Thursday, June 5, 2014

Native American Artifacts

Petraform Snake Zig-Zags
My friend Donna lives in Connecticut.  She is an avid historian and has been busy searching for her Porter ancestors in the areas close to where she lives.  She also loves digging into historical sites.  She writes that back in early April:
"..I caught the last half of an episode of America Unearthed, which was looking at Snake Mounds.  They compared one in Ohio with one in Scotland, and another in Iowa, I think.  It reminded me that [there was] a "petraform snake" that I always wanted to see, and a few other indigenous art works that I'd heard about.  So before the leaves came out, this was a good time..
"In the meantime, I received an email from Hopkinton's Historical Association (I'm a member now), that they were having a "Pre-Tour" of the Pelloni Preserve.  This is conservation land with numerous cliffs that were utilized by Native Americans in the past ". 
This Preserve is located in the Tomaquag Valley, which is in Hopkinton, Rhode Island.  Donna was invited to check out the sites with a small group before they started giving historical tours of the area.  It turned into a day-long adventure into Native American sites, not far from her ancestor John Porter's farm.

The old wagon road with a stone bridge from the Colonial Era
There is an old wagon road that leads north.

The first picture in this blog is of the petraform snake they found.  Bob, one of the people on the "Pre-Tour", said he'd hunted these woods for years and never even saw the snake until one day when the light was just right and there it was!  If you look closely you can see the head is at the bottom of the picture.  The stones are laid out in zigzag form.

Just beyond the snake is a large rock in the shape of a turtle shell.  Donna says there are a lot of these types of stones in the area.

The Orchard Farm driveway on the way up the trail
This is the first of the sculptures (below).  Can you see the rabbit?  Bob's foot is in frame to show you the size of this thing.
The Rabbit
The High Cliff Cougar (below) is another art form.  This looks, at first, like a naturally shaped rock.  However, there is evidence it has been worked on by people.  Different light during the day can bring out the cat features even more.

Donna tells me these rock sculptures are not intricately worked, like ones we might find by artists today. Native artists tended to see a rock or stone that already had a specific shape and would add some small touches - such as an eye - to enhance what they saw there.
The High Cliff Cougar
I have to admit I have to squint to see it, and it looks more (to me) like a person's head or a turtle head, than a cougar.  But then, I haven't see it in person!

Below you see the other side of the Cougar.  Donna says when you stand under the cliff this creature appears to be looking down on you.  She said it was disconcerting... which was probably the point!
Under the Puma's Eye
There were numerous small caves or grottos among these cliffs.

A Grotto
These caves would have afforded protection for indigenous people and animals, too.

Below: early artist scratchings and gouges in the rock.

Artificially created gouges in the rock face
Below, the stone chair:
The Stone Chair
The tour group found a curious gap which could have been a hunting blind or possibly used for defense.

Ms. Lorén Spears of the Narragansett (center) with the Pre-Tour Group in a curious gap
Ms. Spears runs the Tomaquag Museum
This stone circle was full of very worn stones.  It was a nice place for the group to sit!  It faces East - which means it was oriented to one of the significant sunrises, Summer Solstice.

A Prayer Seat or Council Circle?
Ms. Spears gave educational commentary during the actual tours on May 18th.  The main purpose of the Pre-Tour was to show her around.  She ended the actual tour in May with a traditional Narragansett prayer, which is a prayer that is sung.  Donna said it was really nice.  That's Bob, the guy with the boots, in the orange cap.

Below you see a quite distinctive part of the high places:
High Places
Donna notes that there were some standing stones on the left. (See above, looking up on the left)

Stone Rows and a Door
It's not readily apparent from the photos, but according to Donna, there was a long-curved row of stones and a doorway of sorts.

It sets your imagination to work, doesn't it?  What was this place?  Wouldn't you love to go back in time and see what it was really used for?

The stones curve off into the woods
More of the stone wall
This photo (below) is of my friend Donna.  It was taken at the old Porter Farm south boundary wall and gate.  The Porter family are some of her early American ancestors.  They're also related to my step-mom Merlene. 

It's a small world when you do Family History Research!

Donna at the Porter Farm Gate
Thanks, Donna, for this fun walk in the Connecticut woods!

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