Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The secret lives of paleoindians.

Not rock pile related but nicely done.

(2) Tom Loebel's ECIAS The Secret Lives of Paleoindians Talk - YouTube

Some very interesting ideas; for example that the largest, fanciest Clovis fluted points are found the furthest from their lithic sources. Meaning they were made for exchange rather than use.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Curious stone tool - Quissett Harbor

Picked this up because it is so obviously a percussive flake:

You see a "bulb of percussion", and little radiating lines. Also the curved lines perpendicular to the radiating ones are typical conchoidal fracture. I think this is called "errailure".

A bit of the original outer surface, looks a but polished.
The "working edge" shows little scallops.
Not sure what this might have been used for. I figure delicate handwork- say - for sewing or basket making. 

Also this is a cautionary example. I am out at the opening of the harbor, looking for archaeology other than those stone rings (see here). It is underfoot, hiding within un-expected tool shapes.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Another (possibly last) walk in Tiverton

Entering Tiverton from the north on Rt 24, you climb a hill from Fall River, MA up to the sign welcoming you to Rhode Islands. From there south to Fish Rd, you can see interesting boulder filled woods on either side of the highway. I went to take a look, choosing the east side to explore and wishing I could also explore the west side. I got lucky because there was a fine culvert underneath the highway - empty but with enough room for a camp of homeless - that took me to the other side.

So, west side of the highway, a few inconspicuous outlines:

And a split-filled rock:

There is almost always some evidence of ceremonialism.

Back on the east side of the highway, I headed north towards the Massachusetts line, encountering a few signs ("evidence") here and there. 

Then into an area of old foundations and rock piles - a familiar but still confusing combination of things. This looked like a pretty large mound. From above:

and below:

Several acres like this:

Then (speaking of snakes) this has to be one of the shortest on record:
Rather than making a coherent story, let me just list some of the other things I noticed:

A place where the stone wall went through a dramatic change in height. I looked for fallen rocks nearby but there were no more than the usual. I decided this was deliberate. It was for something. I think it was for the shadow. 

A "cairn" on an outcrop, used as a fireplace: 

More rock piles:

A house foundation that was quite deep:
There was a boulder in the middle. I think it must have been put there later. 

An outline against the wall:

More piles:

This last one has a bit of shape.

Overall, a minor site in a forgotten bit of woods along Rt. 24 at the Massachusetts/Rhode Island border. As far as I can tell there is almost nothing in the woods further south, so if you are from that area it may be worth a visit. You park at Longplex and walk north.

Snake Effigies and Riders/Rails (CT)


      Stephanie Ashman's photo above seemed so familiar to me and it didn't take long to recall the photos below, as well as a drawing Norman Muller had made of it, suggesting that this might be a snake effigy, a certain stone used for the snake's eye (

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Battered Boulders All That Remain Of Famous Boundary


Carven Field Stones Amid Woodbridge Thickets Stand as Silent Guardians of Line Established by First Colonial Surveyors — Penalty Prevents Removal

New Haven Register November 26, 1933

 “It seems that back in 1933 lifelong Woodbridge resident S. J. Peck had finally uncovered a bit of Woodbridge history he had been searching more than 20 years to find — one of the boundary stones set out in 1672 to mark the border between what was then the Milford Colony and the New Haven Colony. These two colonies each held claims to the land that would one day be joined together to become the Town of Woodbridge when it was established in 1784.

 Looking at my photos, I observe that the 1933 newspaper image has been reversed when I match it up with my looking in a southerly direction capture: 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Some commentary on aggressive grooming of stone structures - from Mark Starr

I was forwarded a Facebook exchange on the subject of "aggressive" rock pile grooming. By "aggressive" I mean removing all the organic material that has accumulated on top of a stone structure - leaving only bare ("sweaty") rocks. I occasionally see pictures of piles that have been groomed like that and I refuse to publish the pictures and write the sender that they should stop doing that. This is not the only sort of vandalism that is done under the umbrella of destroying things in order to preserve them. Anyway, the following, from Mark Starr, is extremely well said: 

When you strip all of that material from the boulders you leave all those stones highly vulnerable to sliding off the next time a branch hits it or ice and rain coat it, or even from squirrels hopping across them, especially the ones on slopes as in your photos. All that moss and lichen not only help define their antiquity, but act as glue, holding them in place. What you learn by doing that is almost nothing, as the stones have undoubtedly shifted already over time, and their position can be modeled without removing everything holding them in place. You also ruin the possibility for modern dating techniques such as OSL to be used. It may satisfy your personal curiosity but ruins the science to be done in the future. Nearly everything you show are simply stones placed by human hands randomly on the boulder. The significance was the act of placing them. While some were undoubtedly placed in significant patterns, nearly all of your photos simply show random placement, which is obvious without removing moss, lichen, leaf clutter, etc.. If your photos survive, all we will have is what they once looked like. I really wish you would stop doing this to satisfy personal curiosity. Removing everything around the stones no matter how carefully or respectfully still leaves them highly vulnerable, and non-destructive documentation techniques exist that don't cause this harm. I can always tell where you've been in the woods, and the cairns stripped of their patina give modern hikers the impression they should get in on the fun by adding to them or restacking them. I know you mean well and are doing it for what you feel are the right reasons, but you are nonetheless leaving a trail of destruction the future won't be able to study. Science isn't served in any way by showing the stripped surfaces you leave behind.

[here some back-and forth, then continuing....]

I am only interested in the long-term preservation of the stonework. As XXX is working on his own property he can do as he wishes. I don't think that gives him the right to do what he wants wherever he goes. Right or wrong, even the tribes don't have a say in the matter off their own property. So that's one thing.

The more important thing is still the long term preservation of these objects. Archaeologists were taking cairns apart for years trying to find the prize inside. They were eventually stopped from doing this because first off, there was no prize inside, and secondly, no real science was being done. They learned the lesson at least If you clean off 12,000 boulders to see randomly placed stones on top and you can't figure out what's going on by then, perhaps you should stop doing it, at least until you can figure it out. In most cases, all you can do is speculate with the info supposedly gathered. what little has been learned from all of this was largely known a long time ago. Yes, a ton of speculation has been produced. So that's the second thing. Even archeologists leave much of any site undone for the future - for more advanced techniques and technology to come along and do a better job. How many times have we regretted past archaeological digs that destroyed evidence they didn't think possible to analyse? Is 12,000 examples not enough?

Thirdly, there are ways of gathering what little info that has been gathered without resorting to what is being done. There is a difference in removing branches, sticks, and this year's dropped leaves from a cairn (or any other structure) and stripping off all of the materials as seen in his photos. Everything that may have been measurable and provided clues in the future has been erased. They never thought of studying seeds or pollen in the past because they couldn't imagine the future. What don't we know now that's just around the corner? DNA is now pulled from once unimaginable sources. Those opportunities are now gone with his work. Okay, you want to try and figure out something. How many chances do you get? If what you are learning is that people placed stones on boulders you can do that without destructive techniques. If its buried, and you absolutely must know there are buried stones there and how they were placed, yes, you might have to uncover them. But what protected them for you to get that opportunity, and more importantly can it be done in other ways that leave them in the best state currently possible for the future? I think we should always be looking to preserve as much as we can for the future. With these particular cases, the ratio of knowledge gained to possible loss is unreasonable. We can scan these structures and get far more information about them than he is collecting without touching them.

So is this practice causing harm? Simply looking at the photos he posts makes it more than obvious. All of the glue that has held them together - moss, lichen, leaf clutter, etc., etc., is now gone. Just look at the stones on the sloping edges and tell me they are less vulnerable than they were. Yes, they were falling apart even with the glue, but now it will be far more rapid. My original post was because I came home that day having seen this in action. Someone had cleared out a vertical split in a boulder and after the last big rain storm we had you could see all of the washout of materials at the bottom. (I'm not saying YYY did this - it could be a copycat now that it's okay to do this). The split had been filled with many small stones that were now distributed all over the ground. Had the glue still been there so would they. Now I can see all of the stones that were once there, but I could have seen a whole lot of them by pulling a few leaves. What did I learn? There were a lot of types of stones placed in the split. I pretty much knew that without having to see them spilled out, and would have known that by pulling a few leaves. The future will not know this. So there are photos of it. And when the hard drive fails that stored them goes or someone tosses it out who didn't think they were important then what? I've worked in museums and I know what happens to ephemeral information. I worked for a museum for 20 years producing 3d models of objects in the collection. They paid a lot of money for me to do so, and shortly after I left they threw out my computer as IT didn't know what it was!

So what are the proper channels he's gone through? I know Doug Harris has repeatedly said in public not to touch them, as have the other tribal preservation officers I know. If he would let me with who has cleared him to do this that represents all the tribes I'd be satisfied and I can take it up with them. But in the long run, what is the goal? He states he is trying to hopefully reacquaint the tribes with their ancestors stone creations (see his full quote above). A nobel cause I'm sure, but does what he's doing do anything more than simply photographing them and sending those to them do? I know nothing I say or write is going to change what he does. Its always easy to justify what we want to do - just look at the fate of the indigenous peoples since the arrival of Europeans. Now however, with the internet, everyone and who feels they need to know what's under those leaves now has a license to do the same, and it doesn't bode well for these structures future.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Ceremonial Stonework

 The Enduring Native American Presence on the Land with Markham Starr

November 22, 2022 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm

    Markham Starr will present his slideshow that takes the audience on an extended walk through the woods to see the ceremonial stonework left behind by the indigenous population that occupied New England for 12,000 years. While Native American stonework is widely recognized in other sections of the United States, New England’s stonework remains obscure, having blended back into the woods. This slideshow  contains photographs of objects and ceremonial sites in Connecticut and Rhode Island and information on how to find them.

Sunday, November 06, 2022

A good day in coastal Rhode Island

Chris Pittman was kind enough to share some of the sites he has located. Locating the sites is the hard part. Looking straight down at the ground is the easy part and I had a good day. Nonetheless I feel that these are really his arrowheads:
He calls the material of the upper right, stemmed point "Attleboro Rhyolite". I call it, more vaguely, "Wamsutta Formation". 

The quartz triangles are very common in this area, and I was wondering if triangles aren't the easiest thing to make from a crystal with hexagonal cleavage.

We're all grifters now


Ethics of private collecting (of fossils)

Eerily parallel with the ethical issues surrounding making rock pile sites public. The main difference is that you can sell fossils but you cannot sell rock piles. [This is New Zealand:]

Bones of contention: The West Coast whale fossil and the ethics of private collecting (

Friday, November 04, 2022

Video of previous Acton Library Talk

They recorded last night's talk, and I am looking forward to seeing it when it appears on YouTube. Meanwhile, it is not easy to find the video from Acton TV, with my previous talk; because that is in "Acton TV Archive". Here is the link, it is a better talk than the one I gave last night, but it is context for it and contains more details. Click Here

(3) Native American Stone Structures 10/20/14 - YouTube