Saturday, January 23, 2016

Larry’s Stone Serpent and a Connecticut Cousin (or Two)

"Do you know why most investigators fail? They refuse to extend their basic knowledge beyond the bounds of basic investigative procedure. It is the mark of the mediocre investigator who fails to use the informed imagination part of science that has in the past led to the greatest of discoveries."
 ~ Sherlock Stones
Larry Harrop Photo, used by kind permission.

     There’s that beautiful Serpent Wall, right there on Larry Harrop’s Home Page for “Ceremonial Stone Landscapes; A sampling of Native American stone constructions found in the State of Rhode Island.” That “Strong Looker” follows you along as you view all the other photos, keeping an eye on you, knowing your thoughts and intentions as you see and hopefully observe some of the best photos I know of that document all the stacking patterns and variations that all but the most unimaginative might imagine are the results of field clearing or stone fences made to impress herds of cows or sheep, as the Euro-American Myth goes:
    This Serpent is in that collection entitled “Effigies,” under the subheading “Serpents,” and you can see three views of that “composite” head-stone and the undulating back bone of the Serpent:
Larry Harrop Photo, used by kind permission - and he was nice enough to send a copy to me
rather than use the image I lifted a screen shot from here:
   I have looked at this photo dozens of times before and should really be embarrassed to say that I should have been thinking of this one in particular just recently when walking around some very similar constructions along some old, older and oldest of trails.

     This one was disguised the first time I saw it (Nov. 2014), snow clinging to the branches of a small tree beside it, like a Santa Claus beard:
But when I walked by the same gateway in a stonewall in January 2015, something about it seemed so Serpentine and, now that I reflect on it, much like that photo of Larry's:

    There was another close by, but not in as good shape:
    It could be an unfinished structure or a result of a sort of “normalization” effort to make it more resemble a Euro-American stone wall, as level as a string stretched horizontally above it. Maybe it just fell apart or maybe the stones were easily carted off at some time to be used somewhere else, as close by as a rut in the present road just below this spot.
    Follow that stone row – or Stone Serpent (or series of Stone Serpents) – and you come to another, larger and taller and less compromised similar stone row – or Stone Serpent:

Makes me wonder about this one too:

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Which came first, the boulder or the wall?

From the Case Book of Sherlock Stones

(All photo credits go to John Martin ~ - with overlays on the same by myself and my consultant Sherlock Stones)

      Consider for a moment this photo below, posted on a Social Media page that is a sort of discussion group for what is defined as Ceremonial Stone Landscapes:
      Actually, it is only one photo of two posted photos, which were accompanied by the photographer’s words, “2 different turtles in a wall? Looks like it to me.”
Here’s the second:
     Having been interested in this sort of thing – the idea that Indigenous People of Turtle Island, as they called it, created stone constructions well before 1492 – for long enough to be considered a “crack pot” by all but a tiny number of archaeologists as well as friends and family members, I offered up the opinion that perhaps this wall is a Great Serpent Petroform (or Geoglyph), offering up my own desecration of the original photos to emphasize the opinion:

(I interpret the second as “slit-eyed” and “dreaming,” an idea once suggested to me by a rock art expert.)

       Checking in with my friend Sherlock Stones, I show him the photos, let him know that various people have made some observations about this stone wall, postulated that it may be Indigenous in origin etcetera, as well as shared with him a site drawing (little knowing I was at the wrong site and off by 20 miles) made by the man who took the photographs and who offered the interpretation that some boulders incorporated into the wall may be effigies representing Turtle Heads that I contend may rather be Serpent Heads in a representation of one of many Great Serpents, since there is an absence of anything resembling a carapace - or feet.
       I expect some validation in the form of praise for my observations, but Stones merely shrugs, reaching for his pouch and pipe. A silent moment passes.
        "Stones!" I exclaim, "The boulders may indeed suggest the zoomorphic, probably reptilian I'd wage, but observe the smaller stones (he gives me a brief sharp look as I say that) - er, the shape of those cobbles I mean  - used around it, indeed much like the lozenge-shaped scales of a rattlesnake!"
       I place another photo on the low table between us:

      “Why can’t they be both?” Sherlock asks, shrugging his shoulders. “Surely you know these Indigenous Native American Great Serpents are notorious shape-shifters. Do you know the Indian legend of the turtle who shape-shifts into a Great Serpent?”
      “No, I don’t,” I admit - and then ask, “How does it go?”
      “I haven’t the foggiest,” Stones replies. “I’m not an expert on Lenni Lenape legends, but that doesn’t mean such a story never existed. Perhaps it’s recorded or perhaps not. In fact, that story may be recorded in the stonework of this very stonewall! Consider it a homework assignment! Whatever the outcome, it is still a possibility!”
      As he lights his pipe, I change the subject a little, tell him that someone, a stone mason who lives down by the CT shore but originally from England coincidentally, has asked the question, “Which came first, the boulder or the stone wall?” Sherlock tells me further observations are necessary in order to answer that. “We can’t assume that the boulder rests on soil, although that is one possibility. Observe the photo that shows three large boulders of similar size about equal distance apart incorporated into that row-like concentration of stones (as he says this he circles them, unasked, in yellow on the printed out page), hardly a natural occurrence and a coincidence? I think not!!” Stones goes on to say, “A careful excavation by a qualified Archaeologist may reveal which is true of a number of possibilities: These boulders may rest on bedrock or a buried layer of wall below the surface of the soil or they may be held in position by stones propping it on either side to keep them from rolling, which by definition would be a part of the wall – neither a before or after “Chicken/Egg Situation” but more of a simultaneous occurrence.”
      Sherlock Stones puffs on his pipe, “Still it is all speculation until you do some soil testing and arrive upon an informed scientific estimate as to when the first of these stones were placed here in such a fashion.”
     “What tests would those be?” I ask.
     “I haven’t the foggiest,” he replies. “I’m not an expert in soil science.”

Monday, January 18, 2016

Trails (5)

     Where was I? I was going to go back to the car, walking along those old and older trails to the new trail, the red battery icon blinking even though I had switched to what I thought was a fully charged second battery I carry. I paused for a few details, possible (probable) smaller effigies inside the larger serpent form:
      Above: one I included before, but also a few more centered in the photos below; something with a sharp beak in the first? – Turtle? (More likely) a Bird? More around it, all placed with suggestions of eyes uppermost on the stone. The one in the following photo seems turtle-like, with an eye and again a beak, but it rests on another and I’m unsure if it’s another turtle or if the long flat stone behind it could represent the body of a snake…

(I look back into that older folder to see if any better images are in there, surprise myself that on this second visit I failed to re-locate this one below in the same segment, a pretty obvious turtle composed of a white quartz carapace with a nuchal notch, along with long slim piece of stone that is perhaps a turtle’s extended neck andhead, perhaps slightly askew of its original position:)
(Above: suspected turtle circled in red – and in yellow, the suggestion of something anthropomorphic that suddenly pops into my awareness just this morning, surprising me – a human face in profile?)

    I pass by that gate again:

 Take a look back up the hill...
...eventually turning eastward when the row ends, and then I’m back on that trail with the blocky remnants, looking down at the new gravel on the Land Trust Trail just above the stream…

   I continued walking along that upper row of stones and came to another sort of gap or gateway with a prominent bright white quartz stone – a large cobble or small boulder, I suppose, depending on that sketchy definition of the two that states a cobble is a one person stone while a boulder requires two people to lift it – but my impression is of a serpent head looking upward at that same angle as that much bigger white boulder where my circular path began that day, while just above it along another course of stones (the uppermost) a similarly shaped stone is placed to resemble the same sort of thing, tilted at about the same angle, looking in the downhill direction:
The larger white quartz boulder once again, so you don’t have to look back at the older post:
The same medium sized red dog for scale as above, there’s a second light colored stone, similarly triangular, and about the same size, looking in the opposite direction at roughly the same (opposite? complementary?) angle – and below you can see a flat dark colored stone, possibly yet another snake-like head… 
Is each course a separate snake?? 
Were they built at the same time? Were they built over a longer period of time, one at a time?
I can answer those quickly: I don't know 
An undulation in the wall farther along:

 Back to the trail and to where I’ve parked my car:


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Oldest Trails, Older Trails, and Old Trails (Part Four)

  (Continuing from previous post:)
     I couldn’t follow the stone rows I wanted to because of the tree work – well, I suppose I could have really, I just didn’t want to. So, I scooted across the eastern parcel until I came to another gate in another stone wall, the parallel boundary of the parcel:
Above: the upper (south) side of the gate, the most noticeable feature, a large rectangular boulder, a featured I’ve observed in other gates locally – and compared to similar “head stones” of serpentine petroforms in Manitoba. Below: the lower (north) side of the gateway with a large round boulder…
 And here again, there was the slight angle of a suspected serpent head looking out at the person entering the space, that Uktena or Strong Looker as a sort of protector of that space, knowing the thoughts of the person about to enter, a suggestion of eyes in the blocky stone seen above. I followed southward, looking to see (observe) if that same undulation in height would be present here too…

 Above: running eastward, down into a sea of ferns: below: extending south toward modern paths, still in use as possibly wood roads or maintenance access trails or something like that, I’m not sure…
Above: looking north at the south-side/outside of the corner, dipping down to the messy gateway. Below: the same corner, looking west, from the “inside.”
I’d call the undulations here “sharper,” for lack of a better word. Perhaps it wasn't exactly like this – maybe someone wanted those flat capstone-like slabs for something else, one reason to explain this away – or why they went away – if they were indeed once there:

     I cruised down along the “inside” to observe “the other side” of this row of stones that might be a petroform (or geoglyph) that since my first walk along it I have seen described on another blog as an example of a “Single Wall – stones piled on top of each other. These were used to surround pastures” – a theory that these may have been built when wood became scarce, possibly made this way to impress sheep or cows, or maybe fool them into thinking they were much more formidable barriers by these castellations. On the other hand, I can’t image what sort of rail fence was above it, if this were instead a plowed field and these stones just happened to be tossed randomly into piles like these, the other widely accepted theory as to the origin of stone walls such as these. The same walls in this section were shown on that other blog as an example of a “Tossed Wall – With stones stacked like firewood, this is the most common of stone walls. It required a bit more attention that the dumped wall.” That’s some kind of tossing!

    One or two close ups and details, a fifth section to come in a future post:

(Photo from 2014:)
(Below: a little more than just a little zoomorphic:)