Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Oley Hill site dates to 2500 years ago

I asked Norman Muller about his dating result for the Oley Hills. They used OSL (Optically Stimulated Luminescence) to arrive at a date of 2500 BP, for one of the terraces at Oley Hills. He wrote:

Yes, the Oley site is much older than Cahokia.  I am of the opinion that the large platform stone mounds in the Northeast were inspired by the earthen mounds in the Midwest.  Or maybe the influence went in the other direction!  You are aware, of course, of that large geometric earthen mound in western MA (see LiDAR attachment; the mound is about 50 feet high and 200 feet long at the base; the top is precisely oriented to the cardinal directions.  I visited the site with Timreck and Lisa Gannon).

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Ontario Mounds

Reader Joanne writes:

We found these unusual stacked rock piles deep in the woods.  The one is quite large, almost an igloo shape, maybe 10 feet across and 4 feet high with a depression in the centre. It is made up of carefully placed stones.  About 65 feet away from it is a flat circular mound about 6 feet across, under a very distinctive bent tree.
Further on in the woods we found another stacked pile up against a rock out cropping but I don't have a clear photo of it. These piles are well back in the woods and not near any homesteads or farms, or even roads. 

 Any thoughts on their origin?  Thanks for taking a look at them.

[Added later:] This site is west of Algonquin park in Ontario. In the park itself there are 41 smaller rock cairns but none as large as this one.

Mike Martin's Cave

A reader writes: 

Rock Piles contributors, especially Jimp:

I have a challenge for you:

I'm researching "Captain Lightfoot," the "last of the New England highwaymen" who was hanged in 1821 for a robbery near Medford, MA.

The attached article (first column) from an 1885 edition of the Boston Globe describes a cave alleged to have been used by Lightfoot, i.e.Michael Martin.

The location is Arlington, MA--now much developed.But the streets mentioned (Highland Ave, Spring Road (Old Spring Street?), place this very near Menotomy Rocks.

Is the cave in this article the one found by Jimp in Menotomy Rocks Park?

Jerry Kuntz
Warwick, New York

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Curt Hoffman Talk

Dr. Curtiss Hoffman will present a talk on stone structures to the archaeology club at Norwalk Community College, via Google Meets, at 7:30 PM this evening, April 29th.  The log-in code is

Old Sugar Shack Snake Effigy (Woodbury CT)

 A stone wall-like roadside Snake Effigy, hiding in plain sight:

41.590 - 73.199
I found I didn't need to overlay an eye to emphasize the idea of a snake head:

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Nobscot Park

Curt Hoffman writes:

Sometimes, you can discover these sites without having looked for them.  Yesterday, I was looking for a way around the construction on Edgell Road and Water St./Edwards Rd. in Framingham, MA to get to a destination, and I happened to notice on GoogleMaps the notation "Rock Pile" within the bounds of Nobscot Park, a small parkland maintained by the Framingham Garden Club.  We checked it out, and  there  doesn't seem to be very much there, but I did note 2 rock piles associated with stone rows and a third unassociated stone row at the approximate locations on the map denoted by "rp" and "sr" respectively.  There was no signage in the park except for a few Garden Club signs and memorials, and the stone monuments were rather far from the  "improved" grassy area of the park -- I have no idea what the  GoogleMaps citation was referencing.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Johannes (Jannie) Loubser - talk on Georgia Rock Art

Norman Muller writes:
A fascinating, well organized, and finely illustrated talk on rock art in Georgia and neighboring states by Johannes (Jannie) Loubser.

Update: ... adding:
This National Forest handout is well researched and clearly presented, and is based on research conducted by Jannie Loubser.

Friday, April 23, 2021


 By Norman Muller:

I agree with your essay on openness versus secrecy regarding rock pile sites, which you posted on your blog on April 13.  While I am reluctant to publish the exact location of certain sites, particularly those that are fragile and vulnerable to damage, I believe that we can best preserve rock pile sites by describing them and their connection to the past – our past -- and through education, since keeping everything quiet or secret does nothing except to perpetuate ignorance.

And with education, we might well start with the historical commissions in the Northeastern states, some of which are either reluctant to accept the fact that there are Native American rock pile sites in our midst, or openly hostile even to their existence, such as the view of the Massachusetts Historical Commission, which continues to claim they are simply colonial in age.  Such resistance to reality does not promote the preservation of rock pile sites, but rather subverts it through ignorance, eventually leading to their damage and destruction. 

 I have assumed that articles written by NEARA members about rock pile sites are generally ignored by the archaeological community.  It might be a good move for NEARA to make it a habit to send new copies of their journal to each of the state archaeologists in the Northeast.  And also publicize any initiative that promotes the dating of rock pile sites.  This wouldn’t hurt and may eventually stimulate a change in thinking.

 If education is the key to preservation, then evidence of the age of these rock pile sites can only help make the task easier, since archaeologists usually rely on the finds of pottery and projectile point shapes and styles to establish the age of a site.  Without some solid data as to the age of rock piles sites, we will always be on the defensive when trying to promote the idea that certain rock piles are ancient and should be preserved.

 It was this dilemma that confronted me when I began to contemplate the Oley Hills site in Pennsylvania upon my retirement in 2017.  I had done a considerable amount of research on the site, beginning in 1997, but after more than twenty years of looking and thinking about this site, I still had no idea how old the impressive stone features on this remarkable site were. 

 Then I came across some articles on OSL (optically stimulated luminescence) dating of stone used in the construction of ancient buildings online, many written by Ioannis Liritzis, a Greek scientist based on the island of Rhodes.  He had applied the technique to confirm the known dates of some ancient buildings and temples in Greece and Egypt.  When I asked him whether any scientists here in the U.S. practiced this dating technique, he mentioned Jim Feathers at the University of Washington.  In 2018 two fist-sized stone samples were taken from the Terrace at the Oley site and sent to Feathers for analysis.   In 2019 we received the verdict:  the site was nearly 2500 years old.    

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

"Cairns" in Prince Edward County, Ontario

 Read Ken D writes:

Hi, I thought you might be interested in my find at the back of my property in Prince Edward County - Ameliasburg.  To the east of us is a Mohawk Indian reserve so I instinctively thought the 8 cairns on my property were burial sites. I found your blog 'Reflections' interesting indeed.  

Ken indicates that he is willing to show them to someone interested. Contact this blog for email introductions.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Sad Destruction

 Keith from Mendon writes [I am adding some text at the bottom]:

Just want to send you a few pictures of Quissett Wildlife Management Area I know you once visited in Blackstone/Mendon. I just discovered this the other day while I was hiking. Apparently a huge chunk near the middle of Quissett is private property. They are clearing countless  acres for solar panels. I know there were many rock piles in this area. Find out people are using their landlocked property and selling to the solar companies. Obviously this is very counter productive to saving the planet by going solar and reducing CO emissions but destroying beautiful forests! Sad. This just ruins this wildlife area!

Keith also writes:
here's an article I found (that is a few years old) discussion about this site and ruining the forest. You know if more people ever knew about this, that clear cutting was going to happen, there would have been protests. Not only for the unknown ceremonial sites but the destruction of the beautiful woods for solar. But definitely documented native sites will stop development to some degree. I think they do this secretively as they know deep down it is wrong! Unfortunately this is happening ALOT!... I fear for many of the woods around here. I did a google satellite view and i can see many solar farms popping up in the middle of many woodlands. . .SAD.


Peter Waksman writes:
So , how's that secrecy working out?

By secrecy I mean the policy that wants to keep rock pile site locations a secret, known only to a few. The open policy alternative is a combination of public education, public sites, and active pressure applied to various industries (logging, construction) as well as conservation groups that think solar energy is more important than forest and history. Let me add to the list of "open" policies: active pressure applied to state lawmakers to enact new laws that protect stonework in the same way as we treat wetlands, here in MA: namely you are not supposed to impinge on a wetland without a special permit. 

By now, I cannot see any argument in favor of secrecy. The "few" who benefit from secrecy are an elite group of white researchers. Also some Native Americans take the position that sites that have been lost should remain lost - moldering back into the earth. But once the "few" learn about a site, it is not going to remain lost in any case. The risk of following this strategy is on full display above.

The benefits of open-ness are obvious - a precious resource from a Native American past is preserved - what might be called a "gift" -  is available for all to learn from. The risk of following this policy is a range of outcomes: from a little wear and tear to destruction. But in the latter case, the destruction will never scrape a site down to bare dirt. Common sense says that certain sites, eg effigies, are delicate and may need special treatment.

There is no point in writing a lot about this, except to suggest some obvious actions needed from the elite white community and the Native Tribes. I call on NEARA, I call on the Native Tribes, and I call on readers of this blog to sponsor a discussion with the logging industry, the conservation movement [if there is such an entity], and the state governments. Get off your asses and do something! 
I am trying to figure out how to penetrate the thick headedness of the Massachusetts historic preservation offices. I am told that MA is the only state whose historic officers refuse to accept the existence of sacred sites. Meanwhile I will just be a scold. If someone wants to start a new activist group, this blog will support you. For example: how about we stage a sit-in at the offices of the Massachusetts Historic Commission? We would need the clout of NEARA and of the tribes...anyone? I won't do it by myself. Maybe we could start preparing now, and do something after we've all been vaccinated. 

Finally, for reference, there are several large, well-preserved sites still safe and protected within the public Quisset conservation land (see Rock Piles: Search results for Quisset). 

(By the way, the pile in the photograph is probably a grave and probably could be protected through existing NAGPRA laws - as might be some of what was bulldozed. But how can NAGPRA be applied if no one wants to admit that these are burials? This is a different version of secrecy: keeping the true nature of these mounds a secret. Let me quote a NEARA Journal editor, who refused to publish my article about this: "the hypothesis [of burial] is the problem". (I'll get into this other fight later.)

Most of the major sites in MA are not safe. I am not at all sure about all the other wonderful sites in New England sitting on private land; where installing panels is now a quick buck for the needy and greedy who happen to own the place. 

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Track Rock Gap Vandalized

Norman Muller writes:

Depressing news about an important petroglyph site in NW Georgia. I've been there, and I assume that Jannie Loubser will be involved in analyzing the damage, since he wrote an important article about the site.

Ancient Native American Site Is Defaced in Georgia Forest

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Google woes

Some people, including me, are having trouble getting to this blog when searching from Google Chrome or MS Edge. Search terms like "rock piles" or "rock piles blog" are getting spotty results, where the blog used to come out at the top or at least on the first page of search results.

I have been trying to get Google or MS tech support to tell me what is going on.. Anyone want to weigh in on whether it works for them or not?  

Update: Yay! It is back, at least for me. If it is still not working for you, please let me know.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Stop calling them "cairns"

Cairn - Gaelic for heap of stones.

Is a more contemptuous designation even possible? It kind of suggests heap of stone built by a Scott or Irishman.

Are Native Americans supposed to use that term?

Update: I realize that a lot of people use "cairn" to mean a well built stack of rocks; and the term is not being used out of contempt. Nevertheless I think we should move away from it. The Gaelic connotation is just a bad fit for something built by non-Gaels. Especially when we are trying to refute their Gaelic origin.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Housatonic Watershed (Western MA)

 A photo by Michael Loglisci:

It reminded me of a photo that Norman Muller used here: 
Figure 11

Monday, March 08, 2021

Mysterious Vermont - from YouTube metal detectorists

 If you like walking around in the woods, this video is satisfying. No rock piles [yet] but they are walking around an interesting complex of walls and chambers. Someone should go up there and look around.

Mysterious Mega-Structure Discovered in the Mountains of Vermont | Exploration Adventure - YouTube

Sunday, March 07, 2021

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Call to Land Protectors - Tonight, Nayyag's Fate Again in Play (MA)

Tonight, February 17, 2021 from 6-7 pm there will be a Zoom presentation by Massachusetts Department of Transportation (link at bottom of page) on their planned traffic circle that would demolish a unique Archaic Native legacy site, one that was recommended for the National Register of Historic Places. MA DOT is billing this as a walk-through of their plans and the "alternative selection" process.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Burial Cairns on the Mattawa River

From an account by an early fur trader, at around 22:40 minutes in:

Mysteries of the Canadian Fur Trade: Episode 1 - YouTube

Funny how such things were common place in the 1700s.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Hidden Landscapes Film and Discussion

 Via Norman:

Here is a link to an upcoming video series presentation of "Hidden Landscapes".

Site to be found in Westminster MA

 A commenter to a post from April 20, 2009 mentions a site:

"There are some really interesting stone features off the Midstate trail in Westminster which is right off the side of RTE 2A."

I wonder if someone could please go take a look. The area seems promising:

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The Lost Forests of New England

 Not rock pile related.... or is it?

A YouTube video:

The Lost Forests of New England - Eastern Old Growth - YouTube


From part 3: what is he standing on?

I guess someone should go look at the southern slope of Mt Tom.

Monday, February 08, 2021

Alaska Science Forum: Were blue beads in the tundra the first U.S. import from Europe? | Juneau Empire

 Norman sent this link [not rock pile related]:

This is about glass beads found in Alaska firmly dated to pre-Columbus times. I love this story because the standard "peopling of America" nonsense is forced to choose: either the beads got there overland from the east coast and - how the heck did they get across the Atlantic?; or the beads came from Asia and  - who needs a land bridge?

Also, since the beads came from Venice, how did they get to Siberia before crossing the Pacific?

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Notice of a Rocking Stone in Warwick, R.I.

 Providence, September, 20th 1823.

Prof. Silliman, Sir,

It has given me some satisfaction to become acquainted with the particulars which Mr. Moore has given us in the last number of your Journal, respecting the Durham Rocking Stone. It is true, as he intimates, that there are but few rocks of this kind as yet known in our country; still, as curiosity is continually increasing, and the votaries of geological science daily becoming more numerous, it will not be long, it is believed, before they will be found to exist here in considerable numbers. I have recently visited one which is found in this State, and from its interesting character, have been induced to forward to you a description of it, together with a drawing by Mr. Moses Partridge

It is in the town of Warwick, about two hundred yards south-west of the village of Apponaug, and twelve miles in the same direction from Providence. In form, it resembles a turtle, although it is convex on the bottom and somewhat concave on the top. It is about ten feet in length, six ^ breadth, and two in thickness. It reposes upon another rock, which rises a few feet above ground, touching it in two points — the one under A, the other under B. (Fig 1, Plate 1) Upon these points it is so exactly poised, that it moves with the gentlest touch. A child five years old may set it a rocking, so that the side C will describe an arc, the chord of which will be fifteen inches. The easiest method to rock it is by standing upon it, and applying the weight of one's body alternately from one side to the other.

What renders this rock peculiarly interesting is, that when the side D descends, it gives four distinct pulsations, hitting first at E, next at F, then at G, and lastly at H. The sound produced, is much like that of a drum, excepting that it is louder. In consequence of this sound, it has very appropriately entailed upon itself the name of "The Drum Rock." It has been heard in a still evening at the distance of six miles. In the summer season, it is a place of fashionable resort for the people of Apponaug, and of the town generally.

The weight of this rock is estimated at four tons — upwards of a ton heavier than the one at Kirkmichael in Scotland, and almost as heavy as the famous Logan, in the parish of Sithney, near Helston in England. Its composition appears to be an indurated ferruginous clay, with here and there small portions of quartz. Its specific gravity is 2, 5. It has long been a subject of inquiry with the inhabitants of Warwick, how this rock came here, or by what means it was placed in its present situation. A little attention will convince any one who sees it, that it was once united to the rock on which it rests. Let A be turned round to I, and it will unquestionably be in the spot where it originally belonged. But by whom it was shifted into the places which it now occupies, is a matter of uncertainty. It has been attributed to the Indians. The removal of such a mass seems however, to have required some mechanical skill, more, perhaps, than many will be willing to allow, that the savages of this region ever possessed. As we have never had any Druids* amongst us, we shall probably never know for a certainty upon whom the honour of the enterprize is to be bestowed.

This rock is surrounded with interesting scenery. South is a dark and dismal swamp, which comprises from fifteen to twenty acres, containing the birch, the hemlock, the maple and the alder. West is a side-hill, which rises at an angle of eighteen or twenty degrees, from the top of which we have a view of the central part of the Narragansett, with several of its beautiful islands. East, a plain presents itself, intersected by a ravine, overgrown with shrubs, along which flows a small stream of water from the swamp. North, the land rises gently, and for some extent is completely covered with huge, misshapen rocks, lying wholly above the surface ; gray with moss, and exhibiting ten thousand fractures.

Very Respectfully yours,


Preceptor of the Charlesfield Street Academy.

Excerpt from: The American Journal of Science - v.7 (1824) p 200:

 (with thanks to Matt Adams)

A large site in CT

 Amazing site from Larry Harrop. It is a lesson.

ns.pdf (

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Zuni Maps (NM)


“The A:shiwi have been in present-day North America for thousands of years. Twelve thousand members of the tribe live on the Zuni Reservation today. Their sacred lands reach far beyond the reservation boundaries—trails of prayer snake and meander through the history of Emergence from the Grand Canyon and the story of Salt Mother’s migration, paths of song ascend the high buttes and tumble with the rain through the arroyo…”

Detail from: Larson Gasper, Migration of Salt Mother, 2009

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Paleo Artifacts

 Reader Scott sends links:

Providence Purchase Lands (RI)


I am not quite sure of the exact source for these interesting drawings from Greater Rhode Island Roaming, accompanied by this text:

“Confluence of the Ponaganset River and the Moswansicut River - Over the years ... via historical maps ... starting with the Providence Purchase Lands map by George Matteson.

I was mesmerized by the Providence Purchase Land map. Numerous spring locations, Indian paths, cornfields, quarry and burial site. Plus, homestead locations and plot sizes. Crazy detail!! The amount of research and effort required to build this map would BLOW.MY.MIND! 🙂

Anywho, you'll probably have to save the image onto your computer to get the best detail.”

Friday, January 29, 2021

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Isolated rock stack from Dartmouth MA

Reader Robert asks if anyone can identify this rock pile. It is isolated and located at the Star of the Sea Reserve in Dartmouth, MA. Specifically, at 41.5909° N / 70.9667° W

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

"We Think These Are Native American"

 You Tube of metal detecting near rock piles.

(3) We think these are native American Indian stone piles - YouTube

Mound Designs of Eastern MA

 Thought this might be of interest, from an old rejected article:

Variations in outline design of rectangular mounds with hollows. Styles A-D may be tall and up to 40 feet across; styles E-H are usually low to the ground and less than ~15 feet across. Style I is a crescent shape, usually ~20 feet across.


Type A (typical variations in size of rocks used, wall height, and overall size)
See figures 2, 3, 4
Blood Hill, Ashburnham
Top of Falulah Brook, Fitchburg
Western slope of Alpine Hill, Fitchburg
Southern end of Mount Elam Road, Leominster
Behind Oakmont High School in Ashburnham
Warren Brook, Upton
Peppercorn Hill, Upton
North Brook, Berlin
Gumpass Pond, Pelham, N.H.
Doeskin Hill, Framingham
Fortune Drive, Billerica

Type B (no known variations, ~25 feet across)
See figure 5
Where West Ashby Road crosses Falulah Brook, Fitchburg
East of water tower in Franklin

Type C (usually large, with typical variation in internal structure, height, wall thickness, and squareness)
See figure 6
Top of Falulah Brook, Ashby
Estabrook Woods, Concord
South end of Mount Elam Road, Leominster
Hopping Brook Development, Hopkinton

Type D (three subtypes: (a) waist high and 15 feet long; (b) as a large outline on the ground; (c) as a small outline on the ground)
See figures 7, 8
Callahan State Park, Framingham (a)
Maxant Land, Harvard (a)
Estabrook Woods, Concord (a)
South end of Mt Elam Road, Leominster (b)
Horse Hill, Groton (b)
West of Route 2, at top of Hobbs Brook, Lincoln (c)

Type E (no variation, ~8 feet across)
See figures 9, 10
Where West Ashby Road crosses Falulah Brook, Fitchburg
Where Richardson Road crosses the brook between Wright Ponds, Ashby

Types F, G, and H (found as outlines or pavements on the ground. They are ~8 feet across, hard to make out and the types blend into each other.)
See figure 13
Nashoba Brook trail off Braeside Ave, Acton
East of Rt 2 at top of Hobbs Brook, Lincoln
Scott Reservoir, Fitchburg
Where West Ashby Road crosses Falulah Brook, Fitchburg
Top of Elizabeth Brook, Harvard
Top of Hobbs Brook, Lincoln

Larger forms of type F
See figures 11, 12
Woodbridge Road, Carlisle
The brook between the Wright Ponds, Ashby
Apron Hill, Boylston

Type I (typical variations in size 10-30 feet, made from small rocks)
See figures 14, 15
Scott Road, Fitchburg
Ballard Hill, Lancaster
Nod Brook, Groton
Horse Hill, Groton

#15 (view downhill)