Thursday, October 31, 2013

“He’patina”-the shrine symbolic of the Middle of the world

"As the two proceed through the village Shu'laawi'si sprinkles meal into the six excavations which have been made to receive the prayer plumes; then, preceded by his attending ceremonial father, he recrosses the river and joins the other personators of the Council of the Gods at He'patina.The Council of the Gods on arriving at  He'patina, the shrine symbolic of the Middle of the world, and deposits te'likinawc in the lower chamber of the shrine..." 
Update: I'm skimming through the Google book in the link above, a late 1800's ethnology from around Zuni, New Mexico. Here's Figure 2, an "ancient sun shrine:"


Rhombus in a row on an outcrop in Woodbury CT...
...reminds me of a much larger one in Woodbridge CT.

Boulders and ledge at "Rock Pile Cave"

The name of the Rockshelter caught my eye; it's called Rock Pile cave...
I lifted the photos here:
Then I found this:
This is east of the Connecticut River, in Middletown CT, briefly described here:

The ball court

I got a link from the "PeopleOfOneFire" about a Mayan style ball court found in GA, near Track Rock Gap.
  Ball court in Sautee-Nacoochee Valley National Historic District - Georgia

There is a discussion of how this structure was lost then re-discovered recently. They compare it to a ball court in Chontalpa, Chiapas Mexico but I cannot find a reasonable picture to compare with the above visualization.
It did remind me of something else I saw recently in an old post here by Tim M. entitled "More Circular Walls". This is from West Virginia:
No idea if that was a ball court.
Here is one I saw at Wupatki in Ariz:
(Blogged about here.)
I cannot remember where I read that the Iroquois brought lacrosse with them when they migrated into New York from the south but it is a matter of pride that the first team sports were invented in America and I wonder: how universal were ball games back in prehistoric America a thousand years ago?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My father's woods - Elderslie Preserve in Woodbridge CT

As part of putting my father to rest, I had occasion to drive back to where I used to live in Connecticut. I interacted with people on Friday and, early on Saturday, drove myself out to the family house on Rock Hill Rd in Woodbridge. It was still dark when I got there, so I spent an hour driving around back roads north of there, in Beacon Falls. Then, when it got light enough, I drove back to Woodbridge, passing a few other things that seemed faintly familiar: a turn, a house, a road that maybe led to my junior high school. Thanks to Tim MacSweeney I knew that the Elderslie Preserve in Woodbrige had rock piles, and I knew it was on Peck Hill Rd across on the other side of the same hill from my old house, so I went to take a walk there. One time my father and I went all the way through from our house to Peck Hill Rd, so I knew there was continuous woods and I was thinking of walking in from the other direction. The "Judges' Rock" is in there and I hoped to see it.  

I have to say that these Connecticut woods are gorgeous: little undergrowth; yellow, red, and brown leaves on the ground. And dark tree trunks rising up from the brightness underneath and massive stone walls undulated along. After parking, I stayed to the right and saw rock piles immediately. I did not have a camera. Were the piles a familiar type of pile? I formed a general impression. Having gotten up at 4 AM Friday to drive down there, and after getting up at 5:45, after little sleep, I was walking around in a bit of a daze.

At every turn I came across places that seemed a little familiar and seemed like someplace I had been with my father. And who could I tell about finding rock piles there? We were blind to such things back in the 60's. So I stayed to the right and over the hill (heading roughly southeast) and down into the valley - because that is what the topo map suggested when I looked it over in preparation for this trip. And there were little clusters of two or three piles every few minutes. The rocks were a pretty black with grey lichen. At the foot of the slope a couple of piles, each with a beautiful piece of quartz at the center. Quartz is not common around there. The bedrock is a schist-like material called "Orange Phyllite". Seeing this material again, I remembered how I used to collect garnets that erode out of its surface. And I kept remembering little bits and pieces of the place. Down in that valley, there was an obvious trail along the wetland (with rock piles every hundred yards) and I remembered the Ansonia Trail - it was part of Connecticut's "Blue Spot Trail System" - which we used to explore. Walking in the woods was one of the few things my father and I did together. So I remember one time following the Ansonia Trail west, as far as we could go. Back then the trail disappeared near the edge of a swamp over by Peck Hill Rd.

Today, I might have better luck finding the trail because my eyes have learned to see subtle things. For example in these woods, there were trails everywhere, crisscrossing the place. We have to conclude: either the Pecks were Indians, interacted with Indians, or never disturbed what was already there when they owned the place. Surely almost no-one has gone into these woods since then. The rock piles were everywhere. This is a big ceremonial area and one wonders: why? My guess is that the wetland I mention is one of the sources of the Naugatuck River, and Peck Hill - with its "Judges' Rock" is a significant landmark for the area. The reason for the name "Judge's Rock" was it was a well-known Indian lookout - from which one could watch New Haven and the coming and going of troops. I think Mavor and Dix may write about how the Indians helped those Judges (they were the ones who condemned Charles I to death, who were on the run later on, when the monarchy was restored). And I walked up, and I walked down, I explored behind a bush and found a little stone box that looked recent. And I came to a flat area and remembered being there alone and maybe being there also with my father. And this time I could see rock piles in almost every direction. The largest I had seen - and they look a lot like what I call 'marker piles" - but with an unstructured layout. And I walked to the north edge, looking down into the valley, remembering the roads and little foundations on that slope and discussions we had about what kind of small village must have been over there. All these small things I had forgotten. As a child, I used to dream of Indians in those woods, I used to imagine them sitting on the same rock where I would camp. Now I see signs of the Indians everywhere. I wish someone could have shown them to me when I was a child. 

I want to say that as you get older, there is an increased desire to somehow express the infinite. Express the relationship one has with parents and children or (for me) between my father and my sons. And as I am walking along feeling somewhat poetic, I realize that the rock pile itself is the best possible expression of these things. It seems more permanent but it also will vanish eventually. Hoping I can show these woods to my sons, I am filled with sorrow about how time passes.

Chestnut Rails - and Stone Tears

Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday Morning Roadside Rock Pile and Remnant Stone Row

The Row Remnant behind it (east of it):
Looking North:
And West back toward the Pile:
And then South:
"Grey Fox Woods" Woodbury CT
(Which looked like this in 1934:)
And some more Rock Piles from the area:


Thursday, October 24, 2013


The above photo prompted Mr. JimP to comment elsewhere: "Love that  boulder worked into the shape of a bird head. Those are *all* over New England." 

I did respond with the eventual posting of a photo:

This boulder, perhaps 3 or 4 feet in diameter, was found while walking along what you really could call a "terrace-like stone row." There was wet land below and I stepped up to higher ground after looking at the lower east facing side. I call this photo below evidence that it was modernly farmed:
Now there were some rock piles of sorts and other boulders here and there along this row:
There was even a little segment jutting out at a right angle from the terrace-like row, into the one time field, now succeeding back into wooded land trust property:

Modern field clearing by farmers too lazy, too tired or possibly too intoxicated, to add to the "stone wall" reminder of our agricultural past, or something older, ceremonial in nature, that's even older?
The Bing link:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Crystal Springs - wherein Peter explores an old site, takes pictures, goes back the next weekend and falls off a cliff

Crystal Springs in Groton is a conservation land just east of the Wharton Tree Plantation, whose broad valleys contain many rectangular mounds with hollows, in many different sizes and styles and many different degrees of decrepitude (a place where chronological ordering might be possible based on pile damage).
A few weekends ago, I went in there hoping to explore from the east and headed as far to the right (north) as I could go, expecting to loop back around on the way back. Things got interesting after I got to a dirt road called "Blood Rd" on some maps. A few steps along it, hopped over the wall, and I saw a short spur leading to this rock with a collection of old bricks:
Continuing along that outcrop, a pile:
and an unusual fern, the ebony-spleenwort:
Then I started seeing more piles:
These are new to me, since I have not been in that part of the woods. But they are like what you find more to the west. The woods here are full of faint traces:
 and nice piles.
After a while, heading north, I hit houses, and turned west and hit open fields. I saw a grid there (poor photos):
And it is never hard, in this area, to find old-style graves built against boulders:
Obviously there has been some modern interactions there:
So, pretty cool all in all. 
I went back with my wife the next weekend and ended by seeing quite a lot less. I did connect through to places I recognized west of Crystal Springs, but the main excitement was showing off for my wife about how easy it is to jump down a cliff if you hold a tree like a rope. But I made a critical mistake, grabbing a branch rather than the main trunk: I felt the roots start to go and thought it was alright to execute a spin along with the jump. Then the foolishness of grabbing a branch caught up with me as I torqued the poor sucker into snapping. Down the cliff I went - maybe 15 to 20 feet on a smooth, perhaps 80 degree slope of granite. Rolled, bounced twice, ended up at the foot of the rock slightly dazed with a cut hand. I seemed to have hurt nothing. Looking around, I knew the spot - a place along the Crystal Springs trail.