Tuesday, November 28, 2017


Concord Female Effigy Rock Pile

The mortar stone on Virginia Rd in Concord

I want to say it was a happy visit, but the m'f''ing developer not only broke his promise to the town and killed the hill's profile, he also built another building and destroyed the female effigy rock pile that got me started on this whole business.

Traces of ceremony, bits of quartz, a moose skull, etc. Pearl Brook SF

Some walks are dull and you find nothing. Some are exciting and you go home with a sense of weirdness that stays with you, in images, for several days. Still other walks are a bit dull because you find the kinds of things that are expected - so you go home satisfied but not particularly enthused.

Let me tell you about a walk that was dull but where I came home with a sense of weirdness. I saw little but it was unique. Here is the map:
I was following the brook, just to be systematic, and came to a boulder with a few fragments of quartz, next to a small gurgling cascade (at A). The video here.

Let's take a closer look at the boulder:

Rock-on-rock next to a brook, at a place like this, is reasonably common. But the use of quartz is very unusual. It looks like a little creature of some kind. Perhaps a fish.

After this, we continue up the brook and crest out on the top of the slope. I say to myself: "this is where I would expect to see rock piles" but am distracted from this thought by seeing a basin built into the brook (at B):
 There is a little sluice-way and, yes, that is a piece of quartz next to it.
 Looking upstream, there is another larger "quartz" rock above:
Looking downstream towards the basin.:
This "basin" is a curious structure. Not like a dam. Never saw anything like it. I note the bent tree is placed just right for standing or sitting over the basin.

Then I slogged across and up the hill - a dull traverse during which (I learned later) I was being observed by camouflaged hunters [I wonder, did they have me in their sights?].

I topped a ridge, was kinda heading back, and crossed over to the next ridge. Pausing to look back towards the first ridge (at C) I noticed something else that is unusual:
Do you see it? You'll have to right-click and open in a new tab to see it: a pair of rocks propping open the cliff. You see split wedged rocks but you do not see split wedged cliffs.

So I headed over there and stepped on a moose skull.

About Animal Skulls At Rock Pile Sites
Rock pile sites are not that common in the woods. I have seen around 800 of them. At the same time, animal skulls are even rarer. I find antlers not infrequently but only have found skulls four times in 20 years. Three of them were at rock pile sites.

So here is a moose skull.

I do not know if this was a male or female moose. If male, and the antlers were buried, this would be the same resting position as that of a deer skull I found at another rock pile site. I tried to move the moose skull with my foot but it was firmly attached to the ground. So how could such a large beast die, after sticking its antlers into the soil? Leaving no traces of other bones?

 Another time I found a pig skull at a rock pile site, not too far from a working farm. With both tusks intact, I collected it. Wait, there is a picture somewhere. Here is a link to the pig skull.

At least 3 out of 4 skulls being found at a rock pile site is quite a coincidence. Make of it what you will.

(Back to the cliff) I continued across the way:
Now you can see those two rocks inside the split. You don't usually see cliffs embellished this way. Closer:
[You can almost hear the wind rustling the beech leaves]

More quartz. Also a number of smaller rocks.

So then I head off downhill and note a small rock-on-rock - a bit like a turtle:
 View back towards the cliff:
You can just make out the split with quartz rocks in the upper right on this photo. The "turtle" is in the foreground.

So that is it. Very faint traces of ceremonialism. I would say these constructions look recent. I don't know if an animal skull would be used in a ceremony but such items dissolve quickly in our New England woods. That moose did not die long ago, maybe 15 years? And this is what I mean by "traces of ceremony": like delicate touches of a paintbrush, these small quartz structures appear and I have never seen anything like them. It left a faint sense of weirdness.

Back at the cars, I should have asked those hunters more questions. They said "we saw you storm by".

Update: I did not realize it at the time but this hike is in the land between two little wetlands. One was at the top of the brook with the little quartz fish and artificial basin. The other is the headwater of a favorite brook: the Mulpus. I always wanted to find something at the top of the Mulpus. Guess I did.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Exploring satellite images of the desert

Someone reminded me, and it is so addictive.  How 'bout this:
Here we are in as remote a spot as I can find in the Sahara, SE of a town called "Wath" on the Lybian-Chad border. Zoom in and tell me: could that possibly be natural?

Sunday, November 26, 2017

December Field Trips - MA NEARA

From Peter Anick:
Nice to see many of you at the Fall conference.  Hope you all had a chance to renew friendships and catch up on fellow members’ activities.

This time of year, one of the things we NEARA members are always thankful for is the disappearance of foliage, which makes it so much easier to find things in the woods.  Let’s take advantage of the better viewing conditions with a field trip on Saturday December 9 (rain date Dec. 10). 

The trip will be divided into two sections, and you are welcome to attend just the first, the second, or both:

Part 1: 9:30 – 12:30 Shutesbury.  Led by Rolf Cachat-Schilling.
At Pashpishont Mâunumúetash (“Where it breaks forth” Prayer Gathtering Places) remains a large cluster of prayer sites, some partly distrubed by recent construction, and some rather intact.  Several of the stone prayer groups consist of kodtonquagash (elevated stone groups), while others are clusters of winohketash (mounds), with a large effigy/astronomical observation feature (tûnuppasuonk kodtonquag).  There are some sacred relics stranded in a matrix of pavement and housing.  Across the road are different prayer relics, anógquéu kodtonquagash (concentric ground stone groupings), another observation point and mounds.  Uphill on steep ground lies a prayer group with both typical and unusual elements, which views sunrise in the valley below while having a neat ridgeline for observation of the sky south and west.  If time permits, other mâunumúetash can be included in the visit.  This entire group of prayer sites responds to the return on spring in the form of sunrise and the gathering of waters into a fertile valley.  Other clusters in Sanàkkômuk (Shutesbury), while sharing elements and ceremonies, respond to other events in the celestial-cultural cycle.

Part 2: 1:00 – 4:00 Montague.  Led by Peter Anick
Some years back we held a conference field trip to an area of Montague rich in unusual and carefully constructed stone works.  According to oral history, Indians continued to camp in the area well into historic times.  In addition to viewing some of the stone features, we plan to do some research at a local cemetery in the woods nearby.  We will be looking for evidence of several Indian graves associated with the oral history which (if we are lucky) may give us a date when they were here.   The trip will involve a couple of miles of walking through woods (mostly on trails without too much elevation) to get to sites.

To join the trip, respond to this email with the following information:

Email contact:
Part(s) of trip you plan to join: (part 1,part 2, or both)

Information about meeting places and further details will be sent out once we know the number of attendees.

Hope to see you!

UPDATEField trip date has been moved to SUNDAY, DEC. 10.  

I have just learned that it will be hunting season in Montague.  So in order to avoid any risks from hunters, we'll go on Sunday (hunting prohibited) rather than Saturday.  Hopefully, those who have replied can still make it! 

For those of you doing exploring on your own this season, please remember to wear orange to be more visible, and don't bring a dog.

- Peter

Monday, November 20, 2017

Quartz by a brook

Can't get the dramatic voice straight but for what it is worth:

On my way out to explore - self portrait

I don't mean to be too vain. If anyone else wants to send a photo, please do. I would be glad to post it so we can see what you look like - now that you have aged a bit more :) This is how I look on the way out the door:

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Town of Ashland votes to protect Wildcat Hill

From Curt Hoffman:

At Town Meeting on Tuesday, November 14th, the citizens of Ashland, Massachusetts voted to purchase a 34-acre parcel adjacent to the Town Forest, for a sum of $926,000.  This parcel includes the well-known Wildcat Hill sites, which have many stone structures.  This fact was noted at the meeting and was explicitly one of the factors in favor of the purchase.  The Town also voted to expend $40,050 for Town Forest improvements, which will include a 5-car parking lot at the Oregon Road end of the White Trail, which passes by Wildcat Hill, making it more accessible to the public.

Best regards,

[Wildcat Hill]

Curt's Map:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Great photos from Arabia

here (click on the '>').  If those things were in New England they would be called "stone walls". Leading to the question: how many things like the Arabian "kites" are in fact hiding in plain sight - looking very much "colonial farmer..."?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

College Rock - too much to post

I went with the LFHs to College Rock in Hopkinton. That place is so full of things it is daunting to blog about. I'll at least try posting some random pics later.

Snake Meadow Brook - mounds against boulders

I took a quick walk in from the road and noticed a tall bit of stone wall. We always like it when the wall gets to be more than 8 feet tall.
A striking bit of stone wall. See the triangular stone in the middle? I noticed the boulder behind had a scatter of smaller stones. In fact the inside corner of the wall (just right of the above photo) looked like this:
Then there  was another boulder with rocks on it:
I was distracted from looking at this in detail by the larger boulder that became visible:
Here is the vista with yet another boulder with pile in the foreground:
Of the four major boulders, all had piles on them. This is the largest:
Off in a little side valley, this was a high point of water, only a few feet from access by boat. 

I should recall that at Horse Hill, not too far away, there is an area where there are several mounds somewhat like these, built against boulders. It is a particular style for this part of MA, that seems to me to be older than most of the other structures here.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Thursday, November 09, 2017

More on Cairns from Redwing MN

Reader Steve in MN writes:
I have a few more photos of one of the Red Wing, MN rock cairns if you are interested. I hiked out there yesterday and used a 30' mapping pole with a camera to take some birds-eye view shots. Of the four cairns I've found so far, this one is the most complete (though looks like it was systematically dismantled and the rocks put in piles).

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Some nice pics


Berks man believes he has found Indian burial ground, artifacts

Have we seen this?

Quartz arrowhead

On Friday I took the opportunity to go for a walk after work one last time before the clocks changed. Temperatures have been significantly above average for most of this autumn, and it felt more like a summer evening, than a November day. We have gotten some rain, some new things were exposed. This is a decent point and I was happy to find it. Spotting a prehistoric tool fully exposed on the surface of the ground is a thrill that never gets old.
 There were some other fragments to find as well.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Split Wedged Rock from northern Scandinavia

Seen on Netflix in the movie "Ragnarok":
What do we think about this? A pan-arctic ceremonialism?