Monday, April 30, 2012

Lichen It (or Not)

I certainly would not be the first person who said, "Lichen growth is an unreliable indicator of time."
Walk down my driveway with me and I'll show you what I mean...
That big stone on the flower bed was pushed out of place by some lilac roots from on top of the upper retaining wall (probably built in 1850 from the recycled stones from the original central chimney of my possibly circa 1700-10 "at least begun to be built" home, the chimney replaced by a brick one when the house was modernized by Samuel Atwood, a descendant of Woodbury's first doctor, Jonathon Atwood). Keep in mind that this retaining wall soon blends into a zigzag stone row on this side of the Indian Trail, still known as Nonnewaug, with another zigzag stone row bordering the other side of the road (which shows quite well in aerial photography taken in 1934 and is now only a remnant of its former self, much like me).
   Update: the retaining wall does show stone tool marks, but by the spring of 2016 many elements of Native American Iconography were identified in this and other stonework I had long assumed were Euro-American in origin. Dr. Curt Hoffman added them to a database he continues to compile and filed a site report, adding this wall and others to his list of (I think he said) 7,000 sites. (5/17/2016)

I placed these cobbles on the fallen boulder and none of them had any remarkable amount of lichen growth on them when I did, unlike the boulder whose lichen growing career probably started in earnest around 1850. I'm going to make a guess that I placed the stone all the way to the left in the photo on the boulder in around 1997 - or a little after - because that's when I saw my first "without a doubt" Native American made Tobacco Offering Bear Effigy. The others were placed there, one at a time over the years, picked up somewhere close by or dug out of the flower bed - or fallen into the driveway from the second retaining wall made for  this flower bed...

It looks like it has about the same amount of lichen growth (see how it almost blends into the boulder in the second view of the top of the stone), and a person could be tempted to say that this might prove that the stones were placed there at the same time, but they weren't. A bunch of dry summers (one really dry summer comes to mind) slowed the growth, while I also recall a really wet summer when all sorts of mold and fungi began growing everywhere, especially the Black Rust I think people were calling it, on my tomatoe plants. Originally it looked much like the underside when first placed there...

It's much the same story with the other stones I later placed there...

There were a figurative ton of interesting crystals in the on this cobble (same stone above and below).

This one below is a possible Nutting Stone, used to crack nuts (or acorns), found nearby, about two or three hundred feet from the probable mast forest resource zone to the western hilltop, where early roads and cart paths lead down to the early 1700's mill on the river...

These two, which have almost no lichen on them, I put where I did because the type of rock/stone matched up well, especially with that high degree of probability that these stones were "borrowed" from the nearby Testudinate Stone Mounds up by my old Chicken Coop because it was an Easy Thing To Do, a factor you should always take into consideration when dealing with Human Behavior. These two fit the pattern of a headstone and a left foreleg. The headstone also has another repeated feature, a depression that easily accepts a clam shell for a tobacco offering...

People seem to enjoy driving into this flower bed wall along my driveway and I pick up what falls and put them on top of the former chimney stones, fine examples of colonial stoneworkfrom circa 1700, hammer marks from when they were quarried and drilled holes, possibly for the keeping room fire place, those old "kitchen fireplaces" where colonial moms (or servants) were cooking stuff on spits or in those metal pots that they hung from hooks and all, just like you see in paintings and houses turned museum.
Will these stones placed on the quarried chimney stones get covered with lichen as well?
Will I ever be able to put all the turtles together again, with no King's Horses or King's Men to help me put them back together again after the Egg was Scrambled?

Maybe I'll use the Grandfather Trick and say to my Grandkids, "I'll bet you can't make some turtles out of these stones - a dark one, a light one, a red one, maybe one with a light brown head and green feet..."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Shasta Turtle Story

Photo by Alyssa Alexandria (2012)

Stop here along the stone row trail and sit with me.
I’ll tell you a story about Grandfather Turtle and the Mountains you can see in the distance …

Turtle Vision Rendering "Doodle" TMS (2012)


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Shasta; Stone Rows as Bones of the Ancient Cultural Landscape

The Three Zones of Shasta; Photogravure after painting by Thomas Hill
Seeing recent photos from around Mt. Shasta, I look at all those stone rows as the Bones of the Sacred Ancient Cultural Landscape. Images like these fuel my imagination, just as much as any study or ethnology from Northern California does, including the highlights from "American Indian cultural models for sustaining biodiversity," written from a Native American perspective.

Dennis Martinez, Takelma Inter-Tribal Project Restoration Consultant:

"There’s a tendency to think of nature as pristine. I think people are beginning to realize that there are very few places on this globe that one could adequately describe as pristine. The anthropogenic (humanized) landscape has been around for not just tens of thousands of years, but hundreds of thousands of years.

Henry Larcom Abbot . Report of Lieut. Henry L. Abbot...In: Pacific Survey Reports, Vol. VI, Washington, D.C., 1857.Courtesy College of the Siskiyous Library Mount Shasta Collection

We’re going to have to reorder the way we look at the world a little bit. If we as scientists view preserving wilderness or biodiversity as worthy of study only when the area has no native or any other peoples, then I think we’re dangerously on the wrong track. If you take the native peoples out of their own habitat - the forest, the desert, the tundra or wherever - I think 9 times out of 10, the ecosystems start to unravel. This instability comes about because people have learned, as native people did here in North America for eons of time, to live in a relationship culturally and spiritually with the plants and animals in the natural world...People who lived in a place for generations—tens to hundreds of thousands of years—needed to have their act together in order to survive. They needed to know how to use the land, and how to use the land sustainably. This is not a function of just one population in any one generation...When the forest is clearcut...memory the place is unrecognizable. If the old people were to come back now to any forest system in the Pacific Northwest, they wouldn’t recognize it, it’s so completely different. That’s what a lot of people call “natural.” It really is a gigantic experiment in secondary succession, the end result of which is unknown.

When I say “management,” that does not exclude the spiritual part...Every place around here was well known, etched in memory since childhood. We knew the territorial boundaries by heart. We knew
everything about our neighborhood, and we knew all the songs for the trails and the springs.’s like after Hiroshima or Nagasaki. It’s gone, the neighborhood, the memory the place is unrecognizable. If the old people were to come back now to any forest system...they wouldn’t recognize it, it’s so completely different. That’s what a lot of people call “natural.” It really is a gigantic experiment in secondary succession, the end result of which is unknown.

If the elders were to come back now from the spirit world, they would look around and say, “There’s nobody taking care of this place.”

Images, and there are lots more, from: Mount Shasta; Chapter 10 of Picturesque California, 1888, as well as text written by (Someone's Uncle) John Muir:]

Western ecological sciences and traditional environmental knowledge

“People who lived in a place for generations—tens to hundreds of thousands of years—needed to have their act together in order to survive. They needed to know how to use the land, and how to use the land sustainably. This is not a function of just one population in any one generation...I’m going to talk about is trying to integrate traditional knowledge into modern science. I’m not putting Western science down. It has a very useful role, but from the traditional point of view, we feel it has a limited role. I will talk about why we need to try and integrate or form a synthesis of Western ecological sciences and traditional environmental knowledge.”

Dennis Martinez
Takelma Inter-Tribal Project
Restoration Consultant
Images from

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Two Possible Turtles in a Single Stone Concentration

Another Mills Mounds Interpretation

Image reversed and eyes added:

  Lower right, two turtle heads, suggesting mating turtles. Another round, possibly drilled(?), eye hole?
The Mills Mound image is  reversed to show the similarity to the photo below from Beaver Brook MA:
Above Photo by Peter Waksman

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

X head single stone turtles

How did that archeologist smarty pants put it?
Find one stone bunny on Easter Island and it is nothing remarkable, but find a line of a bunch of stone bunnies all facing the same way on Easter Island and you’ve got something interesting.
I may have remembered that incorrectly, but that basically is some sort of definition of the method of Archaeology.

In my yard, in an old chicken yard, next to a falling down old chicken coop, there are several old stone "heaps" (káhtôquwukansh in Pequot/Mohegan), linked to by some stone rows – or what is left of them after 350 years of disturbance.

(Editing this in 2021, I'll say they are turtles (made of) stacked stones: 

Tûnuppasuonk kodtonquag - turtle effigy in stone (Nipmeuw).

Tûnuppasuonk qussukquanesash – “Small Stones Turtle”)

There are all kinds of testudinate shapes in these heaps of stones, some composed of parts - shells and heads and legs - but also some that are possibly single stones, also looking more like turtles than anything else I can think of.

These possible turtles seem to have been chipped away to reveal the (sometimes) crystal chunk of some type of rock or other that seems to be the turtle’s head, a motif or style that, now that I'm looking for, I seem to be finding in many places other than this (such as here: ).

More in the same group of stone heaps:

This one still has the fragments of the whole broken cobble nearby:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

First Medicine Bowlder (1997)

"What was the first mortar-like possible Medicine Bowlder I ever saw?" you may or may not wonder.
I'm going to tell you anyway that it was just across the state highway by the upper driveway here at Happiness Farm where my family has lived for the past 32 years. Or at least show you some photos of old photos from my sketchbook, as well as a drawing or two...

Below is "Where it is" on a drawing:
Below: Turtle One, a box turtle petroform
And, a special bonus photo of a small turtle petroform, missing the head stone but with the plastron stone intact, miles away at a stone worked spring:

One Thing I’ve Never Seen

I’ve never seen a zigzag stone fence that was formed by the random and gradual haphazard tossing of stones up against a wooden “Worm Fence” or “Virginia Rail Fence” or any other name you might find to call a post-less “fence, zigzag in plan, made of rails resting across one another at an angle,” as puts it, that has rotted away, leaving only stones that recall these at one time very common constructions. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen a photograph of a single zigzag “stone wall” that met that description.

The only representations of these types of “stone walls” that I have ever seen are drawings, all of them much like Eric Sloane’s above.

Here’s an actual photo, from sometime before 1866 when a friend’s relative began a scrap book, of a local wooden zigzag fence that someone apparently forgot to pile (or throw) rocks up against:

The builder did stick a couple stones at one visible point of the zigzag, but somehow neglected to throw the mandatory stones from both field clearing and cart path or possibly road building up against the rails rather than place them under the fence. The builder had no idea that the great era of stone fence building, 1750 to 1850 had actually passed by, just before barbed wire was to become readily available too.

Of course there is that 1871 Department of Agriculture Survey that in all 39 of the United States, sixty percent of all fences were wooden zigzag rail fences

My opening statement might be questioned somewhat if you were to take a look at a 1934 aerial photograph of where I live (Aerial survey of Connecticut 1934 photograph 07599), at the time small tractors were beginning to be sold to the general public. You might notice, as you zoom in for a closer look, that the photo shows numerous zigzag rows bordering roads and dividing fields. – even more so if you walked below the canopy of trees that covers many streams and swamps and actually saw all those zigzag stone rows that form borders around those water features or that are partially buried below leaves or a cover of vegetation and hard to see. There are a lot more of them visible on the ground, sometimes partially buried by 350 years of field clearing and road widening.

You might even point out to me that there is more than one of these zigzag rows in my own yard. I’d have to point out to you that these are carefully constructed rows of stone, more often than not large boulders at the points where these ten foot long segments “zig” and then “zag.”

You might even notice that a little north and east of my house there is a perhaps 800 foot long zigzag row on the border of fields still used by farmers today, although the southern end of it turns into a straight line.
This area of land is mentioned in a local history as the only cleared fields or interval land – floodplain fields – not put into use the first year, 1672, that people of European descent, as crop planting land. It wasn’t used because Native American people were living there at the time, growing corn that supported bean plants with a ground cover of squash (and probably pumpkins) planted in those mounds.

The little white dot at the southern end of the row is an unusual boulder that for the first time caught my eye in early 2009.

By the end of 2010, I had heard about short segments of stone rows that people were suggesting might be effigies of a serpent found in Native American stories sometimes called a “Horned  Serpent,” as well as other snake-like creatures such as the “Foot Snake,” a sort of giant inch worm creature with a large head and feet. Inspired and intrigued by this, I did some clearing and cleaning around this boulder. I wondered if it might appear to resemble a snake head:

Oh: Wooden zigzag rail fences are also sometimes called Snake Fences.

“How Fences Kept 'Good Neighbors' J. Edward Hood (1997): “In 1871, nearly half of all fencing in Massachusetts consisted of stone walls or stone walls with wooden rail tops (figure 1); 31 percent were post-and-rail figure 2); 6 percent were "worm" fence, also known as "zig-zag," "crooked," or "Virginia rail fence" (figure 3); 3 percent were post-and-board; and the remainder consisted of a variety of types, including picket and board fences typically found in front of houses. In other states these percentages were quite different: in New York, for example, worm fencing accounted for 45 percent of all fences, and in Arkansas, 98 percent of fences were of this type. In fact, zig-zag was labeled "the national fence" by the authors of the 1871 report, because it predominated in so many regions…”

Like: Good Fences: A Pictorial History of New England's Stone Walls

By William Hubbell Contents page” A rare example of a zigzag stone wall (see page 25):