Sunday, May 25, 2014

Recognizing Possible Testudinate Indigenous Stonework

"The Turtle just might be the Key to the Language of the Indigenous Stonework of Turtle Island," I'm thinking, mashing up the title of something written by Roger Williams, as I am drinking some coffee on a quiet Sunday morning. I'm looking for an image of the Bronx River turtle petroglyph, but can't find a good one.
I give up on getting a petroglyph turtle image for this, go into the kitchen and get a second cup:
I suppose that making a petroform turtle is similar to carving a petroglyph turtle or drawing one: start with a shape that resembles a shell, add some legs and a head, maybe a tail, and you're done:

      Since I live on what was once called Turtle Island, I was not surprised to find a Testudinate pattern as one of many in the remnants of Indigenous Stonework (although I admit I was surprised to find the one in the first photo above and in the photo below, on what I assumed was a pile of junk that had been accumulating on top of some field clearing stones near the Old Chicken Coop here at Happiness Farm since the first quarter of the 18th century). I think of this as the composite method of creating a stone turtle effigy. I see this repeated often locally – stones that resemble a shell or carapace are often enhanced with stones that resemble two forelegs, sometimes two hind legs, and a triangular stone for the head of the turtle effigy: 
But you know, all you might really need is just the shell and a suggestion of a head to trigger the "That's a Turtle!" response in another person's brain: 
Did someone find that stone above or did they shape that stone? If they shaped it, how did they know that head-like inclusion would be in there? I can answer that question quickly and easily: I don't know. This one, much smaller, is not too far away from that mysterious single stone variation of a testudinate form, a pattern repeated often locally (and then some). It's similar, sort of, but the pieces are all there, unlike the other. I think I looked at it many times over many years before it dawned on me that those pieces might have been left there to convey the idea that they were the remains of the shell of the egg beside a baby turtle:
One more in the same group of stone mounds, since "two is good and three is better:"
I suppose even a kid with nothing else to do might hang around breaking random stones to see if they got lucky and found the prize Turtle-head-like inside. There are other little small stone turtles in this group of mounds that look to me as if a child might have created them:

I suspect these mounds of stones (and possibly an adjacent row of stones) to have been plundered many times since the early 1700's simply because it was easy to do so. As I pick up some chunk of stone and mortar that has fallen off of some of the most recent of stone creations, I often wonder if it perhaps came from the mounds of stones up by the old coop...

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