Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Another Landscape with Propped Boulders

Here is another hilltop propped boulder alignment in northern RI. The propped boulders are yellow dots joined by yellow dashed lines.  Cairns are red dots, and walls are blue dots and lines.

 The line extending right (east) approximately  1300 feet in the south portion of the diagram may have been part of an enclosure.  The area to the upper right contains the ruins of an old sawmill, so any markers there would have been lost.
      Here is the large enclosure, starting at the south corner at waypoint 457.  This boulder  seems to have been sculpted, and points uphill along the line.

The line is 333 feet long, and  passes this outcrop at waypoint 452

This propped boulder at waypoint 453 is the west corner.

The next line travels 90 feet northeast and passes through this propped boulder at waypoint 454.

The line continues 430 feet to this propped boulder at waypoint 563.  Total length is 520 feet. There is a loose stonerow leading from this boulder to the right in the photo. It is marked with a dashed red line in the diagram.

Around it are some cairns, marked with red dots in the diagram.

These hilltop sites with the propped boulder alignments often have cairns.  Whether these have some Native ceremonial significance or resulted from farming practices is hard to determine.  I am focusing on propped boulders because they are distinctive, and have no apparent relationship to settler farming or quarrying practices.  The propped boulders may have been boundary markers for Native campsites or clan territories.   Next week I will show the boulders in  the long line extending east-west to the south of the hill.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Large Square Enclosures formed by Propped Boulders, East Enclosure

 Last week I showed the west enclosure of this large area outlined by propped boulders.  The east enclosure also has corners nearly on compass points, and a possible diagonal line further subdividing it.
The propped boulders are yellow dots joined by yellow dashed lines.  The red dashed lines demonstrate how the enclosure corners make compass points.  The red dots are cairns, and the blue dots with blue lines are walls.  The other yellow dots are large boulders or split boulders.
     This smaller east enclosure is about 779 by 665 feet square.
Waypoint   222 is the north corner, and was shown last week.   The perched boulder at waypoint 245 is the east corner,  678 feet away. This looks like it may have once been an effigy, perhaps a snake head.

 The perimeter line continues south west 582 feet to waypoint 655, the south corner.

This propped boulder has a grinding slick on top, suggesting this was once a campsite.

This hilltop site was shown previously (10/10/2012).  The joined boulders are close to this point, at waypoint 665.

The propped boulder shown 10/10/2012 appears to be on an extension of the main line, at waypoint 662.

Any other enclosure alignments have been lost to development.
The west corner of the   smaller enclosure is the large propped boulder at waypoint 148. It is also part of  the west enclosure shown last week.

This smaller east enclosure is bisected by a diagonal line that starts at waypoint 152

and continues 195 feet to waypoint 153.

There are actually two propped boulders here, and a bent tree. The diagonal line continues 613 feet to the perched boulder in waypoint 245.
     These propped and perched boulders outline two square enclosures inside a larger one. The boulders were   propped to distinguish them from other boulders on the landscape.  These may have been  winter campsites. They are on the south-facing slope of a large hill near water, include an alignment of boulders to winter solstice sunset, and a grinding slick. Alternately, since the solstice alignment is inside the enclosures, the site may have had  some ceremonial use.
     I hope to revisit the site in the winter and determine if the orientation of the faces or long axes of these propped boulders is consistent with being points on  enclosure lines.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The End of the Season

Although the sun is still warm at South Watuppa pond,  the water and wind are cold.  Today I visited one of my favorite places, the inlet formed by the Christopher Borden brook.
The water lilies are dying out, and the marsh grass is turning yellow.
Although this looks like an isolated marsh, a 180 degree turn reveals Fall River in the distance.  Drifting  idly through the rocks in the photo, I notice this.
Closer inspection reveals the round bowl of a grinding slick, highlighted in brown sediment.
These represent hundreds of years of hard work, and a history largely forgotten. I wonder how many more are hidden under the surface.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Large Square Enclosures formed by Propped Boulders, West Enclosure

     Hilltops in northern Rhode Island are often crowned with boulders left by glaciers.  Sometimes, these boulders appear to be propped at one end on a smaller boulder, with an open space underneath.  These have been explained as accidents of glacial deposition. However, these propped boulders often have planes on their undersides, suggesting that rock has been worked away to form the usual oblong shape with a space for the supporting stone.  I believe that these were created by Natives for some spiritual or practical use. These propped boulders have remained for centuries because they often rest on bedrock, and were not in the way of  farmers. While it is difficult to determine the purpose of a structure in isolation, the spatial relation of one structure to others on a landscape may suggest some purpose, such as trail or boundary markers.  One problem with doing this is that apparent alignments may be mere coincidence. However, the number of these alignments in different sites suggests that these were created for a purpose.
     The following diagram shows an area in which propped boulders form two contiguous large square enclosures. The entire complex is  about 1500 feet long, with uneven sides of 1000 (west) and 600(east) feet.

 The propped boulders are the yellow dots joined by a yellow dashed line. The red dots are cairns, and the blue dots with lines are walls.  The extra yellow dots are either large boulders or split boulders.  While some of these may have been split by Natives, the foliated granite in this area splits easily from weathering.  I have not incorporated any split boulders because of  uncertainty as to their origin.
     Most of these photos and waypoints were taken in December 2009. Some of them will look familiar, since they have been shown before.
     This week I will show the propped boulders for the large enclosure to the left (west).

This enclosure has four corners, which nearly line up as compass points. There isn't anything memorable in the center.

     At the top north corner of the square, waypoint 209
The larger picture did not come out well.
Continuing about 420 feet southwest to waypoint 142, with this propped boulder,
and  this perched boulder  close by. Sometimes the long axes of perched boulders point to a propped boulder or other structure.  This will be settled in a later post.

588 feet along the same line is this propped boulder at waypoint 646. Note the young bent tree in the foreground.
 This is the west corner of the square.  The next line continues 730 feet southeast to this boulder at waypoint 148.

This is the south corner of the west enclosure. The long axis of this propped boulder appears to point north.
The line for the perimeter of the west enclosure  continues 360 feet northeast to this propped boulder at waypoint 152.
It  then continues another 300 feet to this propped boulder at waypoint 222.
This is part of the arrangement of boulders that have a winter solstice sunset alignment (12/22/2011).
Finally, the line continues about 115 feet to this arrangement at waypoint 220.
The boulders are propped, and there is a bent tree in the foreground. This is the east corner of the enclosure.
To finish the west enclosure, a line extends from this group about 225 feet northwest to this massive propped boulder at waypoint  214.
It is 560 feet northwest to the propped boulder in the north corner, at waypoint 209.
I will show the propped boulders of the smaller east enclosure, and the apparent diagonal line bisecting it, next week.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Large Hilltop Alignment of Propped Boulders

     In previous posts, I have described how, on a hill crowned with large boulders, only one, two or a few are propped.  Some of these propped boulders appear to align on a direct N-S axis (7/24/2013), or may appear to form two lines intersecting at an oblique angle  (3/14/2012).  This summer I have spent some time reviewing waypoints on topo maps, and have found  a possible rationale behind the selection of  which boulders to prop.  In some hilltop sites, the propped boulders are on two long lines,  making a nearly right angle.  This may even have been meant as a triangular enclosure, as suggested by Mary Gage in her "A Handbook of Stone Structures" (page 39). In other sites, there are rectangular areas outlined by propped boulders.
     Here is a large group of aligned propped boulders, situated on a high hill in northern RI.  The propped boulders are yellow and joined by a yellow dashed line.

Starting at the left  (west) of the diagram, the first line has two segments.  The longer segment is  491 feet long and has a bearing of 293 degrees.   The shorter segment  is 198 feet and  328 degrees.  To the right (east), the second line  is  310 feet long and about 32 degrees.  They meet at waypoint  1866 at a nearly 90 degree angle. The turquoise waypoint is a massive perched boulder.
     Here are the boulders at the waypoints, starting from left to right. These photographs and waypoints were made in November 2011.  At the time, I had no idea there was any linear alignment, and was recording every propped boulder at the site.

Waypoint 1873, a  group of boulders on an outcrop.  The large boulder to the back is propped.

 The smaller boulder to the front of this group is also  propped.

Waypoint 1874,  another propped boulder.

Waypoint 1870,  a large propped boulder. Planes on the underside of this boulder show where stone has been chipped away.

Waypoint 1868,  a  propped boulder resting against an outcrop.

Waypoint 1866. This is the intersection of the two lines.  The propped boulder rests on two slabs, with an open space in the middle. Perhaps there is some symbolism in this configuration.

Waypoint 1930,  a large propped boulder with daylight visible underneath.

It looks like someone has chipped stone away from the bottom edge of this boulder.

Waypoint 1880. The end of the second line.
 It looks like some rock has been worked away to make small slabs, visible to the right..

  Waypoint 1869 in turquoise is a prominent perched rock,  well known in this area. The long axis faces 105 degrees, and would point to the corner boulder at waypoint 1866.
        There may be other ways to line up these boulders, but it is striking how closely they form two arms of a right angle, overlooking  the south slope of this broad hill.  There do not seem to be any astronomical alignments. This could have  been a triangle enclosure, although there are no propped boulders remaining along the third leg. Perhaps this was once part of a  boundary around a campsite or ceremonial site. It would have had a commanding view to the south.  I hope to return to this site in the winter, and examine these boulders more closely.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Still More Pond Stone Rows!

Labor Day weekend was literally a washout.  Luckily, my latest copy of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island Report brought quite a surprise.
This is from an article about the Kimball Wildlife Refuge on Watchaug Pond in Charlestown, RI. It just made my must-see list!