You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘archaeology’ tag.

Standing from a central viewpoint at America’s Stonehenge, you can see marker stones placed in the distance so that the rising sun will touch the tip of each rock on important days, such as summer solstice. Trees have been kept clear so that you can see the stones. From the air there is a starburst pattern in the trees because of this.

In New Hampshire there is an old stone site with the unfortunate name “America’s Stonehenge,” located on “Mystery Hill.” Who knows why the cheesy name, maybe to draw in more tourists? But this is so much more than a tourist stop. In my opinion, this place should be a federal protected area. It is possibly 4000 years old. Online reasearch reveals arguments by a few people about this site history. Everything I found online was unsatisfactory. Some legit scientists need to go in there and spend some time to unravel the tangled mess it is today and provide us with a verifiable story in the form of multiple peer-reviewed published findings. I want a story sans the cosmic hippie mumbo jumbo and dispensing with the pre-Columbian Irish Monk settlers theory.

One of the caves at the America’s Stonehenge site.

Close up of the flowers on top.

This stone is inside the museum.

Close up of the hatch-marks on the right side.

The setting is in an absolutely beautiful forest in New Hampshire.

A fascinating and intriguing room built of stone.

For a privately-owned historic site, they do a fair job of it, with a small museum, a theatre with a short movie, awesome self-guided tour app, and excellent maintenance. The brochure provided on site is the most convincing scientific information I could find, though it’s designed for tourists and provides no supportive evidence. Their website includes a blog that states there has been ongoing archaeological excavations for thirty years, though I saw no evidence of any active work while we were there. They should eliminate the mock American Indian stuff along the trail, because it’s embarrassing and demeaning, and the alpaca barn is off topic. They take care to highlight the possible function of this site as a stop on the Underground Railroad, and they explain reasons why the site was used as a stone quarry, and how that use caused irreparable damage.

All over the world, people have built with stone for obvious reasons. Stones are a useful building material, particularly when manipulated by humans’ ingenuity. One of the arguments I read about this place is that the structures could not have been built by indigenous North Americans because everyone knows Indians don’t build with rocks. It’s a ridiculous argument. The site website does acknowledge that the builders could have been indigenous North Americans. This simple question does bring up an example of why I am frustrated with the lack of clear science at this site though. Archaeology here reminds me of comments on an Internet post: a string of bold opinions, a dearth of reliable documentation. (So, ahem, let me add my opinions…)

Ok, enough with the complaining!

One of the entryways into a stone room. In the distance is an observation deck to see the astronomically aligned stones.

A look at the corbelling inside.

Some of the slabs of rock used here are enormous.

This is a very large room with a hall and adjacent room you can walk through.

The stone structures were amazing for me to see because I recognized the construction style of corbelling. Arguments have been made that a previous landowner built all the structures in the 1800s for storage purposes, or that a different landowner built it in the 1930s. Possibly farmers built a little more each year. Tara and I just returned from a trip where we got a close-up look at some neolothic corbelling of stones in Ireland, and some modern corbelling in southwest Ireland. Corbelling is when stones are stacked on top of each other, overlapping each layer a little bit more till there remains a small hole in the roof that can be topped with a large flat stone. This style is used all over the site.

Another thing that reminded me of Ireland is a large standing stone in the museum with hatch marks in the side of it. In an Irish museum I saw something very similar, and the hatch marks were a form of writing. If you click the image of the stone above, you can see that someone else thought the marks on the New Hampshire stone could be writing.

At America’s Stonehenge there are stone walls creating a path, outlining common areas, and forming rooms. Some of the rooms are reconstructed enough so that visitors can enter. Some rooms are too small or unsafe, and you cannot enter them. There are two wells, multiple channels in rocks that have been identified as a means of draining water from the site, and an astonishing huge flat table with a groove around the outside. People have opined that this slab was used to leach lye for soap making, to catch juice in cider making, or to catch blood during animal sacrifice. Guess which option I eliminate immediately.

Here’s the barest bones summary of the white man’s part in this story I can gather: Mr. Patee owned the site in the early 19th century. He may have built it or added to it. It was quarried around the same time. Also at the same time, it may have been a stopover place for escaped slaves along the underground railroad. Excavated iron shackles have been found on site, and are on display in the museum. In the 1930s it was purchased by Mr. Goodwin, and by the 1960s it was a roadside tourist attraction, after being rebuilt in the image imagined by the owner, who was convinced that Irish monks came here before the Vikings and settled. (By the way, the information provided by American’s Stonehenge reminds us that names of points of interest here, such as the “pulpit” and the “sacrificial table,” are only used as identifiers and are not meant to deter from an accurate interpretation of the site. I appreciate this kind of scientific integrity.) Current owners state that radiocarbon dating shows that at least some walls existed prior to Mr. Patee’s ownership, and dating of charcoal found in the walls dates it to 2000 BC.

Iron manacles found at the site.

Steps lead down into another room.

Huge slab of rock with a groove carefully carved around the outside. What was it used for?

Me, standing beside one of the wells. (Photo by Will Murray)

A wall in the center of the site. (Photo by Will Murray)

Another thing I dislike here: every groove or gouge in stone, even a fabulous carving of something that looks like a deer, is outlined in white paint. Annoying.

Seemingly incongruent with the various theories of the purpose of the constructed rooms are the large pointed stones circling the site. If you stand on an observation deck (shown in a photo above), you can spot the stones aligned in a circle to mark the point where the sun will rise on important astronomical dates like winter and summer solstices and equinoxes. If the walls and rooms were merely constructed for root cellars, foundations for a home, or for cider making, why erect the astronomical stones? Who did it?

One of the astronomical stones, set in line with one of New England’s ubiquitous and wonderful stone walls.

That’s a lot going on in this one place, and why I call it a tangled mess. I am dying to know more.

In Ireland for the first time.

The Custom House in Dublin, on the River Liffey.

Tara and I boarded our first plane Tuesday morning. After a 6 hour layover in Washington, D.C., we boarded our second plane and in 7 hours arrived in Dublin. Exhausted. Sadly, during that time, Tara developed a cold. Though we felt excited and upbeat at first, the kiddo was wiped out by noon.

I was tired too, but tucked my sweetie into bed and went out to take a look at Dublin. Our room is in the center of town, near the mouth of River Liffey, a couple of blocks from Trinity College. I walked along the water at first, and admired The Custom House across the water. Then I made my way south through the streets past Trinity College. School was clearly in session and crowds of young people pressed past me on the sidewalk, all the boys in suits and slacks – they looked so nice.

Sights of Dublin on the way to Trinity College.

Streetcar curves past shops near Trinity College.

 

Narrow streets of Dublin.

St. Andrews Church

Springs blossoms in front of St. Andrews Church.

Dublin has so many smiling happy chatty people. I’ve had five random strangers strike up a conversation with me. One guy watched me taking photos of St. Andrews Church.

“You wanna take a photo of me? I’m famous.”

“Oh yeah,” I ask, “what for?”

“Football,” he replies.

“Unfortunately,” I tell him, and this is with real regret, “I know nothing about football.” I’m sure he’s not famous, but it would be nice to know more about the World’s Favourite Sport.

“You must be from America,” he says. And we both know Americans are famous for being completely out of the football/soccer loop compared to most of the rest of the world. “So what’s it like? Living in America?”

I tell him that so far, Dublin is a lot like Oregon. Same climate, same early stage of Spring, same plants grow here. He talks about Trump a little, and says he’s not racist like people are in America.

I walked past Trinity College and continued south to the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology, because it was one thing I wanted to do, and wasn’t sure if Tara did. I found the museum easily and was pleased to see that the entrance fee is free. This is one of those museums in which the building itself is a big attraction. I happened to stop first at the almost-identical library across the parking lot (oops forgive me: carpark), and shot a photo of the whole building (which is enormous):

National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology

The entire floor inside is mosaic tile. Some places are so beautiful that I hesistated to walk on it.

Columns inside the museum.

Decorated bronze mount.

Ancient carved stone.

Roman silver artifacts.

Exceptional metalwork

Carved stone 1-2 century AD

Golden cross.

After the museum I found a convenience store and bought some medicine for Tara, then went back to the room to deliver hot lemon medicated tea and cough syrup.

It was quiet and warm in the room and I couldn’t help it but take a nap! Later that evening, I went back out for sustenance and found quite by accident, two great places. I stepped into The Vintage Kitchen and put my name down for an 8:30pm table, then went next door to Mulligans.

It turns out that Mulligans Pub is an old and famous pub! Apparently James Joyce drank here, as well as John Kennedy. I was treated well and surrounded by Irishmen, their accents rising around me. I finished my pint of Five Flags lager, and walked back over to the kitchen.

The Vintage Kitchen is another narrow, quirky place with immediately friendly staff. The waiter insisted that if I like seafood, I needed to order the chowder. I obeyed. I enjoyed the quirky atmosphere and in no time had my chowder, which is to die for. I filled a little dish with mussel shells that I dug out of it, and dunked a variety of homemade breads into it. The chowder, though listed under “starters,” was a meal unto itself. Alas, I still had a risotto coming. No worries though, once I crammed as much of the fabulous risotto with kale (and leeks and broccoli) into myself, I asked them to pack up the rest for my sick kid. Tara was happy to take the leftover dinner off my hands.

John Mulligan’s Pub around the corner from our AirBnb.

Inside the pub

Inside The Vintage Kitchen

The rain makes everything sparkle at night.

Pubs and cobbled streets.

We had a better look at Dublin the next day.

please click image for source

I came across this classroom assignment I wrote in 2006 for an International Mediation course I was taking at Brandeis University. The first third of the paper is a tidy re-cap of the traumatic battle surrounding the discovery of a 9,300 year old human skeleton beside the Columbia River. The remainder is obviously student-speak designed to answer the many questions put to us by our professor, and designed to prove that we had read all the texts assigned.

Pursuing any current and relevant news, I found an article in the Tri-City Herald noting that ancient human remains were again found in the area. Startled, I read on to discover that the bones, estimated to be 300 to 350 years old, were handed over to the Tribes claiming them by the US Army Corps of Engineers. No fuss, no scandal, no lawsuits.

Painful as it is, the truth looks ugly. Scientists, arguably among the most intelligent of us, appear to be using only their empirical data in these two cases. Inciting war in the first, and granting peace in the second. They apparently have decided that Indians have the right to claim 300 year old remains but not 9000 year old remains. Yes, I see the difference on the surface. But ideologically, what is the difference? Why does one group get to draw the line, and where exactly is it drawn, and why?

My apologies if I lost you, because this stuff is so central to my core that I find it hard to express to someone else. But let me try: Indians claim that ancient human remains in North America are their ancestors because their oral traditions (i.e. their religions) tell them so. Scientists track ancestry through DNA samples, and many believe that there are multiple lineages that populated North America. Thus, any kinship ties could only be proven through meticulous scientific study.

The fact that no ownership war began over the 300 year old remains says to me that scientists are willing to agree on kinship ties in that case. But NOT because they respect Indian religious traditions, but because it happens to be in line with their own religion of science. This stuff makes me furious. 1) If your scientific point is that DNA is required, then why not battle with equal ferocity over the 300 year old remains? 2) Why do the scientists get to set the terms? 3) If 9000 years old is clearly not an ancestor, and 300 years is clearly an ancestor, can we please have the exact year that delineates? (ok, yes, that was sarcasm)

Multiple parties were (and are still) passionate about those particular human remains called both Ancient One and Kennewick Man. Opinions vary on how they should or should not be handled, stored, examined, discussed, or buried. Millions of dollars and millions of hours were spent to make a decision on whether American Indians who claimed ancestral ties had the right to dispose of the human remains as the Tribes saw fit; or, whether anthropologists should be allowed to study the remains for the benefit of adding to our human knowledge base of early versions of our species.

My take was that, had the situation been handled properly, there may have been a way to satisfy some of the needs of both of these parties (as well as the needs of other parties also involved, to include the US Army Corps of Engineers and the intriguing Asatru Folk Assembly).

Again I fear that this is evidence that minority parties rarely get respect or validation. It is depressing and heartbreaking, not to mention frustrating when groups of stereotypically “intelligent” people such as scientists are the ones furthering ignorance, discrimination, and destructive hegemony.

On the optimistic side… there is a chance that I just witnessed an evolution of another kind. Can it be that we have learned lessons over here in the Pacific Northwest, and applied them successfully?

One of my many guises

Recently I posted…

Other people like these posts

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 581 other followers

Follow Conscious Engagement on WordPress.com

I already said…

Flickr Photos