Friday, November 28, 2014

Snow Day Thanksgivingish 2014

     Early Thanksgiving morning, after the snow fell, I was looking at a photo collection called “The Meandering Stone Wall,” taken a couple years ago on Martha’s Vineyard, tagged Chilmark, MA, USA. They are quite nice photos, found here:

     It was way to look at what just about everybody calls a stone wall, a way to take a virtual walk when I knew that day I couldn’t, a snowy day when I traditionally do a bunch of cooking. But I am me, prone to look for those Indigenous patterns of stacking stones, on a long pile of stones that in part just might have functioned as a fuel break that was a way to control the fires that those Indigenous Peoples used to tend a landscape marveled at by those earliest of post contact visitors to what’s now called New England.
     In Ed Thrayes fine photos I was looking at what stones where chosen to build that collection of stones, how they were placed on others, perhaps mark or pit a hint of some possible human enhancement of the cobble or boulder, softened by couple hundred years (at least) of weathering. I was looking for effigies you could say, examining each stone or group of stones in that longer than wider stacked segment of stones, looking for zoomorphic or animal-like qualities, even anthropomorphic or human-like ones, conducting my ever evolving Waking Up On Turtle Island Test.
      Is that stone placed like that because it resembles the head of an animal culturally important to Indigenous People, such as a bear or a deer? Are those marks in the stone natural or did someone work that into the stone, sometime in the past so that the effigies’ eyes or mouths were represented, a sort of sculpture you might say?

      Is that a combination of stones placed so to resemble a turtle?

 Is that a stone turtle head and two stone turtle forefeet beneath a stone turtle shell?

Is there a large boulder end stone to the row, possibly reminiscent of snake head?
There’s another gallery here:, where I find I have seen Ed’s work before as I see a photo of a gateway I was just looking for, adding another possible indicator of possible Indigenous Stonework: the use of quartz, particularly as a head stone of a turtle (petro?)form.

      I somehow stumbled into an article about New England Stone Walls (where there is absolutely no mention of Indigenous People inhabiting the landscape or the last 15,000 years or so) during an image search using meandering stone walls in the search field.
      An excerpt or two:
     “Although New England’s stone walls are popularly associated with the Colonial era, there weren’t actually many rocks lying around in the soil at that time. As evidence, Thorson cites Swedish botanist Peter Kalm, who toured New England in the mid-1700s. In his “Travels in North America,” Kalm observed of its forest soils, “[T]he Europeans coming to America found a rich, fine soil before them, lying loose between the trees as the best in a garden. They had nothing to do but to cut down the wood, put it up in heaps, and to clear the dead leaves away.”
     Likewise, Colonial-era books on farming, encyclopedias and recorded observations do not mention stone walls, Thorson notes. Instead of stone walls, Colonial farmers used rail and zig-zag fences made of wood — far more abundant at the time than stone — to pen animals. It wasn’t until the latter half of the 18th century that early stone walls were first widely constructed in New England. Even then, other than in long-farmed interior areas such as Concord, Mass., the stone was typically quarried or taken from slopes rather than from fields.
      The region’s stones lay deep in the ground, buried under thousands of years’ worth of rich composted soil and old-growth forests, just waiting to be freed by pioneers clear-cutting New England’s forests — a process that reached its peak across most of New England between 1830 and 1880.”
        “These stones weren’t conducive to farming, so, aided by their oxen, farmers hauled the stones to the outer edges of pastures and tillage lands, typically unceremoniously dumping them in piles that delineated their fields from the forest. (Some of these so-called “dumped walls” would later be relaid more intentionally when improved tools and equipment made rebuilding easier.) In the early days, artistry in stone wall building had to wait. The first priority was survival, which meant clearing land to grow crops and raise livestock.
    The types of stones and their abundance may have been familiar to those early farmers, who were mainly from the British Isles, Thorson says, because rock in New England is similar to rock in England and Scotland. England and New England have similar natural landscapes because both lands have a similar geologic history. Millions of years ago, England and New England were formed within the same mountain range near the center of Pangaea. So, he says, “the similar fieldstones on opposite sides of the Atlantic were created practically within the same foundry.”
But there was one important difference between these New World and Old World stones: Britain had long been deforested, with its subterranean stones brought to the surface, so its stone walls had been constructed hundreds, if not thousands, of years…”
     “A March 2014 study in the Journal of Archaeological Science offers a fascinating glimpse of what lies beneath the forests that now envelop many New England farms abandoned in the latter half of the 19th century.
     Using a laser mapping technique called lidar that can see landscapes even through dense forest cover, University of Connecticut geographers Katharine Johnson and William Ouimet conducted aerial surveys of the heavily forested areas of three southern New England towns. The researchers found remnants of a former “agropolis,” vast networks of roads and stone walls that have been hidden for more than a century beneath the dense cover of oak and spruce trees….”
     Well, I wondered if there was some LiDar of the Vineyard, so I tried another search that brought me - in an entirely different direction - to Belize:
And this image (that I first thought might be New England in that little preview that comes up):
      I thought back to another bunch of LiDar images I’d seen, back to a series of blog posts I’d seen here:
     Even some “on the ground” photos of some featured stone constructions: and a link to the source of the photos:
      Putting the photos to the Turtle Test isn’t easy because of the size of the photos; I don’t see lots of details. But I see a similarity to some “stone walls” that are featured to some others that I have seen close up that pass the Turtle Test (that includes far more cultural symbols and representations than just turtles).
Like here where I just happen to have kindly been given a LiDar image and have links to “on the ground photos:”

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