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.    

No comments :