Sunday, October 11, 2015

Stone Walls of England and New England: An Evolution

"Disturbing the Grandfathers doing their work"

Stone Walls of England and New England: An Evolution
13 Oct 2015, 7:00 pm
    Local stone artisan Andrew Pighills joins us for a presentation and slide show that will follow the development and evolution of stone walls and structures from colonial times to the present day, and explains how they fit into garden and wider landscapes past and present. Mr. Pighills has been featured in Yankee Magazine and The New York Times.

    So my Mom calls me up, asks if I know Andrew Pighills who is giving a talk on Stone Walls in Clinton CT on Tuesday night. I say that I don’t know him personally, but I’ve heard of him – and have seen photos of him conducting classes here and there, where he and groups of people take apart old and possibly Indian-made stone walls and rebuild them in a “proper” European style.
     “I’d like to give him a Talk,” I tell her.
      And my Mom laughs because she knows why I say that.
      And I laugh too because she’s my Mom, who taught me about puzzles.

   And after that I say, “No, seriously, I think the time has come to stop taking apart stone walls like the ones in your back yard without really looking at them closely – it’s like taking apart a Mayan Temple – or a Temple anywhere in the rest of the world – and using it to make something else out of it, as if it weren’t a sort of ancient treasure that once it’s gone it’s gone forever, as if this part of the world was the only place that people didn’t do things like that.”
      And I know she’s thinking about the Turtles perched on that stone wall behind her barn, the Human-like Face on the one that meets up with it. 

(Above: a comparison between two similar stones of different size, a Mohegan mask below)

      We talk and laugh some more, talking about stone walls and Land Trusts, the Leatherman Cave near her house and the amazing stone walls on a nearby property now up for sale.

      "Probably I’ll go to the talk," she says.
      "Probably you shouldn’t," she says and laughs.
      And I laugh too because I know what she’s thinking, possibly involving me being escorted from the premises either in handcuffs or, more likely, a straight-jacket.
      And I’m thinking the same thing too…
(Just one of Mom's wall segements, above and below.)

Some Stone Wall experts contend that these sort of "anomalous" inclusions are other a coincidence and accidental and have nothing to do with the Indigenous People whose history (and art forms) in the area goes back tens of thousands of years and stones that are intentionally stacked so represent a sort of "doodling" by post contact people in the last few hundred years, something known as  "folly and whimsy" that can be found in European Stonework: 
"In addition to building walls and creating gardens, his (Pigkill's) work includes... and garden features that include follies and other whimsical structures in stone."
Looking at some Flickr photos I came across this one:
Someone so inclined might explain away some of my "Serpent Stacking" photos
as "unfinished walls" (or damaged walls) as illustrated above rather than an Indigenous stacking manner shown in the walls of stone below:


  1. Mr. Pighills sounds a bit like Thorson, both of whom seem to deny that anything of a wall-like nature was built before the Europeans arrived in the early 17th century. Give Pighills the real scoop, Tim, but he probably won't accept it.

  2. I agree with Norman. Go to the talk and ask some friendly questions. Even if the walls are not Native, and are over 100 years old, they may be protected by NAGPRA. I sent you a link if you need it. Let us know how it goes.

  3. I'll have to ask my mom, of course...

  4. Tim my next talk is at the Oliver Wolcott Library, Litchfield CT
    June 1st 2pm.I look forward to debating your points.

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