Sunday, November 25, 2012

He's Still Hiking

All Photos, like this one, were stolen from:

Todd Lochmoeller, the Traveler, is still hiking, out past the paths the tourists travel, out where the Ancients once lived.  I once wrote a little something thanking him for doing so and posted a photo of his of a zigzag stone row: { }. He's walking where many people once lived, different numbers at different times, sort of time travelling I imagine - and I imagine he does that because that's what I do, here where I walk, a couple thousand miles away, where many people once lived, different numbers at different times...

Having recently walked in an undeveloped Village Site in Belize, these pictures sort of made me smile:

Up in my corner of Turtle Island, there's lots more rain falling from the sky, lots more green on the ground, and lots more stone rows. There once wasn't much green 15,000 years ago as the ice sheets melted back, but by the time epidemics and war took away most of the Native People, it had greened up considerable, although every writer of every "Ancient" History, from the Pilgrims on down tells about the managed forests and plains, created by Indians burning over the landscape (for hunting purposes most say, as if that's the only thing it was about) in one sentence, then goes on and on about hardships endured in the Wilderness by early European immigrants or settlers or pioneers or what ever you want to call these people, starting with those Puritans who justified the taking of Indian Lands (and killing off people they identified as witches, but that's another story). 
Over in the Four Corners, the smartest people survived because of their knowledge of their environment, how the water flowed on the landscape, how to make the best of what was there - and how to sort of "tickle" that environment, how to manage that environment, how to divert some water, how to burn to encourage (or discourage) certain plants that were desirable food or medicine (or undesirable "weeds").
Over in "This Corner of Turtle Island," the same thing was happening, the smartest people surviving for the same reasons. When I walk around the village site here, I see the remnants of the stone rows that diverted water and contained the fires that selectively burned small sections of land and not others. I am constantly driving along roads where these stone remnants are disappearing, roads whose origins were Indian Trails, bounded on both sides by zigzag stone rows that were firebreaks when the path was burned, the path becoming an even better firebreak for the next sections that were burned on another schedule for close to one hundred reasons:

And there is Artwork in those stone rows of Indian Origin, if you care to look for it. A turtle is an easy one to make, and an easy one to see if you have the eyes. 
And it's a good Grandfather trick to make the young ones contribute:
Grandpa makes a turtle and doesn't say anything - and the little ones copy that and a stone row is begun. He makes another and so do they. The older kids laugh at the little ones and grandpa moves a big stone you wouldn't think a single person could move alone, using some stone moving tricks similar to the ones some old guys taught me, and by just raising an eyebrow when he's done, he plants the knowledge and puts out a little dare: "Betcha you can't do that."
And a few thousand years later, those stone rows add up to a few thousand miles worth of "stone walls" that people write books about and create myths about, like this one below called "The Last Word," from that corner of Turtle Island that has become the state (with a Native American name) where those pilgrims landed, claimed the Indians had no art or land boundaries, burned only as a past time, enacted fence laws that specified the height of a legal fence and - if you read any history of fence building, you'll know the earliest and most easily made fences were wooden ones - adding wooden rails over stone fire breaks, different grandfathers saying, "Yes I piled all those stones under that fence clearing that field," but probably not generating as much enthusiasm from the younger generation to follow in his footsteps and pick stones out of the field as that Grandfather with the Turtle Scheme...

The stone walls built by New England farmers helped define property lines, divide fields, woodlots and pastures, and
shape animal pens. Coincidentally, the walls may match cardinal compass points or celestial phenomena – but for
practical purposes rather than sacred. It was also common to construct cold cellars and pile surplus rocks within
pastures for later use or sale.
Some have suggested a Native American origin for these features. There is no archaeological evidence to support
this conclusion. When historians and archaeologists have researched stone walls, piles and chambers, they have
invariably demonstrated that these features are associated with the activities of European settlers and have no
Native American (or other) origin. In addition, Native American advisors have been involved in a number of excavations
and have confirmed these findings. However, archaeologists do find stone features on Native American sites,
hearths for example. But they rely on context to make the determination where, during a controlled scientific excavation,
archaeologists analyze the entire site, all artifacts associated with the feature, and its placement in the soil.
This provides the cultural and geological context needed to interpret and date the entire site.
Archaeologists also consider ethnographic and ethnohistorical information. For example, Native American oral traditions
record that people did place small stones or twigs on a sacred spot as they passed by. Over time this might
result in a small pile of pebbles, tiny cobbles, or sticks, but not large piles. Conversely there is a strong, documented
ethnohistory of stone building traditions among the European settlers of Massachusetts. Together, archaeology and
ethnohistory provide conclusive evidence that stone walls, piles and chambers are not the work of ancient cultures.
The Massachusetts Historical Commission is the guiding state agency for the protection of historic and prehistoric
properties; if you have a question regarding the significance of a stone feature, please contact them at the address
and number below.

Authors: Shaun Provencher and Tom Mahlstedt,
Office of Cultural Resources, DCR

Post Script:
Sometimes a Turtle and a Bear can appear in the same stone:

1 comment:

  1. It is interesting how many of his hikes lead to rock piles.