The slopes where most of the cairns are--I think that was
used for hay, because the archaeologists found a rusty
scythe on the hillside there. [For more about the Smith
Farm, see "An Historical Analysis of the Smith Farm and
Stone Mounds, Rochester, Vermont" by Norman Muller in
NEARA Journal, Volume 48:2, Winter 2014]
What do you think of all the archaeoastronomy that's been
done on these sites?
I'm really not into archaeoastronomy. I've read some
articles about it, and I think it's not being done in a very
methodical, careful way by people in NEARA. There's
probably something to it, but we live in an area where it's
mostly cloudy throughout the year--I think we have like
280 days of cloudy days, and plus, we have a lot of trees
and shrubs and things which obscure the sky. It's not that
the Indians were unaware of the sky. They certainly were.
The use of quartz, the way it's been used in some of the
features, it's certainly a reflection of the sun and the moon.
But in terms of archaeoastronomy, I just don't buy it. I have
this article written by an astronomer up in Vermont, which
was published in Vermont History. ["Archaeoastronomy
in Vermont" by Gary D. Parker in Vermont History Journal,
Volume 50:248-255] He addresses some of the claims that
Mavor and Dix had made for the chambers up in Vermont.
He says it just doesn't work that way. So I've taken his word
as more important than Mavor and Dix, because he's very
I just don't buy all of this long distance alignment. I think
it's just a lot of nonsense. Like the "Hammonasset Line"
[a series of lithic sites running from Long Island through
Connecticut which amateur researcher Tom Paul has pro-
posed were intentionally constructed along a virtual line
oriented to the solstices.] I just say, well, how do you do
it? If you're on Long Island, how do you determine a point
on the other side of Long Island Sound? How is it done?
What if you go a quarter-mile either north or south, you'll
probably find a similar line of features, eventually.
I think a lot of that is unfortunate. The Upton chamber is
an important site, but not as a foresight for the cairns on
Pratt Hill. I think that whole idea of building something so
enormous as a sighting platform for some stone mounds
on a hill a mile away, so you can see the sky--I don't think
you can see anything from the inside of that on a dark
night. I'm sorry. Plus you have all the trees. Mavor and
Dix have claimed the land between the chamber and the
mounds on Pratt Hill was cleared. What evidence is there
of this? We don't know.
A thing about Thoreau, he could go in the woods and tell
what time of the year it was, the month, even the week,
based on things he saw growing--plants, animal actions,
things of that sort. There was an account in Connecticut's
Indigenous Peoples by Lucianne Lavin. She mentions how
she was interviewing some Native Americans in Connecticut
and they said that this whole thing about building things
to determine the time or time of the year, no, they didn't
do that. Well, that's exactly how I think, too. They didn't
have to do that.
Herman Bender wrote a couple of wonderful articles for
the NEARA Journal pointing out this thing of time. More
members should read that article [ "Archaeoastronomy
Investigations on Petroform Sites in the Mid-continent
of North America, a Common Sense Approach with
Commentary" by Herman Bender in NEARA Journal, Volume
47:1, Summer, 2013], and think about what he's saying,
because he's more or less saying the same thing.
I've never gone in that direction. I've focused on a small
area of these stone mounds and looked at it from: What
can I learn from all of this stuff? What does it tell me? I
know that these particular structures are found throughout
New England, meaning the flat-top mounds.
I'm interested in walls, too. There is a lace wall I visited
in Ashfield, Massachusetts. It's a quarter mile long, and
three-quarters of a mile from a road.
It runs along a stream, right?
For a while. Of all the lace walls I've seen, that's the most
incredible one I've ever seen (Figure 9).
So what do you think of that? What do you make of it?
It's definitely Indian.
Why is that?
The way it forms, the way it goes out of its way to connect
with boulders, to outcrops, to ledges, and things like that.
That's exactly what Philip Smith was describing.
Not all walls are the same, of course. There were walls at
the Oley Hills site not like lace walls. They don't go from
boulder to boulder.
Have you ever run into petroglyphs in any of your explorations?
No, I haven't, except at the Bob Miner farm [Hopkinton, Rhode
Island]. I was shown this circle. I think that's natural. Some
of them have may have been enhanced. But then I found a
figure eight on the side of one of these boulders that have
not been eroded. I don't believe they're petroglyphs. In
fact, I wrote to Robert Bednarik in Australia, who was the
Figure 9. A "lace wall" in Ashfield, Massachusetts. Photo by Norman