Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Removing stones from rock piles for "safekeeping"

In the previous post [see here] Norman describes a "Gorget on a Rock Pile" and mentions that there was an unusual "gorget" stone found in the pile. Later the State Archaeologist removed the stone for safekeeping.

I think the ethics of removing a special rock from a pile for "safekeeping" needs some discussion. Does anyone have any opinions about this? I remember Doug Harris, in a YouTube video talking about how removing a rock breaks the "prayer"  - only to then watch him remove a rock and put it back. Clearly removing a rock permanently, and taking it off to a place where they have presided over the destruction of many wonderful things, hardly qualifies as "safekeeping". 

Like any ethical question, I doubt there is a good answer. I just think the state carting off treasures should be done with reluctance. And who the heck is the State Archaeologist anyway? Why does he get to destroy the rock pile? To me it is inconceivable that these are the right people to make that call, or to be the keepers of special ceremonial rocks. Generally such objects are poorly documented, not accessible to the public and, basically, lost for good. I would give you odds, that a member of the public, today, would have trouble even getting to see the "gorget".


Saturday, June 18, 2022

Gorget on a rock pile

From NormanMuller:

In 2011 I was with a small group of NEARA members in Rochester, VT, which was led by Ernie Clifford.  We visited site R7-8, which is called the Beaver Pond site, near the larger Smith site.  We walked about a bunch of platform cairns and then came upon a low, long cairn on a rise overlooking a small brook and swampy area.  One member of our group saw a stone object resting on top of a large stone in the cairn  (`02-1702), and lifted it out for all to see (0060).  It turned out to be a preform slate gorget.  There was a bit of lichen at one end, and the surface that had been resting on the boulder had a rust color, evidently from the fact that slate contains some iron and it had oxidized out over time.  The gorget was also of poor quality, and had a number of deep scratches on it.  Obviously it was discarded because of this.  Most gorgets are perforated, but this one was not. 

I returned to the site the following weekend to photograph and study the gorget more carefully, placing it on a grey cloth and photographing top and bottom and one of the sides (0026).  I then placed the gorget back to where it was originally found.  Later, the National Forest archaeologist removed the gorget for safekeeping in Rutland.

This simply emphasizes that one should study cairns carefully.  You never know what you'll find.

Monday, June 13, 2022

“Stonewalls in a Gully” (VT)


Josh Smart
 Hidden Vermont

Why don't they have stone arrowheads in Europe?

I cannot find any pictures of elegant stonework from -say- France that is any more recent than those fine Solutrean blades. But what were the Europeans doing around 10K years ago? Just a little puzzle. I did see some fine things from Spain, so what is true?

Saturday, June 04, 2022

Our Vanishing Ceremonial Stone Landscape (CT)

    Apparently, I’m documenting Our Vanishing Ceremonial Stone Landscape more than anything else these days. Similar to Eric Sloane writing and sketching about a romantic colonial past, I’m instead blogging about and photographing disappearing features of an Indigenous Cultural Landscape that only a tiny percentage of people are aware of, think is somehow “interesting,” much less worthy of recognition, study, and preservation. I’ve been documenting for years the disappearing Nonnewaug Stone Fish Weir, miles and miles of stonework under power lines being ground up for road beds, stones popping out of retaining walls at the family home, and now a simple tree fall that knocked apart a formerly very beautiful “Stone Prayer” on a hillside somewhere close to the Madison/Killingworth town line.

    In a recent Face Book post, Karen Lucibello Daigle recorded a bit of video, perhaps in late winter or early spring, of some tree damage to this Káhtôquwuk or Stone Prayer that I took a look at once back in 2016:

Captures from Karen’s video, cobbled into an image:

Some more images of mine from 2016:
(Note the Manitou Stone above, the "Healing Diamond" below.)

A couple other images in my most recent "K-WORTH 2022" folder:

Thursday, June 02, 2022

A last word about Canonchet

In the previous post, we saw a low rectangular mound that was different from the nicely built biscuits surrounding it. I forgot to mention one other out-of-sync pile, consisting of a layer of small rocks on a support boulder:

When you are extracting rocks from the ground, there will always be smaller ones. A characteristic of field clearing is that there are many smaller rocks mixed in with larger ones. That same size distribution was present pre-historically and it seems there was something that could be built from smaller rocks. I think I have seen this before without noticing it - a special, solitary, pile made from much smaller rocks.

Friday, May 27, 2022

A trip to Canonchet

Went for a drive with my middle son, David, to southwestern RI and Canonchet. Having heard about Canonchet for many years, I thought it would be worth a visit. As it turned out, we barely scratched the surface. Among other things, I am pretty badly out of shape after 3 years of staying at home to avoid disease.

I put blue outlines where we saw rock piles but you might as well put a blue outline around the entire map. In any case, we had a successful short hike. Starting at the parking lot (lower right corner of map) we walked west until I got tired of walking in the flatlands and sensed a hill off to my right. Along that flat trail, I noticed one rock pile that looked like an effigy.
Later, my son said the underlying boulder looked like a frog.

As soon as we got over to the "hill" - a small outcrop - we started seeing rock piles. I liked the bit of stone wall we saw. Tim M. might call this is a "snake". I was struck by the pointed standing stones at each end (small in front, large in back). I was particularly struck by the third rock from the front - made of quartz. It reminds me of the pearl on Unktena's forehead.

[Parenthetically, I just Googled "Unktena" and it is all over the Internet that it is a "Cherokee Myth". But that is nonsense. The Cherokee were not in Massachusetts, naming the islands and brooks.]

Anyway, we continued uphill, through the site. This is David Waksman:

The piles got bigger and fresher looking, right up into someone's backyard.
Quite an intense place. I rarely see piles so close together. Also, since these are quite cleanly vertical sided, I suspect them of being a kind of marker pile. 

It was around here I started noticing something that did not 'click' until I got home and thought about it. There are some things wrong with these piles. They are in perfect shape and they do not have any forest debris on top of them. In other words: they are new. Or, more likely, they have been restored in the not-too distant past. Given they are in someone's backyard, I guess this makes sense - especially if the people living there happen to be Narragansetts [the local tribe here].

There is a sense that the vertical sided piles were all lined up toward the same direction (note the angle of the tree shadows in these 3 pictures):

Then we got out to the Lawton Foster Rd. Here was another fine rock pile across the street in someone else's backyard:
We trudged uphill, admiring rock piles on either side of the road. Apparently the locals are OK with honoring these things. Here is someone's driveway.

Then we came to another collection of larger piles, on the north side of the road. Note how some of these are older, not reconstructed and covered with leaves, moss, and downed branches.

But this one? I think it might have been reconstructed:

In the middle of all these glorious marker piles, something different and less conspicuous:
Yep, that's a rectangle with a niche at the lower right. Let's go around to the other side and have a look:

(I got the name of the road wrong, it is not Richardson Rd but Lawton Foster). Another error, is that while filming, I did not notice there was another rectangle to the side - it is right at the end of the video. Also at around 0.14 minutes from the start.

If you watch the video, there is something wrong about the "hollow". I would say that it partakes of the same "newness" as do the reconstructed piles. Except, this looks more like recent destruction than recent construction. 

I wanted to go on walking but we sort of got stuck on the road because of not knowing which way to go, and ending up circling back to the parking lot. Sorry I was in such a rush, I really have to slow down and learn how to study places rather than focusing on how to get there and back.

Update: I think Jim P photo'd the same piles long ago:

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

On Rehumanizing Pleistocene People of the Western Hemisphere

If First Peoples did not leave behind monuments... 

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 December 2021

 Bonnie L. Pitblado writes:

“Peopling researchers study the physical detritus of First Peoples, who moved around a lot and created a record profoundly ravaged by the forces of time. Based on even the most rudimentary understanding of mobile populations and taphonomy, this means we are unlikely to encounter remnants of a built environment (because highly mobile people usually do not expend energy erecting permanent structures) and destined to encounter only the most resistant stone and bone objects (because they are what preserves).

If the earliest material record consists so disproportionately of stone tools, dense megafauna bones, and the occasional ephemeral fire feature, would we not be downright irresponsible to try to access human motivations beyond the subsistence and land-use activities that these archaeological signatures most obviously represent? If First Peoples did not leave behind monuments or other more “obvious” windows to their thoughts and values, who are we to overreach the record? Again, are the sorts of questions posed by those with postprocessual leanings not beyond the scope of what we can responsibly address?”



Monday, May 23, 2022

Multiple Choice

Stone Structure in California's White Mountains - Elizabeth Wing photo

A.) A Stone Wall identical to those found in the "lowland hills of interior southern New England"
B.) 19th Century Basque Sheep Herder Stone Shelter
C.) 19th Century Chinese Sheep Herder Stone Shelter
D.)  "Prayer Seat" culturally appropriated by Sheep Herders
E.) None of the above

Friday, May 20, 2022

Wednesday, May 18, 2022



Intentionally Made Zigzag Rows of Stones (Nonnewaug CT)

   The Pootatuck made zigzag rows of stones are of the type most people attribute to a progression of events that follows the construction of a Virginia or “Snake Rail” Fence. I appreciate the work the Gages have done, but it’s something I respectfully disagree with, just as I respectfully disagree with Eric Sloane who popularized the idea in his books in the 1950s. 

    I’ve observed single course zigzag stone rows and I’ve observed some that are perhaps four feet high (and a nagging thought tugs on my sleeve about a small segment that’s taller than I am, up above the Falls). Most around here, in that Pootatuck Territory tend to be in-between those first two extremes, such as those in my first Rock Piles post: https://rockpiles.blogspot.com/2006/03/more-zig-zag-walls-from-tim-macsweeney.html


    On my third day of the single year I was a NEARA member, after that 1998 conference in Danbury CT where I first met Peter and Norman in person, the three of us walked up an access road under the power lines that cut across the Nonnewaug floodplain. I was going to show them some surviving low to the ground stacked stone features – a few Káhtôquwukansh, in Mohegan/Pequot/Narragansett.

A káhtôquwuk is a kind of stone pile, a kind of stone heap, something that which is heaped high, ceremonially, religiously, by placing one stone above another stone. As I understand it, Káhtôquwuk  means, allegorically, a 'Stone Prayer,' as in: “Káhtôquwukansh is the plural of Stone Prayers, stacked stone features invested with prayers for the balance of the universe.”

Those specific Káhtôquwukansh were inside an enclosure of intentionally made zigzag rows of stones:



   These zigzag rows of stones, ten foot segments of stones laid in a fairly consistent lightning bolt pattern lead outward from the “mound swamp,” linking outcrops and boulders, lead to streams, bordered on both sides with zigzag rows of stone more often than not, just as are the wetlands in the Nonnewaug uplands.

   The Great Snake imagery abounds in these carefully made constructions that remain intact, while others now destroyed can only be seen with my sometimes rather lame images – some with overlays of eyes and horns on them – can be found tickling the search box with “powerlines (sic)” or “power lines.”

    Low Bush or Wild Blueberries, in “garden plots” separated by fuel break zigzag stone rows may have once been thermally pruned, section by section in certain places, on staggered four year intervals may be a rare survivor species on the former Indigenous Cultural Landscape, a trait shared by cranberries in another remarkable location.


   Indeed, the saddest part of the story is that a wide swath of land under those power lines has been, blasted and bulldozed into a “blank slate” or “tabla rasa” by Eversource, the power company, for new towers and transmission lines. I can only show you older photos of the Ceremonial Stone Landscape features that were once located there.

   If any sort of an archaeological survey was done before this destruction, I’d be interested to see it…  

Undulating (Sharply) Vertically

 Call it "Dramatically  Undulating (Sharply) Vertically" - more zigzag-like than a gently undulating vertically serpentine row of stones:

Moving west along this row of stones:
A little more westward:
The next intersecting row of stones, headed south, is smoother, undulates more gently:

View with Snake Head on bedrock outcrop:

Detail of stacking (by a notable tree of great age):
From a Flickr Album where more examples are shown: