Friday, September 30, 2022

Stemmed Point (broken) from Woods Hole

A nice material, a bit of almost pure feldspar, from the "pink" granite we have around here. It is actually a single feldspar crystal. I found three broken bases on Ram Island today of different materials. This was the nicest.

(Sorry about the background blues lesson)

Monday, September 19, 2022

In the footprints of Mavor and Dix - but ending up in a different place

I have been trying to find the place in Freetown that they write about in Manitou. Those familiar with the book will recall they excavated one rock pile there, under the theory that destroying one was justified if it helped protect the others. I think they did succeed in protecting the sites. But where are they? The only clue I have was that the "Bolton Cedar Swamp" was to the southeast. Turning this around, northwest of the Bolton Cedar Swamp is a pretty big area of woods. So I have been dipping my toes into various woods over there - about 45 minutes drive from home. I keep finding sites this way. But they do not match what is described in Manitou.

A couple of things make this chapter of my exploration different from previous ones. Following in someone else's footprints takes away some of the triumph of discovery and adds a burden of secrecy that I am not used to. I believe that whoever first discovers a site has, by definition, the right to keep it secret. And you don't go telling other people's secrets, if you happen to discover them. Also, a quick look at the map of Freetown State Forest shows there is a Wampanoag Reservation and a Watuppa Reservation on the western side of the forest. I imagine local Indians wanting to keep these sites to themselves. So I am inclined to keep quiet about where these Freetown sites are located. But the one I just visited is several miles east of those reservations, and it is clearly different from what Mavor and Dix described

The pile they excavated had large amounts of red ocher (hematite) incorporated in the pile. They also found some rather mysterious, semi religious, objects, like an quartz "owl" effigy. I come away with a strong sense of secrecy, privacy, and spirituality surrounding these sites. All of which makes we think I should tread carefully - which is very contrary to the impulse to communicate and share these sites. So much so, that I take a moment to wonder: are they right to take on a cloak of spirituality in their report? Consider the title "Manitou" itself. Is this appropriate? Are they discussing someone else's spirituality or are they appropriating a bit of it to make their point? 

It doesn't matter so much except that I have to decide what to report and what to keep quiet about. The site I explored in eastern Freetown is several miles away from the Wampanoag Reservation, and did not match the hints provided in Manitou. Here are some mismatches: (1) They describe an area of small cedar swamps, interrupted by higher ground. (2) The sites are facing southeast, located at the southern ends of the little swamps. (3) They show a photo of what must have been a good sized, tall, rock piles. (4) They report that these are not burials.

The mismatches are: (1) I have yet to see any cedar swamps, or white cedar trees. (2) The sites I have found (especially the one reported below) are not facing southeast. (3) I am seeing some similar, good sized piles, but I am also seeing quite a lot of other things; most notably (4) Oh yes some of those are burials.

So, I will keep quiet about sites nearer to the Wampanoag Reservation, and you can let me know in comments if you feel the world would be better off knowing about the following place or not. Mavor and Dix did not find this place. It is along Rt 140, northwest of the Bolton Cedar Swamp. It is a small woods, circled by private property, bordered by the highway and a bit inaccessible. I snuck in from the south via a solar panel array.

Walked north, along the left side of the array and, wanting to get into the woods, I dove in near the top of the array. Of course there were hints of ceremonialism, right there in the woods:
Looking back towards the opening of the solar panel array: we see two "rock-on-rock" lining up with a larger boulder in the background. 

There were a few other things here and there but I was hoping to find what was discussed in Manitou so I continued north following the easier footing of an old road. My expectation was that any site that had been visited a few times would have some kind of a trail leading to it. So when I spotted a footh path heading east up the outcrops, I followed in up and northeast over towards the traffic sounds from Rt 140. But after a few minutes the trail disappeared and I was disappointed with what was to be seen along the higher ground, so I headed back downhill (west) and, started seeing rock piles along the foot of the slope, just before the ground became lower, wetter, swampier. 

Here we are looking south, with the slope to the left and the swamp to the right. You can see it is pretty old and tumbled down. It must have been quite "busy" at some point:
Come to look around a bit, this almost looks as "busy" as Parker Woodland.

I proceeded north and another collection of ruins appeared. This was all around an old "foundation", as follows:

Seen from the other direction:
There were two "holes" with a collapsed central structure - a chimney and hearth?

All around the foundation were a variety of features, including large piles along the slope - more or less evenly spaced:

Linear features - in this case ending in what I took to be a mound with hollows, and perhaps a standing stone:
Speaking of standing stones, I saw several examples of "manitou" stones propped against piles. I usually do not credit this idea but I have to admit, it seems real, when you see enough examples:

In the last example, the pile itself is curious. A kind of "dented trapezoid"; with no hollow. That is not familiar to me. Maybe the 6th picture from this Parker Woodland report (click here).

As for there being "burials", you know what I think about this:

Later, as I walked around, I saw a number of things that I think of as the oldest kind of burial: a place between rocks, covered with a bit material - now gone. For example:
And this, which seems unmistakeable.
I believe the remnants are very long gone from these places and it only makes sense to honor them. 

Plenty of nicely preserved old piles:
and at least one pile that looked like it might be an effigy, with a pointy head, nearest to the camera:
As I walked back out, I saw a few other things scattered about in the low lands:

And who doesn't like to see an occasional boulder arrangement:
All and all an interesting place. 

Friday, September 16, 2022

Appetizer - East Freetown, MA

Look how flat and even that slope is.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Bushwacking in Freetown, MA

 Gives a feel for why you want to stay on a trail in there:

Dipping into Freetown State Forest

The story of the stone mounds of Freetown-Fall River State Forest, told in Manitou, left a lasting impression on me. Though they tend to write in a dry semi-scientific manner, the things the authors find while digging up a rock pile are quite spooky. It brings up the ethical question of whether it is right or wrong to project about someone else's mysticism.

Anyway, I was happy to realize the Freetown was a closer drive than some of the other places I have been driving for hikes, so I started going there. First try was a slow walk down Hathaway Rd. We took a side trail and came across rock piles, then we continued on the main road and encountered another site. Later I was able to confirm that two places were different spots along the same ridge. What I found was not a good match for what Mavor and Dix wrote about in Manitou and, on closer reading, I find they were over on the east side of town, while this walk I took was more to the west. Very much a typical "Nipmuc" site, what I found was burials and marker piles. Interestingly Manitou does not make such identifications.

I thought, since this is not far from a Wampanoag Reservation, that specific locations could be kept "secret". Of course you are welcome to walk down that road and see what you can see. I came across some things like this: 

You should recognize this shape by now (see the corners and the hollow?).
Here is a variant:
I thought this one looked like it might have a falling over "manitou stone":
There are many places like this in New England:
Lots of older piles:
Some still fresh looking ones, scattered around in the holly:
Goodbye for now, I'll be coming back here. It is a large woods.

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Interpreting old weathered rocks

I was walking on Hathaway Rd in Freetown State Forest and was amazed at how many of the pieces of gravel show signs of percussive organized flaking. This sort of thing is typical:

(That looks like a modern scratch.)

Here is a honking big example:

See the flakes?
Perhaps such a tool is not worth putting in anyone's collection but it's a tool nonetheless. What is interesting is the sheer number of such things. They were on the order of every fifth rock along the entire road. I am not going to bother to argue with someone who does not recognize this as a stone tool but, aside from that, I do want to discuss how is it possible for there to be such a high density of tools over the entire road? I am not talking about little clusters of tools here and there but rather a geological layer of gravel that contains numerous stone tools in every sample examined.

There are two things that stand out. First, it takes a long time to use so many rocks that you run out of material. Second, those rock must be exposed in order to be used. Putting such statements to work interpreting what we see in the Freetown gravel, I conclude that there must have been a long period of time when these gravels were exposed, as an entire surface of gravel. The best candidate for this is the period of time after the gravel was deposited (~19K years ago) and before there were significant additional soil buildup - quite a while later.

To tell the truth I am often puzzled by larger rocks that come out of the glacial till showing signs of having been used or flaked. A reasonable possibility is that there was a long post-glacial period of high population density. 

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Freetown State Forest

 I just started exploring Freetown State Forest. It is a big woods.

Northern Wrentham State Forest

I was told there were some interesting sites in the northern part of Wrentham State Forest. Having been there four times without seeing anything, I am starting to wonder what am I missing. Maybe a little further north? This last time was east of Taunton Str., north of the highway. A couple things:

A nice example of a stone 'U'. 

Over on the eastern side, a familiar site, slightly rectangular with a hollow:

This was part of a larger structure, shown on the left here:
It was by itself.

Back over on the western side, a few hundred yards from the road. Is that a rock pile?

Yes it is.
Pretty faint: