Thursday, September 21, 2017

Some Old News I Missed

Native Insight: Ancient ceremonial complexes interesting to the inquisitive mind
For The Recorder

Friday, July 21, 2017
A great view of Pioneer Valley from Mount Sugarloaf in South Deerfield. RECORDER STAFF
Ceremonial, spiritual and/or sacred landscape and peculiar stone structures within — all of it buried under forested canopies — all of them are concepts that have gained traction in contemporary anthropological circles.
Such features can potentially mark ancient ceremonial complexes where people gathered for annual open-air rituals, perhaps celebrating the solstice or equinox, maybe spring or fall harvest of fish or nuts or berries or you name it; maybe a burial or crevice from which underground spirits or evil serpents emerge. All of it interesting. Yes, interesting indeed to the inquisitive mind.
Even the likes of Tom Wessels, the well-known, respected author/lecturer on New England stonewalls and forested landscapes, believes that some stonewalls were here before Europeans settlers appeared to set their stakes. Then again, talk to experienced archaeologists as I have, and you’ll find that there are more hits than misses when it comes these curiosities, things like beehives or stone piles or stone rows or rocking stones, buried in the forest, often near the remains of 18th- and 19th-century buildings. Of course, proximity to early dwellings and outbuildings doesn’t necessarily rule out indigenous origin. Often the earliest hilltown farms were built on the footprint of old, seasonal, hunting village sites that were easier to clear than forest. But still, it’s a guessing game when it comes to stone structures, which in no way detracts from the recent fascination among amateur and professional investigators alike.
Which brings us to the fourth annual Pocumtuck Homelands Festival, a Nolumbeka Project brainchild co-sponsored by Turners Falls River Culture, on the shady banks of the Unity Park waterfront in Turners Falls. Buried deep under the Turners Falls dam impoundment are what’s left of the ancient, spiritual fishing falls between Unity Park and Riverside, Gill, just above a radical left-hand turn in the river. There could be no more appropriate Franklin County site for such an event, created to celebrate Native American art, music and culture. This year’s festival is a scant two weeks away, scheduled for Aug. 5 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The crowds for the family affair have grown each year and that trend will likely continue again this year.
A main attraction this year will be Native stone structures and archaeology scholar Tim MacSweeney, creator of the blog “Waking up on Turtle Island,” devoted to Native American ceremonial stone landscapes features and culture. He will be on hand to field questions, evaluate artifacts brought by festival attendees or just to shoot the breeze about deep history of the Northeast.
Last year, it was Mary and James Gage, also well-known, published stone-structure experts. Now MacSweeney. Should be fun.

Bowser Road mastodon excavation

Digging much deeper into the well of time, Dr. Richard Michael Gramly, a paleontologist associated with the Sugarloaf Site — a Paleo archaeological site known in archaeological jargon as the DEDIC Site in Whately — is accepting orders for his new book, “Archaeological Recovery of the Bowser Road Mastodon, Orange County, New York.” It should be fascinating reading, having dug the bones and ivory tools crafted from husks of previous kills at a site in Middletown, N.Y., north and west of New York City.
“The Bowser Road mastodon excavation and subsequent research represents a quantum leap forward and point the way to things to be looked for at each new mastodon find. … It will help set the standard for information possibilities that are new, perhaps even revolutionary,” praises Dr. Russell Judkins in the forward.
With contributions from several experts, Gramly addresses the first Clovis-age mastodon kill and ritual site to be reported for the Americas, contrasting data about bone and ivory artifacts, etc. with records of discovery from Eurasia.
The 365-page study includes nine appendages, nearly 200 color figures, plus tables. The cost is $45 for durable (heavy tab) softcover or $70 for cloth hardcover with dust jacket, plus $8 shipping. All orders can be prepaid to ASAA/Persimmon Press, 455 Stevens St., N. Andover, MA 01845. Books will be shipped in a stout carton by U.S. Postal Service.
I myself have listened to Gramly’s description of what he found at the Orange County, N.Y., site, then his tales over the winter of going through a mass of bones and artifacts collected at the Hiscock Site in western New York and stored in metal lockers at the Buffalo Museum. Mastodons, our ancient elephants, have been extinct in the Americas for at least 12,000 years, but are included in indigenous myth and the archaeological record. The site addressed in the book was uncovered by a farmer digging a bog with a backhoe. Unnerved by the unearthing large bones and later informed by experts that they were those of a mastodon, he stopped digging and eventually put the site up for public auction. Gramly raised the funds needed, became the high bidder and excavated the important site.
Now you can read about the dig and his fascinating observations and hypotheses. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Recorder Sports Editor Gary Sanderson is a senior-active member of the outdoor-writers associations of America and New England. Send your questions, stories about our area to him at:

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Another Turtle Shell Revelation

     I wrote this a little while back:
     "Sometimes there’s a protruding spike sort of thing on a turtle shell, just as in the image above. This has nagged my thoughts for years (meaning that you don't often see this detail on every box turtle you come across, both in person and in other people's images that I lift and use here on this blog)..."
     And just now I took a look at another box turtle photo and said:
          "Oh! There's a little spike at the nuchal notch of this one. "

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Wooden Fragments

One other thing about this row of stones - there are fragments of wood in it.
I suppose it shows the wall was maintained over time.
I don't know how long or by whom - or what kind of wood, 
but someone sometime used the wood to create a little space to make a little repair (maybe).

Some more:

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Other End of the Other

And ...
Above: adding snapping turtle eyes. Below: Before adding the snapping turtle eyes. 
I could overlay some turtle eyes on that lighter colored stone,
 but the close up shows there’s no need to: 

The rows no longer connect to the outcrops, the land slopes downward.
  Another zoomorphic stone:

 The slope continues to go downward, gets a little steeper:
Interesting Stone, interesting stacking:
The Row of Stones ends. Down below is the Shepaug River: 
   I took a southeasterly (and upward) route from there – and was at first disappointed at my first sight of this massive set of walls, mostly due to all the assumptions that go into thinking that this is an “Estate Wall,” with capstones even, just as described in your field guide to New England Stone Walls...

But I continued on anyway...

Monday, September 04, 2017

Details along the Other Walls

   & the two previous posts from the same “site.”)

   Not tossed, but placed, and very Deer-like:
    Maybe this is also something, another zoomorphic stone, maybe a deer – or maybe a serpent with a single horn on the top of its head:
And there beside it, a shape that reminds me of a birdstone – not a polished one but sort of a “birdstone in the rough:”
   Here’s a birdstone drawing, lifted from
   Here’s another example of one – shown standing on its tail, for some reason:

(Doctoring the image:)
From: Making Pictures in Stone: American Indian Rock Art of the Northeast by Edward J. Lenik

Some interesting stacking of stones:

Sunday, September 03, 2017

The Other Walls

   The first stone walls I started to look at before the last Archaeological Roundtable on Ceremonial Stone Landscapes in 2014 (on the grounds of the “Toot” anyway – I pass miles and miles of walls as I take some back country shortcuts to get to the place) were not so massive as that big enclosure in the last two previous posts. These rows of stone near the entrance to the museum and parking lot (look carefully and you will see the sign and lamppost) are not quite linear in nature and flow with the topography – and could be said to resemble the body of a rattlesnake. 
    I looked at the stones on the side of the road awhile, looking for signs of stones placed so as if to recall animals or human-like heads, found a few:

     Then took a walk “northish,” along the lower western border of the property - which turns out to be a Land Trust property:
    So, there by the lower red arrow, a segment of stones begins. It’s only with hindsight do I suddenly now see that the stacking method could sort of be the imitation of rattlesnake scales (squamation or scalation):

Prompting me to paste an eye onto the image, under a long flat stone that resembles the supraocular scale

Looks like there were two photos I meant to merge, so here you go:
 I’ll be durned if there isn’t a second neglected set – the row of stones that branches off to the west: 
 And a third:
 And a fourth:
     I’ll end this post for now, leaving you with some more from Rolf Cachat-Schilling in A Quantitative Assessment of Stone Relics in a Western Massachusetts Town:

  1. Structures are positioned in an area where their presence is impractical for known post- Contact Euroamerican economic uses and their construction is difficult.
  2. Structures consist of stone types and shapes not evidenced in nearby Euroamerican structures, or in historic-period overseas examples of European stone works (esp. Scotland, Ireland, Brittany, Italy, Portugal).
  3. Structures show labor intensity and extent of labor that is impractical and would be inefficient/wasteful under pragmatic terms.
  4. Number and elaboration of features are obstructive of co-use for grazing, watering stock, etc.
  5. Frequency of structures and similar sites defies practical explanation.
  6. Orientation and nature/types of features do not translate to Euroamerican uses.
  7. Orientation and nature/types of features translate to known Algonquian ritual uses (direction of ritual significance, primary re- source orientations, unique land feature orientation).*
  8. Features fit known ritual practices of the Middle-Late Woodland-to-Contact Period.
  9. Terrain on which features sit lacks evidence of Euroamerican use, documented or by visible artifact (including vegetation types, tracks, debris, relics).*
  10. Neighboring terrain is unsuited to Euroamerican uses.*
  11. Site lacks evidence of Euroamerican structures.*
  12. Site is consistent with recorded Algonquian CSL sites in terms of location and content.*
  13. Structure lacks evidence of recent tampering.
  14. Structure is consistent with other structures on site.
  15. Structure is consistent with structures in other sites in town.
  16. Structure is consistent with known structures outside of town, but in the Eastern Algonquian region.*
  17. Structure is consistent with a documented written description, drawing, painting, or photo of an Eastern Algonquian structure.*
  18. Structure is consistent with a known structure that has received Federal or State recognition as a Native American historic feature.
  19. Structure is consistent with tribally recognized features.