Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Flume Pond - Sippewisset, Falmouth MA

Been a while since we had a standard report:
Flume Pond is a Falmouth "300 Hundred Committee" conservation land. Several stone walls (in light blue) cross a ridge of higher ground next to a pond, that was probably connected to the ocean at one time. Along the north side of a ridge are a couple of "grids" (upper dark blue outlines) and on the south side, where another wall comes down to the very tip of an inlet, there were several features: a large boulder connected to the wall, a couple of small rock piles (lower dark blue outline) and a linear earthen "berm" (orange line) that parallels the wall and the water. I would have called it a ditch except it is above and parallel to the water. This spot, by the inlet, is a place where brackish water is coming up directly under the oak trees.

You walk along the ridge following a stone wall. Right at the beginning is a vernal pond and a small bit of wall wraps the pond. Next to the vernal pond, a fine example of a split wedged rock:

You keep going along the trail for a minute and see a rock pile off to the right. An older trail leads down to the water on the right (north side) to a place where a boat would be easy to launch. As the trail goes down to the water a small collection of rock piles appear. Upon investigation there are several different clusters of piles out along the ridge, and all the way to the tip of the higher ground sticking into the pond.

I poked around more carefully and would say there are 20 or so piles in the whole area. Yesterday I spent a while looking closely at the first collection of piles on the northern side of the ridge and going down to the water. I started to notice the piles were a bit evenly arranged along lines and started looking for missing piles where the "grid" had me expecting them - ending with my brushing leaves off of several piles I did not see at first. Then I tried to memorize the layout and, getting it at least viusalized, was able to record the layout with bits of dead leaf on a rock:
(Click in to see it better.)

I also explored more extensively in a bulbriar patch that covers the southern side of the ridge. Where the inlet cuts into the land and meets another stone wall, there were a couple of little rock-on-rocks right down at the edge:
 Looking south over the final inlet:
Just to the side of this, as shown in the map fragment, was an unusual earthen feature. Like a stone wall, parallel with a stone wall (shown in previous picture) but made of earth:

Otherwise this is a site with several different typical "grids". In my experience these are usually found near larger mounds, often lower and less conspicuous than the piles of the grid. I did find a larger "bump" with a few rocks poking out that might meet that description.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Swanzey Fish Dam

A Large, Precontact Native American Stone Structure in SW New Hampshire 
by Robert G. Goodby, Sarah Tremblay, Edward Bouras (2014)
"The Swanzey Fish Dam is a large V-shaped stone structure in the Ashuelot River of southwestern New Hampshire. One of the few substantial stone sites in New England with clear archaeological evidence for a Native American origin, it is assumed to have been used for the harvesting of anadromous and/or catadromous fish. Archaeological data demonstrate that the dam became a focus of Native American activity by the Terminal Archaic Period and continued in use into the Contact Period. While one of the first such dams to be documented in New England, the Swanzey Dam is shown to be part of a larger pattern of stone dam construction across eastern North America.
The Swanzey Fish Dam was known to the earliest Euroamerican settlers of Swanzey. The most detailed description comes from an 1888 account by Keene resident and respected naturalist George Wheelock (cited in Griffin 1904:140): “The low water in the Ashuelot, occasioned by the repairs at the Swanzey mill, has exposed the old traditional Indian dam two miles above. Indians were lazy, and this work of theirs is the more surprising on this account...the river at this point is now almost a rapid and strewn with boulders for thirty rods or so. It is less than a hundred feet wide, but the dam being in the shape of a harrow pointing downstream is more than that distance. By skillful stepping it is possible to pass the point of the harrow, the apex of the dam, and somewhat farther. It is made of stones such as a man could lift, picked up in the stream above. It varies from six to twelve feet in thickness, according to the depth of the water. It looks like a tumble down wall mixed with gravel, but it must have caused weeks of labor....Below the dam is a flat boulder reached by stepping-stones....Near by the old dam lives Jonas L. Moore. Here lived his father and grandfather before him. For one hundred and thirty years this has been called the Indian dam...The elder Moore dug up a half peck of arrow and spearheads, all in one pocket....Some twenty Indian fire-places have been ploughed up here. These were simply circles in the middle of the wigwam, paved with stones from the river.”

Racist stereotyping aside, this account is significant in a number of respects, most notably in dating the recognition of the dam as a Native American creation to the earliest Euroamerican settlement of Swanzey in the mid-18th century...
Only a handful of wooden fish weirs have been documented in New England, and prior to this study, no stone dam has been conclusively shown to be Native American in origin…
… Research at the Swanzey Fish Dam site has resulted in a detailed description of the dam feature, has shown that the dam was a focus of Native American activity, and has definitively dated this activity to the Late/Terminal Archaic and Contact periods. This research has also ruled out a Euroamerican origin for the dam, and has shown that, as in much of the eastern United States, substantial stone structures were constructed by Native Americans in New England."

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Canadian Shield rock art as Gesamtkunstwerk : Aesthetics of place and landscape

by Dagmara Zawadzka (2010)
Global Rock Art. Annals of the XIV World Congress of the International Federation of Rock Art Organizations, Piauí, Brazil 
   “…Substances, such as red stone, quartz, copper, crystal, shell, and certain woods, such as birch, were spiritually important and their aesthetic properties of colour and texture were exploited. The use of exotic stones, which were traded at a long distance, stems back to the Paleo-Indian period (10,000-,000 BC)…
The exploitation of the natural shapes and colours of stones is also evinced from the Shin-ga-ba-was-sins, “curiously wrought boulders of rock” that resembles human or animal forms. These stones, which were believed to be imbued with spiritual powers, had sometimes features such as eyes painted in order to accentuate their organic shapes. Certain stones were imbued with special significance. For example, the Mistassini quartzite was called by the Eastern Cree of Québec “Stones that look like fat,” fat being an esteemed substance. Evidence of its exploitation for tools could go back to 4,000 years ago and the quarry itself was regarded as a sacred place...

    The Jesuit Pierre Laure has left the following account of the Antre de Marbre cave in the quartzite outcrop of la Colline Blanche:   “The most remarkable of all the curiosities to be seen in these woods, in the direction of Nemiskou, is a cave of white marble, which looks as if a workman had carved and polished it. The aperture is easy of access, and lights up the interior. The vault corresponds, by its brilliancy, to its supports. In one corner is a slab of the same substance, but somewhat rough, which projects, forming a kind of table as if to serve as an altar. Consequently the savages think that it is a house of prayer and council, wherein the Spirits assemble. Therefore all do not take the liberty of entering it; but the jugglers who are, as it were, their Priests, go there in passing to consult their oracles…”

    According to the archaeologist George Hamell (1983), among North-eastern Woodland Indigenous peoples, substances such as copper and crystal, which can be characterized as shiny, translucent and light-coloured, are metaphors for Light, Life and Knowledge. HAMELL (1983: 5) claims that: When consecreated [sic] to ritual use, shell, crystal, and native copper, and artifacts made from these substances are traditional material culture expressions of “metaphysics of light” shared by the Northeastern Woodland Siouans, Algonquians and Iroquoians. Within this metaphysics “Light” is a metaphorical conceptualization for semantic domains of highest cultural value or significance: “Life,” “Mind,” “Knowledge,” and “Great Being”. As light, bright, and white things, shell, crystal, and native copper, are “good to think (with)…”
    These substances, appreciated for their whiteness, transparency, reflectiveness and lustre, were obtained from underwater manitous such as the mythical Snake whose body “looked like brass” and “eyes and horns shone like a mirror.”
White shiny objects were endowed with special powers. Kohl  (1985[1860]: 414-415) recounted a story relating to the sacredness of white: An Ojibbeway, of whom I inquired why a white colour was so specially esteemed by the Indians, told me that the cause was as follows:
    “When the first man on earth fell sick, and saw death before his eyes, he began to lament and complain to the Great Spirit about the shortness and suffering of this life. [To help the Great Spirit sent messengers bringing the Midewiwin ]. These messengers brought down at the same time a white hare-skin, the feathers of a white-headed eagle, and a medicine-sack of white otter-skin. These contained all the Indian medicines and benefactions of the Great Spirit to mankind. And from this time forth white became a sacred colour among the Indians…"

“A Gesamtkunstwerk (German: [gəˈzamtˌkʊnstvɛʁk], translated as "total work of art", "ideal work of art", "universal artwork", "synthesis of the arts", "comprehensive artwork", "all-embracing art form" or "total artwork") is a work of art that makes use of all or many art forms or strives to do so.”