Current Project: Researching an Ancient New England Site
A Return Visit...
We could only wait a few days until we had to journey back again to the site of our rediscovery of the stone bowl. This trip was again not without its mysteries and rewards. Below are a few more photographs.
As always, I appreciate all input and comments and apologize for not always posting and responding quickly to personal email. I am doing much non-blog writing for a book that an agent is anxious to pitch on the story that I have hinted about on this blog for the past two years. Now that we have relocated the stone, a major piece we needed to tell the story is in place.
The Site of the Stone
Looking across a spring-fed pool to west. The stone is centered between the two trees in the foreground. About 30 feet behind it is another stone of interest just before the crest of the hill. Our trusty labrador drew our attention to it, not that we wouldn't have noticed her find eventually!
Roxy Sees Something...
Notice the small hole in the top of stone? We didn't at first either, until closer inspection...
A ceremonial niche of some sort? The beginning of a farmer's aborted attempt to split the rock for a wall or foundation? Those were my first thoughts. There are other huge boulders in a nearby pasture that were drilled to make holes for long-gone iron hinged gates, somewhat odd in itself. However, the proximity of this stone to the bowl stone makes me settle on two possibilities upon further reflection. 1) Someone wanted to see how difficult it would be to recreate the bowl stone...and finding it quite difficult, gave up. 2) This was made in relation to the bowl stone. It is lined up perfectly, west to east, looking down the hill. If the bowl stone, as I theorize, was used to make food, medicine or for ceremonial purposes, fire was a necessary component. This niche could have been used a firestarter hole utilizing the stick or bow method, with tinder resting atop it. Another blog post below pictures a rock formation to the right of this 'niche stone' which has heavy red iron oxide deposits, an indication of many fires burning against it. At least, that is my current thinking...
A Different View of The Bowl Stone
A little more clearing of the stone, past what we did on the initial visit, revealed some markings which do not appear to be glacial scratches, in my opinion. The angular lines to the right encompass area which is abraded about 1/8 inch lower than the rest of the stone's surface. The slightly curved line to the extreme right does not connect to the angular ones. The gouged channels at the bottom right are perhaps for sweeping or draining away material from the bowl into other containers.
Markings on the Bowl Stone
These don't match any known Algonquin markings I've been able to find in my papers, books or research...but I'm not done looking! It could be the abraded area was just utilitarian. A little more clean up may reveal more. As always any opinions are welcome.
and finally...the two photographs below are of a stone I've passed by and photographed a few times but not published which goes to prove how close I've come to the bowl stone over the years and walked right by.
...and from the front, assuming the square base at right is a 'base' it could indicate it once stood upright. If so, that off center manitou 'nub' at the top left would be in it's proper upright position.
In closing this post, I'm reminded to state that several of the sites we have visited in this area have shown some signs of 'old' vandalism or perhaps the ravages of time. It's been written in several accounts that known native sacred sites were destroyed by colonists or even by converted Indians.
Some of the unpublished work I've done lends credibility to this. Even more, though these sites are relatively remote, modern encroachment is a real threat. (I was nearly flattened by a pack of dirt bikers one sunny day, and you can find a long trail of empty Bud Light cans along many a dirt road.)
I do write this blog with a twist of humor at times...but I would also like to assure readers that the work we are doing is done with the utmost respect. It has been an incredible spiritual journey that I can only begin to touch on here.
You have to pay attention to the little things. There are no coincidences. Listen to everyone and make the connections, you'll be amazed at the places you'll go.
Four nights after we rediscovered the stone, I had a strange, short dream. I had been pondering since we found it, about its meaning, use and history. My initial feelings as I stood near it were of awe, wondering how many forgotten people and generations received food and medicine from it. That was juxtaposed against my concern over today's news stories food shortages, tainted medicine and people who have no hope of taking care of themselves in an even minor societal breakdown.
That forth night, I woke in the middle of my sleep after a brief vivid dream. I dreamed I was standing by the stone. I wasn't looking at it, but I knew I was there because I was looking out over the landscape that surrounded it, a spring-fed pool lined with high bush wild blueberries spreading between two small hills. It was night and the sky was filled with hundreds of small lights...fireflies! They danced...and just as suddenly as saw I their beauty, they changed. The fireflies became snowflakes, swirling as in the leading edge of winter storm bearing down.
Happy Birthday and Mother's Day to the most wonderful mate a man could ever dream of. She sees and senses more than she even knows...and soon to be a grandmother again, of identical twin girls. It was a week to remember!
Here are a series of photographs depicting the sequence of how the long sought after stone was rediscovered one fine Sunday afternoon.
I must admit, I had been within 50 feet of it several times over the last two years, but somehow missed it. Having had a few months of downtime due to a Lyme tick or some other mysterious illness, I had plenty of time to do indoor research. After studying some old maps and extrapolating my previous tracks and waypoints off the GPS, once I could return to the woods, we found the stone within ten minutes. Though it was partially covered, I immediately recognized it from quite a distance away.
The Happy Micmac Princess
I didn't say anything to the Micmac missus, but let her lead the way. She went right to it and said 'we should check this one.' Her hand slipped right into the bowl and the look on her face was the happiest I've seen since she married me...and yes I got a hug before the dog did!
The Bowl Uncovered
I'll note, I did not have any concerns of disturbing any artifacts as we uncovered the bowl. Having been to it once over 35 years ago, I knew it to be quite a bit cleaner than pictured here. Now, there was a Jefferson Salamander living in the bowl. It scurried away from the debris after I lifted it out. It must have been attracted by a nearby spring-fed pool.
A Magnificent Sight
I wanted to take a photograph from the exact angle as from the only other existing photograph I knew of:
Nearby Quartz Outcropping
This quartz outcropping is on a similar-sized boulder a few feet south on the edge of a spring-fed pool.
Nearby Rock Formation with Iron Oxide Markings
A forward and reverse angle view of a rock formation about 20 feet north of the bowl. What seem to be iron oxide deposits or markings are evident. (For the ghost-hunters out there, yes, I see the orb in the top picture.) Actually, several of the unpublished pictures from this shoot have orbs...for some reason.
Nearby Glacial Boulder
This rests directly east, across a small spring-fed pool.
I was reminded recently of the weather extremes I have experienced in the woods in the last year. I recall last April walking thru a remote pine barren and it was so hot and dry the scent in the air and the sensation underfoot was otherworldly. The ground crackled with each step. I doubt even an expert tracker could have walked in his usual silence. I do like to try to traverse the woods as quietly as possible and in short spurts as to perhaps spy on some game I've not seen for some time. That particular day last April I'm sure my presence was more akin to a moose crashing along his path.
Two weeks later it had been raining for three days straight, but I wanted to return to the same area to do some work. The skies cleared a bit so I headed out. Of course after I had ventured far into the woods the skies reopened. Swamps overflowed and other scents filled the air. One scent I caught reminded me of a bog I had visited long ago. It is a delight when a scent touches some part of your memory and brings back images and thoughts long forgotten. It was a blueberry bog I remembered. I had visited it with my parents over forty years ago. Though it wasn't close by I instantly remembered its location and details of the visit.
Other trips in the following days brought me by old springs and areas of former freshets that were long dry...but the rains had replenished them and they stayed that way until midsummer. Our summer lingered well into fall and fall into winter.
Finally the cold hit and with a vengeance. I was standing this past week in silence in an area well known to me, shivering, when I was sure I heard the faint babbling of a brook, of water slipping over rocks. I thought back to standing silently on the first day of the past summer in a different woods and hearing water where I hadn't before, under my feet an underwater spring emerging near a site of the Great Hare after a rain. It was a moment I will not forget. But now what was this? Water running on a sub zero morning? I turned to look and smiled. A gentle winter breeze was blowing thru the small frozen leaves of a mountain laurel. The dozens of dormant evergreen leaves were ever so slightly rubbing against each other, touching and imitating the sound of a summer stream, or perhaps longing for it just as I was. That's how cold it was.
I recently picked up this copy of The Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. It's a somewhat rare "Lancaster Edition" of which only 1,500 were published in 1930. I've long been fascintated with the Rowlandson story, having grown up and roamed the same woods as a child. King Phillips Rock, which I've written about earlier and posted photographs of, was a favorite spot to visit. I was told it was there that Metacomet or "King Phillip" held tribal council and refused to agree to Rowlandson's release. That location is not confirmed in Rowlandson's narrative, however I have also come across a 1900's pictorial history of Worcester County with photography of "Rowlandson's Ford'' depicting the "King Phillip's Rock" site. I'll publish those photos perhaps later this week. I've also procured some letters from a local historian debating the location of Rowlandson's and Metacomet's travels during this period which make for very interesting reading. Those will be up soon too.
Rowlandson's release eventually took place at Redemption Rock in Princeton, pictured below from the above book.
The inscription on the rock reads:
Upon this rock May 2nd 1676
was made the agreement for the ransom
of Mrs Mary Rowlandson of Lancaster
between the Indians and John Hoar of Concord
King Philip was with the Indians but
refused his consent
There's also a map of Rowlandson's 'removes' ...or the encampments she was taken to by her captors on the run from Princeton to Squawkeag and up to New Hampshire and back to Redemption Rock.
A little west of the mound mentioned in the previous post is another of about equal elevation. Where it not for the forest growth I believe the two locations would be easily visible one from the other. There are other enormous boulders of interest at this site, but heavily covered with moss, lichens and blow-downs. In relation, the one pictured below is much smaller. It initially attracted my attention because of the thick veins of quartz running through it which are partially visible at the split in it at the right and in the lower third. I took several pictures but noticed nothing else unusual about it at the time. Only when I began studying the photographs did I take note of what appeared to be the facial characteristics.
Possible Effigy Head in Stone
The stone pictured above appears to have reptilian characteristics (turtle or snake, both key figures in Algonquin cosmogony). It has a natural taper off to the right as if it were emerging from the earth. It is 'looking' to the east. Of its natural form, the 'eyes' are perhaps the result of volcanic concretion or erosion, or perhaps enhanced by the former inhabitants of the area. I admittedly need to brush up on my geology. I will say I have found two other similar boulders with this type of 'sculpted eye' for lack of a better term. One is picutred in a previous post, the other I've yet to publish. All comments welcome on this one...especially from geologists.
At this point I am not quite sure to what to make of this particular location. The two stones in the center of the photograph have vertical grooves on their entire lengths with a single horizontal groove near the tops. Whether the two were spilt naturally or by hand I am not sure.There is no other evidence of colonial quarrying for a few miles. The stonewall visible in the background appears to be entirely made of natural field stone. The area at the bottom center of the photograph appeared to be the partially-buried entrance to a hole or chamber. This one is going to require a return trip in the Spring. I also need to go through Thorson's "Exploring Stone Walls" again as well as Mary and James Gage's fine publication "The Art of Splitting Stone" which is a fascinating treatment of colonial quarrying methods. Thorson's book cleared up a mystery for me a few years ago when we came across a massive stone wall while living in Maine. This wall was over six feet tall and over ten feet wide. It ran for perhaps 300 feet thru the woods in a straight line. In all my years of traipsing the woods of New England and the Maritimes I'd never seen a stonewall so massive, until I saw a picture in Thorson's book which he termed a disposal wall used in field clearing. This thing was massive, and I concluded it made sense after studying more of the area. In fact...I think I will dig out a couple of photos from my Maine days and post them:
Field Disposal Wall - Parsonsfield, Maine - side view
Field Disposal Wall - Parsonsfield, Maine - top view
It has been some time since I've been able to sit down and update this blog. The unusually warm and dry weather has made outdoor exploration much easier this year and we have taken full advantage of it. Here in New England you work with the weather when you can, and it's been possible to get deep into the woods right thru the fall and for most of the winter. One of the benefits of this is I've been able to widen the search area for the mortar stone I've been seeking to find again, first having been to it over 35 years ago. During one recent foray into adjacent areas I came across an area of several glacial outcroppings. The photograph below is of one such area. Initially the 'balanced rock' and apparent stratification of the supporting area caught my eye from a few hundred feet away. I have to admit I did not notice the bird-like effigy or stonework visible on the left. (For a high-resolution view of the photographs on this site you can left click and view image in Firefox, you may have to save it and view if you use Internet Explorer).
As I explored this specific location, I found many other geologic curiousities and perhaps signs of manipulation of them. The questions of course are...are they mere natural anomalies of this landscape or are have they been observed, used and enhanced by past generations. There is some evidence for coming to the latter conclusion. I have yet to publish most of the photographs and research I have in support of that conclusion for many reasons. Some of the photographs are startling. Indeed, I still need to convince myself that all I have seen is what it seems. More work and research needs to be done. I still wish to find again the location of the ancient mortar stone, which really looks like no other mortar stone I have come across and is proof positive of the areas habitation. That stone is what set off my quest, perhaps finding it again will be what brings it to a conclusion, in both ways, that of my personal journey and tying together the amazing things that can be found on the long forgotten forest paths and ancient hills and valleys of New England.
Balanced Rock with Bird Effigy
As I mentioned, the bird effigy in the wide shot above did not catch my attention when I was at the site, I was intent on exploring the oddity of the balanced rock. Upon inspection it appeared to have been moved in place. No blocks or chunks that had fallen away were evident beneath it. Below is a close-up shot. It itself has some apparent design. It is obviously not the 'classic' balanced boulder where a much larger one resting on a smaller one. This one seems to be resting at the tipping point.
These boulders rest on mound which is part of a wide ridge. There are many glacial erratics in an immense boulder field. To the rear of the above pictured boulders is another. As I made way to the top of the mound, expored a bit and poked around I took a few steps down the other side and much to my surprise saw what appeared to be a natural rock shelter.
The rock shelter is big enough for 5 or 6 people, more of course, if it was enlarged with available forest material. Even more exciting than discovering it was what I found as looked closer. There I found a clue perhaps to the sought after mortar stone. At the base of the boulder, sheltered from seasons of weather, something that looked like a stone implement.
Inside Rock Shelter - An implement, perhaps a pestal, rests at the base
I left the pestal in place, not even touching it. Why? I can't say exactly. Upon closer examination it definitely looked liked a pestal, but as I was on my hands and knees I noticed a porcupine den about four feet to my left and porcupine scat was everywhere. Darkness was falling, I still had a long hike back to my transportation and felt the remoteness of the site would protect it for the time being. (Yes, I know porcupines can't 'shoot' their quills, but I had visions of taking tumble during a chance encounter on the rocks!)