Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Turtles All the Way Down

by Marlo Amelia Buzzell’10

Drawing by Jacob Furnald '97
"How many turtles does it take to climb all the way down to the beginning of Beloit’s love for this creature?"
All of them, is the easy answer.
"The author takes note of everything around Beloit named after turtles: Turtle Creek, Turtle Township. The local minor-league baseball team is the Beloit Snappers. There’s an ancient turtle-shaped effigy mound. Give the school enough money and you become a member of the Chapin Society and receive a turtle pin. The English department’s literary magazine used to be called The Turtle. The president and commencement speakers have work turtle references into their speeches, knowing what works in a Beloit room. The whole thing is goofy fun and I’ll bet was widely read. 
Plus, it included this priceless picture of the 1947 synchronized swimming team performing a water ballet with lighted candles. They were called The Terrapins. Some of the best stuff is the stuff you can’t make up..."

Museum Mondays: rare photos document earthen mounds (including our turtle) April 15, 2012 at 5:06 pm

"Back in 1919, long before Google Earth or even standardized aerial photography, Wisconsin archaeologists were seeking ways to photograph the state’s distinctive effigy mounds. Because most mounds in the region are no more than two or three feet in height, photographers had great difficulty making pictures that showed mound topography and edges.
Enter George R. Fox, a self-taught and avid avocational archaeologist. Fox (1880-1963) was somewhat of a Renaissance man and polymath: a mail carrier, department store owner, museum curator and director, and, from 1924 to 1939—longer than anyone else—secretary-treasurer (later, president) of the Central Section of the American Anthropological Association (later the Central States Anthropological Society.)
After some experimenting, Fox developed a workable method of photographing mounds. In the spring or fall, he would outline them with a continuous band of whitewash (later, powdered lime); then he would generally haul his camera to a nearby high point and take an oblique photograph of the mound. He often used a rope to climb trees; “this was not always attended without mishap,” he wrote..."

The relics of the mound builders which have many peculiar ;features in our state, are being so rapidly destroyed by a mater.ial civilization, that any facts in regard to them which come into 'the possesion of any one, should be carefully preserved.
Portions of a human skeleton having been found in a so called Turtle mound in Beloit, by a company of my former students, I have collected by inquiry and observation the facts in regard to this mound as far as I have been able.
About half a mile north of the college grounds upon the east side of Rock river, and on a bluff overlooking the river, is a cluster of twelve mounds, somewhat thickly crowded together. They occupy an area 500 to 600 feet in length and 200 in width, the longer being parallel with the river. Three of them are of imitative shapes and might be called Turtle mounds. Of the others four are conical and five elipsoidal.
* This article was prepared by Prof. Katon, of Beloit College a short time before his death. It was placed in the hands of the editor by Prof. Emerson a year or two since. It is given here under correspondence as containing useful information which should not he lost.
They are figured in Dr. Lapham's Smithsonian Contributions, Vol. VII, 1855, and are alluded to by him in a brief paragraph,
P- 33
The largest of these is a Turtle mound, being a little north of the center of the group. The body is sixty-four feet long and the tail 52, the body being about three feet high.
The opening was made at random in the head, a little in front of the central line of the front legs. The question of interest attached to this mound is whether this burial was a primitive or secondary one, for, as I understand, it is supposed the conical mounds alone were used for sepulcheral purposes by the mound builders, and that the mounds of imitative shapes are the oldest.
The excavation was through black loam, resembling that which forms a thin layer upon the gravel drift of which the hill consists. This seems, therefore, to be an exception to the general statement made by Dr. Lapham, that "the animal shaped mounds and accompanying oblongs and ridges are composed of whitish clay or of the subsoil of the country," while it corresponds with his statement that "the burial mounds are usually composed of black mould or loam." Whether the earth was scraped up from the immediate neighborhood, it is difficult tosay. If there is a depression around the mound it is too slight to enable one to assert its existence positively.
The bones were found after excavating about three feet. Those who made the excavations said the earth was packed very tightly, especially just above the bones. They also said that above the bones was a layer of gravel. Upon a subsequent visit I could not find any traces of this gravel, but it may have been covered up by the earth thrown out afterwards, and I have no reason to doubt the statement.
That the body was buried on or very near the original surface of the ground is evident from the fact, that after the bones had been removed, at a subsequent visit, I found a piece of the tibia still imbedded. Then below was one foot of the dark earth, then eight inches of gravel and then fine sand. Going outside a few feet beyond the line where the slope of the moand crossed the sand the same order was found, viz., one foot of soil, eight inches of gravel and then fine sand.
This would seem to imply both that the body was buried on the natural surface and that the material of the mound was not scraped up from the immediate vicinity.
The bones consisted of the left foot, of the frontal bone, and parts of the two perietal bones of the skull. They were very fragile and only held together by the earth contained in them. 

Most of the teeth were present, imbedded in the earth inside the skull. They were in good condition. Twelve or more pieces of bones were found, among which were recognized a part of the tibia and humerus, also parts of either ulna, radius or fibula. There were several phalanges and a few very visible pieces of the bones of the pelvis, a part of one of the sockets for the former being found.
The body was evidently not interred in an extended position, for the bones were together, the pieces of the skull resting on some of the other bones.
A few very small pieces of red pottery were found, also the jaw of a small carniverous animal. There were no implements of any kind.
I leave the subject without expressing an opinion as to the age of the interment, for there are doubtless those present, who are better able to render one than I am, and all the known facts are now before you. S. Eaton.

The American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal, Volumes 5-6  By Stephen Denison Peet


Monday, June 17, 2013

Carl Bjork and Condor Rock

Condor Rock
This is a Carl Bjork Photo of a piece of sandstone outcrop "sculpted" to resemble the head of a condor.
Carl sent me a couple more photos this past weekend. Here's "the view looking east from the rock."
(He also asked "Did you noticed the head of coyote to the right of condor?")   
And he also sent a photo of a nearby pictograph:
"We are the people who
carry the sun."
Check out his website:

I'll throw in, for free, Alyssa Alexandria's Condor Stone near Mt. Shasta in CA:
And probably a "turkey vulture or buzzard stone" near me in Woodbury CT:

Friday, June 14, 2013

Wisdom Sits in Places

Sacred Stone Row, Woodbury CT
       "Basso’s (1996) ethnographic account of the connection that the Western Apache share with their landscape exemplifies how many Native communities view the landscape. Basso shows how stories and ancestral accounts are indivisibly connected to the land through analyzing how these places remind the community about past lessons learned. 
One of his informants stated:

      “How long will you walk this trail of wisdom? Well, you will go to many places. You must look at them closely. You must remember all of them. Your relatives will talk to you about them. You must remember everything they tell you. You must think about it, and keep on thinking about it, and keep on thinking about it. You must do this because no one can help you but yourself. If you do this, your mind will become smooth. It will become steady and resilient. You will stay away from trouble. You will walk a long way and live a long time.

Sacred Falls, Woodbury CT

     Wisdom sits in places. It’s like water that never dries up. You need to drink water to stay alive, don’t you? Well, you also need to drink from places. You must remember everything about them. You must learn their names. You must remember what happened at them long ago. You must think about it and keep on thinking about it. Then your mind will become smoother and smoother. Then you will see danger before it happens. You will walk a long way and live along time. You will be wise. People will respect you (Basso 1996:127).”

Cultural Landscapes in Conflict: Addressing the Interests and Landscape Perceptions of Native Americans, the National Park Service, and the American Public in National Parks” 
by Emily Anne Eide

“Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache” By Keith H. Basso

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Veteran's Memorial Park

This is possibly a little piece of a boulder row on a stretch of a bedrock outcrop in a park on Nova Scotia Hill Road in Watertown CT. It stops abruptly right here, drilled, blasted and bulldozed away to to install a restroom facility, sometime after the early 1970's when my high school biology class collected "specimens" in the then undeveloped park. 
A Brief Early History of Watertown:
"More than 210 years ago the area that is now Watertown belonged to the local Paugasuck Indians. But in 1684, Thomas Judd and 35 other proprietors bought the land from the Indians and Town history began. Around 1700, Obadiah Richards settled in the area of Upper Middlebury Road, and John Scott on Nova Scotia Hill Road. By 1710 they both had left for safer places..." 
Safer places? Well, there's many a tale about people with the last name Scott, a confusion of Johns and Jonathans and even a Joseph Scott, almost all of them captured, tortured and killed by Indians at least once or twice. And there's a Rock Pile or Stone Mound discovered by a couple friends and former classmates of mine associated with the story: http://www.flickr.com/photos/53003768@N06/8402283121/in/photostream/

"In 1710, a party of Indians, or French and Indians, made a visit to Simsbury and Waterbury. In the south part of what is now Plymouth, they killed a man named Holt. (He may have been a transient person, or a hunter from another town.) The place is called Mount Holt, from the circumstance of the massacre. It is a spur of Mount Toby. About the same time, some Indians came down from Canada, on their customary errand, and ascended a hill, or mountain, on the west side of the river, opposite Mount Taylor, to reconnoitre. They saw Jonathan Scott seated under a large oak tree, in Hancock's Meadow, eating his dinner, with his two sons, aged fourteen and eleven, at a little distance. The Indians approached stealthily, keeping in a line with the tree and Mr. Scott. In this way they reached him unperceived and made him prisoner. The boys took to their heels; but the father, in order to save his own life, which he was given to understand would be taken if he refused, recalled his sons. Thus the three were captured. The Indians then retraced their steps rapidly with their prizes, having taken the precaution to cut off Scott's right thumb, in order to cripple him if he should make resistance...After the peace, Jonathan Scott, with his eldest son, Jonathan, returned to Waterbury. The younger son, John, became accustomed to savage life, preferred it, and never returned. This preference, under similar circumstances, is not a solitary instance. White people who have been a long time with the Indians, particularly if their acquaintance began in childhood, very generally become attached to them and their mode of living. It is far easier to make a savage out of, than into, a civilized man.*"
* See Hutehinson's History of Massachusetts, II, p. 128, note.
This version of the story is from: http://books.google.com/books?output=text&id=cUMOAAAAIAAJ&jtp=105

The Park has lots of interesting stone rows like the boulder row. In a few minutes of wandering I came across a zig zag row and some linear rows (more of which I've found  in various places there before - always with no camera, always in summer when the undergrowth was thick), but I did find a "cobbles on boulder pile" in a swampy spot in between the athletic fields and paved walking paths that are all only "slightly less than swampy." How the stone rows might be explained as field clearing in such a wet place eludes me. Guys with clipboards always seem to show up when I'm there, yesterday looking at standing water on and around the gravel fill on the edge of a basketball court just below the rest rooms by the blast damaged outcrop (that I was hoping was connected more to the water table than to the restroom as the source of the problem).
So here's the "cobbles on boulder:"
I thought a couple might be "testudinate:"
The best example of what I think might be a carapace stone with a notch for a now missing head stone:

Saturday, June 08, 2013

A low stone wall in a rural Maya area

"The Rural Landscape was home to the majority of the ancient Maya population. In rural areas farmers carved their existence out of the ever-encroaching forest. Extended family groups settled small portions of land to farm and produce household materials. Ruins of house compounds, agricultural terracing, and local stone quarrying are scattered throughout the jungle of the southern lowlands. Most of these remains date to the Late Classic period when populations were at their greatest. Rural areas also represented the boundaries between competing Maya polities. In regions with heavy conflict rural areas may have defensive walls that would have supported perishable fortifications. The wall depicted above may represent one of these features."

"Every facet of Maya culture is deeply intertwined with their terrain, betraying a relationship that extends far beyond mere subsistence..."

"During the Archaic period, between 8,000 and 4,000 years ago, the ancestral Maya established an intimate relationship with an expanding tropical forest. As mobile horticulturalists, they modified the landscape to meet their subsistence needs. The agricultural system that the Maya developed from this archaic system underwrote the civilization. It is called the milpa cycle, a polycultivated, tree-dominated, biodiverse landscape which works in accordance with natural cycles and maximizes the utility of native flora and fauna. The Maya milpa cycle sequences from a closed canopy forest to an open field.  When cleared, it is dominated by annual crops that transform into a managed orchard garden, and then back to a closed canopy forest in a continuous circuit. Contrary to European agricultural systems developed around the same period, these fields are never abandoned, even when they are forested. Thus, it is more accurate to think of the milpa cycle as a rotation of annuals with succeeding stages of forest perennials during which all phases receive careful human management."

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Near Castle Crags in N.CA

(Stone Row w/ Mt. Shasta reflection in the water)

("Mortars/Medicine Baskets/Pain Baskets)
Photos by Alyssa Alexandria

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Just outside Brooksby Farm in Peabody, MA

This looks “familiar” to me because it looks like the property line at my house (except the roadside stone rows are zigzag) – a Modern Stack at the corner of two rows with the “Indian Look.” 
This is: "Rock Wall Zigzag; Just outside Brooksby Farm in Peabody, MA." 
From: Kevin Grocki  Taken on November 12, 2009 

Mandatory Turtle Vision Crop (with Eye):

Smoky Mountain "Walls"

Cosby Campground and Porters Creek Revisited, Oct. 19-20, 2011

November 23, 2011 by Margie Hunter
As the foliage drops, evidence of settlement like this wonderful zig-zag rock wall, becomes more obvious

rock wall built by pre-park residents
the Ownby Cemetery

The Old Settlers Trail
Narrative and photos contributed by Gary Acquaviva

In this issue, meet the managers of Cultural Resources. The area where Great Smoky Mountains National Park is now has a rich prehistoric, historic, and ongoing culture. It is the park’s job to preserve and share the stories of changing human life on this land.

Mossy rock walls edge many old homesites in the park.
NPS photo.
For thousands of years prior to European settlement, these smoky mountains were the home of people who fished the swift rivers, hunted on high grassy meadows, and gathered food in forested coves. These people—the Tsalagi or Aniyvwiyai, as they called themselves, or the Cherokee, as they are known now—mark their place of origin as a valley tucked between the river and the shrugging shoulders of hills outside Bryson City.
In the 1800s, settlers of European descent began displacing the Cherokee, culminating in the 1838 Trail of Tears, a grueling, forced journey that forced most Cherokee to relocate—on foot—to reservations in Oklahoma and Arkansas. The few remaining Cherokee gathered in what became the town of Cherokee, North Carolina, the community at what is now the south entrance to the park. The settlers of European descent farmed in the valleys and long coves throughout the rest of the Smoky Mountains.
The faces on the land changed yet again in the early 1930s, when ownership passed from private hands to those of the nation. In 1934, President Roosevelt dedicated the park to the people of the United States, which meant that families living within the new park boundaries had to leave. 

Although the people have moved, many traces of their lives remain in these mountains. Walk through the woods and you may see old millstones, mossy lines of old stone walls, or daffodils bursting yellow at someone’s long-gone doorstep. You may not see what lies under the ground: sherds of pottery, chips from stone tools, and even evidence of posts from centuries-old Cherokee houses. All of these cultural resources—seen and unseen—need our protection, because they represent a lifestyle long past.
 Cultural resource managers in the Smoky Mountains maintain five types of culturally significant resources:

·         Museum collections
·         Ethnographic resources
·         Historic structures
·         Historic landscapes
·         Archeology

Road Turn Branch - "moonshine" rock cave on the way to Quilliams Cave and CH rock. http://gosmokies.knoxnews.com/profiles/blogs/thanks-to-all

It is not just the mound itself

This stone structure was built by American Indians in what is now Calhoun County. Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star
“…Erika Martin Seibert, an archaeologist with the National Register of Historic Places, said the key to understanding the site at Turners Falls was recognizing its significance to the area around it.
"One of the things we learned, it's not just the mound itself," Seibert said. "It's how it's connected to other features in a landscape. It was much larger than the mound itself …"

Harry Holstein, professor of archaeology and anthropology at Jacksonville State University, talks about rock walls in Calhoun County he believes were built by American Indians. Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star 


Monday, June 03, 2013

Guessing the age of ancient stone walls

The newly identified Sandy Creek Terrace Complex near Athens, GA presents a major challenge for archaeologists and historic preservation architects. Fieldstone construction in eastern North America is not easily dated with currently available scientific technology.

What the fences say

During a career traveling the globe Charlotte resident Larry Hamilton documented fences of all types - from palm fronds of Papua New Guinea to stone walls of Vermont - and explores what the fences say about the makers...