be to hitch up the horse and wagon and go looking for something similar, further afield? Not very. I think getting a real sense of rock pile sites is only possible because of the having a car and having reasonably affordable gasoline.

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