Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Water Ceremonies - near Half Moon Swamp Groton

I went for a walk in southernmost Groton and saw a few rock piles. This is the woods between Indian Hill Rd and Half Moon Swamp Conservation land. This was in the same area but a bit west from Nutting Road, which I wrote about here.

When I got home and was giving my son a ride he asked: did you find anything good? My first thought was: not particularly, just some minor piles and split rocks next to vernal ponds. Then I realized that these were actually examples of the same thing: a view over a small pond, a split rock, a rock pile. In retrospect I think this is a somewhat formulaic set of structures that also is seen outside of Groton. Here are some pictures.

First I saw a couple of messy piles in the woods:The latter was almost like part of a stone wall: elongated, extended into other "piles" (later I followed this direction). But then I noticed a rock pile across the way and, when I got over there, I saw it was next to a split rock. Here is a view back across to the first piles. The split rock is to the left, and the water is out of sight, still further to the left at the bottom of the dip:It took a moment to get the layout clear and the relation to the water:
Here we are look from the water back towards the nice rock pile, lined up through the splits in the split rock.

I explored around a bit in one direction and did not see anything. Then I applied a "wisdom" that says: always look thoroughly in all directions near where you first find something, before moving off in a new direction. In this case, I found nothing in one direction and, rather than continuing in that direction, I went back to look at the first piles and explore more in the direction of the elongation of the second pile. After a few feet I found another pile, pretty much along the same line:
Since that direction seemed to be working, I continued and found one more pile. This one would be easy to miss: And I continued, out across and under a power line:
Not sure why the rock piles showed up in this longer term sequence, following pretty much along the same line. It is a small scale "alignment" - the kind of thing my colleagues often talk about but which I rarely see examples of.

(Parenthetically, while I am skipping from topic to topic, let me mention that Mavor was a strong proponent of alignments that last for a mile or so - structures that appear along a line. I do not know his opinion of the long cross-country alignments such as the Tom Paul's "Hamonasset Line" that go for dozens, hundreds, or thousands of miles. I am not a fan of that sort of theory and the one clean experiment that has been done shows there are no such long term alignments around here. The experiment is to plot all the sites and look for some clustering along a line. I want to say that even the short term alignment theory of Mavor's was misleading. I explored a site this summer that had maybe twenty rock piles. Five of the rock piles happen to fall on a line (it was a marker pile site) and were the only ones Mavor noticed and mapped when he explored the site. His preoccupation with the alignment stopped him from taking a good look around at all the rock piles that were not on the line he was following. Anyway...)

Continuing after the power lines, I got onto a forest road, followed it a while, until I found another small collection of rock piles, next to a split rock, next to a bit of water. Here we are looking from a small pile to a larger pile to a split rock. The water is to the right.Closeup of the larger pile:Let's look at the other side of this pile:Ooh baby! How about a closeup:
The water would be that low spot to the right, mostly dry but still a bit of a puddle.
Let's take a closer look at the split rock:Closer, you can see a wedge:
Back towards the pile with quartz:
If you look up hill from this spot, to the east away from the water, there is sort of ridge line outcrop forming the horizon. I noticed a couple of rocks hanging out over the edge of the outcrop. Let's have a look at these and their relation to the water.

The outcrop with hanging rocks:
A couple of rock-on-rocks that were part of this cluster:Looking down the line that joins these two rock-on-rocks, you do get a sense that attention is being directed to the water.The Half Moon Swamp is beyond and below this, in the background of the picture.

These seem to me to be structures that are related to the water. In the cases of the rock pile + split rock + water, these structures look to the southwest over the water.

To answer my son: Yes, I think I did find something good.


Norman said...

Regarding your paranthetical remark about long distance alignments, and the fact that they probably do not exist here in the Northeast, simple logic would appear to undermine the whole idea. For example, what was the purpose, and why was it done? How was the starting point chosen? And how would one place a number of features on a line hundreds or thousands of miles long without Google Earth or a compass? And finally, what is the evidence that it exists?

pwax said...

I do think that certain landmarks invite lines of sight and that the same line of sight might remain valid at different distances from the landmark. Hence if Mt Greylock is visible from many places then places in -say- the solstice directions from Mt Greylock might be located along a common line.