Wednesday, March 13, 2013

An Observatory

In March 2011, I was walking up a utility access road, and I looked up and saw a huge propped boulder on the ridge overlooking the road.
This boulder looks like a chamber and  faces west.  The smooth vertical plane in the front above the smaller stones suggests some of the boulder was chipped away to form this chamber. Here's a somewhat burned-out close-up.

Some more exploration revealed the following:
At  about 1300 feet on a 318 degree bearing, are first this massive boulder, then an outcrop with propped boulders.  The outcrop has the bent tree with  rocks still piled on the trunk,  which was shown on 11/3/11. This site would correspond to summer solstice and Pleides set, according to the very useful "Stupid Sheet" from  Rockpiles.blogspot.

1900 feet away from the chamber boulder and at bearing 335 degrees is a large propped boulder on an outcrop, complete with a bent tree.  Notice the pointed shape. This boulder does not  correspond an astronomical alignment from the chamber, but could be  a marker for a different vantage point.
2000 feet from the chamber boulder and at bearing 285 is a large outcrop topped with a  pile of small rocks, and surrounded with cairns.  This  site also contains the ruins of an abandoned farm, and is so interesting, it deserves its own blog post.

The west face of the outcrop.
Finally,  across a lake and on a hill 3300 feet away from the boulder chamber stands this 7-foot tall propped boulder. It is the only large boulder on the hill, and has a somewhat pointed shape, like the one above.

The supporting stones are shaped to hold this boulder.  The 253 degree bearing suggests it is a marker for winter solstice.   What is most interesting about this possible observatory is the propped boulders and cairns at the marker sites.    Here is a diagram.

Painting the view from the boulder chamber is impractical, since the markers would appear tiny, especially in artwork viewed on computer monitors and other digital devices.
     One thing that has always impressed me is how many alignments appear in northern RI.  Some are probably coincidence, but others look deliberate, especially when the markers are large propped boulders.  This site is actually within reasonable hiking distance from some others I have shown, so the question is why so many, and to what purpose?  One can see the difficulties involved in using these aligned boulders for accurate solstice readings:  the observer would be looking at a distant marker against a blinding sun.  Perhaps they were used for observations of the Pleiades and other constellations, and had some ceremonial use. They may have been a way to organize the landscape in respect to the seasons.

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