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.

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