Thursday, November 19, 2020

Ice Age Relic/Balance Rock (Watertown CT)


Florence T. Crowell Photo
Accessed from:

Charlie Crowell writes: “This is Watertown’s WWI Memorial on the triangular green next to the old Town Hall. This photo is from about 1969. This boulder was originally located off Old Baird Road which runs from Hamiltion Avenue across to Woodbury Road. Much of the road is abandoned and impassable today.

Before being used as a monument, this stone was known as “balancing rock.” At its original site, it sat on top of a rock outcropping and was so finely balanced that a small child could push it and to would rock back and forth, but it couldn’t be knocked over. The seemingly precariously balanced boulder was left in that position by the last ice age. The process of dragging the rock to its present site was grueling and laborious. It was done using horses.

In the background you can see one of the old Heminway mansions on Main Street, now owned by the Methodist Church."

Tim MacSweeney: A Balanced Boulder (in its original "found" setting) in Native American Ceremonial Stone Landscape terms - a Drum or Signal Stone if it made a sound when set into motion, like many found throughout the Northeast. What is your source for this story? I'd like to pass it along to Dr. Hoffman (as part of CT Cluster #3 (the Nonnewaug Cluster):

Charlie Crowell (to Tim MacSweeney): Tim, this story was told in the Town Times, sometime in the 50s or maybe even the late 40s. It was also told back when the project was undertaken in the 20s in the Waterbury papers. Sorry but I don’t have the stories readily available.

Charlie Crowell (to Al Conley):  Richard Sperry, owner the land where the boulder originally sat, wanted to keep it as a balancing rock even after it was moved and set up as a monument. He thought engineers could handle the job, but it never happened.

Tim MacSweeney (to Charlie Crowell): An imaginative investigator might wonder if it is set up on a flat stone - or even a piece of the bedrock removed from the original location near Old Baird Road!

In its original location, it would have been and continue to be considered a Sacred Stone by the Paugussett:

 "A total of 487 sites contained balanced rocks. A possible Algonquian term for these is wanashqueompshk, which means "on top of the rock(s)"...largest number recorded at any one site is 38...61.8% (301) were found in combination with...rock piles (215)...split filled boulders (113) and stone rows (111)..." 

From: "Stone Prayers" Curtiss Hoffman  page 90.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Stone Prayers & Sacred Smoke


    Rock Art Specialist Edward J. Lenik writes: “The turtle motif occurs on numerous portable artifacts and petroglyph sites in the Northeast…Turtle images appear in several artistic media…stone, clay, bone, shell, wood, antler, and in Historic Contact times as molded lead objects…pendants and gorgets, pebbles, cobbles, stone tools, clay pipes, and wooden bowls.”

“The turtle is a sacred animal, an important spirit for Algonkian and Iroquois peoples (Lenik 2009: 146- 147).”


     Edward J. Lenik suggests that the turtle, in “portable artifacts” and “nonportable petroglyphs,” can be a symbol of the Earth, the first animal created, the first clan/first people created, a symbol of longevity, patience, perseverance or fertility (a womb), and if found as a petroglyph on a boulder or outcrop as perhaps the boundary of a Turtle Clan territory such as a Village site or Hunting/Gathering Ground, or a Guardian Spirit of a path or trail. As a stacked stone feature (in “rock piles” or “stones wall”), I’m going take what he says into consideration as a possibility as to a possible function.


   A prayer to the Turtle is a prayer to “All of Creation.” A Stone Prayer constructed to resemble a Turtle is initially a prayer “spoken into the stone (Harris)” during its construction, but it also becomes a place to continue to pray by the person who constructed it and perhaps to that person’s descendants.

   I’m biased perhaps because the first stone constructions that seemed to me to be effigies (a bear and a deer head, each on a boulder), also seemed to be places to burn some tobacco, perhaps for hunting purposes (Speck, Tantequidgeon), but also perhaps as a place for a daily prayer or even after a hunt as inferred by the story of Obed’s Altar from the Saybrook area of CT (;

   Then again, another name for a Sachem (“Peace Chief”) is “our bear” or even “our old bear” and “our younger bear,” names for an elder (perhaps white haired?) sachem and a younger sachem of a Peace (White) Town as opposed to a War Chief at a Warriors (Red) Town (Driver? Trigger//). Perhaps this bear was always associated with the Sachem or Sachems, at the “camp” (or Town/Village) referred in post contact times as Nonnewaug Wigwams near the Fish Weir and planting fields, perhaps even back to the time there was a glacial lake here…


PIPE: BEAR HEAD EFFIGY, JACKSON COUNTY , ILLINOIS ,19th Century Length: 2 3/4" Height: 1 1/2" Width: 1 1/2" Weight: 6.1 oz This is an intriguing bear-head effigy pipe from southern Illinois . Carved from a brown-black, extremely hard stone (with hints of green tint seen under direct sunlight) this item was acquired from out-of-state descendants of the original finder. It appears that in the late 1800s, during extended field clearance south of Austin Hollow, Kincaid Township , a cache of stone artifacts was uncovered. This odd bear-head pipe was one of those pieces. The pipe was carved in the image of a bear's head. A projecting snout leads to a smoke bowl. Upright ears animates the bear's presence. A flat bottom has remnants of an oval depression. There are many abrasion scratches, dings and cuts along all sides. The nose / mouth stem area is chipped. This is one of the densest stones I've ever come across in an effigy pipe: an enormous amount of time/effort clearly went into the making of this unusual artifact. Listed exactly as acquired.

This is a hand carved Black Bear effigy pipe bowl from the Chippewa Black Bear Pipe Effigy. The piece is from circa 1880-1900 and was recovered during extended field clearance South of Austin Hollow, Kincaid Township, a cache of stone artifacts was uncovered. This odd bear-head pipe was one of those pieces. Measures 3"x1.75"x1 5/8"


Thursday, November 12, 2020

Why a Turtle (Again)??

 The Significance of a Stone Turtle

Or a Turtle Made of Stones

Depends on:

Which Turtle in Which Place?


Frank Speck tells us what he found out about turtles 100 years ago or so,

More recently Ed Lenik tells us this and that about turtles

  – and admits he only has some “Educated Guesses.”

We colleagues all know by now he’s not the only one to say,

“Only the person who created it knows for sure.”


Could be a symbol of the Earth, the first animal, the first clan,

  Could be a symbol of Longevity, Patience, Perseverance or

     Fertility (a womb), Turtle Island (a Homeland), a Hunting Ground

And as Guardian Spirits of Paths and Trails or of Specific Places

When found as a carving on an outcrop – or the shape of an outcrop

Or the shape of a boulder

 Or as heaped up stones resembling the shape of a Turtle,

 Unmistakable head and shell as well as many other details

That may suggest what species the Stone Turtle might be…


My first Turtle was a Box Turtle, the Grandfather Turtle

              – or is it Grandmother Turtle??  

At the edge of a Late Woodland or Contact Era Village  

   Where the Mast Forest began (where the “stone walls” disappear),

Perhaps the place to pray, the place to start the ground fire under the big trees,

 By the Creation Turtle seems a good place to begin

A Ceremony for Balance and World Renewal for that specific place,

Crowned by a Cathedral ceiling of oak and chestnut, hickory and walnut…

My second Turtle was uncovered by chickens scratching,

At what seemed to be Farm Junk Piles

Surprised while gathering kindling

By a low domed snapping turtle perhaps

And 20 years or so later I was surprised to see

Another in the retaining wall where I’ve lived for 40 years

Where my wife and I stood in the yard to take our wedding vows,

Just below that second turtle, surrounded by other smaller turtles,

Perhaps graves, perhaps memorials, perhaps signifying Turtle Clan

(Like that Turtle down in Judges Woods in another Memorial)

I just don’t really know…

 Above: Judges Woods. Below: A Diamondback Terrapin Effigy above the Hammonasset Salt Marsh, "Hunting Grounds," like Ed Lenik says, not for a Turtle Clan, but for the Diamondback Terrapin, if you are looking for the simplest answer as to "Why this particular Turtle in this particular place…"


 As a modern day observer of Stone Turtles

Or Turtles Made of Stone

The main significance is that the Stone Turtle speaks, saying

“Indigenous hands were on these stones,

Placing them just so in order to resemble Turtles…”

Friday, November 06, 2020

Uktena covered by countless seasons of fallen leaves…


“The Uktena would sometimes lie in one place for untold ages without moving, until it was completely covered by humus, leaves and ferns until even trees had taken root upon its great body. Lying there, covered by countless seasons of fallen leaves and forest growth, a deer or a man might easily pass in front of its moss-covered head and mistake it for a rock projecting out of the leaves on some timbered slope. Its huge antlers could easily be mistaken for two dead trees. Should the Uktena be aroused, the unwary passer-by was in grave danger…”

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

WPA Photo Woodbury #001



    It's a trick of perspective, looking up from the Old Indian Road, where an Uktena-like Great Horned Snake guards the entrance to the house, the Pomperauge Plantation's Watch House, built by treaty with the Sachem Nonnewaug, a good will measure to share with the English Settler Colonists sometime around 1700 or so:  

    The house is high above the Nonnewaug Road, with an Indigenous made stone terrace that features Native American Iconography, such as the two Stone Snakes guarding the entryway into the yard - or the exit from the Funeral Door of the south facing "piazza" or veranda...
As you get closer an entrance into the yard appears:
Look closer, and you'll see quarry marks from metal tools.
Be an imaginative observer and note the snake eyes and other features:
It's similar to this entryway:
And borrow again some of my imagination (I'm told I have plenty):
Not unlike this Rock Art feature, shown with Rock Art specialist Dr. Jannie Loubser, who also visited the house and the above Serpent Gateway feature:
(Above: Two Uktena-like Horned Serpents, head to head.)

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Qusukqaniyutôk 2020


Qusukqaniyutôk: (‘stone row, enclosure’ Harris and Robinson, 2015:140, ‘fence that crosses back’ viz. qussuk, ‘stone,’ Nipmuc or quski, quskaca, ‘returning, crosses over,’ qaqi, ‘runs,’ pumiyotôk, ‘fence, wall,’ Mohegan, Mohegan Nation 2004:145, 95, 129) wall (outdoor), fence, NI – pumiyotôk plural pumiyotôkansh.)  - Nohham Rolf Cachat-Schilling

 Bulletin of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society, Vol. 77, No. 2 - Fall 2016


    “A row of stones artistically stacked using elements of Indigenous Iconography, sometimes resembling a Great Snake, often composed of smaller snake effigies as well as other effigies both zoomorphic and anthropomorphic, sometimes appearing to shape shift into another effigy. These rows of stones are often possibly related to control of water or fire and perhaps more on Sacred Cultural Landscapes that are becoming to be recognized as Indigenous Ceremonial Stone Landscapes.”

     From a perspective of distance, the largest of the Stone Snake Qusukqaniyutôk snake across the landscape, crossing over others, sometimes connecting great boulders or bedrock outcrops, sometimes along streams – and sometimes even over a stream, the sound of the Great Snake contentedly “purring,” sometimes also known by many as a "Musical Row of Stones:"

Added 7/22/2022:

     Inside certain enclosures, perhaps there was a garden, perhaps tended by fire, perhaps protected from fire, something kept in balance, kept in production by someone offering tobacco to a serpent guardian before entering, someone singing while stacking stones, picking up and replacing her grandmothers’ and grandfathers’ stones that have fallen.

   Zigzag, linear rows of stones, snaking across the landscape, both sides of an Indian Path or Native American Trail or an Indigenous Road that’s possibly one or ten or twelve thousand years old…