Friday, August 31, 2012

Starting to get back from summer break....

Putting a shoe under every rock pile

A reader Barry W. from ME writes:

I’m hoping you can help with a conundrum. For the last 30 years, I’ve been mining the old rock piles on my farm, abandoned around 1910, for building uses. Each pile we turn over inevitably contains an old leather shoe near the bottom of the pile. It’s always been a puzzlement, but today I found a shoe in a pile on another piece of property, and felt the need to finally put the question out there to someone who may have heard of this. I always assumed that it was some kind of ritual from the old country. The settlers here were largely from the British Isles, and moved into this area in the mid-1700’s after Prince Philip’s war had died down for some time. The deeds and surveys date from the original proprietors granted the land by the king. One can’t know for sure, but some of the piles are likely 250 years old. The oldest ones are invisible except to the practiced eye. I now take it for granted that a shoe will be under every one.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Visiting old sites

I have been to a lot of rock pile sites, 524 by the last count, and it makes sense for many reasons to go back and look at some of them again, even though exploring for new sites is more fun. This summer there have been no free weekends for exploring and I finally broke down and went out at the end of a workday, to Spring Hill in Acton. To make a long story short and etc, I went back to a very obscure corner of their conservation land and looked for rectangular rock piles with hollows - that is what I am into these days. It may be a bit of a stretch but I think I found them. Before, I only saw a jumble of rocks. There is no surprise to it. Having a compulsion to see such things everywhere, it is apt when badly damaged structures leave a lot of room for the imagination. But bear with me, lets hear it as an anecdote.

Going in from the south along the Spring Hill Rd trail, I took the side loop to look at the rock pile grid. I am proud of what has been done there, the piles are beautiful, mysterious, and their structured layout is intriguing, if you look at it. A quick picture,
and I continued, past the old oak and its surrounding rock piles (hidden from view by saplings) down to the trail skirting the swamp.

It has been dry and I was thinking about cutting across the swamp to get to the site. So I gave it a try at the first opportunity. Well, the water wasn't the problem. It was the bullbriar/viburnum thicket in the middle that slowed me down. Sure it is fun getting scratched up and taking several seconds to work out each step but after five or so minutes it was over and I was back into ferns, and then rocks, and then rock piles.
As soon as you step into this place, things get weird. That little line of rocks to the left of the boulder suggest a structures with a (you guessed it) hollow, built against the boulder. This is one of the fashions of "Wachusett" pile, I first started seeing in Dunstable .

How about this?
That is a rock pile "with a tail", a form of hollow that usually occurs with badly smeared rock piles - suggesting this is an old style.

I walked around for 1/2 hour looking at things, trying to imagine I was seeing rock piles with hollows and then, as I swept back and forth in a more north easterly direction along this edge of the swamp, the character of things changed slightly and I was in an area of propped slabs:
Later, after that, I came to an area with lots of rock piles built up on boulders (the earlier ones were more smeared out ground piles).
More anon.

Meanwhile, I noticed how flat the land surface was, how the setting sun would graze the entire area making infinitely long shadows and speculated about that as the underlying reason for these piles to be here and not some other where. I posted that video to try to show it.

It looked like that, the sun was setting, I realized suddenly...

Another Possible Condor

Horizontal light, infinite shadows

At a crowded rock pile site in Acton:

Monday, August 27, 2012

It's been a while....

...since I posted anything. So, go read about a mound with a hollow here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A collection of "effigy" rock piles - rock piles with a lot of symmetry

Digging through old folders, these are mostly from Concord, Carlisle, and Acton. Each one is worth taking a moment to puzzle over.
My guesses are (from the top):
Woman, Turtle, Abstract Woman, Man, Woman, Bird (Woman?), ??, Deer Head, Man, ??, Man?, ??, (crystal at center), Woman, Abstract, Cross.

Black and White Stones in a Rock Pile

These are from a conservation land in Carlisle:

El Condor Pasa

John W. Foster, CA Senior State Archaeologist (ret.): "At Chumash Painted Cave, the winged design is mixed among other symbols in a complex panel. Nearby in the Carrizo Plain exists a natural sandstone outcrop sculpted into a shape resembling a condor's head..."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Of pipelines and rock pile excavations

From the Soc. for Georgia Archaeology [click here]. Some pretty serious denial going on here: note the well built pile made with broken rocks of the same general size are supposedly "dumped" because the people looking at the site could not see a pattern.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Indian mortars - Billerica Town Forest.

I probably shouldn't say where:

...speaking of effigies

Did you ever see this one?or this one?or this bird stone?So many nice things have gone bye.

Just a fire ring?

I dismissed this as just an out-of-place fire ring, as it was clearly recent. But after seeing Tim's picture here (from here) that shows a similar tight spiral of stones, I suppose it might also have been done with a similar impulse - a bit ceremonial, or perhaps a bit new age. I only saw this kind of thing once before in a pile that seemed old.
All three of these examples -this one, Tim's, and the old one, were next to water. At the time I found this "old" one, it occurred next to fine effigy of a fish, so I assumed the spiral was representing a snail - another local food supply at that spot. But that is just my fantasy and it does not fit what is going on in the other examples here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dakins Brook Picture

Just to be posting something. Here is a nice pic from a year ago. Shows a pile in western Estabrook woods.

Nice pic on Larry's website

Click here

US Department of the Interior listening sessions on sacred sites

Via Rob Buchanan and the NEARA bulletin board:

"To address tribal concerns regarding sacred sites issues, the US Department of the Interior will conduct listening sessions on sacred sites in general, as well as knowledge relating to specific sites on Interior-managed tribal trust and other federal lands. The Department will be better equipped to make decisions that are sensitive to the ceremonial use and physical integrity of sacred sites through the benefit of tribal input and views on such matters."

Full press release and more information at this link:

http://www.nativene wsnetwork. com/first- listening- session-on- sacred-sites- to-be-held- today.html

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada

A few photos, posted just a few minutes ago, from my friend Barry Magnusson. He didn't caption them, but I'd call the first a Standing Stone and the second a Bear Effigy Boulder. Here's an older one below that reminds me of a (fill in the blank).

Sunday, August 12, 2012


August is a tough month for searching for Indian tools. In the sun and heat, vegetation grows quickly and obscures the ground in many places. I try not to complain about the weather but the older I get, the more difficult it is for me to deal with the heat and especially the humidity. I sweat through my clothes and it is uncomfortable and unpleasant. I get sunburns. The only objects I found last August were a few broken pieces of limited interest. I had wanted to do better for this month this year, and I have spent some time carefully looking in a few different places. As of yesterday all I had found this month were the broken tip of an argillite point and a broken base fragment of a quartz point, not worth showing. Last weekend was particularly unpleasant as I slogged through dust under the blazing sun being bitten by horseflies as waves of heat passed over the earth, it became hard to breathe and at one point I began to question if I would be able to make it back to my car at all. And I didn't find anything. After that experience I decided maybe it would be smart to take some time off from looking for artifacts, wait until the fall when conditions will surely improve. But then Friday night there was a great storm with heavy downpours of driving rain. Rain like this stirs up the soil and exposes new stuff. I couldn't resist going out yesterday to see what might have been unearthed.

The first place I went to yesterday was a sandy area by a river. Because the soil is sandy, a good storm can really change the appearance of the ground surface, in the places where it is visible. Unfortunately getting to these searchable patches requires wading through a sea of grass and tall plants. With each step, pollen swirled around me, it mixed with the sweat on my skin and became a gritty yellow sludge. My skin began to itch, my eyes were watering. After about 40 minutes I realized to my horror that something in that place was provoking a strong allergic reaction. I was sneezing, hives appeared on my arms, and my eyes started to swell up, it became hard to see. In a terrible state, I fled that place and met up with my friend Dave who wanted to search a different place that he had identified. Dave was alarmed by my appearance but we went and started looking in this place anyway. With swollen watery eyes, I could barely see anything and I had zero expectation of finding any artifact. Right away, Dave found a large broken midsection of a stemmed felsite projectile point that I would have walked right past. And minutes later, he found a very nice intact quartz triangle. After that we walked for a long while without finding anything. It was cloudy and conditions were good, as time passed I began to recover and was feeling better, though I still was not expecting that I was going to find anything. After some hours we came to the end of the area that was searchable and started heading back to the car, I was not really disappointed about going home empty-handed. As we were leaving I was stunned to suddenly notice this lying fully exposed on the sand waiting to be picked up:
That is just how I found it, it could not have been easier to spot. This is one of my very best finds ever, it is a Neville point, 7,000-8,000 years old. The very tip is gone but for the most part it is intact.
The material is beautiful, I think it is a type of felsite. I don't have any other tools made from this colorful striated stone. It is wafer thin, the workmanship is fantastic.
Here it is with Dave's finds from the same place. A very lucky day.

High Plains Bird Effigy

"An extremely rare speckled granite High Plains Whip-poor-will bird effigy in very good condition...

Trahlyta's Grave

Dahlonega, Georgia - Indian Princess Trahlyta's Grave
"This pile of stones marks the grave of a Cherokee princess, Trahlyta. According to legend her tribe, living on Cedar Mountain north of here, knew the secret of the magic springs of eternal youth from the Witch of Cedar Mountain. Trahlyta, kidnapped by a rejected suitor, Wahsega, was taken far away and lost her beauty. As she was dying, Wahsega promised to bury her near her home and the magic springs. Custom arose among the Indians and later the Whites to drop stones, one for each passerby, on her grave for good fortune. The magic springs, now known as Porter Springs, lie 3/4 mile northeast of here...Twice the Department of Highways has attempted to move the grave during road construction. Both times at least one person died in an accident while moving the pile. The stone grave remains today in the same place it has always been. Porter Springs, in the latter 1800's and early 1900's was site of a popular health spa to which people came from all across the planet to soak in and drink the water. The hotel burned to the ground in the early 1900's, but the series of springs are the foot of the mountain, and they still run sweet and clear (from"
Another view from
"The tradition was for each passerby to drop one stone on her grave for luck. Here’s the strange thing, if you take one of these stones away, bad luck will befall you. Each time someone has attempted to relocate the pile, someone dies..."

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Curious Stone Structure from Shutesbury MA

From reader Joe:
The attached photos were taken in some woods just beyond the property of my boss in Shutesbury, MA. Perhaps they are of interest to you.

...I'm desperate to find out what this structure is, but we can't have all sorts of strangers just walking into someone else's private property, potentially disturbing this site. Which, may have already happened as my boss told me this structure once had a capstone on top, and there may be photos from decades ago which show that. I'm on the hunt to find some of those photos. Perhaps the flat stone on the ground in front of the opening of the stone structure was once that capstone?[PWAX: I was going to write that I have seen a few things like this. One in Groton got reported a couple times but I cannot find it to link to. However, I see this structure has a bit of a "tail" on one side and some other complexities that make this structure unique.]