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.