Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Enclosure and Bird Effigies

Somewhere in northern Rhode Island is a beautiful hill composed of jumbled  boulders.  On the shoulder of the hill is this boulder carved to resemble a  bird.
This photo was shown previously on Larry Harrop's blog.  The bird faces SSW towards a small, square enclosure built against a large boulder.  One wall of the enclosure continues about 100 feet away from the enclosure, until it ends at a hay field.
The enclosure is too small to be a building foundation.  Here is the whole enclosure, showing a small opening to the right.

What is the purpose of this enclosure?  The wall and nearby structures give a clue.  The wall is at a 253 degree bearing, suggesting a winter solstice alignment.  The enclosure may be a vantage point for observing astronomical events.   Unfortunately, if there were any other alignment markers, they were cleared from the field.  However, beyond the field and along the line corresponding to summer solstice is a large cairn field,
an outcrop,

and finally this huge bird head effigy.
 The presence of cairns and effigies at locations corresponding to alignments suggests annual ceremonies linked to these events.  I suspect that the use of small enclosures as vantage points in solstice observations was once widespread.  The reconstructed Pequot 1720 homestead at the Pequot Museum at Foxwoods shows a small, square enclosure that was found at Indian farm sites on the Mashantucket reservation.  The accompanying sign said its use was unknown.
     There are two hill top sites with astronomical alignments marked by large boulders in this northern RI area.  Perhaps these were used by the Indians before the arrival of  Europeans. After the Indians lost most of their land and moved to small farms, they may have built small enclosures and walls with alignments to continue their customs.  These inconspicuous structures would help keep these practices secret from their white neighbors.


  1. That first photo: I asked my four year old grandson what he saw, looking at the photo. He said, "It's a turtle on a rock." The first time I saw the photo, I thought it was a turtle (head, shell and a big flipper), as well as a face below it. I wonder about the other sides of the boulder, if other "things" could be seen on them as well...

  2. For he first effigy I see a mans face and he's possibly wearing some kind of hat. And the second effigy I see the head of a mountain lion. There use to be mountain lions all over New England until the Europeans arrived and hunted hem to extinction in the region. That's just my opinion tho and these photos you have taken of the site are amazing. Keep up the research