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:


    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:

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Wall made from lined up piles

Given the discussion of zig-zag walls, here is one from Cahoonzie that seemed to be made from separate dumped piles of rock:

This is somewhere near Wilson Rd.

I guess you distinguish between the walls that zig-zag back and forth horizontally versus ones that zig-zag up and down, like this one. I have seen both kinds in southwestern CT but they are no so common in eastern MA. 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Sahara Stone Mounds

 Middle of nowhere, in the Sahara

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Spotting rock piles in the background

From the "Lost Treasure of the Maya" that might have been filmed on the Guatemala Peninsula.

It makes me wonder if there might be some ruins down there that are not being noticed by people used to more impressive monuments.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Markham Starr Presents (Southbury CT)

 "Southbury CT Land Trust will hold its Annual Meeting on Sunday, May 15th 2022 at 1:30 p.m.

 at the Southbury CT Public Library, with a free presentation by documentary photographer
Markham Starr.
 Starr will talk about ceremonial stone walls created in New England by Native Americans..."

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Nonnewaug Stonework and Spring Flowers (CT)


You are here, looking west, in the very first photo: