Monday, February 23, 2015

“Stone Walls” on a Formerly Fire Tended Cultural Landscape

“Well, Heck,” someone might respond, “That’s not what I heard about stone walls.”

     Like removing layers of paint on some old piece of furniture, I’ve been mentally stripping away the newest of changes in the landscape furniture (as they say) for about 25 years now, trying to picture the pre-contact Cultural Landscape around me. When I walk fence lines, a great deal of it made of stacked stone, mentally removing a lot of barbed wire, I sometimes find something in there that suggests an anthropomorphic (human-like) or zoomorphic (animal-like) artistic creation, as well as perhaps a small mortar or grinding slick (sometimes with the other hand held stone resting on it), not just in one spot but in multiple places. And sometimes segments of these rows of stones end in another possibly zoomorphic representation, very reminiscent of a snake head, which if you took into account the widespread Indigenous belief in Great or Horned Serpent, you might be tempted to interpret that stone row as an Ophiomorphic Petroform from the pre-contact period.
    I keep leaving more and more “stone walls” on that imaginary landscape – in fact I suspect so much more has been removed- and continues to be removed.
     In the last thirty of forty years, the idea that the western hemisphere was mostly virgin wilderness, like those Puritans were so eager to tell about in what they were calling New England (along with all that 100% true stuff about witches), is being discredited. Earlier European visitors described the area as too crowded to consider making any settlements themselves.
        Charles C. Mann in 1493 includes some maps, one interpretation of fire cleared “Deforested” areas:

     I suspect that patches of mast forest existed in those “Areas cleared by Indians.” Mann again:
    But all that changed:

    Riddiman goes on to say that the result was “What historians call the Little Ice Age.” (See:

     So ask yourself a few questions:
      Is there any reason Indigenous People might have a need to build those things we have been taught to think of as stone walls?  
      What role(s) could Indigenous made and maintained rows of stone serve on a Pre-contact Indigenous Fire Tended Cultural Landscape?
      Would any pragmatic function of Indigenous stonework be considered a “dire need,” such as need for fuel breaks in a crowded corner of Turtle Island?
      Knowing Indigenous People here did not separate the Spiritual world from "the land we eat from,"can patterns of stacking along with inclusions of possible effigies be observed in the stonework that is similar to designs found in other Indigenous artwork, infusing the Spiritual attributes, the Manitou, of various magical beings such the Great Serpent or Great Turtle (or the animals who also live and "eat" there - bears, deer and birds etc.) into the object itself, things like ceramic pottery, other rock art, beading and so much more?

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