Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Perched boulders

I used to wonder how perched boulders were balanced that way.  One explanation is that the glaciers dropped them into that position.  Then I used to think that someone dragged them into position, which would have been quite an engineering feat.  However, the answer is in the photo below.
See how the bottom of the boulder and the supporting bedrock were cut away?  The manitou is a chunk  of leftover stone.
Here is another perched boulder, which seems to be in danger of sliding off the bedrock ledge. Near this perched boulder is another one, with a large propped boulder to the rear.
Both of these perched boulders have long axis bearings of about 206 degrees.  This doesn't correspond to any astronomical events, but it is interesting that this nearby structure below has the same orientation. They don't seem to point to anything, either.

    The perched boulder below is a well-known feature in a RI state park.  It is obvious stone was gouged out to the right on this boulder. The long axis faces southeast.
Finally, here's another one,  with its long axis facing southwest.

All of these are on hilltops.  Creating these took a great deal of work, which I doubt a farmer would want to expend.  They were probably created by Native Americans, for some lost purpose.  Perhaps a hint comes from Indian legends, in which boulders are animated and capable of movement.  These boulders may have represented characters in Indian legends. Or they may symbolize the balance of life and nature.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Uses of Quartz

Native Americans quarried quartz from veins in boulders and outcrops. Some was used in arrowheads, some was used to mark sacred places such as burials. Here the quartz has been nearly completely removed from the vein in this outcrop. These photos were shown on Larry Harrop's blog two years ago.
 Here is another quarry site at large quartz veins in Tiverton, RI.
The quartz vein is visible under the lean-to, and depleted veins directly to the right in the photo above are shown in the photo below.
One practical use  I noticed years ago was as a trail marker. Often large chunks of quartz are seen along farm roads, such as this location at Weetamoo Woods in Tiverton, RI.
Being white and shiny, the quartz would have been a marker for night travel.  Often I find quartz stones half-buried in the paths near stone structure sites, and  sometimes occurring at uniform distances. This one is in the path leading to a large cairn field.
A quartz marker  from before first contact would be completely buried, so these probably date from historic times, and were used by Indians and farmers alike.
    Quartz  is often incorporated into  stone walls, and may be decorative, as well as an aid to  night travel. Sometimes these stones occur at regular intervals in walls.
Quartz stones were also used to mark burials. Here a quartz rests in a low cairn at a forgotten site by a pond.

This practice may have been carried into historic times.  Here is a large chunk of quartz left in the wall of a cemetery at a revolutionary war site.
And here is quartz incorporated into a family cemetery in RI.  Merely decorative, or a fusion of native and Christian beliefs?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Inside a Cairn

Sunday afternoon I visited a well known cairn field in RI. The cairns are compactly constructed, tall and rounded. Although I have been here many times, there is always something new revealed by changes in the light.  As I walked along, I noticed this cairn. with a vertical opening extending through three layers of rocks. The late afternoon sunlight was playing on something inside the cairn.
 When I looked inside, I saw this cavity with a small central rock. To tell the truth, I was half expecting to see an old shoe!

 On the other side of this cairn is a larger opening.
Looking through this opening, I saw this view, with a little sunlight on the central rock. This cairn was clearly constructed to contain a cavity.  Although it seems to align with winter sunset, the view through the cairn is too low to  reach the horizon.  If it has any astronomical significance, perhaps the pattern of sun on the central rock is the indicator.  However, this cavity could simply be a construction style, or have some spiritual meaning, such as a house for a spirit. Or it could have been somebody's hidey-hole.

 The roof of the cavity is held up by a large, flat rock.  In the photo, it is directly underneath the rock with a large lichen.
 This is probably the only cairn with a cavity in the field.  However, there are suggestions that other cairns in this field once also had cavities.
The cairn in the foreground has a large flat rock, that could have been the roof for the depression in its center.  There are also two large chunks of quartz to the right in this cairn.
 Other cairns also seem to have central depressions. Cairns with dimples or vaults often appear on the Rockpiles and Ceremonial Landscapes blogs.

 Maybe the cairns were originally constructed with cavities, and then the cairns were vandalized, or simply fell in. Cairns are often opened due to stories that there is "treasure" in cairns. The treasure is simply the arrangement of the stones.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hilltop Site Revisited

Recently I returned to the hilltop site I described previously (10/24/2012).  This site has several propped boulders, in varying stages of completion.
Here is a completed propped boulder.
The other side shows a sharp edge along  the bottom, indicating the stone was worked.  There are three supporting stones under it.
There is no reason a farmer would do this.  Below is a propped boulder  in progress.  Once the large fragment was removed, a support stone could be placed under the boulder, and more stone from the lower edge chipped away. It looks like someone was going to take a  slab off the top, also.  Maybe this was done later than the removal of stone from the bottom.
Here is  a close-up of the partially completed boulder I showed previously (10/24/2012)
Notice the large flake of stone on the ground to the right.  It looks like it was knocked out of the side of the boulder directly above it.
Here is another propped boulder shown previously.
This has a striking tall and narrow shape from the other side.
The sides are smooth and flat, as stone has been removed.  I have never seen an upright boulder like this anywhere else.  It is about 10 feet tall.
Near some of these boulders is this large rock with a strange "chair" shape. When I swept away the leaves, I found the "seat" is flat.   This was probably not used in food production, but may have been used in making and edging tools.  There might be tools and rock chips scattered around it.
 This site is also surrounded by farm walls and platform cairns surmounted with carefully stacked rocks.

I think this site shows the historical progression of Indian quarrying.  First  the Indians built these propped and oddly shaped boulders for their own reasons. After  the white man came, they used their quarrying skills to break up boulders into squarish stones and build walls. Of course, it is impossible to be know exactly how the site was altered over time.
      In less than two weeks, somebody added a tongue to the site guardian!