Thursday, December 01, 2022

A Dam Serpent Surprise (Watertown CT)

Another Sort of "Water Wall"

   I took a little walk. I even stayed on the path until the hill turned steep, until the sound of the river called me to it – well, after I wandered off a little to look at the zigzag rows of stones still partially visible under the messy piles of stones dumped on them. I ended up by some of the last remaining rows of stones on that I’m pretty convinced are retaining walls for an Indigenous foot path – a causeway if you will.

   A “Colonial Construction related to the Cleveland Grist Mill” another person might conclude, but the Indigenous Iconography and other observations as well as location make me think otherwise. There is no reason I can think of any sort of practical purpose I can think of to build something like this a half mile downstream from the actual mill and dam. This is an early mill, for grinding grain, from sometime around 1700. For some time now, I suspect the dam to contain Indigenous Iconography very similar to the Indigenous stonework at my family home of the last forty years. Right in front of the house for example, the top course of stone closely resembles a European capstone, the stones were dressed so as to resemble big snakes.


   Refreshing my memory about the mill itself, I perused some photos collected by Watertown CT Historian Charlie Crowell and shamelessly lifted several photos. I was totally surprised to find this one:


   I took about my tenth look at this “new to me” photo and then made a crop of the now missing stonework to look for “snakes and turtles” in the stonework. Sometimes it seems to take that one effigy to come into focus before you just can’t stop seeing the others.


   Well now, so it would seem, the capstone on the top of the dam, over which the water flowed, very much resembled the capstone snakes here at home…

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Suspected Indigenous Causeway (Nonnewaug CT Cluster #3)

     Suspected Indigenous causeway path above the river, bark houses above, and on the left an opening for access to the River...

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Snake Effigy and Riders/Rails (CT)


Stephanie Ashman photo

   Stephanie Ashman's photo above seemed so familiar to me and it didn't take long to recall the photos below, as well as a drawing Norman Muller had made of it, suggesting that this might be a snake effigy, a certain stone used for the snake's eye: 

Norman's Drawing from the NEARA Journal, vol. 41, no. 2, Winter 2007

 I very much agree with Norman, call attention to the stacking that resembles the scales of the head of a Timber Rattlesnake or perhaps the head of a Great Serpent:

There's also a rhomboidal stone behind the eye, perhaps suggesting the vulnerable seventh scale location of the snake's heart, a feature that repeats sometimes but not all the time on Snake Effigies:

   Norman writes: "The Stone Row - A clue to the original function of the souterrain may lie with a curious and very well made stone row, 147 feet long, situated several hundred feet west. During the colonial period, walls were generally constructed of stones dislodged in fields by plowing, and were carried by stone boat to the edges of the field, where they were piled into the rustic walls that define the New England landscape. Many of them form networks with other walls. However, the one on Beaver Dam Hill is different, in that it is an isolated segment with no indication that it was ever connected to a wooden rail fence. A trace of low stones beyond where the present wall begins and ends would provide a clue that a rail fence continued at either end, but nothing of the sort is to be found. Instead, the wall or row in question is finished at both ends, implying a function quite distinct from the usual colonial usage. Some of the boulders comprising it are huge: one is six feet long, a foot thick and two feet wide, and weighs close to a ton. I believe the row bears a direct relationship to the souterrain...As viewed head on at the top, the row has a curious, repetitive post-and-lintel construction (Fig. 8), consisting of one or two smaller rocks supporting a larger, flat slab. However, when viewed from the side, (Fig. 9), the pattern of stones seems to merge into the shape and detail of a serpent's head, with an unusual square stone representing the eye, and the arrangement of long rectangular stones below, the mouth (Fig. 10). Some may say I am reading too much into the stone arrangement, but Indian stone constructions representing snakes or turtles are often very subtle, with only a few accents providing a clue as to what they represented."

    Ms. Stephanie Ashman also captured a "head on" image of the probable Snake Effigy:

Every good student of "New England Stone Walls" knows that easily and quickly made wooden fences preceded the alleged "Golden Age of Stone Wall Building" in Colonial Mythology and seeing those four socket like openings in the otherwise fairly realistic and intact Snake Effigy reminded me of an Eric Sloane illustration about the Cross and Rail Fence: 

Peter Waksman, Barbara Waksman, and I were also looking at a similar such thing in CT. This "Stone Wall," which could be said to have a snake-like appearance (A huge round eye?);
And if one walks along the bedrock outcrop this "stone wall" is built on, one will find an interesting snake-head-like feature below (shown with the person who suggested it to be a Great Snake's head):
The original row of stones might have extended farther than this "wall end" that's just out of sight to the extreme left in the above photo (both Peter and Curtiss thought as much as well), perhaps modified within the last 2 or 3 hundred years:
And those three "sockets," one with a stone inserted for some reason, at some unknown time, reminded me of a different illustration of the same sort of wooden fence, labelled the Stake and Rider Fence:

Back to Montville, thinking about Mohegan fence builders building fences that comply to 'early' fence laws in that Mohegan homeland, I'm thinking the effigy stayed intact for a Mohegan reason:

That's a Eric Sloane image to the right, a Gutenberg image on the left of the snake in the middle...

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Harvard Stone Walls Mysteries Solved

While ignoring at least 13,000 years (97% or more) of the Human history of "New England"

Un-credited photo used in presentation

    I don’t know how I missed this one from last year, a Zoom presentation by the man who “thinks about stone walls more than anyone else:”

Harvard Stone Walls Mysteries Solved

   “The Harvard Conservation Trust presents Dr. Robert Thorson, as he decodes mysteries from the thousands of stones that make up stone walls laid by colonists, Native Americans & enslaved people. Thorson writes “[Stone walls are] a visceral connection to the past. They are just as surely a remnant of a former civilization as a ruin in the Amazon rain forest.” Professor Thorson reveals why New England is uniquely situated to be the quintessential landscape for stone walls and the work that communities are doing to preserve them.”

    About 46 minutes and 47 seconds into the presentation, we find that someone has sent in a photo of most of  a "Stone Prayer," a Káhtôquwuk in the Mohegan/Narragansett/Pequot languages, a Kodtuhquag in Massachusett, as well as many other variants. These "stone heaps" have been documented by numerous early European visitors in the region who suggest a religious aspect to them that Indigenous People were reluctant to talk about. Thorson has chosen to label the photo as a

"Manitou Animal Effigy of a Turtle:"

   Thorson and Ives rail against "a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method" when it comes to the subject of "New England Stone Walls" and these "manitou animal effigy turtles" constructions while relying on folklore of, as Thorson puts it, a "Yankee Cowboy" transforming a howling wilderness, stone by stone, to farms and fields surrounded by "garbage piles of stones." Both write and lecture about the "dearth of scientific data" about "New England Stone Walls" while promoting the idea that the Indigenous Peoples of this corner of Turtle Island had to wait around for a superior advanced ocean going civilization from Europe to show up and teach them the art of stonework. I find that not much different that those beliefs promoted by Graham Hancock or Sir Wolter Scott that one can easily find on cable TV or a streaming service like NetFlix...

    Both ignore (or openly ridicule) actual scientific investigation into similar stone structures and constructions such as those in Turners' Falls in MA, the Manitou Hussanash Preserve in RI, or the Oley Hills in PA, among other places. (Some examples: ) One of them, without embarrassment, even states on video that he has no desire to learn how to pronounce Indigenous Place Names. There's something about stones to be learned when one "decodes" what those words mean. Sometimes there's a stone - or a bunch of stones - in them.

      So here's an Indigenous word for you that, as I said above, might explain the questionable "Manitou Animal Effigy of a Turtle" featured in the presentation

káhtôquwuk  NI a pile, a heap, that which is heaped high, by placing one above another

káhtôquwukansh heaps 

káhtôquwukanuk in the pile

     Nohham Rolf Cachat-Schilling (Mohawk-Nipmuc), writing in 2016 for the Massachusetts Archaeological Society, notes that  “There are several types of kodtonquagkash (kodtuhquag in Massachusett), including effigies.  Most kodtonquagkash are not more than 2 m (6.56 feet) wide and less than 1.8 m. (5.9 feet) tall.  They are usually made in an organized manner, in several courses of stones, often turret-like in form atop a base boulder.  There are kodtonquagkash types that are built directly on the forest floor, on shallow bedrock or even no rock at all…At a site in Shutesbury MA, “94% of intact concentric circle káhtôquwuk are formed from four to six rings, the center most often being a stone of unusual type (jasper with contrasting line, pegmatite, quartz crystal or quartz inclusion, leucic granite, or similar mineral). Center stone is usually quite round or else pyramidal...88% of intact boulder-based cairn káhtôquwuk consist of 38-50 flattish stones, usually all of the same type in a given feature, where basal stones are somewhat larger than the succeeding courses of stone, which are quite uniform in size. Courses of stone number five to seven in intact specimens of this type…”

       And, for goodness sakes, while there's no such thing as a "Manitou Animal Effigy of a Turtle!" There do exist religiously, ceremonially stacked Turtle Effigies built on boulders (or about to be built on the bedrock of Bannock Point and other places by Indigenous People alive today), most likely Indigenous artwork that actually resembles actual Turtles here on Turtle Island, as it was called for thousands and thousands of years. Here's a rather famous one both are certainly aware of in Killingworth CT:

Quote from "Stone Prayers" by Dr. Curtiss Hoffman,
the photo from wherever I lifted it...

"The ages of the samples from Pratt Hill near Upton, Massachusetts, at a site that was recently desecrated by (stones) being scraped off the boulder foundation it was originally built on, are 1475-1375 C.E. (595 ± 50 years) for the top sample and 1315-1835 B.C.E (3,595 ± 260 years) for the bottom sample. These samples were obtained from dust or loess that had blown into the structure and collected in the scooped out hollow of the boulder foundation..."

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Peter Waksman at the Acton Memorial Library (MA)




 by Peter Waksman

Thursday, Nov. 3, at 7 PM

To meet Peter Waksman in person, join us at the Acton Memorial Library, 486 Main St in Acton, MA

To join us remotely, use this link 

This program is made possible by generous support from Freedom Way’s National Heritage Area

 and the Acton Memorial Library.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Roadside Segment of Stones (Watertown CT)

Indigenous Stonework, a Qusukqaniyutôk, in the Paugussett Homeland

   Driving the four wheel drive shortcut to my sister's house, I glanced to the right just before the stop sign at the junction of a road named for an "Artists' Colony" long ago in my hometown and another, the one I was on, called "No Winter Maintenance." I had to reverse the vehicle and get out to capture the autumn image of that "Indian Look" of the stones stacked not like bricks or blocks but in an artistic manner that recalls Indigenous Iconography, particularly Snakes and Turtles as well as stones with certain shapes, unusual colors, stones with inclusions of crystals of other types of rock, et cetera.
I'd seen this "stone wall" before, having driven past this I don't know how many times in my life,
 but I just hadn't observed the stones as probably Indigenous made before...

Probably Turtle Effigies

I suspect this one was chosen because of a resemblance to perhaps possibly a turtle or maybe a flat topped rattlesnake head:

An apparent eye for the effigy head:

A "marking," reminiscent of the "crystal" or the "carbuncle" found on the forehead of a Spirit Being from many Indigenous cultures sometimes called a "Great Serpent" or "Big Snake" in English language terms, Misi-Ginebig (Anishinabe) or "Gitaskog (Abenaki),
the Ulstitli Mooney describes on the head of an Uktena (Cherokee)

(Lifted from: )

(Please pardon me for using those terms before the winter solstice.) 

Looking East:

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Refining Single Stone Effigies


“While some of these ideas are open to dispute and refinement (as should be the case with all of science). Most are widely accepted by geologists and archaeologists today.” – Dr. Curtis Hoffman (Pandemic Power Point Presentation:  Ceremonial Stone Landscapes).

    Curtiss writes: “Effigies: These are collections of stones – always more than two – which appear to form the shape of animals or – more rarely – humans. As noted above, they often include “serpent” walls as well as turtle effigies…all effigies are additive, in that they are all collections of stones assembled so as to form a shape.”

   In my experience, I sometimes find that the effigy may be a single stone sometimes, but of course the placement of that certain stone on another stone shows a human intention to create an effigy, have others perceive the stone as an effigy.

   Perhaps two stones is the minimum, like a statue and a pedestal:

A Bear's Head Balanced on a Boulder, with a Fire Starer Base:

A Deer Head Effigy on Boulder 

Probable Single Stone Turtle Effigies:

Subtractive Turtles with material removed to create the shape? 

Pipping Turtle and eggshells??

Probable Turtle on a Probable Snake Effigy
 Probable Anthropomorphic Effigy

Near the "Forward Point" of a segment of a Zigzag row of stones:

As one stone, from on point of view, a bear effigy...
..on a snake effigy...

...which, from another point of view, adding a second stone,
a turtle head,
  the bear becomes/transforms before your eyes, a probable "two stone turtle effigy:"