Friday, October 21, 2016

Sachem Hill Photos

A reader writes:
thought you may be interested in photos of Sachem hill at

Because it is a new site I haven't figured out how to have comment boxes without them being under every photo and that is jarring. I welcome you expertise and feedback if you are so inclined.

NEARA fall meeting in Billerica MA

Peter Anick of NEARA writes:
Hoping to see a lot of our Massachusetts members at the Billerica NEARA conference next weekend (Oct. 28-30). 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

If you have a hypothesis then every observation is an experiment

So the hypothesis is that mounds are found at brook headwaters. The experiment is: go to a headwater and look for a mound. If you find one then it confirms the hypothesis. 

I did this over and over and it worked, even in impossible towns like Groton and Lunenburg. So I hope the hypothesis is well enough confirmed that some functional relation between brooks and mounds is needed in order to explain the correlation.

Putting aside, for a moment, that the particular kind of mounds found there at headwaters tend towards the rectangular with collapsed inner structure: Why near a brook?

There is a tendency to consider site location a matter of "spiritual energy", coming from the natural composition of elements of sky and water (as Mavor and Dix wrote) but perhaps containing something more. 

But consider: brooks are means of transporting objects. The object could be people or it could be something else. I propose that if it was just people, you would not need to be near a brook.

I had a nice experience - East branch of North Brook, Berlin

The valley between Sawyer Hill Rd and Sawyer Hill looked intriguing and I headed over there last weekend because the whole area around Gates Pond has "good stuff". I wanted to explore the saddle between Sawyer Hill and a rise to northwest. Getting down into that valley is a pain if you come in from the west (I parked on Sawyer Hill Rd and walked east) and very thick, but I punched through into clean woods and got about over to where I wanted to start looking.
Here is the nice experience: standing about where the blue dot appears on the map in that saddle, I was planning my route - looking off to the southwest and thinking about going down in there. Thinking...."OK if I am going down in there, is there anything up here to look at first before I go down there? What about the highest headwaters to the left here and behind me?" So I turned around and there was a small rock pile right there:
Solitary rock piles don't tell you much. So I looked carefully in one direction and around and back in another and saw a kind of bump with growth blocking it from view. Then, what d'ya know? Something bigger:
Some other views:
 Upper surface
There is internal structure there but not obvious hollows. Except for that vagueness this larger 'mound' has all the attributes typical rock piles found where brooks begin. In this case it is the east branch of North Brook in Berlin.

I did not find much else on the walk. I have been taking it easy lately and did not go down into the valley because it was too overgrown. I did notice that this site, with the mound and smaller 'satellite' pile, was adjacent to a well constructed wall opening. With reference to what I was writing here, these openings are inviting and have been useful guides:
 You can sense the larger mound in the center background of this picture:
The smaller pile is off through this opening to the left about 30 feet.

For what it is worth, when I climbed back up to Sawyer Hill Rd from the east, I crossed the road and saw some broken down piles on the crest of the ridge, almost in someone's backyard:

These are as important as anything else, just harder to see.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Bye bye to the Stow Grid at Gates Lane?

They started digging there, in Stow. Here is what will be lost.

 My sketch, with paces and occasional compass bearings:
This site, on a flat slope, is THE classic marker pile site.

Here is the obligatory rectangle with hollow (I think):
It might be a burial and the site revolves around it. Why is it so hard to get NAGPRA applied? 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Nothing to report... rained too hard over the weekend to go out.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Rock Pile "Mystery"

Someone named "My Woodlot" notices rock piles [click here]

Hunting for rock piles, from southern Estabrook, over to Boaz Brown's

See map in previous post. A brook called "Dakins Brook" leads up past Farmer's Cliff and begins in a valley just shy of "Mink Pond". Please note this valley and the higher ground to the west which is where Boaz Brown's cellar hole is found (on a path 100 yards east of Hugh Cargill Rd.). That valley and land form have more rock piles sites than anywhere else in Concord. There are what I consider to be burial mounds up on the ridge (rectangular, more than 8 feet across, with hollows), and some very nice piles down in the valley, that are a bit unique. 
I have been to these places before but, even without that, exploring a ridge west of a headwaters is a good hunting strategy. Last Sunday, I wanted to take a walk near home, and went out with my wife, and followed that strategy, around the edges of the open "private" land and roads. So I ended up walking along the edge of that ridge: I mean here:
We got up on the ridge slightly south of where the good stuff starts (not realizing where we were) and I saw a couple of structures that were new:
I cannot make out much from these. You will have to look quite closely to see how the above is slightly rectangular, with a space to the left of the larger rock (a "lazy 9". Below, you can see two hollows in the structure, but I do not trust it. It is so degenerate.
I guess they are older structures. Overall, there are about six mounds, possibly burials, up on that northern piece of the above map. 
Then we came to a "real" rock pile:
I started wondering if we were over at Boaz Brown's. We were. And there are all kinds of peculiar rock piles on bedrock, along with short stretches of stone wall. Enough to make you wonder, what was Boaz Brown up to?

Here are two holes, that must be the "cellars":
Since the above rock piles are rather unusual and in the context of a historic period home, it is easy to suppose they are not Indian and not ceremonial.

However the visibility into the undergrowth was very good. It was cloudy, these woods are sparse, and I spotted something new. This seems undeniably ceremonial. It is a triangle:

 And it has a white blaze:
 It is a light tan feldspar:
Triangular mounds are rare. I know one in Wayland and one in Sterling (the one in Wayland is bigger, likely different).

Here is the trail in from Hugh Cargill Rd:
The triangular mound is immediately to the left in the saplings. The cellar holes are a few steps later on the right, and the other piles continue to the left. So Boaz Brown was looking out at this triangular mound from his front door. He knew it was there. 

Estabrook Woods, Concord - an(other) broad brush description of rock pile sites

Let me try again with that Estabrook Map:
Here is a map of Estabrook Woods with blue outlines showing areas with one or more clusters of rock piles. In a minute we'll look at some pictures from the area above "Farmer's Cliff" on the map and, in particular, the rock piles near the Boaz Brown cellar hole.

One notices a swath of sites at the southern end of the woods and a few more at the northern end. I have not looked too carefully in the area west of "Corly Pate Hill" and I know there were a few piles and split wedged rocks over near Middlesex school (where the topo line wiggle) but those piles may be gone by this stage of the school's expansion. I believe this site distribution is well correlated to brook access and water sources. Take a close look: The southern sites, except at Punkatasset, are at the top of brooks flowing south. The northern sites - at the north end of Estabrook Rd (Kibbe's Cellar hole) and the north end of Two Rod road (Stearns Str in Carlisle) - have sites near wetlands and brooks that flow north into Spencer Brook before heading south (past lots of other sites in Acton and Carlisle).

The exceptions test the rule: Punkatasset has piles on its northern slope, and Annursnac Hill, the other major hill north of the rive, has them on its southern slope. I imagine a slightly different reason explains the location of these sites on hillsides rather than at brook sources. Also testing the rule: the blank space west of Corly Pate Hill has no water sources, no brooks leading up to it, and is correspondingly blank. So look: they paddled up the river, as far as they could, sought out the highest headwaters (and hills overlooking them) and constructed rock piles.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Estabrook FYI

It's my home town, so I've had a chance to be almost thorough (but not almost Thoreau). Almost invariably, sites are at the tops of brooks.

A perched rock, like a turtle carapace- Estabrook Woods, Concord

Norman will remember this rock. Let's also remember Steve Ells who was with us that day. We all knew the rock before we knew each other.
Please note the smaller rocks holding up the "carapace".

Let me mention some location information: In Estabrook  Woods, the main north-south road up to the Estabrook cellar holes passes what is called "Mink Pond" on the right. Somewhere a bit north of that on the road, a side trail splits off to the west and takes you over to the Boaz Brown cellar holes and then Hugh Cargill Rd. I think there is more than one side trail and you want the southern of the two. That side trail is in the background of the above photo. You can almost see where the wall lets the trail through But here, just across that trail, is a long rock pile, I have seen in the past: 
(From the end)
(From below)
Here is what is important to remember (aside from the glories of the Boaz Brown site, which I will get to in due course): behind that long pile, to the left, is a slope that rises to a lookout place over aforementioned "Mink Pond" and the location of Concord's main chambered burial mounds. So find the "Turtle" and you'll find some of the most interesting larger rock piles of the town. In fact, off in that direction towards Dakin's Brook are more separate clusters of rock piles than anywhere else in the woods.