Sunday, October 12, 2014

Professor Curtiss Hoffman Speaks @ Robbins Museum

Prof. Curt Hoffman Gives Presentation On Stone Structures Data

I was invited to attend a series of presentations at the Robbins Museum of Archaeology in Middleborough by Dr. Curt Hoffman the other day, Oct. 11th 2014.  Curt gave an update on his data concerning the Ceremonial Stone Structures.  Below are some of the talking points Professor Hoffman touched upon during his presentation which was titled "Native American Stone Structures of the Eastern Seaboard- an Update":

- Research and investigation of ancient ceremonial stone-works in the NorthEast is controversial.  This is due to a political nature more than anything else (towns, counties and states receiving revenue for development, etc.)  Young professional archaeologists and others are discouraged from studying these sites "at the risk of their careers."

- Despite this Curt urges the audience (colleagues and others) that these sites must be evaluated.

- In contrast to other regions of North America it should be no surprise New England has these Native Stone Ruins.

- Curt drew upon historical evidence that Native people erected stone effigys, citing a documented case of the Aquinnah Wampanoag practicing this custom in colonial-era times.

- These sites mostly happen in clustered distributions, we are looking at the whole eastern sea-board here from Quebec to Florida.  Distributions of these sites sometimes cross town, county and state lines (indicating they are Native American in origin and not colonial.)  

- The total number of sites Dr. Hoffman has recorded on his inventory in this region (working with many people like myself sharing info of site locations as well as previously known sites) is 4,335.  He speculates the real number could be something like 24,000 (and possibly more.)

- There are strong clusters of ceremonial stone-works in Southern New England, Vermont and New York State.  The least dense area where these clusters appear is Quebec, Canada, while the most dense areas are Rhode Island, Eastern Massachusetts and Connecticut.  

- These sites are common around river drainages (such as Echo Lake in my area.)  From a Native perspective a good spot for ceremony (and thus ceremonial constructs) would be "where water flows in two directions."

- Another geographic feature in selection of these sites besides water would be by major and minor fault-line areas (note: see my post about analyzing a petro-form at one such place from Sept. 2014).

- The most common feature of stone-works are cairns and rock piles.

- Lots of stone mounds along the SuAsCo drainage.

- Talks about stone rows (different from stone walls.)  Talks about other sites in Virginia by the Susqeanna drainage.

- Curt Hoffman's list of things to work with/ analyze in these sites for the future:
1) The environmental parameter/ 2) the regional variations of these stone-works (note: such as why some cairn fields in Thompson, Ct. look different from cairn fields in my area)/ 3) examining the distribution of sites/ 4) the consistency of the clusters/ 5) looking at alignments and azimuths/ 6) recording these sites for agencies (preservation)/ 7) featuring sites in future publications.

- Points out that the use of white quartz was ceremoniously significant at these sites.  Some sites are still (and can be) in ceremonial use.

- Member of the audience recently had an Ecuadorian spiritual leader stay with her up here.  Notes the sites provide energy for the earth (a female energy, what the Chinese call "yin" as in yin/yang.)  Notes that these sites are important to "tune into" for these times.

- Curt points out that alignments in this region are 15 degrees declination of true north.

- This wraps up my notes from Dr. Hoffman's presentation.

Here are some pics I took from around the Robbins Museum.    Everything here is from Massachusetts/ New England.  Note: Artifacts do not usually turn up at ceremonial stone works sites.  There is usually a difference between habitation/village sites, production sites, and strictly ceremonial sites (although all inter-related in respects to culture).  

A Mishoon reproduction (dug-out canoe) donated by Wampanoag tribal members:           

An atlatl reproduction:

Atlatl weights:

Effigies and fetishes:

Mortar and stone pestle: 

Arrowheads/ projectile points:

Up through Middle Archaic times, how the Atlantic ocean was more shallow than it is today:

Fishweir stuff found in Boston:


All in all a good day.  I enjoyed Prof. Hoffman's lecture as well as the presentations of the other speakers, and the museum itself.

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