Friday, January 31, 2014

More River Stone Archeology

Got another one today. A small spike of some kind, or edge. It is the black one:
 The other item is from Fort McDowell, AZ. It is sort of similar.
On the black one I picked up today, the flakes are quite nice, in a spiral of decreasing size around the tip.
In AZ, I always figured these semi-monofacial tools were more than 10K old. Actually I have no idea. But it would be interesting if there was a widespread stone tool tradition that was pre-arrowhead and encompassed AZ and wherever these river rocks came from.

Monday, January 27, 2014

River Stone Archeology - from industrial landscaping planters

Continuing the discussion of river rocks found in landscaping contexts, their archeology is almost more a matter of aesthetics than science. In the case of the rocks from Waltham, I have no idea where the rocks are from. I note the mixture of rhyolites and other materials that I do not see in glacial till around here. But I don't know where these rocks were harvested - nor from how deep a layer. 

So it is not really a science. But it really is a chance to admire the artistry of the tool maker.
I think this is a scraper:

How about those smooth lines?

I think this is an axe:

This is a relatively large item.

And I think this is a hatchet - very worn down:

I find these rock irresistible. Especially the last, which is deep green. I am assembling an "assemblage" of examples. Right now the snow is blocking me, but I have five to ten more rocks to liberate.

A warm day in January

     There's snow on the ground out there and it has been really cold. I won't be finding any arrowheads until that snow melts. Fortunately I did have some free time before the snow fell and I came home with some things.
     We had a warm snap earlier this month and a lot of rain. I was driving home after work one day and the rain was just pounding, big fat drops, the kind of rain that slows traffic. This kind of rain exposes arrowheads, too. It was so warm that night, I slept with the bedroom window open for the first time in weeks. When I woke up the next morning there was a warm breeze blowing through the window and I could smell the spicy scent of the ground outside, it was like a spring day. I had to get out and look, I cleared my schedule for the day and drove to a place where I have had some luck before. The last time I was there, the conditions were really rough, grass and weeds everywhere and not a lot of ground visible except in patches here and there. But the ground is really sandy and when it rains hard like that it changes. Sure enough, the winter freezes had killed a lot of the weeds and all that rain had washed a clean surface in places. Right away I found the tip of a large quartz arrowhead.
     So, that's a good sign, and I am feeling like I am going to have a good day. There are a couple of types of arrowheads that I have never found that I would love to find- Vosburg, Bifurcate Base- and I know these have been found in this place, years ago, by others; there are Starks and Nevilles out there too, and a lot of stuff has been removed but there is always something left. And some day I am going to find something really special there, if I keep putting the time in. Would this be the day?
     Well, four hours went by and it was looking like this might not be a big day after all. I searched nearly the whole place and hadn't found a whole arrowhead. I took this picture of my finds and took a break out there. That piece in the upper left shows clear flaking and I thought it was a fragment of a tool but looking at it later, I realize it is just a flake. The triangle base at top right is a heartbreaker. That big pink thing has a bit of work done to it, I'm not sure if this is a crude tool, a piece of a tool or just something that was being worked on and discarded. The Squibnocket Triangle near my pinky tip is not too bad but it is missing a corner and the very tip is also gone.
     As I was taking a break I couldn't shake the feeling like there was something good out there that I had missed. Maybe not that special rare thing I had been hoping for but couldn't I at least find a decent quartz arrowhead, something? There was an area that was kind of wet and nasty that I had not searched carefully. I decided that instead of walking back to the car I would just give it one more try in that spot that I had not searched so carefully. And it was a real thrill but also a relief, after those hours, to spot a whole arrowhead totally exposed and obvious and just waiting to be picked up.
     Well, it's mostly whole. There's a little nick on the edge. Squibnocket Stemmed, a very common shape, in the most common material, but I am really happy and lucky to have found it. My first whole arrowhead in 2014.
     This is everything I found. That black piece is flint. I'm not sure if this is an Indian tool broken and worked down to nothing, or a pistol flint from England. There were people here in the 1600s, too.
     The two most common shapes in southeastern New England: Squibnocket Stemmed, Squibnocket Triangle.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

No one said we couldn't look at old ones

These are from Codman Hill in Harvard. I never showed the pics from there. These are of the same style but there are many different styles to be seen there.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cooper's Hawk out the back door

There may not be new rock piles for a while.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Upper Law's Brook - As the snow gets thicker.

I don't know if you ever went to climb Mt Monadnock but there is a place on Rt 12, after you have climbed the hill north out of Fitchburg, where a brook meanders through a flat valley on your left. That is Law's Brook. The upper part of it can be accessed from Dean Rd, and I went there hoping to get to the very top of it - which is adjacent to the Falulah watershed (a special place).
All three towns meet there: Fitchburg, Ashburnham, and Westminster. But I never got past C. There was a narrowing of the woods and I had to decide if I wanted to risk being seen versus turning back after too short a walk. There were a few rock piles here and there. But the snow was getting heavier and that was a deciding factor. In fact I had a white knuckle drive home - seeing 4 accidents and nearly causing one.

At the beginning, cutting into the woods from the road, I came across a boulder with radiating lines of rock piles and smaller rocks around it.

I have seen similar sites (in Stirling behind the Rod and Gun Club, and in Hopkinton at that "Interchange" site I described recently. Also on Wildcat Hill in Ashland).
I went down to the brook, back to the road, around to the east side, and back into the woods and saw a few rock piles here and there along the brook:

I wanted to cross the brook and eventually had to execute a very risky move from ice onto wet mossy rock, back onto ice; which succeeded because of the stick in one hand, the good balance on the only foot that had traction, and on luck. I expected to go in. Anyway, this got me over to the west side of the brook around C, and heading back.
Here was an interesting enclosure:
(See how the snow is starting to accumulate?)
A few more rock piles, and now it is starting to be snowy:
Back at the car, the road surface was wet.

The drive home from Ashburnham to Concord, Saturday 11:20AM in the second hour of a snowstorm [Not rock pile related]
Headed south on Rt 12 into Fitchburg and the further downhill the more snowy it got. It became clear that Fitchburg has little to no salt budget. At the curve next to the old brick school house, a guy had spun out and hit a telephone pole - with firetrucks and policemen attending. So I proceeded cautiously to get off that hill from Ashburham and down into Fitchburg. Heading out of Fitchburg a white van came sailing down a cross street from the right, smashing the car in front of me. Luckily they cleared my lane in the process. So I inched by, giving the man who was hit a sheepish look. He was alright.
I recently learned to stop whenever possible and buy food at the Puerto Rican bakery "La Reyna" on Rt 12 in Fitchburg. The pork sandwiches - including bacon crisp - are wonderful. The donuts are chewy and kind of fun. Sandwhich +1/2 dozen donuts = $6. So I am eating happily while facing a tough drive on Rt 2 still ahead, to get back to Concord. Crossed into Leominster and they have a salt budget so the roads were wet again but one hour into the storm and no one had salted Rt 2. I got that pork sandwich inhaled by the Rt 190 split and started enjoying the donut.
The roads were getting slicker and slicker and everybody knew it. I thank my luck I was on the road with other Massachusetts drivers; because everyone was going much faster than was safe (around 40) - but we all wanted to get home and we all stayed in control. We saw a couple more accidents on the other, westbound, side of Rt 2. There was no doubt about it being slippery. 
The feeling of the steering wheel changes when you go into a skid. It feels smoother and you don't have steerage. The only thing to do is to let up on the accelerator. This happened a couple times and I had to slow down to 35. When I did, the guy behind me dropped back.
Getting through Harvard on Rt 2 you must go over two large, long hills. The first at the Rt 111 exit and the next at Oak Hill. I barely had the speed to get up these and the subsequent descent of each was another thrill ride. Somewhere in there I decided to have another donut to distract me from the fear - even though I wasn't hungry. Anyway, I finally got back to the relative flats of Acton, even down into Concord- glad I could die now, at home.
Then on the last turn, on the very last turn before home, I kept my momentum in order to not have to use the brake and looked carefully left and right for traffic. At the last moment I noticed a small white car with snow on it - almost invisible but headed for the same part of the universe as me. I skidded and skidded to no avail. Pumped the brakes and came to a stop a few feet from him. I got a nasty honk - which I deserved. And that was it.

Ashburnham Hill Rd - a little something

Of minor note:
These are visible from the road:

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I need help with the LIDAR images

I keep hearing about the LIDAR images from MA but I have not seen one yet. When I go to upload the *.ZIP file I get something "invalid". Can anyone actually see the image for the Nashua River (I want to see Fitchburg and Leominster) ?

Oops! Forgot the link:

Wow! I dove into this a bit further - it being Sunday and it being snowy and all. So you need to upload a Unix utility "7-zip.exe" that works for windows to decompress a *.tif.bz2 file (after having carefully gone to the index to pick a tiny piece of the Fitchburg map to test this on). After some futzing around, since now my PC hard disk is weirdly sub-divided by Windows 8, I locate the new app and try it on the tif.bz2 file. Well it decompresses to somewhere else on the PC. Finally located that using good ole DOS "dir /S" commands and went to open the new tif file. Gotta pick yet another new program (luckily there already is one on this PC) to view TIF files, and FINALLY! the image arrives of a blank page
Maybe my eyes glazed over too soon when reading about MASS-GIS "layers". But I tell you, this is not ready for consumption. Someone is going to have to write a decent wrapper with zoom and scroll.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A "To Walk"list

Like a "to do" list. I don't know if this is of interest but here is mine at the moment:
  • Southern Westboro "Libbey Property" almost in Upton
  • [DONE]Green Hill Shrewsbury
  • Just south of southernmost point in Townsend.
  • All over the place near Juniper Hill in Ashby.
  • North of road to Mt Pisgah – get to valley south of Rattlesnake Hill, Berlin
  • Hill East of Pleasant-Street Cemetery – South Berlin.
  • Barnard/Stiles/Longley – still waiting on these.
  • More thorough east of Fitchburg Reservoir.
  • All around Juniper Hill (still)
  • [DONE]Across 495 from EMC Southboro [Done that boring]
  • [DONE]Northwest of Saddle Hill [couldn't get in, except one little place]
  • [DONE: BORING] High Rock Woods in Needham (north of Powisset/Dover) 
  • [DONE, tres dull] Across Rt 13 from Dead Swamp in Townsend. And, as far as that goes, the southern edge of Dead Swamp.

More on those 7 Rock Piles

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Green Hill Shrewsbury

Fortune Drive off Centech Blvd:
I saw this at the end of  a walk where I gave Green Hill a once over. I was not sure about this pile since it was isolated. Everything else I saw, as I circled the hill, could have been from farming. There were fields nearby and the whole place is very rocky.
So I do not know what to make of this type of pile:

Or these berms:
There is a lower berm parallel with the upper one, with walls and fields beyond.

Here was an interesting group of piles, hard to deny the ceremonialism:

This was under the power lines near the top:
And there were a couple of small piles next to the wall near the very highest place on the hill. Also a very low earthen berm parallel to the wall (not shown).
I came up from the southwest and went back down on the northeast, where the houses are closer. Ended up exiting via Fortune Dr. seeing one more mound. 

Green Hill - not a glamorous place but lots of things to look at.