Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Miniature Chambers / Hollow Cairns

From Mary Gage via James Gage:

Steve Dimarzo, Pete Dimarzo and Todd Carden have been meticulously examining stone structures. They take the time to photograph every structure from all four sides and top down plus close ups of features. They are constantly looking for features. It has paid off. During this year’s field trips they came across two niches with closing stones.  Closing stones are small flat, thin stones fitted to an opening. One was found at a low niche (fig.1) surrounded by piled up stones resembling a horseshoe shaped cairn (Long Pond, Rockville, RI). The second closing stone (Voluntown, CT) was found at another low niche (fig.2) but this one had a surprise. The niche opened up into a hidden chamber. The structure looked like a cairn from the exterior (exterior 4’ L x 2’ H). To start one of the guys tested a short rectangular stone and found it loose. Upon pulling it out he found a niche. For some reason, perhaps because they had found an open shaft / cairn at another site, he decided to feel around inside (fig.3). To his surprise there was an open space inside. They then removed a single top stone and were able to view the chamber inside (fig.4). This chamber was low and made up of rectangular bars so it had straight walls like a shaft which it was originally taken to be. A hint that it was not a shaft was the irregular way the top was set up under the capstone. Out of curiosity I asked Steve to be on the lookout for other structures like this one but with corbelled walls. Steve remembered a site they had documented last spring (North Road Site, Hopkinton RI). I had major surgery last spring so Jim and I had not gotten to those sites yet. At this site the guys had found what looked like a cairn with a loose capstone. Upon removing the capstone they found and photographed a chamber with corbelled walls. In the photographs one small stone looked like it could be a closing stone, so I asked the guys to back and check it out. Todd went back this week and raked the leaves from around the base of the structure.  He did not find a closing stone instead, he found a large lintel stone with a low opening (approximately six inches high) under it leading into the chamber (fig.5). Congratulations to Steve, Pete and Todd. They have discovered a new structure the Miniature Chamber a.k.a. the Hollow Cairn. Mary Gage

Fig. 1 – Rockville, RI – The yellow rod points to a closing stoning blocking the opening of a low niche.
Fig. 2 - Voluntown, CT – This is an overall view of a miniature chamber with the closing stone lying in front of the opening.

Fig. 3 – Voluntown, CT – Feeling around inside to discover the hollow interior of the miniature chamber structure.

Fig. 4 – Voluntown, CT – Interior of the miniature chamber as seen after removing one of the roof stones.

Fig. 5 – Hopkinton, RI – Overall view showing low opening into this miniature chamber.

Fig. 6 – Hopkinton, RI – The hollow interior is revealed after one of the roof stones is removed.

Fig. 7 – Hopkinton, RI – Close-up photo of interior after removing roof stone.
Photos courtesy of Steve Dimarzo and Todd Carden (used with permission).


pwax said...

I would not say they have "discovered" this. Norman, Jim P, and Larry H have been emphasizing niches for several years. I published one from Northwest Willard Brook, a few weeks ago, that had the same structure: hollow interior with a niche exterior. The new finds do emphasize a relation between external niches and hollow interiors that makes me take the topic even more seriously.

Anonymous said...

We are removing stones now??? Taking apart cairns?
"The hollow interior is revealed after one of the roof stones is removed."
You got to be kidding me!

Norman said...

There are other ways of peering into cairns rather than taking them partially apart. Also, Figures 4 and 6 could be examples of cist graves, with large stones, often on edge, forming a box-like structure.

Norman said...

Regarding my last comment, I meant to say Figures 4 and 7.

Jeff in RI said...

I agree with Anonymous, not a good Idea to be deconstructing, reconstructing these intentions. They may not be reassembled correctly. If you have to look inside invest in one of those fiber optic wall scanners used by building contractors. At the very least the entire process should be videoed with gps co-ordinates for documentary purposes. I've seen more than a few hollow cairns and resisted the temptation. Imagine a few Indians going into St Peter's and peeking into the tabernacle. Respect is a two way street to quote St George Carlin...

Anonymous said...

Plus doing it in CT could get you a $5,000 fine and 5 years in jail.

Larry H

Anonymous said...

Larry is exactly right. By all means photograph, GPS, video and sketch, but leave undisturbed.

Ted H.

pwax said...

I agree. Moving rocks seems pretty unnecessary and is disrespectful.

Here is a story:
Years ago, I heard of an "oven" or some kind of "chamber" on Flint Hill in Lincoln, east if the highpoint, just north of Rt 2. I maybe heard about it from NEARA files; or maybe from somewhere like Sal Trento's book. I went up there before I had a digital camera and saw something like these hollow piles with niche openings. In Lincoln, the niche was walled off from the inner compartment - which was slightly corbelled. The capstone was gone and you could look inside.

Since then, the thing got knocked down and, most recently, they've been widening Rt 2 and the place is gone.

Anonymous said...


Before you accuse us of "grave robbing", let me say this one important point. An educated decision was made to remove ONE stone only to see if these cairns were indeed hollow!! So, get your facts straight before making unwarranted accusations that we dismantled either of these cairns. Remember, one stone was removed and we knew how to replace that one stone because we had taken a picture of the structure before we removed that stone.

Steve D.

pwax said...

Consider using a fiber optic scope.

Jeff in RI said...

Steve D,
I don't think anyone has made that accusation. I'm sure you didn't have any ill intentions and it is good that you photo documented the cairn. I myself though would have contained my curiosity and left the construction alone. I have seen so many wrecked by loggers or disrespectful intruders the weather, whatever. These things are fragile, endangered and I personally feel that leaving them alone is a matter of respect. Maybe it would be best to find a Narragansett and start a conversation ....

Norman said...

I second the recommendation. Have a conversation with Doug Harris.