Saturday, February 28, 2015

Up to your neck in snow

Up to your neck in snow,
Where can you go
To some stone piles and rows?
How about Bad Bad Potato:
  (I always see something there that I'd missed before:

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cabin Fever Reliever

Rocks (with Names) as Seen on TV (and in Movies)
To "Hi-ho" to this cultural landscape that may look very familiar click on this:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tlingit Rock Formations

Cairns Uncovered: Documentary Explores Ancient Tlingit Rock Formations:
Scientists are studying rock arrangements found atop some of Alaska’s southern mountains for information about ancient Tlingit culture.  Photo: Bill Hunt

    “Parts of south Alaska’s inland, alpine landscape are dotted with mounds of artificially stacked rocks that are closely tied to Tlingit culture. These structures, known as rock cairns, are the focus of Cairns Uncovered, a soon-to-be-released documentary that explores Tlingit oral traditions surrounding the structures, as well as archaeological research into their origins and purpose… We really wanted to show the importance of these rock piles and what they are to Tlingit culture and their story. The Tlingit passed on their culture through stories and dance. Some of the stories about the beginning of their history have to do with these rock piles. And we wanted to show that,” Stegen said. “We also wanted to go up there and study and potentially date the cairns. So, it’s also a very science-based documentary.”
(Previous post about the same people and project:
Stone Foundations and Tent Platforms in NW Coast Archaeology:
Tlingit house with stone wall foundation. “Photograph of a Taku village homes, photo likely by Partridge, circa 1887. Village site was located on the mainland across from Douglas Island, south of present-day Juneau”: SHI Archives, Richard Wood collection.
    “In general, we may underestimate large scale constructions in stone.  Burial cairns and mounds (one of Darcy’s consists of 18 dump-trucks worth of soil), rock wall defensive sites, trench embankments, canoe runs, fish traps, and of course, clam gardens, all involved massive deployments of stone, with associated labour investments and creation of a durable built environment. Anyway, we’ve recently been running into enigmatic rock structures on the central coast and Quadra Island, and in particular, the possibility of dwelling structures partially based on stone walls.  So it’s quite cool to run across the picture above from the SHI photo collections, showing a Taku Tlingit house from the historic period, sitting on a platform which has a stone wall as a foundation.
     For an archaeological example, above is a picture of a rock wall which happened to be exposed in a tiny rivulet.  The wall itself is partially constructed of large stone tools, which is cool in its own right. It continues out of frame to right and left, but is not exposed in the same way. Behind the wall, a small test unit showed the stone structure three courses deep, with a definite edge, and abundant charcoal and lithics organized into thin strata like living surfaces.  Preliminary dating shows use around 1500 years ago. Anyway, it’s an example of what we think may be a habitation structure of some kind built on a stone foundation, perhaps even with low stone walls as a perimeter.  You can see numerous additional examples of similar walls in the pictures below, also from the SHI archive…It’s also not just about can see rock platforms built to support tents…The bottom picture shows a similar uppermost tidal rock platform which contained abundant charcoal dated to, if memory serves, to about 4,000 years ago.  This is from Duncan McLaren’s Hakai Ancient Landscapes project which I get to volunteer on from time to time.
So, stone: an under-appreciated construction material on the NW Coast? If you have examples of unorthodox stone constructions then leave a comment, or send me an email."

Look at the Ancestors Here

     “Father Gerónimo Boscana…defines Acjachema as a pyramidal form of moving matter (Boscana). Boscana observes further that “Others apply the term to things inanimate, such as a pile of stones, etc., but the most correct signification of the word is understood as having relation to a heap of animated things (Boscana 84)… In traditional Acjachemen thought, however, rocks animate and alive. They pulse with the vibration of all their minerals, with all their ayelkwi, or knowledge-power. Rocks hold as much cultural significance as the sky holds stars. Rocks walk themselves to ceremonies. They sing across valleys. They burst into fire and they hum to themselves. Through rocks, the ancestors speak and the spirits appear…
Ancient boundary monument No. XVI was a simple pile of stones, early 1850s. From Jacobo Blanco’s Memoria de la Sección Mexicana de la Comisión Internacional de Límites entre México y los Estados Unidos que Restableció los Monumentos de El Paso al Pacífico. 1901.
    ...Louie continues to explain his views towards rocks, offering an example of a rock pile. “Your average person could walk by a pile of rocks and say ‘Oh that’s a pile of rocks,’” he explains. “A native person could walk by, and say ‘Look at the ancestors here.’” His words remind me about the story of Acjachema, the place where the ancestors slept all together. Rocks, similarly stacked and piled, are ancestors too. I wonder about the ancient rock cairns that people have occasionally seen in the southern California hills, the cairns that the Lobos describe in their report. Are these groups of ancestors perhaps tapping into something deeper, into the story of Acjachema?” ~ From: “A Celebration of Ceremony Among the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation,” Julia Edith Rigby (2012)
Chinigchinich by Friar Geronimo Boscana (tr. by Alfred Robinson) [1846]

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Deer Head Uktena

   A recent communication with Tommy Hudson finally enabled me to track down this story that refers back to this old Rock Piles post about a possible Serpent - with what may be a deer's head on a snake's body - on a stone, shown above, found in "a stone wall" in Roxbury CT:
  “At dawn, when the grandmother stared into the dark âsĭ (Women's Moon Lodge), she saw that her grandson shape-shifted into a giant horned serpent, or Uktena, curled up like a fetus within the cramped space. With human legs and deer head attached to a reptilian body, the partly transformed snake boy slithered through the settlement to a deep pool at a nearby bend in the river, where he disappeared under the water. Being a medicine person like her grandson, the grandmother eventually entered the pool too (Mooney 1900:304).” - Myths of the Cherokee. Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1897-98. Part 1, Government Printing Office: Washington D.C.
   J. Loubser includes the quote in The Socio-Economic and Ritual Contexts of Petroglyph Boulders in the Southeastern United States. His paper can be read here: 

Fig. 2: Representation of nested townhouses on the southeastern Indian landscape.
"The Cherokees believed that thunder was a horned snake within the rain which connected the sky vault, the human-built houses on earth, and the underground or underwater townhouses (Mooney 1900:481)."

Monday, February 23, 2015

"Stone walls" on a formerly-fire-tended Cultural Landscape?

     Is there any reason Indigenous People might have a need to build the stonework we have been taught to think of as "stone walls" (and associated piles of "stone cleared from agricultural fields")?  
      What role(s) could Indigenous made and maintained rows of stone serve on a Pre-contact Indigenous Fire Tended Cultural Landscape?
      Would any pragmatic function of Indigenous stonework be considered a “dire need,” such as a need for fuel breaks in a crowded corner of Turtle Island?
      Knowing Indigenous People here did not separate the Spiritual world from "the land we eat from,"can patterns of stacking along with inclusions of possible effigies be observed in the stonework that is similar to designs found in other Indigenous artwork, infusing the Spiritual attributes, the Manitou, of various magical beings such the Great Serpent or Great Turtle (or the animals who also live and "eat" there - bears, deer and birds etc.) into the object itself, things like ceramic pottery, other rock art, beading and so much more?
More here: Stone walls on a formerly-fire-tended Cultural Landscape?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Stone mounds in Hopkinton purchased by land trust

From the Providence Journal [click here], Dec. 15 2014.

"HOPKINTON, R.I. (AP) — The Hopkinton Land Trust has purchased just over 13 acres of property containing mysterious stone piles known as cairns. ..."

Friday, February 20, 2015

Nuclear Lake NY

   “Believe it or not, there's a lake off Route 55 near Pawling in eastern Dutchess County with the rather unusual name of Nuclear Lake. How on earth did it get that name?  It's certainly not something the local Chamber of Commerce would choose.  Well, it apparently was named when a former hunting preserve around the lake was purchased in 1955 by an outfit called Nuclear Development Associates.
The following, from Hike the Hudson Valley, has an amusing take on it all: ‘I know what you’re thinking.  Why would I ever want to visit a place called Nuclear Lake?  Well, let me set your mind at ease.  The only reason it’s even called Nuclear Lake (you’re going to think this is so funny when you hear it), is that in 1972, a chemical explosion blew out two windows in the experimental nuclear research lab that used to sit on the shore of the lake, blasting an unspecified amount of bomb-grade plutonium across the lake and surrounding woods. 
      See?  I bet you thought it was something bad.’

     “Now for some more strangeness.  At the north end of the lake, there are a bunch of stone walls in the woods.  Not normal stone walls like I'm familiar with - the straight walls that once lined farmer's fields but now lie in the woods as some hardscrabble farms were abandoned a century ago.  No, these stone walls ran up and down hills in curved paths.  Not marking farmer's fields either since no one could farm anything on the steep, stony hillsides around this part of the lake.”
A curvy stone wall running to the lakeshore. 
Another zig-zagging wall
   Who the hell builds a rock wall that zig-zags up the hill?  It's certainly not marking anyone's property line.  Another ran parallel the shoreline.  Why do that?
Is there a point to this?
Wall went around this mound
    One area had a wall encircling an artificial hill of stone.  It looked like a ritual space to me.
Another wall enclosed a rectangular area but was too sloppy to be a building foundation.
Not a foundation - Again, what's the point?
     Very strange.  Who built all of these stone walls (there were a lot of them!) that are running willy-nilly all over the place and why?"

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Stone Faces

From Joanne Hulbert, these are from Holliston and vicinity:

Serpent Effigies, Earth and Stone

     “Locality," Stephen Denison Peet wrote back in 1890, "always leaves its mark on native tradition, and native myths also leave their marks on localities. We should know from the New England myths that the people who held them were residents of the seashore, for the animals which are made to figure in these myths are animals peculiar to the sea. We know that they dwelt in a region where (there) were rocks and romantic scenery, and that they were a people who were influenced by this peculiar scenery. Their traditions are many of them, localized, the rocks often being made to symbolyze their myths. It is singular, however, that the myths which fix upon scenes in nature are those which remind one of the animal divinities which were worshipped. The figure of the moose and the turtle and other animals have been recognized in certain strange and contorted figures in the rocks and mountains, and myths have been connected with them, the myth having evidently been made to account for the resemblances..."
      Well, what about some possible Great Serpents in stone that rather resemble those earth mounds? 

Monday, February 16, 2015

We Shall Remain; America Through Native Eyes

David Tall Pine White (left) appears in  "After the Mayflower - Episode One" of this series:
You can watch it online here:

Saturday, February 14, 2015

David Tall Pine White presentation next Saturday

From the Nolumbeka Project:
Join us at the Discovery Center in Turners Falls on Saturday, Feb. 21, from 1 - 3 p.m. for "The Language Belongs to the Land", an interactive presentation by David Tall Pine White on the Nipmuc Presence and Persistence in Southern New England. A community activist and teacher of Nipmuc language, history and culture, Tall Pine is Tribal Council Vice-President of the Chaubunagungamaug Band of Nipmuck Indians and was a language consultant and actor in the 2009 PBS series "We Shall Remain" For more information, including a First Contact video interview visit:  

Friday, February 13, 2015


I miss seeing rock piles. There is no end in sight for the snow. Where are my old photos?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Turner's falls decision - redacted

Found the documentation for registering Turner's Falls in the National Register of Historic Sites. Have a look. To me it reads a bit strange, as none of the parties had seen much, at the time they were having this discussion; and the hill next to the airport does not appear to be very unique.

The Fisher Property’s Indigenous Presence By HHA Member Tom Helmer

This is in Hopkinton RI. I have to say I like some of the "turtle" piles and not others.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Topo maps online

This one is thanks to Tommy Hudson:

Very nice topo maps and overlays.

I usually use:

I like the Mapnik (showing conservation lands) and Map (showing standard road map) overlays.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

"America Unearthed" ....what!?

How come we never talked about this TV show that mentions Track Rock Gap within its first few moments? Seeing them get excited about stone walls is slightly comic for a New England-er but, on the other hand, I don't have a problem with the "Mayans in Georgia" hypothesis. 

Four minutes in, we are already looking at rock piles. I never saw them before on TV.
Then mounds at Ocmulgee are spectacular.

In episode 2, in the Mustang Mountains of AZ, at a pass, here is a state archeologist stepping on a rock pile without noticing it.

And here were some underwater rock piles from Wisconsin in Episode 3

Unfortunately the reasoning was such schlock I had to stop watching after that.

Fort Norumbega

From The Bucksport Enterprise, via reader Teig T.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Looking at old pictures while waiting for the ground to come back out

...speaking of old pictures, did I ever show this one of a rectangular mound with hollow, bulldozed in half?
I took a close look at the ground and the exposed rocks wondering about artifacts but all I saw was cobbles.