Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pointer site revisited

Recently I revisited this site, which I showed 5/15/2013.  This is a rocky  east-facing slope, with what looks like a niche and a pointer.

The pointer is about three feet long and points at about 78 degrees.

Directly uphill is this large niche with slabs set on edge inside.

The lower edge of the top is sharp, as if stone was removed, and the top rests against a vertical slab.

The view inside.

Someone set these slabs on edge in here.  If they had eroded off the larger slab, they  would be lying flat. 
The pointer points at a loose stone row that extends downhill. Further downhill are a few cairns, which I showed previously.

The view from the head of the stone row, showing the pointer pointing at the row with the niche directly behind.

The pointer doesn't seem to point to anything beyond the stone row. If there was something important, it would have been lost to development.  These structures seem to be organized with niche, pointer, and stone row in a straight line.Whether it is a shrine or coincidence is a mystery.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hundreds of Years of Use

Saturday afternoon I went for a walk at one of my favorite sites.  A few years ago, I took this picture there:

Recently, I was reviewing these photos, and noticed that the stone in the bottom of the photo looked like it had a grinding slick on  top.  This site is a small hill overlooking a stream, and it was easy to find again.
Closer examination of the stone showed a grinding slick  in a symmetrical stone with a flat top.

Here it is with the leaves removed.

  If someone was using this grinding slick, she would face to the southwest.

Why face southwest?  There are two possible reasons that are not mutually exclusive.
     1.  The god Kantantowit came from the southwest, bringing corn.
     2.  The winter sun would keep this stone warmer.
This propped boulder with a grinding slick (9/18/2013 ) also faces southwest, and is only 500 feet away.

These stones were shaped for a practical use, and saw hundreds of years of use. Their location on small hills near water suggests they were once part of  campsites.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving in Lexington

This Thanksgiving I visited some relatives in Lexington, MA.  After dinner, the whole family went for an afternoon walk through some undeveloped land behind the house. There were many familiar sights, such as stone walls,

and loose rock piles.

Then I saw this, a propped boulder resting on a large central support stone.  The bottom edge of the boulder seems to curve around the support stone, as if someone chipped away rock to get this effect.

A marker or memorial left by Natives, and hidden in plain sight?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Corner with Directional Alignments

Most of the groups of  propped boulders I have been showing do not seem to have any astronomical alignments.  One pair of propped boulders had a N-S alignment (7/24/2013).  Here is a small lakeside area in which the propped boulders seem to have alignments to the cardinal directions.

Waypoint 1857. This is the boulder to the north.

500 feet away to the south is  this impressive propped boulder, at waypoint 2134.  It is the corner, and rests on two supporting rocks, a style seen in other sites (11/13/2013, 9/4/2013).

677 feet away to the west is this propped boulder at  waypoint 1862 . There is a small stone wedged underneath it.

This area has many boulders, but the ones that have been modified seem to form lines and triangular enclosures. The lake in the diagram is dammed, so hundreds of years ago, there would have been a much smaller pond and a larger swampy area. Since these propped boulder enclosures are usually uphill from water, they may have been part of Native settlements.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Paired Propped Boulders

Somewhere in northern RI is another hilltop site with propped boulders forming a triangular arrangement.  So far, I have shown four of these sites with aligned propped boulders, including one in March 2012. These sites are all within five or six miles of  each other.   This site differs from the others in  that the propped boulders are in pairs.

At waypoint 1514001, there are two smaller propped boulders.

About 600 feet away is the corner  at waypoint 1525, with  two large propped boulders:

These are next to each other.  The larger one has a division in the base, like that of the corner propped boulder shown 9/11/2013.

Those small objects in the division are  acorns donations left by squirrels.
At waypoint 504, about 600 feet away from the corner, there are also two propped boulders.

Nearby is this perched boulder, which I have shown before (11/28/2012 ).  This seems to point to the smaller propped boulders at waypoint 1514001.  If there was anything more, it was lost to development.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Landscapes with Native Sculptures

Last weekend's outing was postponed by the nasty head cold that has been going around at work.  Finally, some time to stay in and paint!  These aren't exact reconstructions, but imagined  landscapes without overgrown trees, where propped boulders are clearly visible.  Here is the hill (10/30/2013) on a late autumn afternoon, looking past the propped boulder to the impressive boulders at the top of the hill.

Computer screens have a bluish cast, so yellows and reds sometimes look "off".  Paintings with lots of blue usually look better.   Here is a winter camp at evening, at the same site.  A little firelight shows at the smoke hole, and around the door.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Circling the Hilltop

There are still more propped boulders in the hilltop site I showed last week (10/23/2013), and they form  a loose border around the hill.

     Some of the boulders at this site are close to the road and in full sight in the winter.  By now, any Rhode Islander reading this blog knows where this is!
    Waypoint 1918

It looks like some of the side of this boulder was carved off to give it this squarish shape.
Waypoint 1924, an impressive boulder standing on outcrop.

Waypoint 1925, a perched boulder on an outcrop.

Waypoint 2296, the same propped boulder shown last week. 

Waypoint 1865, a large boulder. Stone has been removed from the lower edge of the boulder to the right.

Waypoint 1932, which was  shown previously (11/7/2011,10/24/2012).

This has many stones underneath, which may have been produced by stone being chipped away to produce the propped shape.

Waypoint 1907, a rather  unusual shape suggesting a split boulder.  I didn't include it in the circle because it was probably  produced by quarrying.

     Previous posts on this blog have shown  groups of  quarried  boulders with prominent tool marks  near stone walls (10/31/2012). Sometimes I wonder if propped boulders were also produced by settlers quarrying  rocks for construction purposes.  This is not likely  because the propped boulders are usually single and  not near stone walls.     The occasional propped boulder has what looks like some quarrying or removal of slabs, but most look like they were carved into propped boulders and left as the finished product.  The purpose of carving these boulders, whether to mark villages or ceremonial sites, or  as memorials or art, remains a mystery.
Forget what you learned in grade school about Asians crossing the Bering land bridge to people the Americas. The real story is more complex, as described in this short article from The Scientist, here.

The Alaskan Cemetery

Check this out!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Return to the Hilltop

Last weekend I took advantage of the pleasant weather to return to the hilltop I showed on 9/4/2013.  I looked more closely at the propped boulders, to see if there were any marks, and to determine if there were any particular orientations of these boulders. Here's what I found:

      Waypoint 1873.
This is  a large propped boulder with a smaller propped boulder in front.  From the other side, it looks like the boulder is pointing. The long axis of the larger rock was almost perfect N-S.

     This large  boulder has a prominent squarish  mark that looks man-made on its west face. It is about eight inches tall. Immediately to the right of the hole in the bottom of the square mark is a large quartz crystal (arrow).  The deep marks may have been created by someone gouging out quartz.

 The bottom part of this mark  is visible above and  behind the smaller propped boulder.


     Waypoint 1830

This boulder, seen from the side opposite that shown 9/4/2013, also had N-S alignment of the long axis.  The open space underneath has E-W orientation.  Closer examination shows flat rocks that might have been pulled out from underneath the boulder when the open space was created.

On all these boulders, the long axis orientation was N-S.  Since many of the other boulders on this hill have this orientation,  the glaciers may have deposited them this way. 
     The propped boulders in the alignment (9/4/2013) definitely show some human working, especially this one at waypoint 1870.

 The planes remaining when rock was removed are visible on the lower surface. Maybe the granite at the bottom of a boulder in contact with bedrock gets cracked  from repeated exposure to freezing and thawing.  The Natives found it  easier to chip the granite from the bottom of the boulder, creating a propped effect.
     Whenever I think I've seen everything in a site, something proves me wrong.  I was wandering down the side of the hill on an unfamiliar path, and I saw this:

Closer examination shows it is a beautiful propped boulder, with the inverted triangle shape sometimes seen at this site.

Here's a view of the other side. The long axis was also N-S.

I imagine this area once looked like a sculpture garden when the Natives kept the forest thin.  It is hard to believe that these structures were in full view for the centuries during which the area was farmed, and nobody noticed them.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Walking Up Neutaconkanut Hill

 A few years ago, I went for a walk up the heavily wooded west slope of Neutaconkanut Hill. This hill was one of the original boundaries of the territory ceded to Roger Williams by Canonicus and Miantonomi.  Over the years, the hill has been used as a farm, quarries, illegal dump, stolen car dismantling point, park with ski slope, and now as woodland walking trails. After all these uses, a few suggestions of Native use remain.
     Walking up from the bottom of the west slope, I reach a large outcrop.

 These large, square blocks suggest that this stone was once quarried.  About 265 feet further up the slope is this propped boulder.  It has the usual oblong shape of propped boulders in RI.

 The next structure is this small perched boulder, about 86 feet  further up the slope.

That is a satellite dish in the background.  The  outcrop and two structures make a straight line leading to the summit of the hill.  If there were other elements in this line, they are long gone.
     There are two more propped boulders on top of the hill.  These are 350 feet apart, and it is impossible to tell  if they were once part of a larger arrangement.

Both have remained because they are in nobody's way, and are resting on bedrock.  Canonicus Rock was not as fortunate, and was reduced to a pile of rubble in the 1950s as a precaution against it falling into Plainfield Street.