Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Neighborhood Stewardship of Rock Pile Sites and Acton's Trail Through Time

Following the comments of the previous post, I want to elaborate on the idea of neighborhood awareness and stewardship as a recommended option for rock pile sites. It is practiced actively in Acton, MA and somewhat also in Carlisle, MA.

Acton has an active public trail system incorporating rock pile sites in two or three places, with interpretive panels. It is called the "Trail Through Time" (TTT) and is the result of efforts by Linda MacElroy. Please see (http://ttt.connactivity.com/)
This bit of the trail system map shows three rock pile sites, an old "Pest House", and a stone chamber, and several historic-period features. Rather than vandalism, the town recently restored the stone chamber (which some thought was a  mistake). This trail system piggy backs on an existing system in Acton called the "Land Stewardship" program whereby each conservation land is under the protection of at least one individual living nearby.

The sheer number of sites (roughly one per every 5 minutes as you walk along) is a factor, as is the popularity of the trails. Anyone seen harming sites along this trail system is likely to get visited by the police; and the neighbors are proud of living near these interesting archeological features. I have not heard any horror stories and, as far as I know, the TTT program is expanding to incorporate other sites, as opportunity permits. Acton and all adjacent towns are full of sites, and they are going to get connected together eventually.

I see no reason why the National Parks should not be doing exactly the same thing.

So I propose this as a model: local involvement, proper signage, and individuals taking responsibility within the framework of a community. The community owns the site and protects it. People do not destroy their own gardens.

I invite you to look at Google results for the search terms "trail through time acton ma" [but leave out the quotes]. The Acton sites now have their own Wikipedia entries. That is what public awareness and stewardship look like.

ADDED: You can see that the new (non yellow) trails reach into adjacent Carlisle. I don't know about signage there but I do know those new trails go through rock pile sites.
This trail system is expanding. I should get Concord involved.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The logic of publicizing rock pile sites

The rock pile sites being damaged by vandals are a drop in the bucket compared to the sites damaged by real estate development and forestry practices. Those threats can be offset by public awareness, including public sites. So I want to ask NEARA member who favor keeping things secret: What justifies a policy of secrecy?

Mesa Verde "Sun Temple" - more Southwestern Archaeoastronomy

This report is a little more detailed than the last one which, as Tommy H. points out, had interesting comments.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Afghani Cairn

From The Land of Enlightenment around 51 minutes in:

Marbloro CT

Reader Mike writes:
I wanted to forward a photo I took last weekend in Marlboro CT. 

I was behind the Elmer Thienes-Mary Hall Elementary School off rte 66 and south main street.
At the south end of the school there is a paved path between the two playgrounds.
A winding stone wall on top of the ridge  is interrupted by this structure covered by three large stone slabs.  This view is due east and the sight line through the chamber is aligned east- west.  I sighted through the opening to the west and at the bottom of the hill next to the path is the remnants of a stone pile.

North Side of Sandy Pond Lincoln

Walking clockwise around Sandy Pond, on the northern side of the pond you might see this to your left :
It is actually a good sized old mound. Sort of a platform - at least in its current broken down state:
With a good view over the pond:
Easy to miss.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A fieldtrip north of Sandy Pond Lincoln

Gail Coolidge and Sydney Blackwell drew my attention to a part of the map I overlooked (having explored the area superficially, many years ago) and took me for a walk there. Sydney noticed a rock-on-rock in one place on a small knoll and later, when we went to take a closer look, you could already see something else behind it.
The first rock-on-rock is a familiar shape, like a boat rudder.
When I went to look at the 2nd feature, I could see a 3rd something beyond that.
Walking over to the third "something" it was a vertical fin of rock:
By this time a prospect opened up with several small features along the west side of the knoll. I didn't notice anything on the east side. This whole site is hidden on the back side of a knoll in the middle of a busy trail system.
Continuing, we see another rock-on-rock and something taller above it:
This looked suspiciously precarious but we got distracted. The picture shows the view to the south and Sandy Pond but we were going further north.
Where there was a larger rock in the bushes:
And a fair sized rock pile in the bushes, both on the north north west side of the knoll:
You don't find major new rock piles every day in Lincoln, MA
We discussed how this pile had nice vertical sides.
And lets not forget this strange bit of structure. It is not so interesting to look at but I will bet you it is the center of the site:
Then we had a closer look at the "suspiciously precarious" pile and decided the lichen growth was legit. Precarious or not, it is very well built.

This pile, nearly at the high point, would throw shadows -during the morning- over most of the features on the western and southern parts of the knoll, at one time or another during the year. Any shadows at the north end be following some other principle.

An arrid hillside in Willard Brook St. Forest

A few weeks ago I thought I'd explore a pointless, almost brook less, hillside with the idea of going west around the hill, then circling to the south the promise of water and the possibility of more interesting locations.  But I have no idea how far I went in any of those directions and mostly what I saw were things I could not decide if they were man made or natural. The bedrock has horizontal cleavage planes. Here on the north side of the hill, for example
There are some magnificent walls on the slope. As I was looking at this the phrase "time to grow up boys!" came to mind. [In retrospect this might be referring to the lack of definition in the earlier objects]
Here, more that is not definite.

I got some exercise.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Turtle shaped rock

Sydney Blackwell and Gail Coolidge showed me this:
It is an interesting rock, although I am not sure it was intended as a turtle, it is a fair representation.

Friday, January 20, 2017


  Posted on November 6, 2013 By Chad Abramovich

“...I was on some message boards doing some research on ancient Vermont stuff, and one commenter from Windsor County had written that there was a stone chamber on his property, but some rowdy kids trespassed and pulled a stone out of the wall that they thought had Ogham on it, and later, the whole structure collapsed. I can see why some people aren’t into the idea of these oddities being ancient, because of the disrespectful visitors they can draw. As an oddity-hunter and explorer myself, this is why I almost never give out the locations I visit, because sadly, you can’t trust people not to ruin things. But the biggest cause of death for these sites is actually by construction projects. Often, they have been purposely razed to make way for cheap cookie cutter housing developments or a farmer wanting to expand their hayfield...” https://urbanpostmortem.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/vermonts-mysterious-stone-chambers/

Ceremonial Stone Landscapes in New England/Time to End Shameful Colonial Bias

Native American Ceremonial Stone Landscapes in New England: Fact or Myth?
By FlazyJ 
Saturday Mar 19, 2016
     Do Native American ceremonial stone landscapes exist in New England, or is all stonework in the region post-contact European handiwork? According to a Massachusetts Historical Commission brochure on historic stone landscape features excerpted below, the answer is that Native American ceremonial stone landscapes are a myth! This is the first in a series of posts that questions this viewpoint, and examines historical bias among New England archaeologists that precludes acknowledging the existence of Native American ceremonial stone landscapes—and the people who created them..."

. . . Archaeologists also consider ethnographic and ethnohistorical information. For example, Native American oral traditions record that people did place small stones or twigs on a sacred spot as they passed by. Over time this might result in a small pile of pebbles, tiny cobbles, or sticks, but not large piles. Conversely there is a strong, documented ethnohistory of stone building traditions among the European settlers of Massachusetts. Together, archaeology and ethnohistory provide conclusive evidence that stone walls, piles and chambers are not the work of ancient cultures.
The Massachusetts Historical Commission is the guiding state agency for the protection of historic and prehistoric properties; if you have a question regarding the significance of a stone feature, please contact them . . . .
    "As the self-proclaimed “guiding state agency for protection of historic and prehistoric properties”, the Massachusetts Historical Commission has assiduously ignored the beliefs of the United Southern and Eastern Tribes [USET], an inter-tribal organization with 26 federally-recognized Tribal Nation members (including Federally recognized tribes of New England), who declared in a resolution written in 2002 that their people created ceremonial stone landscapes, and that these places do exist."

From the USET Resolution:

[F]or thousands of years before the immigration of Europeans, the medicine people of the United South and Eastern Tribal [USET] ancestors used [ceremonial stone] landscapes to sustain the people’s reliance on Mother Earth and the spirit energies of balance and harmony.

[D]uring and following the Colonial oppression of Southern and Eastern Tribes, many cultural and ceremonial practices, including ceremonial use of stones and stone landscapes, were suppressed. . . .

[W]hether these stone structures are massive or small structures, stacked, stone rows or effigies, these prayers in stone are often mistaken by archaeologists and State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs) as the efforts of farmers clearing stones for agricultural or wall building purposes.

[A]rchaeologists and SHPOs categorically thereafter, dismiss these structures as non-Indian and insignificant, permitting them to be the subjects of the sacrilege of archaeological dissection and later destruction during development projects. . . .

[C]laiming them as products of farm clearing, professional archaeologists and the SHPOs annually pass judgment on the significance and potential protection of these sacred ceremonial stone landscapes and their structures within USET ancestral territories.

   "Could it be that consultation with indigenous people by New England archaeologists might involve a potentially wrenching change in the balance of power, the fear of which has caused some of them to avoid such consultations? And could it be that deeply engrained cultural bias on the part of Eurocentric archaeologists prevents them from recognizing Native American ceremonial stone landscapes in the northeast?

    Consider this. For decades, the Massachusetts SHPO has refused to visit the site of a remarkable beehive-shaped stone chamber in Upton, MA that is acknowledged by four federally-recognized New England tribes as part of a highly significant ceremonial stone landscape. In absentia she has determined that it is a colonial root cellar—end of story. Yet recently-completed optically stimulated luminescence analysis of backfill behind a chamber wall yielded dates between 1350 A.D. and 1625 A.D.—predating European settlement in the area. Is it not time for the Massachusetts SHPO to reconsider the colonial attribution?
    The time has come to challenge the “facts” and hypotheses of New England archaeologists who pontificate without benefit of the Native American voice (which many mistakenly believe has vanished), and to encourage them to open their minds to the truth that hides in plain sight all around them."
Time to End Shameful Colonial Bias in New England Archaeology
By FlazyJ 
Monday Jul 11, 2016
    " In New England, the victors and oppressors have successfully shaped the pre-contact narrative--without Tribal consultation. It is time for that shameful practice to end. New England is rich in Native American ceremonial stone landscapes--places where stones were carefully placed, grouped, propped, shaped, and/or split, etc. for sacred purposes. Celestial alignments in these places form the foundation of ancient spiritual communication with Mother Earth. Elsewhere in North America, these ceremonial stone features are accepted for what they are, the work of Indigenous People. But in New England, colonial bias--and dare I say racism--have propelled the mainstream archaeological community to attribute all stone features in the region to European settlers.

     The prevailing narrative insinuates that Indigenous People were not “advanced” enough to create the stone features found throughout New England. Dr. Paulette Steeves explains this phenomenon: “The archaeological construction of Indigenous people’s histories has been framed in Eurocentric thought and centered in power and control.” She adds that: “Benefits of control of the past in archaeology include the power to define the past of ‘‘others’’, capital gain, and the creation of social memories which dehumanize and disempower ‘‘others’’. [“Decolonizing the Past and Present of the Western Hemisphere (The Americas)”, P. 45/49 Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress (2015) DOI 10.1007/s11759-015-9270-2]
     Mercifully, the narrative is starting to change. Why? Because after generations of remaining silent, Native voices are speaking up. Tribal Elders are encouraging cautious openness about ceremonial stone landscapes out of concern that sacred places will be destroyed from ignorance of their very existence...
    ...It is time for the archaeological community to wake from its colonial stupor to actively seek Tribal consultation, and recognize that answers do not come only from digging and peering into holes. Visit ceremonial places with openness. As Narragansett Hereditary Elder Tribal Medicine Man Lloyd “Running Wolf” Wilcox counselled: “In putting [ceremonial stone landscapes] in front of the public and government for judgment, do not rely on Tribal oral history and lore alone, that, they always find a way to ridicule and devalue. Instead, allow the landscape to speak for itself and allow the oral history and lore to stand as its witness.”

    Places of spirit will reveal themselves to those who are open to their message, not to archaeologists mired in a petrified colonial mindset that blinds them to the truth."

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Visible and almost invisible linear traces in the swamp

It is interesting how ditches and walls are directed. I always want to ask: Why that angle? Sometimes walls are along the same alignment as ditches and you want to ask: what practical use is there to coordinating walls with ditches? For example, this example from Brush Hill Rd in Hudson NH is typical:
So here are the lines I see:
When it comes right down to it, the hypothesis that this is related to Native American ritual has more to offer than the hypothesis of Euro agrarian practicality. The Native American hypothesis has testable predictions: you hope to discover horizon features and celestial events that are along those linear features of wall or ditch. I wonder if a New England archeologist would care to tell us how these particulars could be understood and tested within the conventional Indian-less view?
Adding: In some ways the European agrarian hypothesis is not even a hypothesis since it is not testable. Remember the discussion in "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" about the meaningfulness of ideas that were not testable?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

"Rock Piles" 11th birthday

Almost forgot. January 15 2006 was the first post. Got 368 visitors yesterday.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Bobcat at Rock Pile Colchester CT

    An unusual occurrence in a greenhouse with three people injured, police track a bobcat into the woods, someone snapping this photo that seems to include a rock pile:
Link to news story video (I don't know how long it will be up):

Anger about Forestry Practices

I can tell you (NEARA: are you listening), the worst threat  to stone structures is sloppy forestry practices and I cannot see why our community doesn't make at least a minimal effort to complain about it and, maybe, get it fixed.

A couple days ago I posted a photo of a stone wall crushed from the tread of heavy equipment. I sent the photo to the New England Forestry Foundation and heard back as follows:

"I can tell you our normal procedure is to avoid creating new openings in stonewalls whenever possible by not crossing them or using existing openings. Unfortunately, that is not always possible given the extensive nature of stonewalls throughout our region. "

[Peter gnashes his teeth] So guys: how about sending a few emails about this to various people? Not destroying stone walls as part of forest "stewardship" should be a requirement for a permit. A lot of people take those tax breaks, make some money, and could care less if they destroy everything to get to the trees. I think town historic and natural resource committees ought to be challenged about this. Towns need to protect their stone walls if the state refuses.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Acton Grid: Fred Martin Video with FFC Stupid Sheet

The internet keeps losing this. One of the best pieces of hypothesis testing for the idea that "marker" piles are connected to astronomy, since it involves two independent pieces of data:
I have a little information to add to this story. The "high point" I am talking about is a flat topped boulder slightly elevated above the rock piles in the grid. The lines in the survey converge on the edge of this rock. It is on the near horizon and so its shadow will fall along the line of rock piles on the winter solstice sunrise (the same line as summer solstice sunset). I believe there is another boulder in the winter solstice sunset direction - hence another shadow source for the sunset of the same day. Now we just need site videography to prove these shadow actually exist.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A small site in the foot hills of Blood Hill Ashburham

Where Spring Hill Rd branches off from Piper Rd in Ashburnham, there is a little site along a small brook:
On the right you see a pile ['right-click' and 'open in new tab' to see these details] with an unusually large chunk of quartz. Next to it on the other side of the brook is a small pile and then, slightly in the background in the upper left, in the middle of the snow patch, there is a low horseshoe of a rock pile. Beyond that, you can't see it, there are several nicely built piles and a wall with a break, leading to a few more.
I found the site driving slowly along Piper Rd going west and looking to my right. Just after Spring Hill Rd, I think I see a pile in the woods and, leaving the key in ignition, I get out to take a quick peek. At first, I could not decide if these were part of a wall:

But looking around I saw others (farther from the car, shoe lace untied, hurrying and worrying I was trespassing):
There is a wall behind, and I see other piles through a break in the wall:
They are getting nicer...
These are starting to look good as "marker" piles - with vertical sides. It is always great seeing a well built pile:
Looking east from here:
It is not hard to see a trail. Having seen marker piles, I was hoping to find a larger mound, so I followed the trail. And here is a little horseshoe:
From the other side:
And then here is the brook and the view across to the pile with the large chunk of quartz:

A discussion of the location:
I had gone out to explore these types of low areas around Blood Hill but why do you suppose there were rock piles in that particular place? Seen as a random spot along the brook it doesn't seem special in any way. Then the obvious comes out: there is cross-road right there. Then, speculating that the modern road follows the old trails, you see that the old trails follow the brook. The brook goes around a corner at this spot and the trail forks at the bend. In this light it is not at all a random place: one would be following the trail that follows the brook. When the brook turns sharply uphill there is a choice of following the brook or continuing in the direction you have been going. A quite strategic spot.

Why can't forestry develop a "best practice" of protecting stone walls?

They could have been more careful with little ramps, or a deconstruct-reconstruct approach, but why spend an extra 1/2 hour?

Obvious cut marks on bones from an extinct horse in Alaska puts humans in the New World 24 K years ago

Not rock pile related but we all like this sort of counter-establishment story:
You wonder, how many nails does the "Clovis First" coffin need? I love the current version: 

New evidence suggests human presence in a Yukon cave during the last ice age 24,000 years ago.

I want to say: make up your minds, does carbon dating work or not? Did some other creature than humans make cut marks? 

Friday, January 13, 2017