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Surrounding the erratic are four small cairns.  The one nearest the erratic in figure 19 is simply a low jumble of rocks, probably having been broken apart over the centuries, but the one on the other side of it on a ledge outcrop (Fig. 21) is very impressive and well preserved.  Each of these small cairns seems to be commemorative or ceremonial, having been constructed in response to the physical presence and power of the erratic.  This combination of small cairns to an unusual boulder or even a larger stone cairn has been found elsewhere.  In Georgia, Jefferies and Fish (1976) described dozens of small cairns that were constructed below and around a large quartz mound that held the remains of a cremation.  Since nothing was found in a sampling of the small cairns, the authors concluded the cairns were ceremonial in nature.
Fig 19
Fig. 19
Fig 21
Fig. 21

One of the most impressive features at the site is feature E, which is a very large stone fill between two massive boulders.  In figure 24 we can get a sense of the scale of this feature by observing David Skinas, an archaeologist and State Cultural Resources Specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Vermont, standing on top of the fill, which measures 3.6 m (12 ft.) across at the base and 5.7 m (19 ft.) at the top.  The pile is 1.9 m (6.5 ft.) high.  About halfway between this stone fill and the erratic is a smaller fill between boulders with a “manitou” type stone placed at one end (see for a discussion of quartz).
Fig 24
Fig. 24
Fig 25

A similar large fill has been found at the Southern Mound Complex in Birchtown, Nova Scotia (Fig. 25), which has been attributed to eighteenth century Black Loyalists by some, but to Indian natives by others.    Smaller stone accents of this type have been found at the Oley Hills site in eastern Pennsylvania (Fig. 26), where there is a small U-shaped stone fill between two boulder projections.  To my eyes, this is simply a much smaller version of the huge example at the R7-2 site.

Not far from the large stone fill is the largest cairn at the site, which is marked as point F on the map.  Its proximity to the boulder fill can be seen in Fig. 27, off to the left in the distance.   This very large cairn (Fig. 28) measures 10 m (33 ft.) long by 2.4m (8 ft.) high and approximately 5.4 m to 6 m (18 to 20 ft.) wide.  A quartz cobble can be seen in the top center portion of the cairn.  Because it is so closely situated to feature E, I feel this was certainly intentional on the part of the builder.  .
Fig 27
Fig. 27
Fig 28
Fig. 28

One other large cairn is found at point G on the map (Fig. 29).  Not as large as the one mentioned above, it is nevertheless an impressive cairn that has deteriorated significantly over the years.  Originally one can imaging that it was considerably taller and its shape more clearly defined, with distinctly piled stones around the circular perimeter.  But it is now a jumble of stones, with many probably having been removed to build local walls.

Fig 29
Fig. 29


It is fascinating how a simple but incisive comment by an expertly informed outsider can suddenly poke holes in the façade of ignorance that has bedeviled the study of the stone ruins of New England for decades.  We have no physical proof in the way of artifacts or dateable organic material that these cairns and other structures at site R7-2 predate the colonization of this part of Vermont, and tearing a cairn apart looking for some elusive evidence may not work anyway, since ritualistic sites are often devoid of artifacts since they were intentionally kept clean.  Charles Faulkner came to this conclusion after excavating the Old Stone Fort in Tennessee.  But by looking at these stone features through a completely different lens, one that takes into account the possibility that they are symbolic metaphors of Indian myths, then the whole impression this site conveys undergoes a radical transformation.  If we think of the two walls over the streams as personifications of water serpents that served to protect everything in between, then they become something entirely different than had one thought of them merely as walls constructed by a deranged Vermont farmer!   Simple logic should convince anyone that to build a massive wall over a stream for more than 150 meters makes no practical sense at all, not even taking into account the labor involved in doing this.  And Vermont colonial farmers were a practical lot not much given to whimsy.  

I failed to mention that during wet periods rivulets of water flow alongside the two walls over the streams, undoubtedly because portions of the culverts have been blocked by stones or clogged by leaves and other organic matter.  But if one walks close to the south wall over the stream, particularly along the bottom portion, one can hear water flowing inside the wall.  Sound, color and texture were all qualities that were in integral part of the aboriginal world, and here the wall becomes more than a stone wall: it begins to come alive.  And for those who lived here hundreds and perhaps a thousand or more years ago, this wall really was the personification of a water serpent, and the cairns and boulders were more than what we now see them as.  We cannot get under the skin of the Indians to experience these features as they did, but by becoming aware of how they viewed the world around them, we can begin to appreciate these stone features in a completely new and rewarding way.

Barnouw, V., Wisconsin Chippewa Myths and Tales, Madison 1977.

Brisbin, L.G. Jr., “The Stone Serpent Mound in Kentucky and Other Monuments,” West Virginia Archaeologist 25 (1976), 26-36.

Brinton, D.G., The Myths of the New World: A Treatise in the Symbolism and Mythology of the Red Race in America, NY 1868.

Faulkner, C., “Rock Art of Tennessee: Ceremonial Art in this World and the Underworld,” Rock Art in the Eastern Woodlands, C. Faulkner, ed., American Rock Art Research Association, San Miguel, CA, 1996.

Jefferies, R.W. & Fish, P.R., “Investigations of Two Stone Mound Localities, Monroe County, Georgia,” University of Georgia Laboratory of Archaeology, Series Report No. 17, 1978.

Kreisberg, G., “The California Quarry & Nearby Stone Cairns of Woodstock, NY,” NEARA Journal, 41, No. 1 (2007), 17-26.

Krupp, E.C., “Slithering Toward Solstice,” Sky & Telescope, June 2000, 87.

Muller, N. “Stone Rows & Boulders:  A Comparative Study” ( .

Muller, N., “An Unusual Crescent-Shaped Cairn and the Significance of Quartz” (

Newdorfer, G., Vermont’s Stone Chambers: An Inquiry Into Their Past, Montpelier 1980.

Sanders, S.L., “The Stone Serpent Mound of Boyd County, Kentucky: An Investigation of a Stone Effigy Structure,” Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology, 16, No. 2 (1991), 273-285.

Vastokas, J.M. & Vastokas, R.K., Sacred Art of the Algonkians: A Study of the Peterborough Petroglyphs, Peterborough (Ontario), 1973.

White, J.R., “Kern Effigy #2: A Fort Ancient Winter Solstice Marker?” Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology, 12, No. 2 (1987), 225-242.

White, R., Prehistoric Art: the symbolic journey of humankind, NY 2003.

Photo Credits

Figures 3, 9, 10, 22-24 and 29 are by David Lacy.  Figure 25 is taken from the website of the Birchtown stone ruins site in Nova Scotia.  All other illustrations are by the author.

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Copyright © 2007 by Norman E. Muller