Review and Summary
what was discussed in the different articles and mention some new
conclusions which can be added
here at the end. These are not really conclusions so much as the
outcomes of a loose set of associations. As we go over these loose
associations and review what has been seen, some of the hypotheses
begin to combine into a narrative with
some internal consistency and some ability to make predictions.
Split Wedged Rocks
This first article takes us from observations about split-wedged
rocks to the realization that many of the structures use heavy rocks
are too big to be moved casually. There is something curious going
on: split-wedged rocks have no known practical use but a good deal of
effort went into making some of them - and it has nothing to do with
rock splitting technology. They are widespread in the area but
only north of the Concord River - a distribution which must
correspond to a difference in land use north and south of the river.
This distribution, together with the almost compulsive and slightly
ceremonial nature of some places, suggests that split-wedged rocks
might be Native
It is significant that quartz is not used as
a wedge in split-wedged rocks. This observation is the first hint that
there might be a way to understand the reasons for making a
rock. In later articles, especially in the discussion of the use of
quartz in possible burial piles, it became more of a working hypothesis
that quartz is used as a transmitter and non-quartz as a blocker. If
so, then the observation about quartz not being used for split-wedged
rocks means that the wedge is a blocker. It is not
to keep the door open but to keep it shut. In this context we look at
the concentration of split-wedged rocks at the site where Rt 3 crosses
Rangeway Rd in Billerica. Why would all the doorways be blocked here? I
am not sure if I believe my own answer, but here is what is consistent:
some reason necessitated the
sacred site be shut
down, the doors locked, the people sent home. Perhaps this happened
when the state of Massachusetts built a highway through the middle of
Rock On Rock
In this article I continue the discussion of simple structures which
are very widespread, in this
There is evidence of many different possible uses including trail
marking, forming alignments, or acting as energy barriers
around an energy spot like a spring. Although there is too much variety
to come to a simple conclusion, again the absence of quartz stands out
as meaningful and suggests that one use, at least, was to block and
help focus energy.
Take a close look at this picture.
At this point in the discussion I no longer consider alternatives to
these being related to Native American ceremonialism. But the important
lesson is that some of these structures must be quite recent. So
ceremonialism of this sort must have been going on recently.
In this article I continue the discussion of simple structures, in this
case twin rocks shaped like boat rudders, or cashews, and placed upon a
These are also quite widespread. As I began writing the article, the
task of identifying this specific shape seemed hopeless.
Then, due to a coincidence, I made the suggestion that the boat rudder
be the representation of a heart. This made a small amount of sense at
but still seemed a hopeless speculation.
A surprising indirect confirmation came later when looking
carefully at piles considered to be burial piles: namely that they
often have a single small boat rudder/cashew shaped rock at their
roughly where the heart would be (and also sometimes made out of
Here are three pictures of rock piles believed, for other reasons, to
be burials. A very minor detail but which I think is significant is the
cashew shaped rock near the middle of each pile [it is a lighter
colored rock in the second and third photos]. When minor details like
this are given a reasonable explanation and when we start noticing the
details because of the theory, then the theory starts to be valuable.
At a minimum the theory makes us more careful observers.
The re-occurrence of the proposed heart symbolism is very encouraging.
In particular it allows focusing on the question: what does a
pair of hearts represent? One loose association leads to another,
and among the possible meanings
of a pair of
hearts, one idea is
that it represents a promise or contract.
If we try out that idea, it can explain why Twins often occur at the
of a larger site. It could be acting as a warning or a "No
Tresspassing" sign. Twins occur at the edge of large sites in Stow and
Another interesting example is the
large erratic boulder mentioned in the final article. It is near the
in Boxborough and it is plainly visible from
a distance. Next to the erratic is an example
of Twins and being next to this
boulder, with the interpretation
of Twins as a promise or a "No-Tresspassing" sign, it suggests this
boulder marks a border between two territories, visible from a
This is a non-trivial result, although the end of a string of
I feel the heart shape hypothesis is the best result
achieved in these articles. Even though it could be wrong, it is on the
right track and does lead to good internal consistency and more careful
This article is the most scientific and objective. I show a map of the
area around Concord with a plot of 140 rock pile sites. The area
was thoroughly explored, rock piles were found in places of little
agriculture, near headwaters and at springs. This is the strongest
argument that rock piles are Native American. Rather than being based
an attack of the explanation in terms of field clearing and
agricultural origins, it
makes the positive observation that there is a relation between springs
rock piles. By its nature, that is a ceremonial relationship. There
has been only one group of people performing cermemonies in the woods
throughout this area - the Native Americans.
In order to make the point that rock piles were in topographic
correlation with land forms and features, I proposed an experiment: to
examine the topo map of some (relatively) remote place, draw circles
would be expected and then go there and find the rock piles inside the
circles. This turns out to work in general but not in particular: the
topo map can give a rough idea of an area that might have rock piles,
but local conditions on the ground cannot be predicted and frustrate
the experiment. So, when I conducted my first experimental trial at
Leominster State Forest, I found rock piles on my way towards the
circles but I was unable to get to most of the circles. Another thing
frustrating the simple experiment is that the "rules" of site location
vary from place to place. For example, one thing I learned, but which I
had to find out the hard way by crawling
around in the upland laurels getting tired and not finding anything, is
that near Leominster State Forest, rock piles are mostly down on the
lower shoulders of hills and not on the
Accordingly, I selected a lower down place to explore; further west in
MA. I planned to explore a lower area shown on this map fragment
between the road
and the steeper parts of the hill. I ended by seeing rock piles in two
well as an articificial mound or berm and, as a bonus, an underground
stone chamber - all in this selected area. So the original experiment
was a failure but, with more
care and without requiring too much precision, good rock pile hunting
areas can be identified on the topo map.
As for negative arguments against field clearing and the "agrarian"
hypothesis, the strongest possible evidence against it is that the
rock piles sites occur where the minimum agrarian activity occurred.
Rock Pile Types
This article tries to classify rock piles according to their function
with respect to, the Sky, the Earth, or the Underworld. I have no
business trying to say this is what the rock piles meant to the people
who actually created them but it is convenient way of looking at the
Within these larger functional categories, a typology based on physical
characteristics is proposed, and the different types of rock
piles are listed. Several of these types are clear and well defined.
I am confident other people will find similar structures and agree on
the identifications. At the same time some of the other types, for
example "horizon" and "platform", probably are not that clearly
defined. In any case, even
slightly inaccurate typologies are worthwhile because they allow
plotting composite distribution maps.
For example I think this plot shows evidence of
two separate rock pile cultures in this area.
As for other rock pile types, a new one was mentioned in an article by
Suzanne Carlson in the NEARA Journal (2). She describes a rock pile,
excavated by removing small cobbles from a shapeless pile to reveal a
circle of larger stones. The suggestion was made that this could be a
vision quest seat which had been back-filled to keep the spirits in (or
out, as the case may be). This is consistent with the types of seat I
desribed finding around here.
The Indian Farmer
In this article I tried to give some account for how rock piles could
be recent and even modern. The "Indian Farmer" is a phrase which tries
to give context to the possibility of ceremonial rock piles in the
modern woods. This is a variation on what Mavor and Dix call the
I gave several examples of English family names associated with
properties having rock piles. The Patch Family for example were
reported to be religious dissidents when they left Europe. Is it
possible, as Mavor and Dix suggest (p.
4) may have happened occasionally, that these families adopted aspects
of Indian religion? Rather than Indian
Farmers might we be dealing with "Heathenized Europeans"? That is a
Three Rock Pile Sites
Finally, having begun with hints and suggestions about rock piles,
having been quantitative and having derived statistical results, having
provided a context in which it is possible for them to exist as stated;
finally it is time to return to a literary approach in order to
describe rock pile sites. Guesswork is required. I think
there is some use to dividing
ceremonies into Sky, Earth, or Underworld related but, if meaningful at
all, that needs to be a loose framework in which an individual
expression can vary. In this article I describe three sites which each
to have a single purpose, one for
each of the "worlds" of Underworld, Sky, and Earth. I focused on the
sites' individuality and I did not discuss how they are
representative of their respective worlds. Let's do that now.
The site described as a Burial Place,
the Underworld, has as principle
characteristics: a) the presence of low ground pile with white or
quartz stones near their center; b) the westward and eastward views
water; and c) the presence of a few effigies including turtle and crow.
A number of other sites have low ground piles with white quartz stones
and views westward and eastward over water. I have not seen any other
crow effigies but I did find another site with "quartz-marked" piles
Here is one of several possible turtles from this location and an
quartz-marked pile. I had to
move leaves to find the quartz but I guessed it was there.
There are several other sites, enclosed by stone walls, where the
quartz-marked piles fill the enclosure. It appears to me that the
use is the most characteristic feature of these sites. If it is correct
that these are burials, then the quartz plays a key role which might
have to do with the spirit passing through the stone.
The site described as a Place of
representing the Earth and the living
world, has the principle characteristics: a) a headwater lake; b)
piles; c) natural alignment to the north (a cardinal direction); and d)
twins at the edge.
I have found many sites with effigies near an energy
source including such things as springs, heatwater lakes, boulders, and
lightening struck trees. These sites often seem to have views to the
southeast but this is not required. Often these sites also include
quartz-marked piles which might be burials.
The site described as An Observatory,
the Sky, has the principle
characteristics: a) looking out over a valley with a broad sweep of
horizon; b) a large number of marker piles with pointers; c) a number
of alignements of three or more piles; d) semi regular spacing between
piles; d) numerous burnt rocks; e) several quartz blocks concentrated
in one spot; and f) Twins at the edge.
Other sites with numerous marker piles or clearly defined alignment of
are not common but they do occur. For example the "grids" in Acton have
aligned piles as well as markers. I have seen other sites with burnt
and with views over a valley but have not noticed other examples of
quartz being concentrated at one spot. Finally, Twins are common at the
edge of rock pile sites.
The theory does not say
that every site must be exclusively dedicated to one function. Rather,
sites often have multiple functions. The three sites
discussed in detail here were selected because they seem to focus on a
single primary function. This provides a better chance of understanding
that single function and I hope this will, in the future, help us
understand more complicated multi-purpose sites.
Finally, many of the patterns we
see, comparing pile to pile or site to site, are based on extremely
subtle and minor characteristics of the sites, the piles, or even
single individual rocks in the piles. Although these features are
subtle they are no less consistent and characteristic and so we learn
that to understand rock piles we need to observe the details. Rather
than just a pile of randomly tossed together rocks, here there are many
more details to be noticed and the smallest detail may have meaning.
(1) Manitou - The Sacred
Landscape of New England's Native Civilization. James W. Mavor,
Jr. and Byron E. Dix. Inner Traditions International, Ltd. One Park
Street Rochester, VT 05767 (1989). (p 279)
(2) Big Dig in Bingham.
Suzanne Carlson. NEARA Journal Vol. 38 No.2 Winter 2004 (p 41). Quote
from archeologist Ralph Coffman.