Saturday, October 23, 2021

Stone Serpents at the Nonnewaug Watch House

 Cutting down the summer's screen of iris and fern and phlox, at the Nonnewaug Watch House, the stone serpents that make up the retaining wall in the front of the house are more easily seen. 

Below the capstone serpent, I notice two have a white quartz stone at the very end,
and it makes me think, "Rattles."

(The eye:)

If the courses of stones are laid down in a manner that resembles a usually larger snake head and body of stones of diminishing size
 - and sometimes a lighter colored stone for a rattle -
then you probably looking at distinguishing characteristics of Indigenous Stonework.

Call it "Serpent Stacking" in your field notes, if you like...

WPA Photo detail (and overlay): 

Monday, October 18, 2021

Culvert-like & Causeway-like (Paugussett Homeland CT)


I'm hoping that a footbridge hasn't impacted this spot above (and below):
I haven't taken this path in quite some time and don't really know.
You might be able to tell that this upstream side floods now and then.
You might call it a vernal pool, but you might also suspect it to be,
as Lisa Brooks writes about in The Common Pot,
a wetland garden, cultivated by Indigenous women,
in this case, the ancestors of the Paugussett...
(Screen capture from Kindle)

(A Turtle Effigy at the Wetland Garden)

The upstream side of the "culvert." 
Note the stone that could be used to block the stream
to raise the level of the water in the Garden:
Big Stone Snakes that can see your intentions abound here: 

Another spot, ten miles to the north,
 a similar stone structure on another stream:

Causeway Collection:

Ten miles south of the first "culvert,"
A Larger Causeway and possibly the remains of another "culvert:"
Closer, the possible effigies created by
the Serpent Stacking of courses of stones,
 are distinguishing characteristic of Indigenous Stonework:
Back north again, near the second "culvert" shown,
Is some of the most massive of similar known stonework,
Most likely related to a downstream Cranberry Garden.
A modern culvert to the left, the Indigenous culvert in the center:
The other side, the outlet:

Flooding destroyed the original Indigenous construction,
later "repaired" but not "restored:"

Big Stone Snakes (Nonnewaug in the Paugussett Homeland)


   Curtiss Hoffman, in Stone Prayers; Native American Stone Constructions of the Eastern Seaboard, writes about what are commonly known as “stone walls.”  There are some he classifies some as “(Indigenous) Stone Rows” as well as identifying others as Serpent or Snake Effigies:

    “Some of the more remarkable rows (of stones) have what appear to be serpent heads at their ends. These and the more sinuous walls have been reclassified within the effigies category."     (Page 61)

     Located where I am in the Nonewaug (Nonnewaug) Cluster (CT #3), as it is designated in Stone Prayers, I don’t really agree entirely with many of the vast number of people who write about “the stone walls of New England,” from Eric Sloane to the most recent writers who claim a post-contact European origin for the vast majority of these “rows of stones.”

(For Example: )

     For example, I just don’t observe the evidence on the ground that the abundance of zigzag stone walls here resulted in the much repeated “thrown up against a wooden Virginia or Snake Rail fence” hypothesis. It may have taken a long time to identify the snake imagery distinguishing characteristics in the purposeful construction methods of these rows of stones but to date I see haven’t found a single one that fits the original Sloane explanation of their origin, no matter how many times I hear it repeated. I find myself agreeing with Richard Thorson when he writes that there is really a “dearth” of actual scientific investigation into these iconic landscape features people love to write and hear about. Here in Nonnewaug, one can observe many zigzag row of stone that suddenly turn into linear rows as well as find the scarce few that are still topped with the remnants of chestnut rails, sometimes simply by driving along the Indigenous “trails” that have been paved to become modern roads. I hypothesize that if Indigenous Peoples used fire to shape the landscape as in other places in the western hemisphere, then these rows of stones would often very efficiently serve as fuel breaks that illustrate  a system of control of those fires.

   Curtiss writes, “It is my understanding that the Algonquin term qusukaniyutak, which applies to stone rows and enclosures, also may be used to define serpentine walls. The Algonquin term for snake, skug, does not appear to be applied to these structures…’ (Page 92) Then again, as Curt once remarked to me, and to an audience of people during a talk about his book at the Institute of American Indian Studies in Washington CT shortly after it was published, that he was starting to suspect every qusukaniyutak just might be a snake effigy.

   Perhaps no use of a variant of skug needed to be applied to an enclosing construction that was made as an obvious snake effigy. Perhaps the word Qusukqaniyutôk could be defined as: “A row of stones constructed to resemble a Great Snake, often composed of smaller snake effigies as well as other effigies both zoomorphic and anthropomorphic, sometimes appearing to shapeshift into another effigy, possibly related to control of water or fire (sometimes both) in the Nonnewaug Cluster as well as on other Sacred Cultural Landscapes in other places in the region that are finally becoming to be recognized as Indigenous Ceremonial Stone Landscapes.”

  (And then I look at the sukq part of the word poem, ponder if that just might be a variant of a word for snake…)

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Snakes and Turtles at 29 Nonnewaug

Below the Porch, under the Funeral Door, at 29 Nonnewaug Road: 
The courses of stone resemble snakes rather than quarried rectangular blocks.
Protruding probable turtle head:

A similar turtle, above and below, forelegs on either side of a head below a shell...

North East Corner of foundation: