Thursday, February 20, 2020

Faces (MD)

 Sherry R. writes, “I read your blog about the little face found in Lisbon (CT):

  I have a collection of artifacts found from 1900-1930 off a farm in Maryland including little faces. The faces look like individuals and are small and flat… I believe they are clay, but not sure..."
{This might be a soapstone pendant, with the obvious break, perhaps?}

"This is a piece of pottery shard on the board and stone beads:"

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Path at end of Clewes Rd, going down to Terhuen Dr - Falmouth, MA

One notes the setting above a kettle hole and the presence of another pile above the path in the bushes. These Sippewissett mounds could have been plentiful before the area was so heavily developed.

More and bigger mounds at Sippewissett - biggest mounds on Cape Cod

I took a friend to see a rock pile I located along the trail, and we both wandered off a few feet to see if there might be other things. My friend went over a little ridge and found a pocket with the largest mounds I have seen on the Cape. I walked up the trail a few yards and decided that there was too much bull-briar to penetrate. Either I did not walk far enough or am too short to see what my friend saw when we walked up the trail together: another mound buried deep in the briar. It always tweaks my ego to be bested at my own game. To be fair, I found the place in general. But I did not explore as carefully as I should have. Now I am thinking of taking a clipper into the vines and carving a trail in there in a way that no one will notice.
Several different features inside the blue outline. There is a pocket of mounds there, and perhaps more to be seen nearby - it is pretty impenetrable west of the trail.
Mound site at Sippewissett, sw Beebee Woods

So here we step into the 'pocket' - completely invisible unless you are right there.
 The lower, larger one seems to have a hollow
The upper one seems to be a "duel chambered" model:

Here is a view out the 'pocket' to the south, from behind the lower mound:
My friend, Johannes Raatz, shows the direction to the south, out the valley:
After poking around for a bit, we went back to the trail and he spotted this one in the bushes. My only excuse for missing this is my being about 6 inches shorter. A great "spot" in any case:
Upon braving scratched legs, we can make out that this mound also has a faint hollow:
So this is quite a wonderful collection of mounds for Cape Cod. If you had asked me two years ago I would have said, the only "mounds with hollows" were the oldest smallest form of them (like Scott Reservoir and like the site off Briarwood Rd, in Acton at Nashoba Brook). But I was wrong, I found a pavement and then a normal "rectangular mound with hollow" over by the fire station in Woods Hole. And now, with after seeing these truly typical larger mounds, it is clear that -yes- these are found on Cape Cod too. 

I'll report next on some mounds under the trail nearby at Sippewisset. Which suggests these hills above Sippewissett might have had more mounds in the past. But today it is very heavily developed.

Potential Site in Albermarle County, VA

Reader Jackson Landers writes:

I've come across a site that I don't quite know what to make of and I would really appreciate your advice.
By way of background, I am a science journalist who wrote for Smithsonian Magazine for several years, a few years with Slate, some work for The Washington Post, etc.
This site is in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, about ten miles outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. It was first settled by Europeans around 1850. The Saponi occupied the area before being pushed out, and they were probably here since around 1200 CE, when they believe that they arrived and introduced agriculture to the people who were here before as hunter-gatherers.
There are at least 40 of these piles, spread out across a ribbon of area of approximately 12 acres.

Most of the stone piles in question here face west, over Ward's Creek, which typically runs year-round and probably contains eels, green sunfish, channel catfish in the spring and summer and perhaps shad 150 years ago before dams were built. The area faced on to is a broad flood plain, suitable for agriculture to the tune of about 200 acres with a small elevated tertiary bench area. There is room for a stockade typical of a Saponi village within the primary flood plain, but the elevated area would be a very tight fit for a stockade and village and more suitable for people passing through.
Around the site at high elevation are what I believe to be old pastures. Wire fence remains are in evidence, with stones littered across the the top of the knob and surrounding areas. There is no place within half a mile where a plow could be dragged due to the stones obvious on the surface. I've read the paper by Charity Moore and Victor Weiss which touches on the transformation of pastureland and the aggregations of stone that I find do not think to fit this model.
A few of the piles involve a base that is stacked in way that could not happen by chance, and I include photos to that effect. None of the stone piles include a visible quartz stone. I should mention that this area has some deposits of blue quartz that are not included visibly within the top layer of any of the piles. Nor are there any split stones in the area which could have involved a wedge.
I have searched the local stream beds for artifacts without result. Though I should say that I have never found a point in this area in spite of having lived, visited and camped here since I was 13 years old and never found a point. Perhaps they are here but I'm not quite programmed to see them. Getting the eyes for snakes, or deer, or mushrooms, or points seems to be an acquired skill. I can find deer or chantarelles, but perhaps points aren't in the algorithm here.
Any advice on how to proceed would be enormously appreciated.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Some rock art links

Reader Alicia writes:

I'm sending, as I said that I would, some more articles on rock art when they were published

Past Preservers’ Expert of the Week - September 2017

Just published:
Fumiko Ikawa-Smith: Her Kind of Woman

Food Archaeology: Chocolate!

January 2019 An Instruction Manual Would Be Perfect!
Anthropos: International Review of Anthropology and Linguistics 114(1):37-56
DOI: 10.5771/0257-9774-2019-1-37

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

An old 'shovel' - from Boxborough

Reader Russ sends:
About 9 inches long with broken tip.  6 inches wide at the top.  If legit it seems like a shovel?

Upper Fall Brook - Westville, Taunton

Glebe Rd is an old road that crossed the lowlands around Fall Brook. If you follow the edge of the wetland north to the highest place you can get with water, there is a small site about where you would expect to find one.

Make what you like of this (found along the way):
 Here we are at the headwater:

Minor tributaries of Threemile River - Westville, Taunton

I thought it would be fun to go a bit further afield, to Taunton. My center of gravity is southern Rt 495 and it was only about 20 minutes from the highway. Instead of walking north from where I parked I saw an inviting "corridor" down into a wetland to south [see here], and I followed it.I followed it until I got to a funny little stretch of stone wall and started seeing rock piles after that, as I continued down the wetland [lowest blue outline].
These piles were not much to look at:

Perhaps the nicest one:

These piles are not of a style I recognize. I did not see any even spacing. I did see a few "gap" piles, like these:

Also this seemed to be a place with many short stretches of wall:
 And fainter:
I could have continued down the wetland because there seemed to be a continuation of the things I was seeing. Again, these are not a familiar style: they are not marker piles, they are not mounds. A few piles were small and circular, like fire rings without charring. There were piles right within the wetland and the "gap" piles suggest a place of movement and pathways. 

Instead of continuing downhill, I cut east and found some more traces on a high outcrop looking east. Here the ridge was modified:

Eventually, I turned north, crossed the dirt portion of Rocky Woods Street, and went down along the north side of the land, south of Fall Brook, heading back west. Eventually I came upon some really old mounds [upper blue outline]. I doubt very much whether anyone would see these, or agree that they are man made mounds. But they are.
 [Here is something very unusual: quartz used to wedge a split rock. My thought is that you would rarely want to amplify the spirit of a split rock.]
 Here is another of those invisible mounds.
and others:

The general observation is that these seem to have two or more large rocks at their periphery and, otherwise, are completely broken down - nth stage decrepit. All of which makes this place, at the very highest headwaters of Fall Brook, seem quite old.

Monday, February 03, 2020

Teeing up the next site

Kinda looks like you should walk down that path between the boulders - do you see it?
The brook continues below and does have piles along it.

North Cumberland RI - Ash Swamp Brook

I took a walk in a substantial, open, woods behind a high school. I found the inevitable rock piles; about where they were supposed to be. There were no obvious stylistic differences between these piles in Rhode Island and others a few miles to the north in places like Upton.
What can never be learned entirely is where to expect rock piles, given a map like the one above. Clearly in a swamp like that, surrounded by hills with feeder brooks, and with relatively undisturbed woods, rock piles are almost guaranteed. In fact I turned back after finding one site and I have no doubt there are other things in similar settings all around that swamp.

How do you find these things? You pin down the rock piles between the water and the hill, either by sweeping the hill or by sweeping the water. It is very typical to follow a stream uphill and it is pretty straightforward to come down a hill, stopping at every water source. So in this case, I swept the hill: crossing it with one eye downhill towards the swamp and with expectations of finding marker piles on the slope or something interesting along the brooks (which you can see entering the valley from the left). Strange, it has been a couple weeks since I found this site and I am already confusing the details with what I found yesterday - because the configuration of swamp and brooks (from the west/left) was the same, and the exploration technique was the same, and the site location, with respect to water, was pretty much the same. Let's look at some pictures and, at least, record the site.
This looks like a "gap" piles that create a space between a pile and a boulder or another pile. There were several:
It sure looks like there is a path between these two piles:
Also a number of lovely little things, in their snow covered 'aspect':

This site was at a flat place where a brook goes around a big bend.

A little further along (north) and down the hill was another two or three piles, enclosed by outcrops and little bits of wall.
On my way back to the car, I note that the first site is along an ATV trail and looks like this upon entering from below:
You can see a boulder in the background. Note the wedge:
This site is only about half way up the brook, so there is probably more to see.