Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Alignments at South Watuppa Pond

South Watuppa Pond was probably once ringed with the campsites, stone rows, effigies and manitous of the Pocasset Wampanoags.  Most of the original shore has been lost to waves of development for farming, industry, and residential use. However, the raising of the pond level in 1826 saved some sites from destruction, while partially or completely hiding them.  The few sites that remain raise many questions.
     The two turtle boulders and the manitous described in these posts all face north instead of southwest.  This may be simply because the structures follow the long axis of the pond.  Another possibility is that these structures  face something important to the north.  Here are two possibilities.
 This is Rolling Rock, about 1 mile north of  the present-day north shore of South Watuppa Pond.  It is on the highest point of the hill overlooking the pond, and would have been visible from there.  Also, Rolling Rock is a puddingstone glacial erratic, like the large puddingstones in two of the campsites.
     Also to the north is the  rocky peninsula at the Quequechan River inlet, just off  Brayton Avenue Extension.
This is visible from I-24. These photos were taken in October 2010, when the water level was very low.
The Quequechan river floodgate is seen from the peninsula.
     Although this bit of land is now topped with a power line tower, there is still a huge boulder resting on smaller rocks, and a commanding view of South Watuppa Pond.
A mysterious slab, possibly produced by quarrying,  rests against another boulder.
 The location of this site gives a clue to its importance.  The last post described a 600-foot stone row extending from Cranberry Neck to a small rocky island.  The amount of work required to build such a long stone row suggests a far greater importance than simply land clearing.  The curve in the row is reminiscent of the curved walls at the Queen's Fort site in Exeter, RI. Looking at any possible alignments, I found the following.
 The island is in green. The yellow waypoint at the north side of the island is at the loose stonerows.  A line from there to the peninsula is 1.22 miles and has a 305 degree bearing, corresponding to August 13. Similarly, a line to the peninsula from the curve in the long stone row has a 310 degree bearing, corresponding to lunar standstill.  There are also alignments with the short stone row with manitous as a vantage point.  From the short stone row (blue dot) to the peninsula is  318 degrees, corresponding to summer solstice.  From this short stone row to the large turtle boulder is 253 degrees, or winter solstice. Of course, since the turtle boulder is at the bottom of a hill, it could not have been used as a sunset marker.  There could have been a marker on top of the hill,  near where the new mausoleum at Notre Dame cemetery now stands.  Similarly, there may have been a marker on top of the peninsula.  A marker for equinox  would be near the bleachery ponds.  I don't remember any prominent boulders there, but there are some stone rows.
     So was this site used as an observatory, or is it all coincidence?  I have seen enough alignments in northern RI to  convince me that these reflect a desire to organize the landscape in respect to nature.  Unfortunately, it is difficult  to prove that these sites were used as observatories, especially when they are disrupted by development.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Island in South Watuppa Pond

One of the most mysterious stone structures of South Watuppa Pond is a submerged stone row that extends from   Cranberry Neck to a small, rocky island.  The row is about 600 feet long and curved, presumably to stay in shallower water. 
     The stone row is visible in satellite imagery, and made its appearance in August 2010, when the level of South Watuppa Pond fell drastically.
 Here the row  appears as a faint diagonal line below the island in imagery from Bing Maps.
The island has two loosely formed stone rows extending north, which may be natural features.
 Here the stone row is revealed by a very  low water level in September 2010.  The row's curve, the island, and Fall River  are visible.

The island is marshy, and covered with thick reeds.  There don't seem to be any structures on the island, except for what might be a platform cairn, and a small propped rock.  The island was not cleared for farming and has no visible building foundations.   I doubt whether a farmer would expend the energy to build a causeway to a small island of no apparent economic value, especially since the island can be reached in a short boat trip.
     On the shore of Cranberry Neck facing north  are three short stone rows.

 Two of these have features suggesting manitous.  There is a manitou standing on the row in the center of  the above photo.

The next stone row to the right has several manitous, created by placing large rocks with the pointed ends up. Also, some of the stones in the row are placed so that there is empty space under them.
 Obviously, there is no reason to do this when building a wharf or foundation. At the end of this row there is a large slab with tool marks, visible to the right.    These stone rows would have been out of the water before the pond level was raised.  They may have once formed enclosures, but  any back walls are long gone.
     This property now belongs to the Fall River Rod and Gun Club. Originally, it belonged to Benjamin Church, who fought in King Philip's War with the Pocasset Wampanoags.  The Pocassets originally lived about the Watuppas, and were granted lands on both sides of the ponds after the war, but later moved to Watuppa Reservation.  Cranberry Neck was deeded to William Borden in 1727, and the Bordens farmed the land for about 200 years.  The land was then deeded to the Fall River Rod and Gun Club.  The Club has done minimal "improvements" to their property, and it  looks like unspoiled forest from the water.
    The pond level was raised in 1826, when the Troy Dam was raised two feet.  Since this was an addition to an existing dam, it's possible the original pond level was even lower.   This is a section of the map of pond depths I used previously.  The  edge of the red area closer to shore  represents 5 feet in depth.  The original shoreline may have been closer to the 5 foot mark, and the very shallow area at the Christopher Borden Brook outlet  would have been mostly dry land. The stone rows would have been out of the water, and the island would have been considerably larger, as the water around it is shallow.

Here is my interpretation of the view from the island, looking towards Cranberry Neck, with the water about two feet lower than today. I  painted this in 2011, and incorporated the present-day appearance of the shore.
To the left is a marsh where Christopher Borden brooks enters the pond. The short stone rows  are further to the west along the shore, and out of the picture.
     The long curved stone row may have been built  from  rocks cleared from the shallow area directly east of it.  This area may have been  used as a  summer campsite.
      Here is my interpretation of how the area may have looked originally, to someone walking on top of the stone row.
Here two wigwams covered with reed mats stand on the shore. The openings face east, and are not visible.   The Christopher Borden brook flows to left, creating a small marsh. Pond water laps at the base of the stone row. Even today the pond  is noticeably shallower directly east of the submerged stone row, and large patches of waterlilies follow its outline.
A thunderstorm gathers on a summer afternoon hundreds of years ago.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Stone Rows of South and North Watuppa

While kayaking Sunday afternoon on South Watuppa Pond, I noticed  this large boulder with a distinct turtle shape.  The turtle even seems to have an eye and a short stone row leading to shore.
 Here is the side view.  Like the turtle boulder in the 6/27/2012 post, this one faces north.
 Nearby is a  pile of stacked rocks.
This small site is on the west shore, at the edge of  property owned by Notre Dame Cemetery.
Further south along the west shore is another stone row. In the background is the beach at the East End Sportsmen's Club.
This complex  includes a row along the shore.
Satellite imagery shows that these are the boundaries of a shallow area, possibly an old camp site.

Similar stone rows are also visible in satellite imagery of North Watuppa Pond.  Since this is the Fall River water supply, it is off limits for boating and  hiking.

These are on the east shore of North Watuppa Pond. They show up in the background of a  photo on the Pocasset Wampanoag website tribal lands section here.   The third photo is definitely North Watuppa Pond, since Mount Trashmore (the BFI landfill)  is visible in the distance. The fourth photo is the view to the south.
     North Watuppa Pond  is nearly surrounded by submerged stone rows, most of them parallel to the current shoreline.  Some of these may have been formed by farmers clearing fields  before the water level was raised in 1826. However, features such as effigies, propped boulders, and manitous incorporated into some of the walls in South Watuppa Pond suggest they were constructed by Indians. I have examined plenty of satellite imagery  to find stone rows in other  lakes in RI and MA, but these are the only distinct ones.  The lighting conditions and water depth have to be favorable for a clear image.  Also, many ponds and lakes are man-made, or have been raised by damming or deforestation since the time of the Indians, and would have no visible stone rows.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

South Watuppa Pond, the Square Enclosure

Directly north of the east shore site in the previous  post is a square enclosure  with two openings.   The center wall is about 25 feet long, and the enclosure is about 75 feet across and  35 feet deep. The water is very shallow, and this structure would have been completely out of the water  before the pond was raised.  Although the square shape suggests a barn or boat house foundation, the walls of this enclosure have features suggesting it was built by Indians.  Here is a view from the water, showing the walls of the enclosure and its tall reeds, with the large turtle-shaped boulder from the previous post to the right.

Here's a satellite view from Bing Maps.

 And here's another view.  On the shore at the enclosure are two boulders which are not visible due to the tall reeds.  There seem to be submerged rocks at the ends of the walls, which fan out in faint semicircles.  Here are two views from   the water, the first taken in 2011, and the second on 7/1/2012 .

The center stone row has large, round boulders piled on smaller rocks in its center, and smaller stones at each end.  This is the center stone row, photographed from inside the enclosure.  The stone in the center is propped, with empty space below it.  Although it is not visible from this angle, another stone to the right of this one is also propped.  The sharp stone to the left in the photograph resembles a manitou.
The stone row on the south side of the enclosure  has a boulder resembling a turtle head placed on top of smaller rocks. The shore side of this enclosure is marshy, and if there was a fourth wall, it was probably removed by development.  The outer wall resembles the wall at the campsite in the previous post, since both have boulders piled on smaller rocks in their centers.
I  used to look at the gallery of walls at Larry Harrop's blog, and wonder if there was some symbolism in the different  motifs in wall construction, such as  manitous, open spaces, slanted and saddle rocks.  Since these sites were used by clans or families in the summer, perhaps the motifs were used to identify the site or its  users.  This is especially suggested by the turtle motifs in the large boulder and turtle head at this site.
      So what could be the purpose of the small enclosure? Since it   faces west over water, it may have been a burial ground.
     Here is a view looking into enclosure through the south opening, done in ink brush. The turtle head is to the extreme right, the propped rock to the left, and the semicircles invite the viewer to visit the cairns inside.