Saturday, February 27, 2016
"Small cranberry is one of the first colonizers of burned bogs and increases in abundance with repeated fires if the fires are not too severe (Flinn and Wein 1977; Vogl 1964; Matthews 1992). It also regenerates vegetatively by re-growing from rhizomes and by layering (Flinn and Wein 1988; Matthews 1992).
Reports of such large quantities suggest the possibility of Indian stewardship to increase fruit yields. Lightning is rare within the Pacific northwestern distribution of small cranberries (Agee 1993; Kay 2007; Vitt et al. 1990), and tribes maintained them by burning (Anderson 2009; Latham 2008). The primary role of fire was to keep open habitats for the small cranberries and other useful plants. Burning arrested the processes of succession that would otherwise have allowed the forest to advance, which would have reduced sunlight to the fruit-bearing plants, increased competition for nutrients, and made the plants more difficult to get to and harvest. Gregory Colfax, Makah, explains this function of burning in relation to small cranberries: “My dad [Lloyd Colfax] mentioned that the [Ts’ooyuhs] prairie was burned yearly or whenever it was necessary. When the cranberry bogs would get so overgrown then the folks knew that it was time to do it. And so it was generally in autumn I think when it happened—just at the time when you had your long spells of light summer weather in September and October. And it was the perfect time to do it because you match it to the wind and you match it to upcoming rains” (pers. comm.).
Indian burning of bogs also had a directly beneficial effect on individual cranberry plants, maintaining vigor and stimulating the production of berries. Without pruning or burning, the vines produce many runners, and produce less and less fruit. Traditionally tribes in western Washington, such as the Quinault and the Makah, burned off bogs periodically not only to keep them open by eliminating encroaching shrubs and trees but also to stimulate the plants to produce more fruit (Anderson 2009). This probably would have a similar effect to the pruning of the cultivated cranberry practiced by growers today. They prune heavily vined cranberries for two reasons: 1) severing most of the runners removes apical dominance in many of the vines, promoting new uprights to produce fruit in the second year after pruning; and 2) removing top growth allows more sunlight to reach the vines, encouraging increased flower bud initiation (Eck 1990). Paul Eck (1990) instructs cranberry growers to burn or mow overgrown bogs during the dormant season to bring them back into productive bearing..."
Above: area with a great deal of possible Indigenous Stonework, possibly related to the Indigenous management of Cranberry Swamp that surrounds Cranberry Pond, some controlling perhaps the flow of water into the bog...
This post relates to some questions I posed (mostly to myself, I guess, since no one commented) here:
Sunday, February 21, 2016
Stone Cultural Features and Ceremonial Landscapes with Lucianne Lavin, Ph.D, Institute for American Indian Studies, Washington, Connecticut
White Memorial Conservation Center, Litchfield CT
Saturday, March 26, 2016 2:00 P.M
The subject is part of Dr. Lavin’s new and ongoing research. The idea of Native American built stone features and ceremonial landscapes is fairly new to Northeastern archaeologists in general, who traditionally thought all were the result of Euro-American farm clearing. Some of it is, of course, but some of it is not. The latter is often associated with celestial movements that may reflect the timing of annual ceremonies/festivals. White Memorial is a huge land trust, and these ritual sites are often found on upland preserves for the very reason that the land has been preserved from industrialization and housing projects. Enjoy a delicious luncheon before her presentation.
Lucianne Lavin is Director of Research and Collections at the Institute for American Indian Studies, in Washington, CT. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology from New York University. She is an archaeologist who has over 30 years of research and field experience in Northeastern archaeology and anthropology, including teaching, museum exhibits and curatorial work, cultural resource management, editorial work, and public relations. She is a member of Connecticut’s Native American Heritage Advisory Council, and she is editor of the journal of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut. She has taught archaeology and anthropology courses at a number of Connecticut and New York colleges, including Connecticut College, Naugatuck Valley Community College, and Adelphi University.
During her term as a Research Associate at the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University, she co-directed their present Connecticut Prehistory exhibit and wrote the accompanying teacher’s manual. She has owned and operated an archaeological firm for over 20 years. Dr. Lavin has written over 100 professional publications and technical reports on the archaeology and ethnohistory of the Northeast. She was awarded the Russell award by the Archaeological Society of Connecticut and elected Fellow of the New York State Archaeological Association for exemplary archaeology work in their respective states.
Her award-winning new book, Connecticut’s Indigenous Peoples: What Archaeology, History and Oral Traditions teach us about their Communities & Cultures, was published by Yale University Press in 2013.
Saturday, March 26, 2016 2:00 P.M., A. B. Ceder Room
Members: $20.00, Non-members: $30.00
Pre-registration and pre-payment are required.
WHITE MEMORIAL CONSERVATION CENTER, INC.
Friday, February 19, 2016
WHAT DO THESE SYMBOLS MEAN? A CRITICAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGES FOUND ON THE ROCKS OF THE CANADIAN SHIELD WITH SPECIFIC REFERENCE TO THE PICTOGRAPHS OF THE LAKE OF THE WOODS by Alicia J. M. COLSON *
“Conway (n.d.a and 1978) considered three morphs, from various pictograph sites in Northeastern Ontario, which occurred in conjunction with each other: an open armed man, his canine companion, and an animal pelt. Another morph, which Conway identified as a beaver, existed above the man and his animal companion. He identified these images as specific star constellations. Rajnovich (1980a:35) asserted that Conway’s (1978) identification of Orion and Canis Major (see discussion page 64ff) at different sites across the Canadian Shield was problematic. Bear images, she asserted, either occurred alone or in pairs as she had observed in the pictograph sites of both Rainy Lake and Lake of the Woods. Pairs of images also existed at Cuttle Lake (Rajnovich 1980c). She did not discuss canine images although Conway had identified a canine image existing with a human figure. She also observed that images described as a “canoe-with-passenger” motif existed throughout the Canadian Shield but that two styles of this shape existed at Pukamo Island and Jackfish Lake, two sites in the Rainy Lake region. She (ibid.) contended that the image from the site on Pukamo Island had “stick” passengers while a similar image on the pictograph site at Jackfish Lake, had “open armed passengers.” Unfortunately Rajnovich did not provide any photographs of either of the images under discussion. She (ibid.) posited that the differences occurred since the passengers in the canoe were men in one canoe and Maymaygwayshi in the other (Maymaygwayshi (Vastokas & Vastokas (1973:48), may-may-gway-shi (Redsky 1972:36), or memenowéciwak (Hallowell (1992:64) are small hairy creatures, spirits, who living in rocks alongside lakes and are fond of fish, travel in canoes, and occasionally stole fish but when they met humans they hung their heads because they “had a soft part to their nose, only a hole” (Hallowell 1973:48)…” (page 39)
Inspired by a red-painted pictograph site in the heart of canoe country in what is now known as the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota, it is speculated by some that this image is that of a Maymaygwayshi. They are the "little people" that reside in the rock faces. Sometimes mischevious, sometimes helpful, it is said an offering of tobacco, and perhaps a word of respect, will find favor as you pass their way.
Wheeler (1977a and b, 1979, n.d.) stated that attention should be paid to studies of the structure of the Cree and Ojibwa languages where the May May Quah Sao (often called Maymaygwayshi), who were spirit helpers, were associated with stones in the sacred stories told by Algonquian-speaking peoples (n.d.:1). The word “stone” belonged, Wheeler asserted, “in an animate grammatical category in Algonkian languages” that was “linguistically distinguished as that which interacts with man and that which does not” (ibid.). Wheeler (n.d.:5) recorded a rock image site on the Semple River near Oxford House in northeastern Manitoba including the legend connected to this site by informants. Information existed, Wheeler noted, regarding the relationship of these spirit helpers and rock image sites in the ethnographic and anthropological literature such as that produced by Dewdney and Kidd (1962; 1967) and Landes (1968), while others (Stevens 1971) had recorded stories that connected these spirit helpers to rock image sites (page 66).
Above and below: http://albinger.me/2014/06/08/selwyn-dewdney-norval-morrisseau-the-ojibwe-pictograph-tradition/
The collection and interpretation of data are intergenerational processes in which each new generation of scholars amplifies, and modifies the work of its predecessors. This is clearly a truism; the implications of this are rarely understood and developed. On the one hand most investigators work within their own paradigm. This does not render them immune from criticism, set in aspic. This article surveys the publications of researchers working on the pictograph and petroglyph sites in the Lake of the Woods area. I establish the approaches which have been the most popular, previous findings on pictograph sites, and the way materials were examined. A standard of comparison emerges, to become a yardstick against which new data can be examined. Much of this article is specifically concerned with the analysis of the pictograph sites of the Lake of the Woods area, but references are made to studies of sites elsewhere on the Canadian Shield.
The intuitive (narrative, constructivist, or so called ‘humanist’) approach associated with post-processual archaeology developed as a reaction against the positivism of the processual archaeologists during the 1970s and 1980s. The intuitive or narrative approach is popular among petroglyph and pictograph scholars because it enables them to address the issue of the meaning of an image, even when there is a paucity of detailed textual records. This is of questionable utility. The strong relativists load their theoretical discussions with tortuous vocabulary. They claim a great deal but fail to advance beyond the subjective. Though authoritative and assertive in tone, their interpretations are exercises in “navel gazing”. The readers, finds themselves at the whim of each scholar’s intuition. The applications of this approach cannot be duplicated, since researchers rarely explain how they reached their findings. A scholar interested in establishing the meaning of rock images in a more rigorous and persuasive fashion cannot stay there, and should adopt the analogical or homological approach (see Figure 1) pages 4-5
The analogical approach, associated with processual archaeology, was a reaction by positivists to the culture-history which dominated the post war era. Its proponents argued that behaviour could be inferred from material culture because many uniform connections exist between the various components of socio-cultural systems, material culture, and human behaviour. Scholars who practice this approach argue that it is only worth employing universal regularities in human behaviour. Biologists define analogies as similar features of different species without close evolutionary relations. The similarities have resulted from natural selection operating to adapt different species to a similar environment (Abercrombie, Hickman and Johnson 1985:20). An archaeological analogy is a likeness or partial likeness assumed to exist as a consequence of convergent development under comparable conditions. Interpretation using analogies allows scholars to use strong cross-cultural regularities between behaviour and material culture in systemic contexts to attribute behavioural correlates to material remains recovered from archaeological contexts. This assumes that correlations can be argued between past and present day cognitive and behavioural capabilities of human beings. So, if similar behavioural characteristics can be established between specific aspects of material culture and behaviour in the contemporary world, scholars can extend them to cover the same or similar aspects of material culture in the archaeological record (Binford 1981). Scholars adopting analogical approaches use universal generalisations, rather than concepts specific to individual or historically related cultures. This has one major drawback. For if they deem only universal correlations to be relevant then it is difficult to deal with the idiosyncratic facets of a single image
The homological approach might offer an alternative to this bleak picture (. An archaeological homology is a similarity in two or more cultures occurring as the result of shared historical origin unobscured by adaptation to different cultural environments. Archaeological homologies result from diffusion as well as common descent (page 6)…
Page 8 Revista de Arqueología Americana No.25
‘Rock Art’ and Its Study - Some Preliminary Thoughts
I think that the images that exist on the surface of rocks should be termed rock images, or petroglyphs and pictographs instead of rock art. I realise that the term ‘rock art’ is applied world-wide to images that are placed on the surfaces of rocks. It occurs in many different places and settings: Australian rock shelters, the surfaces of boulders in the Jordanian desert, vertical rock faces or rock outcrops on the Canadian Shield, the sides of the stone passages of New Grange in Ireland, and the walls of deep caves in France and Spain. ‘Rock art’ also covers features created using rocks of different sizes to produce ‘rock,’ or ‘boulder alignments.’ I think that the term ‘art’ is problematic because it suggests that these images have primarily a decorative value and no intrinsic value or meaning of their own. It also implies classification of these images according to Western notions of high or low art, or, perhaps, a craft. These terms have loaded meanings, since they impose the analyst’s conventional values. Rock images should not be considered within such a perspective, since, evidently, the cultural context of the ‘reader’ or ‘viewer’ influences perception and classification. This prejudgement affects how images are understood (Blocker 1994; Conkey 1987; Price 1989).
Rock image sites cannot be studied using the same techniques as are applied to other archaeological sites. The theoretical approaches used and the questions asked may be the same but the data sources are radically different and generally far more limited. These images cannot be excavated using the techniques for recovering, cataloguing, and analysing data that archaeologists apply to ‘conventional’ archaeological sites. The area surrounding such images may be excavated but the physical context of the site often provides little or no information about the meaning(s) of the images themselves. The subjective beliefs and ideas held by the people who created these images did more to shape them than technological processes or the economic or political systems in which these people lived. Therefore, the archaeologist must rely to an unusual degree on a range of nonarchaeological sources in order to establish the meaning of the images. It is very difficult to access this information for a group whose past is available only through the archaeological record. The difficulties in accessing the symbolic knowledge of a group of people through the inherent attributes and physical location of such images may explain why these sites have often been ignored, or merely described, in contrast to similar images found on birch bark scrolls. Fieldwork and archival work must be considered as equally important in this study, since information must be drawn from a wide range of disciplines, including archaeology, anthropology, history, art history, geology, and geography.
What Do These Symbols Mean? 8-9
Thursday, February 18, 2016
“Irving Hallowell relates the story of Yellow Legs, a renowned Lake Winnipeg Midé who had a special boulder that possessed contours suggestive of eyes and a mouth. It was used in the Midewiwin for many years. When Yellow Legs tapped this stone with a knife, it would open its mouth, whereupon he “would insert his fingers and take out a small leather sack with medicine in it” (Hallowell 1975:148). The medicine “would be made into a concoction, which was then shared by all present” (Hallowell 1936:48).”
[“On another occasion Yellow Legs dreamed of a large round stone on what is now called Egg Island, but which the Indians call wigw'iminis, birch island.*’ He sent two men to fetch this stone for him: they were told to follow a bear’s tracks to be found on the shore, which would lead them directly to it. But to make sure that they had found the right stone, a few branches would be broken directly above it. The men found the stone by following the directions given them by Yellow Legs, and it was brought to Berens River. It is now in the possession of Chief Berens. It was used in the Midewiwin for many years, and exhibited certain animate properties, externally represented by what appear to be a mouth and eyes. In the course of the Midewiwin Yellow Legs use to tap the stone with a knife, whereupon the mouth would open and he would extract a deerskin packet of medicine. The latter would be made into a concoction, which was then shared by all present.
In 1979, Mr Barker published an autobiography that included a chapter entitled “Medicine Dance”. His brief description bears out the role of certain turtle and snake petroforms:
A row of stones, placed from smallest to largest, was often used to aid the medicine man. These formed snakes of various lengths. The sick person was laid beside the snake, which would then begin to move. Often, this resulted in a cure. The stones also sometimes became turtles (Barker 1979:99).
Again, this report of stones assuming animate properties under special circumstances has counterparts in the literature. Hallowell (1975:148) cites an Ojibwa informant whose father was leading a Midewiwin ceremony in which a large round stone was present. The Midé got up and walked around the path once or twice. Coming back to his place he began to sing. The stone began to move “following the trail of the old man around the tent, rolling over and over, I saw it happen several times and others saw it also.” The animate behaviour of a stone under these circumstances was considered to be a demonstration of magic power on the part of the Midé..."
The Petroform Phenomenon of Southeastern Manitoba and Its Significance
Originally published 2004
Latest revision 30 October 2010
Manitoba Archaeological Society
Originally published 2004
Latest revision 30 October 2010
Manitoba Archaeological Society
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
(Featuring images from: https://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/parks/popular_parks/eastern/whiteshell_petro.html)
2005 ESRARA ROCK ART CONFERENCE: AN INTERVIEW WITH JACK STEINBRING
Tom Montag - May 10, 2005
How do you define "rock art?"
Steinbring: Rock art is intentional imagery of some kind placed on or made with rock. Leaving a mark is not confined to the human species. Animals have markings too. When the marking is made by humans, they use human attributes, notably their manual dexterity. The markings are first only elemental marks, but these eventually become formalized and take shapes not found in nature but in the mind and imagination of man. Why rock? Rock is permanent; it will last for a long, long time. We see erosion taking place and markings becoming obliterated over time. Yet in India we still see markings that go back 300,000 years. Some assert that human markings can go back farther than that. It becomes exceedingly complicated as time goes by.
Unfortunately, the image present in the mind of the public is greatly conditioned by the cave art in Europe, which is spectacular, and more attention was directed toward it at the beginning of interest in ancient art. Now we call this "Euro-centric," meaning that judgments about rock art are conditioned by the rock art of Europe, when in fact rock art covers the globe. There are many areas around the world that have immensely greater concentrations of rock art than Europe – for instance, Australia, South Africa, and the southwestern United States.
How did you become interested in rock art?
Steinbring: Back about 1966 I was lecturing to an introductory anthropology class at the University of Winnipeg and one of the students in the class, who was also studying at the University of Manitoba, came up to me and said, "We were flying over Whiteshell Forest Preserve [now Whiteshell Provincial Park] and we think we found the ruins of an ancient city."
I thought to myself, "Yeah, you did."
"Bring me some pictures and if it is of interest, I'll go take a look."
He brought in photos showing lines of boulders. They looked intriguing. "Maybe you should go out and do a little mapping and measuring," I said. He did. I was getting sold on the idea that there was something there.
It turned out to be the Tie Creek site, the largest petroform site in North America. It covers nine acres. It has seven interconnected features, one of them over a hundred feet long. One has a bird shape, one is a huge rectangle, there's a circle with a triangle in the middle, and a great elliptical shape. These were obviously placed there by man, not by natural agency.
First, we had to meticulously map the site. That took three years. We did the first major study of the site, which was published in 1970. The question is: what is this? It's symbolic imagery. It has a shape that precludes ordinary uses. It demonstrates a ceremonial or non-utilitarian function, which puts it in the general category of art. In the American southwest, images like this were already known. They were called "geo-glyphs," big features imagined from a perspective of altitude. They are best seen from above, which is why it is essential that you map them. In the American southwest, they can go on for many hundreds of feet, made not with boulders but by scratching away the desert varnish. The "varnish" is due to the patination of particles on the surface. The images in the American southwest were figures of humans and snakes and long lines that could be visualized from the sky. The Tie Creek site was like that. So my first experience with rock art was with petroforms.
In fact, the group that investigated the Tie Creek site invented the term "petroform," specifically Dr. Peter Douglas Elias, which is actually the fellow who called my attention to the site in the first place. He got more and more interested in anthropology and eventually got a PhD in the field. In the course of our work, we found out that a lot of people already knew about the site.
I felt compelled to study the site because I was the only anthropologist available who had training in both cultural anthropology and archeology. The images were commonly thought to have been created by the Ojibway. But we found evidence that the site was older than that.
The site was threatened by snowmobiles and tracked vehicles fighting forest fires; the vehicles were dislodging boulders. We had evidence that tracked vehicles had already disrupted lines…
Q. How would you explain rock art for today's busy and somewhat material-minded Americans? Why is rock art important? What is its significance to us? Why should we care about preserving it?
Steinbring: I don't think the stereotypically busy, goal-driven, middle class American mind can be changed to appreciate the ancient art of aboriginal America. We have to work indirectly to inspire interest in these things, to educate people who are motivated to learn about ancient art and its meaning. And we have to hope that these people can inspire education that will promote a diversity of non-practical interests. In the final analysis, everything we do, think, or say is dependent on education. If people fail to take an interest in cultural things, it is because education has failed. Education is everything.
Archeology is a lot like poetry – you can't drive it around the block, you can't eat it. It's not utilitarian. You have to love it or leave it alone. Everything I've done in my career has been intended to help people overcome their lack of interest in things cultural. I'll still probably fail, but it won't stop me.
How do we mark our sacred spaces - with pictograph and petroform as earlier people did? Not exactly, though eons hence perhaps someone will have to wonder over the lay of our rocks, the cast of our bronze.
While the work is archeology and anthropology- somewhat cold and disinterested - the task of understanding sacred sites is also holy work and there is room in it for more than the professional. There is room for poet and farmer and any and all of us who care about these places.
(Also from Tom Montag)
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
MORNING DRIVE JOURNAL
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
THE MAN WHO MARRIED THE THUNDERER'S SISTER
"In the old times people used to dance often and all night. Once there was a dance at the old Town of Sakwiyi, at the head of the Chattahoochee, and after it was well started two young women with beautiful long hair came in, but no one knew who they were, or whence they had come. They danced with first one partner and then another, and in the morning slipped away before any one knew that they were gone; but a young warrior, who had fallen in love with one of the sisters on account of her beautiful hair, and after the manner of the Cherokees, had asked her, through an old woman, if she would marry him and let him live with her. To which the young woman replied that her brother at home must first be consulted, and she promised to return for the next dance, seven days later, with an answer, but in the meantime, if the young man really loved her, he must prove his constancy by a rigid fast until then. The eager lover readily agreed and impatiently counted the days.
In seven nights there was another dance. The young warrior was on hand early, and later in the evening the two sisters appeared, as suddenly as before. The one with whom he was infatuated told him that her brother was willing, and after the dance she would conduct the young man to her home, but warned him if he told any one where he went or what he saw he would surely die.
He danced with her again, and about daylight he left with the two sisters, just before the dance closed, so as to avoid being followed, and they started off together. The women led the way along a trail through the woods, which the young man had never noticed before, until they came to a small creek, where, without hesitating, they stepped into the water. The young man paused in surprise on the bank, and thought to himself, “They are walking in the water; I do not wish to do that.” The women understood his thoughts, just as though he had spoken, and turned and said to him, “This is not water; this is the road to our house.” He still hesitated, but they urged him on until he stepped into the water and found it was only soft grass that made a fine level trail. They went on until the path came to a large stream, which he knew to be Tallulah River. The women plunged boldly in, but again the warrior hesitated on the bank, thinking to himself, “That water is very deep and will drown me! I cannot go on.” They knew his thoughts again, and turned and said, “This is not water, but the main trail that goes past our house, which is now close by.” He stepped in, and instead of water, there was tall waving grass that closed above his head as he followed them. They went only a short distance and came to a cave of rock close under Ugunyi, the Cherokee name for Tallulah Falls. The women entered, while the warrior stood at the mouth, but they said, “This is our house; come in, our brother will soon be at home; he is coming now.” They heard low thunder in the distance. He went inside and stood up close to the entrance. Then the women took off their long hair and hung it up on a rock, and both their heads were as smooth as pumpkins. The man thought, ‘‘It is not hair at all,” and he was more frightened than ever". The younger woman, the one he was about to marry, then sat down and told him to take a seat beside her. He looked, and it was a large turtle on which she sat, and it raised itself up and stretched out its claws, as if angry at being disturbed. The youth refused to sit down, insisting that it was a turtle, but the woman again assured him that it was a seat. Then there was a louder roll of thunder, and the woman said, “Now our brother is nearly home.” While he still refused to come nearer or sit down, suddenly there was a great thunder clap just behind him, and turning quickly he saw a man standing in the doorway of the Cave. “This is my brother,” said the woman, and he came in and sat down upon the turtle, which again rose up and stretched out its claws. The young warrior still refused to come in. The brother then said that he was just about to start to a council, and invited the young man to go with him. The hunter said he was willing to go, if only he had a horse; so the young woman was told to bring one. She went out and soon came back, leading a great uktena snake, that curled and twisted along the whole length of the cave. Some people say that it was a white uktena and that the brother himself rode a red one. The hunter was terribly frightened and said, “That is a snake; I cannot ride that.” The others insisted that it was not a snake, but their riding horse. The brother grew impatient and said to the woman, “He may like it better if you bring him a saddle and some bracelets for his wrists and arms.” So they went out again and brought in a saddle and some arm bands, and the saddle was another turtle, which they fastened on the uktena’s back, and the bracelets were living slimy snakes, which they made ready to twist around the hunter's wrists.
He was almost dead with fear, and said, “What kind of horrible place is this? I can never stay here to live with snakes and creeping things.” The brother became very angry and called him a coward, and then it was as if lightning flashed from his eyes and struck the young man, and a terrific crash of thunder stretched him senseless. When at last he came to himself again, he was standing with his feet in the water and both hands grasping a laurel bush that grew out from the bank, and there was no trace of the cave or the Thunder People, but he was alone in the forest. He made his way out and finally reached his own settlement, but found that he had been gone so long that all the people thought him dead, although to him it seemed only the day after the dance. His friends questioned him closely, and, forgetting the warning, he told the story; but in seven days he died, for no one can come back from the underworld and tell it and live.”
* Reproduced with minor variations, from the “History of Georgia,” by Charles C. Jones, Jr. in:
A Standard History of Georgia and Georgians, Volume 2 By Lucian Lamar Knight
Sunday, February 14, 2016
The Earliest Known Stone Structure in Massachusetts Flagg Swamp Rock Shelter Stone Wall (as of 2011)
If anyone should ask me, “What is the oldest known documented and archaeologically proven stone structure in Massachusetts?” I would probably have to say that I at least think it was the Flagg Swamp Rock Shelter Stone Wall.
As Eric S. Johnson of Amherst, Massachusetts writes in Ancient Winters: The Archaeology of the Flagg Swamp Rockshelter Marlborough, Massachusetts (August 2011):
“Just beneath the ground surface, the archaeologists encountered a stone wall. The wall followed the drip line from the western end of the rockshelter east about twenty feet, where it turned north to meet the rear wall of bedrock. It therefore enclosed the most protected area of the shelter. If your image of a stone wall is a retaining wall built by a landscaper or an old field wall built by some Yankee farmer, this is not that kind of stone wall. For one thing, the wall turned out to be, at most, only about two feet high. Another difference was that it was made not of fieldstones, but from large rock spalls. Spalls are pieces that split off the rock face when water seeps into cracks and freezes and expands, breaking off pieces of rock. This is the same way potholes form in roads over the winter. The archaeologists figured out that the stone wall was built after the shelter had been used for some time. They figured this out by excavating beneath the wall and finding features and artifacts there. That meant that those features had been created and the artifacts had been used and deposited before the wall was built. Based on the kinds of artifacts, the archaeologists estimated that the wall was built around 4,000 years ago, not too long after people first began to use the rockshelter. This is the earliest known stone structure in Massachusetts.
So why did people build this wall? Why not just toss all the large rock spalls farther away from the protected area (as most of them were)? Why build the wall so low? Why not build a higher wall to make the rockshelter more weather-tight? The most likely answer is that the wall served as a foundation. Wooden poles cut from saplings could be set securely against the base of the wall. The wall wouldn’t have to be particularly high for this. In fact, the reason the wall was as high as two feet was that as sediment accumulated inside the wall (and outside too), people added new rocks to the top of the wall to keep it above ground. The tops of the poles were leaned against the rock ledge at the rear of the protected area. These poles formed a framework over which people attached a covering of bark slabs, hides, or woven mats. The Native people of southern New England used bark slabs or woven reed mats secured to a framework of poles to make a wetu (dwelling). With bedrock shielding the northwest, north, and northeast, and a weathertight shelter wall to the south, people could be warm and cozy even during the worst weather of winter. A practical feature of this shelter was that it was adjustable. When the weather was relatively mild and sunny, the people could easily remove and set aside the mats and poles to take advantage of the rockshelter’s natural solar collecting properties. If the weather changed (as it famously always does here in New England), they could quickly reassemble the shelter to keep out the wind, rain, snow, and sleet that have always challenged New Englanders.
(Blogging editor’s note: I have a friend named Jeff Kalin who also makes similar structures as well and is a Native American artist and craftsman –see: http://www.primitivetechnologies.com/index.html).
Inside the stone wall the archaeologists found dark brown or black soils rich in organic material. Within this living area were a wide variety of artifacts including dozens of stone tools and hundreds of stone flakes, the waste products of stone tool making. The tools included several varieties of spearpoints, knives, scrapers, drills or awls, hammerstones, and a fishing line sinker. There was pottery (broken pieces called ‘sherds’), and hundreds of animal bones, whole and fragmented. There were items made of shell, including a fishhook and a bead, and pieces of what might have been a shell spoon or an ornament. There were hundreds of fragments of nut shells, many of which were charred. There were many other bits of charcoal, left from cooking fires, and evidence of the hearths in which those fires were kindled.”
Since the results of the second phase of testing showed that the Flagg Swamp Rockshelter was a very important site, an important decision had to be made. The Highway Department and State Historic Preservation Office had to decide whether the site should be preserved and built around, or excavated and built over. Rerouting the road was not going to be easy. On one site was Flagg Swamp. Building the road through the swamp would be expensive and would destroy the swamp, which was a valuable natural resource for water quality, flood control, and wildlife habitat. Moving the road to the north would bring it through even more rugged terrain, greatly increasing the cost of the project. Since the Flagg Swamp Rockshelter was a small site, thorough excavation would not be prohibitively expensive. Because the archaeological study was done early in the planning process, the final dig would not delay the building of the road. But building the road through the Rockshelter would mean the end of the site forever. In the end, it was agreed that the site would be excavated and its information retrieved before it was destroyed. Archaeologists have mixed feelings about this kind of decision. While they would prefer to save the site for future archaeologists, they are thrilled to have the chance to excavate it themselves...In September (1980), as summer turned to fall, the archaeologists finished the fieldwork. A large portion of the site had been excavated—almost all of the area under the overhang and much of the immediate surroundings. Because the rockshelter was so small and was slated for demolition, it was feasible to excavate a large part of it. That fall, as highway construction began, the Flagg Swamp Rockshelter was dynamited..."
The entire article can be read here:
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Wednesday, February 03, 2016
Here’s another photo by Larry Harrop, another Serpent in Stone but with a feature that initially surprised me, a relatively tall pointed stone, similar to some pillar like stones often referred to as “standing stones,” that just might represent a single horn on top of a triangular boulder that has been humanly enhanced to resemble the head of a snake, a long row of stones, undulating in height, trailing behind it and dipping its tail into a stream, suggesting, to all but the most unimaginative among us, a Great Serpent of Indigenous legends:
And here’s some links back to Larry’s posts: http://www.ceremonial-landscapes.com/gallery31/index.php/Newly-Discovered-Sites & http://www.ceremonial-landscapes.com/gallery31/index.php/
Again, I find it very interesting that the Serpent’s tail starts out in a brook, as you can see here: https://youtu.be/D5lZLgZXtVg
Larry chose to use the name “Uktena” (ook-tay-nah) for this carefully constructed and still relatively intact stone concentration, from Cherokee (Aniyunwiya) legends about horned serpents. If you start looking around, you may find a whole bunch of names to choose from for Great Serpents in the North East and find that “Horned serpents are a type of mythological freshwater serpent common to many tribes of the eastern United States and Canada. Horned serpent legends vary somewhat from tribe to tribe, but they are usually described as huge, scaly, dragon-like serpents with horns and long teeth. Sometimes they move about on the land, but are more often found in lakes and rivers. The ubiquity of horned serpent stories in this region has led some people to speculate that they are based on a real animal (such as some sort of now-extinct giant crocodile.) However, in Native American myths and legends, horned serpents are usually very supernatural in character-- possessing magical abilities such as shape-shifting, invisibility, or hypnotic powers; bestowing powerful medicine upon humans who defeat them or help them; controlling storms and weather, and so on-- and were venerated as gods or spirit beings in some tribes. And unlike other animals such as crocodiles and snakes, horned serpents are not included in common Woodland Indian folktales about the animal kingdom. So it is likely that horned serpents have always been viewed as mythological spirits, not as animals, and that belief in them was simply very widespread in the eastern part of the country. Indeed, horned serpent mythology may trace back to ancestors of Eastern Native American tribes such as the Hopewell, Mississippian, and other mound-builder civilizations, as stylized serpent motifs have been found in their earthworks and artifacts which bear some resemblance to the horned serpents of historical Native American tribes (http://www.native-languages.org/horned-serpent.htm).”
And it took me a little while, but then I remembered seeing a photo or two of another Serpent-like construction in Rhode Island with a differently shaped stone that suggested to me a single forward pointing horn:
(I used the photo here once at Rock Piles: http://rockpiles.blogspot.com/2015/02/up-to-your-neck-in-snow-where-can-you.html
“Horns” can mean antlers, or sometimes bison like horns, and those all show up in rock art and all sorts of other art work depicting Great Serpents, but that single horn got me wondering if somewhere in the North East there might be some Single Horned Serpent depictions, especially one with that “plumed” look to it, after stumbling across this: “…feather-crested serpents are portrayed with a forward-curling horn atop their heads (Taube 2010b: 217, fig. 30),” here: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/29j7v3sr
I eventually found this:
“Then there is the Great Horned Serpent, who is believed to inhabit the lakes here in Keji. Legends tell how the Horned Serpent would take young Mi’kmaq men, marry them, and take them back to their underwater world. In the same way, every year as the water levels rise towards the winter, the petroglyph of the Serpent returns to her home beneath the waves.”
“This text is taken from the script for an interpretive program that Muin’iskw used to give at Kejimkujik National Park (Nova Scotia) around 2005.”
So this little memory bell rang when I read “Feathered-crested Serpent.” I remembered seeing this local newspaper article about ten years ago and my friend’s remark about them:
“The stone intrigued Lucianne Lavin, director of research and collections at the institute. But because it was found in a stone wall, it contained no charcoal from an ancient fire pit or other organic remnants to establish its age through carbon dating.
"If it were real, it would be really interesting," Lavin said, explaining that the harder rocks of the region don't lend themselves to easy carving. "It would show the southern New England Indian also had that feathered serpent mythology."
There’s a backward pointing horn or plume on this stone, much like that in figure 12.8 A in The Diurnal Path of the Sun: Ideology and Interregional Interaction in Ancient Northwest Mesoamerica and the American Southwest.
So like I said earlier, I thought for just a little while was unique stone structure, a ‘Single Horned’ Horned Serpent Petroform. Now I’m starting to wonder about some places I’ve been where I’ve see many an upright "standing stone" which may in fact sit on a snake-head-like stone that's below the leaves and soil, more examples of other “single horn” serpents (such as here: Waking Up on Turtle Island: Another Possible "Ophiomorphic Petroform” at a Gateway (or two or three) ~ http://wakinguponturtleisland.blogspot.com/2015/01/another-possible-ophiomorphic-petroform.html )
Or here where there are gaps between some rows of stones and a couple boulders at their ends that can be said to resemble possible Great Serpents: