Saturday, April 30, 2016

Seems Like Just Yesterday

   It seems like just yesterday that I was looking at photos from Chaco Canyon, pondering a possibility that some of those courses of stones just might be snake-like the way they were laid down.
   Turns out it was just yesterday, and I heard a little about it throughout the day, a mixed bag of reactions on the Face Book page where I posted something about it, the page where I found some interesting photos {}:
  "Interesting; I am going to look at masonry courses more carefully now..." to "Not seeing a snake...!" and of course: ""

So, later in the day, I'm at the northeast corner of my house. I'm focused on the missing drip stones and mortar, looking down where soil meets stone. And I look up at this uppermost course of stones in the corner that the sill rests on. Is it a repeat of a snake pattern of stacking stones - a head-like stone (maybe natural, maybe chipped a little) and some sandstone pieces that taper from thick to thin or is my mind just assigning meaning to one more instance of pareidolia? "What we find depends on what we are looking for," they say. "And one is an accident, two is a coincidence and three is a conspiracy:"

John Normile photos from Chaco Canyon I kept looking at (off and on):
Above: the snake that caught my eye from the photo of a wall (below):

Paried O'Delia (as the Irish say) is the suggestion that there is an unintentional, non-existent, percieved pattern in something random, a happy accident apparently. When I looked again and again at this one, stone snakes on my mind (and knowing there's a great deal of snake imagery in other Southwest artforms, petroglyphs to pottery, past to present) I really did have to wonder if there might have been snakes on the minds of the builder(s) at this section of wall with different sized stones alternating in a rather artistic manner. 
 I'll put in some circles for eyes on the larger sized snakes and leave it to you to ponder the even smaller stones that may also be considered possible stone snakes by the more imaginative:

Friday, April 29, 2016

Chaco Masonry Snakes

Here’s the photo in my Face Book feed (as they say) that caught my eye, a photo by John Normile In-Sites: Pre-Columbian Architecture of the American Southwest:
    It’s on this group’s page:
    My eye was drawn to a certain segment of a course of stone, for all the usual reasons that cause a person to tend to say, “I think that stone (or row of stones) looks like something,” in this case a snake.
    Well, all the reasons plus one or two. People don’t usually point out a similarity to snakes in the famous and iconic Stone Walls of New England and especially in the retaining walls or the foundation of old houses that were once on the edge of the Indian Frontier, when that Frontier was still a wilderness and only known by the local Indigenous People known as Indians and/or Native Americans.
    Well, I do point out that similarity here in Connecticut and I do it more and more often in the last few years, thinking I’m seeing a repeated pattern of Indigenous Iconography in stone walls that are assumed to be everything but Indigenous in origin.
    This morning I’m wondering, not for the first time, if anyone has ever suggested that the stone stacking technique in “Pre-Columbian Architecture of the American Southwest” might be related to snakes. Is this segment of stones, cropped from the photo above, a representation of a snake? 
     An overlay “painting” I just made to emphasize what I mean:
      I’m waiting for permission to use the above photo, find out if it is indeed a photo from Chaco Canyon and all the other details. I suspect it may not be too far from a good example of a snake petroglyph.
      And yes I’m looking for other examples of snakes in the stonework.
      And, yes, it’s not that hard to find some others.
     And I don’t know, as I said, if anyone else has ever suggested such a thing.
     Travel those ancient trade routes southward, to the places where corn, beans and tobacco came from and you will find places where snakes show up in Indigenous Architecture, some easy to see, some not.
      Ask yourself, “If they exist in Indigenous stonework there, then why not here in the American Southwest?”
     Ask yourself, “Why not then in what may be Indigenous stonework in Connecticut and elsewhere in New England?”

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sherlock Stones and the Preacher’s Stone Fence

(Inspired by those TV shows that place the well-known character of a similar name in modern times)
   “What do you make of these stones at this gateway, Dr. Possum?” said
Sherlock Stones. “Which draws your eye first?”
   “Well it’s anchored by boulders on either side. Colonial farmers did that to keep the wall from falling apart at a gateway, they say,” answered his friend and Rocket Surgeon, Dr. John Possum.
     “So they say, Possum, so 'They' say,” Stones said. “There’s also another repeat of the pattern we’ve seen in other places – observe, Possum, don’t just see...”
     “Why there’s those ‘diamonds’ again!” Possum exclaimed. “One on each side, approximately the same distance away from the boulders.” Stones and Possum had spent several days travelling about this town and a few neighboring towns, making observations of similar gateways and certain stonewalls that ended in boulders. “Technically, I suppose you could call the shape a rhombus, as they are designated in the Geometry branch of Mathematics,” Possum added.
     “Only if all sides are exactly equal, my dear Possum,” Stones replied. “Without careful measurement, we don’t know that - they may well be ‘rhomboidal,’ yet each not a true rhombus.”
      “So now, step closer to the one that actually caught my eye first, Possum,” said Stones moving to the left of the gateway. “Note well, my friend, that we have seen that many of these – call them ‘end stones” for convenience sake – are triangular in shape. Perhaps "Beginning Stones" may be the better term, as I will soon elaborate on. I find the white band of stone interesting.”
      “Interesting indeed,” said the Doctor. “It looks as if some natural process that shaped the boulder has resulted in something that trigger’s one’s mind to imagine that there is an eye on this boulder! It’s a phenomena known as Pareidolia, when the mind perceives a familiar pattern of something where none actually exists. Quite common, in fact. Clouds in the sky that ‘look like something’ - and all those sightings of religious figures in water stains or pieces of burnt toast. In the field of psychology, it is sometimes termed Pareidoliatic apophenia, or just plain old apophenia - the human tendency to perceive meaningful patterns within random data.”
      “I’ve asked a geologist friend, interested in Mimetoliths, to take a look at this boulder,” Stones replied.
      “Eh?” Possum pondered a second. “Stones that “mimic” objects, perhaps? Sounds like the Greek mimetes - an imitator - combined with lithos – a stone of some sort.”
    “Very good, Possum! There’s hope for you yet! In most cases these stones are purely accidental cases of the seeming playfulness of Mother Nature. In some instances, on certain stones, however, microscopic examination reveals that the human hand has enhanced the natural. This particular stone is lichen free for the most part, unlike most that we have observed. It is also a very hard type of stone that has resisted the weather much more than others. I suggest that this stone may be more like a “sculpture” than a natural and unintentional similarity to a snake.”
     “Good Heavens, Stones! That’s quite a leap – a simple boulder to stone snake!” Possum paused to think a moment before asking, “You do recall that we are standing at a gateway to the property originally owned by the first Puritan minister in this town? What the Devil is a stone symbol of the Devil doing on such a property? Granted that the first fences of the times were easily constructed wooden rail fences, but surely the descendants of a minister or the farm hands they employed would not be making monuments of the Serpent who urged Eve to eat the apple in the Garden of Eden.”

     Stones was on bended knees now, looking closely at the two depressions in the stone slightly below and slightly behind the perceived “eye” of the perceived snake. “Considering how this stone does, as well as does not, resemble an actual snake, these depressions may resemble actual features of the head of a pit viper. Snakes have no visible ear, so they don't hear sounds as we do, but it's not quite right to say that snakes are deaf. They have vestiges of the apparatus for hearing inside their heads, and that setup is attached to their jaw bones, so they feel vibrations very well and may hear low-frequency airborne sounds. This uppermost depression may represent that spot.”
    “While the other may resemble the pit that gives the “pit vipers” a common name,” said Possum, nodding. “So we are looking at not only a stone snake, but a poisonous stone snake at that!”

    “Perhaps, Possum, perhaps.” Stones stood back up. “I noted similar such marks on other similar boulders, albeit covered in lichen. The number of instances implies a pattern, a repeated one at that, rather than mere coincidence. Consider the Indigenous stonework one finds in Mexico and southward, down into South America. A Great Feathered Serpent occurs in many different kinds of stonework, carved into softer stone, but a snake-like being none-the-less.”
    “Yes, that’s true,” Possum said, “And there are many places around the world where this snake business enters into myths and legends, spiritualties and religions, and, yes, architecture too. Shared by humans world-wide, you could say, this snake fascination.”
   Stones was looking closely now at the “eye.”
    Possum did as well, said “These could be several events recorded in stone, so to speak, as the boulder was shaped by the glacier, moved along the ice, tumbled out of it, stuck by other stones, eventually deposited nearby.”
    “True, Possum, true,” Stones said. “But recall that not too very far from here is the site of one of the state’s oldest archaeological discoveries. There were people here much farther back in time than our good minister ever imagined. We stand at a place considered a virgin wilderness by those Puritans, that some believe was actually more of a widowed Cultural Landscape, created and tended by the use of fire for countless generations of the Indigenous Peoples we call Native Americans – and Indians because Columbus believed he was in India. The Puritans claimed that Indians enclosed no land, but the famous dissenter Roger Williams made some statements that recalled that Indian Sachems knew the “bounds” of their lands, especially when using fire in their hunting practices. Williams never mentions stones as “bounds,” but I know of nothing that is naturally more fire-proof than stone to ensure that fire does not spread further into anyone else’s bounds – or burn up all the resources within one’s own bounds, like a hearth inside a wigwam or long house. In the last thirty years, much has been discovered about this practice of burning by Indigenous People the world over, the reasons for it going well beyond the hunting aspect. Those Puritans, by the way, were quick to define what a legal fence was just after the argument was presented by the founder of Providence Rhode Island, how high in particular, allowing the claiming of vacant land and setting the precedent for legally establishing ownership with the simple act of building of wooden rail fences. A closer look at some of these stone walls or stone fences may be necessary to establish whether or not what those Puritans were saying was actually true – placement, stacking techniques and Indigenous Iconography. The sheer number of these walls of stone alone perhaps suggests that they pre-date a Golden Age of Stone Wall Building that lasted roughly 100 years." Stones paused a second or two before saying, "I wonder what a soil scientist could tell me about the ground beneath this stone? Something that might contradict what these Puritans claimed that is the basis of the belief that Indigenous Peoples of New England were not intelligent enough to stack stones like these?”
    “Oh Stones!” Dr. Possum exclaimed. “Next you’ll be telling me that these Puritans weren’t 100% correct with all their information about witches!”
    Sherlock Stones didn’t answer, although he smiled. He was already walking toward the boulder on the opposite side of the gateway...
Other Stones observed by Stones and Dr. Possum: Other Stones observed by Stones and Dr. Possum

Monday, April 25, 2016

Mimetoliths; Stones That "Look Like" Something

Pareidolia: the mind perceives a familiar pattern of something where none actually exists.
Mimetoliths: stones that “mimic” objects [Greek mimetes (an imitator) and lithos (stone).
Pareidoliatic apophenia, or just plain old apophenia: the human tendency to perceive meaningful patterns within random data.
   In 1958, Klaus Conrad coined the word "Apophänie" to characterize the onset of delusional thinking in psychosis. In contrast to an epiphany, an apophany (i.e., an instance of apophenia) does not provide insight into the nature of reality or its interconnectedness but is a "process of repetitively and monotonously experiencing abnormal meanings in the entire surrounding experiential field". Such meanings are entirely self-referential, solipsistic, and paranoid — "being observed, spoken about, the object of eavesdropping, followed by strangers". Thus the English term "apophenia" has a somewhat different meaning than that which Conrad defined when he coined the term "Apophänie".
Please note: "Apophany" should not be confused with "apophony" - the alternation of sounds within a word that indicates grammatical information (often inflectional). Example: sing, sang, sung, song.

  Pareidolia is a type of apophenia involving the perception of images (or sounds) in random stimuli.

    Above: “Image of three circles and a line, which the human brain automatically and subconsciously recognizes as a face - despite the complete lack of resemblance to a real human face. This is an example of how the brain can be considered "too good" at recognizing faces.
   Though some, especially if hungry, may see it as two eggs and a strip of bacon,” or so Wikipedia believes.
Example: Figure 8 below, from “Rocks and Fossils Collected from Mississippi Gravels” at first seemed to me to be a possible human face but I figured that the David Dockery must have been hungry because he says it’s a “fried egg:”
    But then I realized I was looking at the wrong plate and should have been looking #8 in this one (called momentary reader’s error, I believe):
Dockery does admit he took a pencil to #9:
     Dockery also tells us that “many times a collector will find an interesting rock that looks like an Indian artifact.” He actually means a “stone” and is hardly being scientific by saying “looks like” when he means “could be said to resemble,” which is pretty much the same thing but the friends who used to talk to me about such things seem to hate the phrase “looks like,” it looks like (Oh no I did it again: I mean “it seems”). Dockery says archaeologists have a special term for these sort of interesting stones and is not afraid to say “Archaeologists call these stones IR, an abbreviation for interesting rocks.” He says nothing about why a scientist would call a stone a rock, which I find interesting.
     And I found that Dockery was more interested in fossils (except for a stone he said “looks like a petrified egg roll”) than faces so I made some toast because now I was hungry too and went on to look up this R. V. Deitrich who Dockery claimed coined the negolism Mimeolith to see if I could find more examples to go in my “stones that look like something” folder, which should really be my “stones that could be said to resemble something” folder.
      And so I hitched on over to:
      Deitrich begins by saying, “Nearly everyone has, I suspect, looked at one thing and imagined it looked like something else.  Indeed, many observations of this kind have been recorded.  -- Four examples are: the Chinese poet Lo-tien (773-846) mentions viewing stones (see;  Shakespeare (1564-1616) has Hamlet exclaiming about cloud shapes that resemble "a camel," "a weasel," and "a whale" (Hamlet -- Act iii, scene 2);  Mark Twain (1835-1910) has Adam, in The Diaries of Adam and Eve, lamenting (e.g. when Adam asks Eve why she named a certain thing such as a lion a lion  " . . . always that same pretext is offered -- it looks like the thing (i.e. a lion).";  Robert Williams Wood (1868-1955) in his little book How to tell the birds from the flowers . . . (1917) provides several delightful sketches and poetic remarks that pertain to such observations;  and, there are , of course, the implications, especially in some peoples' minds, that relate mimetoliths and pareidoliatic apophenia.”
   R.V.’s focus is on naturally occurring stones and his gigantic illustrated list includes just two possibly humanly enhanced stones (that he sounds a little doubtful about), but he does include this interesting photo (IP) below:
#43.  Makapansgat jasperite cobble (height ~ 8 cm). This cobble is described as a manuport because its diverse markings have been shown by "detailed microscopic analysis" to be natural -- i.e., neither made by nor modified artificially. It was found in South Africa at a site to which it was carried "either by Australophithecus africanus, or by an as yet unknown hominid" "between two and three million years" ago. Additional information and references about this cobble are on the web site: . (© photo by R.G. Bednarik).

Note: That link didn’t work for me but this one did:
    Well that’s food (a fried egg, possibly an egg roll) for thought, isn’t it? A pre-human manuport, a stone or Interesting Rock carried to a cave because it “looked like” a (pre)human face (or two eggs and a strip of yet to be invented bacon).
    As I approached the end of the web page, I found that I liked this R.V. Dietrich who says, “Is it any wonder that we, usually "down to earth" geologists, when we look at certain topography, rock exposures, rock and mineral specimens, and beach stones sometimes think,  "That looks like a ... "?  -- Certainly not!!!   Imagination is not only one of the capacities that separates humans from other living beings:  It is common; it is fun;  and sometimes,  as Burke’s (1940) lyrics go, "Imagination is funny; it makes a cloudy day sunny . . ." {}
     Consequently, it came as a surprise -- indeed, a shock -- to me when one of our would-be professional spokesmen dismissed practices involving imagination exercises of the kind just mentioned in rather negative terms:  ". . . faced with the history, the psychology, and the obtuse logic of describing minerals in non-mineral terms, one can only conclude that it will continue despite any complaints. The best defense may simply be to see the humor in it all" (Wilson, 1978). -- Fortunately, I think, Wilson's attitude is not held by many Geoscientists (especially educators).”

Pareidolia: the mind perceives a familiar pattern of something where none actually exists.
Mimetoliths: stones that “mimic” objects [Greek mimetes (an imitator) and lithos (stone).
    A neologism is the name for a relatively new or isolated term, word, or phrase that may be in the process of entering common use, but that has not yet been fully accepted into mainstream language. Neologisms are often directly attributable to a specific person, publication, period, or event.
    A behavioral scientist will tell you inanimate objects like stones do not have the ability to exhibit any sort of behavior such as to mimic something, but mimetolith is easier to say that Pareidolialith...
  Lots of this is just "cut and paste" from:
   There is currently a controversial debate concerning whether unusual experiences are symptoms of a mental disorder, if mental disorders are a consequence of such experiences, or if people with mental disorders are especially susceptible to or even looking for these experiences. --Dr. Martina Belz-Merk

“....nothing is so alien to the human mind as the idea of randomness.” --John Cohen

    "Apophenia is the spontaneous perception of connections and meaningfulness of unrelated phenomena...

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Above the Cranberry Edge

Walking up from the riparian zone, marked as the Cranberry Swamp on maps, I had promised I'd show a few photos here:

This Serpent (call it a "stone wall" if you like) rests on an outcrop of bedrock in one place... 

...branches off toward the west and sort of "goes underground" creating a gateway to pass through...

I looked at the white quartz boulder at the intersection and thought, "The snake's head."

I looked a little to the west:

Turned east to head back to the car. I'll post the photos of the segments I saw circling back soon...

Did I say segments? I meant Snakes...