Friday, June 29, 2012

"Pair of Eyes or Pareidolia?"

"It is not that the stone paleoart does not exist, it is that we have not known what to look for."
Ken Johnston

"There seems to be a limiting fear among archaeologists of being accused of pareidolia, the psychological phenomenon of inferring meaning from random sensory data, to the extent they will infer no meaning on objects or deny its possibility.
Examples of visual pareidolia are seeing
 a dog in the clouds,
 a human face on the surface of Mars,
 a virgin mother on a grilled-cheese sandwich,

a lion head on a twelve pound block of flint with two eye sockets, ear, nose, mouth, two drilled holes, “whisker holes” on snout, stands upright in correct viewing orientation on its flat base, and was found in context with other zoomorphic sculptures and which admittedly “looks just like a lion” according to a lithics analyst at a prominent U.S. lab. I mention the “lion head,” my real-life example, tongue-in-cheek, because it seems archaeology needs to (figuratively) come to understand the difference between the clouds, Mars, a sandwich and a possible artifact. Such interpretation is precisely the job, and the duty, of the archaeological investigator." ~ Ken Johnston, avocational archaeologist (publisher)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Plants and Stones Blog

Plants and Stones Blog

“This is the the newest stone pile along our property line. Lack of covering vegetation easily shows the relative youth of this pile. The last farmer left this ground 24 years ago. This stone pile must be older that that. The height of this pile suggests that it was dumped from a tractor bucket. The stones in this pile are also smaller than the stones in the wall. Every year the frost sends a new crop of stone to the surface. The new crop contains smaller but more numerous stones. There is never a crop failure with the stone…”

"Pioneer settlers had to clear their land as a first order of business. Hauling stone to what would become field's edge preceded planting. Stones were likely heaved in a pile since there was no time to build walls. Years later stone walls could have served as pasture fences. A wall occupied less land than a stone heap and having the livestock walk on solid cleared ground was safer than having them slipping on slanted stone. Here at field's edge traces of an old wall can be found among the rubble..."

"Yesterday's sunshine found Becky sitting on a stone wall under the huge cherry tree.  She saw this stone nearly buried in the litter close to the edge of the wall recently built by us. Not the usual stone, this one deserved closer inspection.  Some of the edges of this stone are as sharp as a knife edge.  Other surfaces are soft and porous.  We believe that the hard gray area of this stone is flint.  We would like to know how the stone was formed.
There is evidence that Native Americans lived on land very close to our present home. We can almost see the vee shaped stone structure that still spans the river and was thought to concentrate the migrating fish, eels, shad or salmon, making harvest of this natural food source easier. A flint factory appears to have existed a short distance downstream of the eel weir. I have spoken to a man that grew up on this farm. He describes finding primitive stone points here in great quantities. Our land overlooks the river and is largely glacial gravel deposits. The fertile part of the farm lies below us along the riverside. Native Americans left no signs of their presence on the land where we live..."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Thursday, June 14, 2012


The above image popped up late last night in an image search for "weird stone walls fences."
Maybe it was "unusual stone walls fences," I forget, but I found a "Stonewalling" post on "yankee whisky papa's" blog that included a drawing by Eric Sloane that I hadn't lifted yet that illustrates a bit of "Stone Wall Myths" that even included that old Stone Manure Pile Myth.
Yankeewhiskypapa writes: "If you enjoy a stroll through the woods in New England, you will likely find stone walls. A very short moment in each year is the harvest. Mechanized now, the harvest was once a near-panicked and frantic race for many seasons. Making hay is even a risky venture with New England weather. I occasionally bird hunt in up-state New York amongst the cleanly-shorn fields where some of the migratory birds glean the errant grains from the ground."
Just what papa is talking about - stonewalling or making hay - is a little mysterious. The stolen drawings are credited to Sloane and it's possible these are Sloanes words typed into the post:
"The labor is poured out, elbows and backs wear down... some will never be the same. Toes and fingers are crushed, and shoulders on men both young and old pinch during a pre-dawn stretch. In April, it's still cool enough for hard work, and there won't be too many biting insects. Burning stumps and brush tend to smoke the clothing, and at the end of the day, the clothes are better kept by the door instead of in the bedroom... it goes back on the next morning. They smell, but it's the arms and joints that complain the loudest..."
No haywagon appears but a stone boat does show up - weren't we just talking about that sometime or other, looking for images?
There's more Sloane images, more yankeewhiskypapa rambling here:
(It occurs to me now, pouring myself another coffee, that the blog may make more sense if one is actually drinking whisky while reading it...)
Another image that popped up seems to come from Massachusetts, the Minute Man National Park.
In my own personal theory on stone rows/stone fences, I contend that the majority of stone rows on the New England Landscape - that still haven't been stolen or rebuilt - are actually Native American in origin, the whole wooden fences and "thrown up" stones a reverse chicken and egg situation.

(Below: It's really a "cross and rail fence," more likely built over already existing stone rows that are evidence of the earlier Native American Cultural Landscape, easily converting Indian Land into private property by an early Massachusetts Fence Law, Puritan and Biblical in origin.)
The author of the blog [ ]says this: "There is the mistaken impression that stone walls are primarily a colonial phenomenon. They are not. Although walls were being built from the time of the first settlement to the end of the pioneering stage, most were built in the half century between the end of the American Revolution and the construction of the first railroads.
Settlers felled forests and cleared land of rocks and stone. The first walls were mere dumps along a field’s periphery. Later people built more sophisticated walls.
Stone was not their first choice of fencing material: Widespread use of it began only when other alternatives – stumps and split rails – grew scarce because of overclearing.
Thousands of fence lines became magnets for the stone refuse that would otherwise have ended up in piles. The large boulders were rolled into position; smaller stones were tossed above and between them. As the stone accumulated, primitive “tossed” walls began to rise up out of the weeds, replacing the lower tiers of wooden fences."
Looks to me like that was some pretty fancy and skillful "tossing" under those rails, accidently creating what look like some rather testudinate effigies.
Turns out the blog might be a sort of advertisement for a stone builder, including this drawing, captioned with the Olde Yankee Advise on what makes a Good Stone Wall/Fence:

I added this drawing below to my American Fences file after jumping into a Minute Man National Park image search, a more fanciful rather than accurate painting:
The actual stone rows look more like these stolen images from
Added on 12/31/2020:
Pre-existing Indigenous Snake Effigy Fence??

And this one was in there, making a person like me wonder what happens when you follow those stone rows. Would there be more of this on the grounds of the Park?
Minute Man Boulder
Then there was this refreshing thought I found clicking on an image out of a bunch of some nice polished stone hand tools: "Minute Man National Historical Park is perhaps best known for its role in the American Revolution. Visitors to this park are greeted by colonial homes, the capture site of Paul Revere, and the site of the famous “shot heard round the world.” But what about the people who lived in Concord before the arrival of the British settlers?"

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Serpent Surprise

I just happened to be dropping off my grandson's back pack, travelling up a road named for a Native American man who lived on this hill in the early days of the Historic Period, as they say. I passed by what turns out to be the tail end of something I assumed was a stone row, a row I've been driving by for years but had never looked at closely.  As I drove back down Scuppo Road, I guess you could say, "Nature was calling me," to put it politely, so I finally stopped by the stone row...

I could see the faint trace of the sometimes zigzag, sometimes serpentine, sometimes linear, stone row that remains along the edges of this dirt road - and along some of the paved roads in the area too - just as you can see in that well executed computer drawing above the photo of the smaller stones of the tail of what turned out to be a Serpent Row that is perhaps 50 feet long or so...
The stones got a bit bigger, boulders rather than cobbles, blocky and placed sort of "upright," if you know what I mean. There might be some outcrop under the duff of leaves and branches, but as the outcrop began to show, the placement of stones got pretty interesting...
And I was surprised to see, looking north, that the row ended rather quickly:

So I was drawn toward the end of the row so I could be surprised by the "end stone:"

(Looking South)

And looking East:
It's not the most "dramatic" of serpent heads, but it's longer than wider, triangular like an actual snake's head - maybe Scuppo, who I know nothing else about other than the fact that he was "an Indian" who lived here on this hill somewhere, might have constructed this Serpent and never got around to finishing the head stone, but that's just a fanicful guess...
               (More Serpents and Snakes:  & )

 It's about a hundred feet north to where a linear stone row has a little gap in it, ten feet wide at the most, but with end stones on both sides of the gap. This is the one I photographed with the cell phone camera:
Another a few feet east:

Walking back to the road, there were a couple more boulders that were interesting: