Thursday, October 27, 2011

Moon Hill

Somewhere in northern Rhode Island is a small hill with a cliff face on its south side.
This hill is topped with three boulders on bedrock. The boulder to the left is propped.
Heading downhill and west, I see two  small propped boulders. Part of the cliff face is visible to the right in the first photo below.

 Further downhill  is this strange, small and square enclosure. The propped boulder above is visible in the background, and the larger propped arrangement is in shadow.
What could be the purpose of this enclosure?  It is too small to be a building foundation.
At the base of the hill is a 200-foot long wall  with a wider leg about  60 feet long. The wider section makes almost a 90 degree angle with the  long wall.  At the other end  of the long wall is a large pile of rocks, as if someone was building  and stopped.
 Near the corner of the wide wall is a faintly visible  circular structure.  Further away to the west is a  cairn with a bent tree.

The oddest structure is this crescent-shaped planter.
I suspect is is a planter, because on the next spring weekend I visited, the woods were blazing with forsythia.
There is another wall on the north side of the hill, and the layout of the site is shown below.  The dark red dot to the left is a small building foundation. Boulders are yellow, cairns red. The small, square enclosure is the dark red dot in the center.  The two sets of walls do not form any enclosures. 

I realized a possible purpose of the square enclosure when I remembered what I have never found in northern Rhode Island:  a chamber.  Despite plenty of wandering, I have never found a subterranean chamber like those Larry Harrop shows in his blog.  Maybe the square enclosure is a vantage point for observing astronomical alignments.  It seems to be true.
The square enclosure has a 253 degree bearing with the large cairn shown above, suggesting a winter solstice alignment.  It also has a 318 degree alignment with the end of the wall on the north side.  Both sets of walls have alignments suggesting lunar standstill.
Perhaps the astronomical alignments  of the walls and cairn are the important aspects of the site, even if it was not used as an observatory.   Maybe someone memorialized this lunar significance by building the crescent  moon-shaped planter.
Here is how the site may have looked at  winter solstice long ago.  The shadow in front of the cairn is that of the viewer.  When painting this site, I realized that one disadvantage of  a small enclosure is that it would have been covered with snow.  A simple solution would have been to leave a pole standing at the enclosure.
I hope to revisit this site once the leaves are down, and see if there are any other astronomical markers, or tool marks on the stones in the wall and cairn.


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