Because they appear in pairs I call them
. Not only is it true that
"boat rudder" shape usually occurs in a
pair, it is also true that pairs usually exhibit this shape. In other
words they are paired if and only if they are shaped this way. This is
strong statement and leads to the burning question: what is it a pair
of? Unfortunately it is too soon to know anything significant about
this phenomenon, although some whimsical speculation is provided at the
end of this article. The goal for now is descriptive, with the hope of
showing examples and establishing this
as a repeated pattern. I will discuss things which can be observed
about these pairs such as: are they common and how are they placed with
respect to other features. Twins are rarely isolated and
almost always occur as part of a larger collection of stone
construction including such
features as split-wedged rocks, rock-on-rocks, and more substantial
piles. Here, Twins are considered as one typical component in the
organization of such sites.
The first picture shows the first example of Twins that was
observed. A friend noticed the peculiar repeated shape and
commented on it.
Taken by themselves, none of these examples appear special. Taken
together, it is astounding that this shape keeps recurring.
Note there are really three "cashew" shapes in this picture if we
larger rock supporting the two smaller ones. There are other examples
parallelism between the larger and smaller rocks. For example this
one below and also possibly
from Boxborough above
[This picture is courtesy of Dan Boudillion]
Note in these examples how the shapes are reversed and pointing in
of rocks in the pair
Note that shapes are reversed in the examples from Stow
but parallel in the ones from Acton
This could be of no significance or it could be worth observing. There
are many possible interpretations of the shapes for which the notion of
reversal would make sense.
context for Twins
There appear to be examples of pairs occuring in a
different way. For example, this rock-on-rock from the Boxborough side
of Flagg Hill shows a parallelism between upper and lower rocks both of
which have the special Twin shape.
In the next example, two rock-on-rocks occur near each other.
Upon closer inspection, each one has this same peculiar shape,
suggesting that they are intended as Twins.
within a site
One can make some tentative observations about the placement of Twins
within the larger organization of a rock pile site.
- Usually at most one example of Twins occurs at a given site
- If present they occur near the edge of the site
- If present they occur near the highest point of a site
These are very tentative statements which need to be tested.
Many rock pile sites do not have examples of Twins, so Twins are a
comparatively rare phenomenon. Reviewing the known examples, they are
all from north and west of the Sudbury River. Like split-wedged rocks,
they have not yet been found further south. It appears from limited
observations, that they have a distribution which is broader than the
range for split-wedged rocks but narrower than the range for
rock-on-rocks. More precisely, Twins have been found everywhere that
split-wedged rocks have been found except they also appear in
Northfield, further west in Massachusetts, where split-wedged rocks
were not found. So far, rock-on-rocks have been found everywhere.
An initial reaction upon noticing twins shaped like this
is that the shape might be
on the "Manitou Stone" described by Mavor & Dix (1) They describe a
"head and shoulders" and give several illustrations of rocks shaped
something like this:
Some photos of Manitou Stones are available online on the NEARA
website, for example this
one from Derek
Gunn is a good example for comparison. I believe this is not
a correct identification for the Twins shape. The reason is that
a symmetric shape with the "head" in the middle (not at the corner)
has so far never occurred among Twins examples. Whenever there is a
protrusion, it is always off center and the typical variations never
encompass the "Manitou
Another possibility came up while watching a TV commercial where only
the upper portion of the Cheerios package was displayed, showing the
top portion of the heart shaped bowl containing the cereal [above the
solid line in the illustration].
Seeing that, while writing this article, the similarity with the upper
portion of the "heart" and the "cashew" catches the eye. Since
the abstract "heart" shape of European culture is not anatomically
correct, it is possible some other culture would come up with
a different abstraction. For example, this
might be closer to being anatomically correct. In any case, the "boat
rudder"/"cashew" shape of Twins could be the representation of a heart.
In western culture, the pairing of hearts has a traditional meaning,
involving romantic love:
It is not likely that Native Americans shared this tradition, so
speculation in that direction has little justification. Yet an idea
about this shape
must come from somewhere if we hope to make progress in understanding
the meaning of the Twins pattern. Whether it is a heart, a
head-and-shoulders, or some other entity, it seems clear that a
deliberate representation is intended. This shape had a persistent
meaning shared by one culture throughout an area that included the land
north of the Sudbury River. Also, whatever representation is intended,
it must make sense for it to occur in pairs. It could be mythological
Twins, it could be a pair of lovers, it could be a contract. Whatever
it is, it must be
something for which the pairing is natural and meaningful.
An interesting supporting observation of the idea that the mystery
shape is a
heart arises while describing "burial outlines" in a later article. The
rock pile shown below is assumed to be a burial with a headstone at the
top of an outline. If you look inside the outline there is a shaped
rock in about the right location to be a heart and it has the cashew
If this is the correct identification of the special shape occuring in
Twins, the next question is: what does the pair mean? Perhaps it
represents a promise.
(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) pp. 332-340