Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fort Devens Stone Wall Map Strikes Again!

I mentioned using the Fort Devens map (see link on the right) as a guide to two things. It shows where there are rocks in the sandy Nashua River valley. It also shows where the stone walls "go crazy" with brief stretches, strange outlines (like triangles and pentagons), walls that hug the edges of the wetlands, and persistent non-compass oriented directions re-appearing across the countryside.

It has been my working hypothesis that where the walls "go crazy" is a good place to look for rock piles. For starters, I could confirm this at a glance: the biggest concentrations of weird walls are around Patch Hill and Liberty Square in Boxborough and in Harvard at the end of Murray Ln. Indeed there are many rock pile sites in these areas with Murray Ln topping the charts.  (The site was found by Bruce McAleer and is reported with his permission). It has the densest concentration of rock piles I have seen anywhere in Middlesex County . So the hypothesis seems a good bet. Looking at the map again, I see several little pockets of weirdness and these are places I know, places with rock piles.

I used the map recently as a guide to where I should go in Shirley, and found rock piles as soon as I stepped into the woods. Last weekend I did the same thing: I noticed the walls are a bit crazy just southwest of Clay Pit Hill in Groton. Groton is a town I avoid - it is almost universally disappointing to explore there. Because of all the sand, and all the stone quarrying, and all the harsh usage. Yet I found a bit of conservation land containing the weird walls shown on the map above, drove there, stepped into the woods, and found rock piles promptly. 

This has gone beyond coincidence, beyond a simple parlor trick. What does it mean? It certainly is a useful way to locate sites but the implication for the stone walls seem a bit more important. We can now say with confidence that Indian stone walls include these properties: short stretches; large numbers of turns; hugging the wetlands; unusual shaped outlines. These "Indian" attributes may be hard to see on the ground but are easier to see from the "global perspective" of an overall map of the stone walls. In the end this tells us that some stone walls really are Indian. It is an independent verification of Mavor and Dix's theories. And it confirms a correlation between weird walls and rock piles. 
We need more of these stone wall maps. The Devens maps is a model for evaluating the quantity of ceremonial structures present. Other towns should map their stone walls! Much of the rest can be derived from that starting point.

So I called this the Duck Pond Ridge site in Groton. The site details are not particularly special. These were piles built on boulders, some with vertical facing, and no sign of larger rectangular mounds with hollows.
One detail was a small outline with a light/quartz rock placed in its center. This was at the southern extremity of the site, just above the housetops.
A suggestion is that the outline was used for a ceremony, and the light rock placed inside afterwards. 
It was an almost physical pleasure finding the site by hunting from the Devens map. Although the details may not be important, it is important to know there is a site there and to add a dot to the map. Here is today's version:
Also the relation to walls is important, even though it is hard to see at ground  level.


Tim MacSweeney said...

More and more, with each passing year, I believe less and less that New England's "Stone Walls" are "reminders of our agricultural past (and I mean the past that goes back only to the 1620's) and are actually remnants of Native American constructions that go back perhaps as far as those found in other places, like the ones the under the waters of the Great Lakes (not counting the recent photos of some suspicious ones). I may have mentiones this before...

Tim MacSweeney said...


pwax said...

I recall Mavor and Dix thought a large number of walls were Native American. Was it 70%? I now think the Devens map shows otherwise - roughly 20% of the walls "go crazy" while the rest follow rectalinear land-division logic.
We can have that discussion more quantitatively now, using the map.