Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Neutaconkanut Hill

     Sunday afternoon I went to Neutaconkanut Hill.  This large hill on the line between Providence and Johnston, RI, was very important to the Narragansetts.  The original land transfer to Roger Williams named it as one of the boundaries.  Over the centuries it has been farmed, used as a park, a ski slope, and a neighborhood dump. Now the wooded crown is maintained as a green spot in an urban environment.

There are stone rows wandering across the steep slopes.

There is also a swamp near a single propped boulder I have shown before (10/16/2013).

In the 1990s the swamp was cleaned of over 100 old tires, and a jeep that had been stolen in North Carolina in 1978.  The owner didn't want it back.  Downhill from this outcrop stands a squarish boulder filled with leaves and twigs.  Cleaning out the debris reveals a rough cavity.

Maybe this was once a mortar used to crush acorns for soaking the in the water.  The presence of plenty of oak trees certainly is suggested by the name Neutaconkanut, which means "place of squirrels".
     A little further down the trail is this bent tree.

Obviously, this tree was bent only a few decades ago.  There are two others having this size and shape on the hill.  This afternoon I notice that it seems to point down this straight opening in the trees.

Old paths persist because the earth is compacted,  slowing the growth of vegetation. At the end is a short line of  rocks overlooking a small pond.

Whatever purpose or significance these stones had is lost.  The significance of this pile of rubble is not lost.

This is what remains of Canonicus Rock, a huge glacial erratic that was destroyed in the 1950s out of fear it would fall into Hartford Avenue below.  They may have dynamited it, but the pointer 90 feet away is still facing south.

  Finally, a visit to the Pinnacles, some huge manitou-shaped spires on an east-facing slope.

And my favorite view.

It is always surprising to see the dense urban sprawl of Providence after  wandering this apparent wilderness of stone rows and boulders.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Snow Squall

A few weeks ago I showed a massive perched boulder on a hill in western RI.    Many of the propped boulders I have found are huge stones resting on hilltops, where they would be seen for miles.
     This massive propped boulder is on the east side of a steep hill and has been a target for graffiti artists (4/1/2014).

Half a mile away is another hill, crowned with this propped boulder.

Because of heavy tree cover, these boulders are not visible from a distance.  The Natives used to manage forests with planned burning, so these boulders were probably clearly visible during their time. Luckily, this area was LIDAR imaged, so I constructed a three-dimensional model from the data.  Grass GIS allows manipulation of the 3-D models as to bearing, altitude, and light direction.

This would be the view from the top of the hill with the first boulder, looking towards the other boulder.  The LIDAR data covers a square mile, so there is no distant landscape.   Those conical objects are artifacts from water reflections in a swampy area.  The light  is from the southwest, as in a winter afternoon.  Some of the larger boulders are visible on the hill.  Having a rainy Sunday, I used the model to make this painting of a  snow squall passing a winter camp, seen from the hill with the first boulder.

 The massive squarish propped  boulder is on top of the other hill, and a Native long house is visible in a protected sunny spot at the foot of the hill. A stream runs through a rocky bank to marshes at the far right.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Story is in the Details

Recently I visited one of my favorite hilltop sites.  This one has two large propped boulders, which have a direct N-S alignment which I have shown before (7/24/13).  I was looking for the third propped boulder.  Here are the candidates:

It's in the right position; maybe it's a propped boulder that broke.   It has a cavity underneath.

Here's another possibility, a boulder  with an inverted triangle shape perched on a rocky outcrop. The shape is similar to the two propped boulders on this hilltop.

      The details of this site tell a greater story.  Here is a stone wall leading into the site, near the broken boulder shown above.

As I mentioned previously, I wonder if these boulders were used as boundaries  in land transfers. 
The larger propped boulder has a commanding view from the  hill, which unfortunately has made it a target for graffiti artists. 

The stone directly to the left of  it has an interesting feature: a shallow circular depression on its flat top surface.  There are two faintly visible, concentric rings. Unlike natural, eroded depressions, this one is very symmetrical.   Maybe this was once a work surface, and its location  afforded a good view of the surrounding area.

The best find of the afternoon was directly downhill and 250 feet from this boulder.

This stone is about two and a half feet across, and has a very smooth, slightly concave surface.  Note the sharp, bright  edge  to the left in the photo.  This may have been a grinding slick. The proximity of grinding slicks and mortars to propped boulders suggests these were important markers for campsites and villages. Cairns and rock piles are scarce  in these sites.  The Natives probably did not build cairns in their residential and work areas.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Corner on a Hill

On a hill somewhere in RI are the three propped boulders of a "corner", which may have once been a Native campsite.  At one end of the corner is a large boulder which looks like it toppled off an outcrop.

Here it is seen from the front, showing the cracked foot rock.  Like many of these propped boulders, it has a rounded bottom surface.

The center propped boulder is 77 feet away. It forms a right angle with the two end boulders.

The third propped boulder is 156 away.  Afternoon glare ruined the photo.

The first boulder shown  is near the end of a long wall.

Sometimes I wonder if these propped boulders were used as boundaries in land transfers.  In a few sites, walls run past them or end near them.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

LIDAR and the Real World

For the past two months, I have been posting garishly colored  images of  LIDAR terrain models.  LIDAR imaging certainly is a fun activity during snow storms, but now it is time to take the data to the real world. Sunday afternoon I followed some GPS coordinates generated from a LIDAR image to an unfamiliar  hilltop somewhere in western RI.   At the edge of the hilltop, I found a perched boulder faintly resembling an animal head.

 Next, I noticed this perched boulder with an interesting shape.

The top of the hill has many large boulders in clusters. 

This very large boulder showed up as a "peak" in the LIDAR image.

  Closer examination showed it is truly massive, at least  10 feet tall and 15 feet long.

This angle shows its symmetrical oval shape. It must have been an impressive landmark many years ago.

Downhill from the massive perched boulder stands an impressive propped boulder.

I could not find these boulders on satellite imaging because pine trees obscure the view. Here is the original LIDAR image.

This looks much better in Grass GIS 3D on my monitor, but the massive perched boulder and some of the clusters of  large boulders are visible, and marked below.

LIDAR can show patterns of large boulders suggesting interesting sites, as well as walls and large rock piles.  Very large and oddly shaped boulders may have had significance to the Natives, and often are surrounded by smaller stone structures.  This broad and level hilltop may have once been an important campsite or meeting place.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Corner in Slush

 Tuesday afternoon I took advantage of the warm, sunny weather and daylight saving time to visit one of my favorite sites.  This is a corner of three propped boulders in a group of corners resembling two large enclosures, which I have shown before (9/18/13).

This square perched boulder is next to a large propped boulder shaped like an inverted triangle (1/8/14).  Perhaps this table-like surface was once a work site.  At the center of this corner and  close to a stream stands this large propped boulder.

This area has been altered by farming, as indicated by a building foundation.

However, a nearby small hill overlooking a stream would have been a good camp site.  This may have been the residential part of the corner.

Further along the stream is this large propped boulder on another small hill.  I took this picture weeks ago, before  the snow started falling.

There is a boulder with a deep concavity by the stream.

This looks like a grinding slick.  Perhaps this was once the women's work area where  they crushed acorns and soaked them in the stream to remove the tannins.

This is why I park on the road.  I nearly lost a boot in this mud!