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Reference Materials
on Native American Stone Cairns

Last Updated on September 9, 2007


Archaeology References

New England Region
Non-New England States, Canada, Sub-Artic, etc.

Ethnography References

New England Region
Non-New England States, Canada, Sub-Artic, etc.

Historical References

New England Region
Non-New England States, Canada, Sub-Artic, etc.


Stone Cairns

Standing Stones, Pedestals, Perched Boulders, Etc.


Stone Walls

Split Boulders

Native American Rights

From History of Ancient Woodbury, Connecticut by William Cothren. vol. II (1872)

Nonnewaug’s Grave

Rev, Erza Stile’s 1762 sketch of Barrington / Stockbridge MA (Monument Mountain) stone cairn. Reprinted in “the Brush or Stone heaps of Southern New England” by Eva Butler (see #306 for full citation)

ARCHAEOLOGY: New England Region

[100] Frank Glynn, “Excavation of the Pilot’s Point Stone Heaps,” Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut No. 38 1973. pp. 77-89.

Excavation Summary: Between 1952-54, Frank Glynn excavated two stone heaps at Pilot’s Point on coast of Connecticut. Heap I, an oval shaped stone mound, measured 12 feet by 21 feet with a maximum elevation of 2 feet. Heap II, another oval shaped stone mound, measured 9 feet in diameter with maximum elevation over two feet. It was built against a large glacial boulder. A small shell heap abutted the heap. Both heaps had 19th and 20th century artifacts on their top surface. The presence of these artifacts had led to local speculation of their colonial or later origins. Heap I revealed upon subsequent excavation to contain 20 features (primarily hearths and fire pits) some superimposed on top of lower features. Artifacts recovered included “stemmed and barbed projectile points, a stemmed knife, a scraper and a chisel, suggestive of the Archaic-Woodland overlapping periods.” In addition, rim shards, a mortar and pestle, and hoes and spades described as “Adena-like” were recovered. Glynn noted that “The immediate sealing-off of fires either by covering them with stone or rolling a large stone into them was evident.” Heap II was a mix of burnt stone and shell and had strong evidence that the glacial boulder was used as a reflector oven for cooking clams. Artifacts recovered included “Quartz cores, flakes and chips …broken choppers and scrapers …”

[101] James Mavor & Byron Dix, Manitou: The Sacred Landscape of New England’s Native Civilization (Rochester, VT: Inner traditions Inc., 1989), pp 66, 82 .

Editorial Note: James Mavor Jr. and Byron Dix investigate a group of 110 stone mounds in Freetown, Massachusetts during the early 1980’s. The original excavation report was printed in the Early Sites Research Society Bulletin in 1983. A revised version of this report was included in Mavor and Dix’s book Manitou (1989) on pages 66 to 82. A single stone mound was selected for archaeological excavation. The excavation recovered charcoal from two features and was c-14 dated 875 +/- 160 years B.P. and 875 +/- 150 years B.P. In additional, the excavation found 120 pieces of red ochre, and possible stone tools (hammerstones, scrapers, and anvils).

“We [Mavor & Dix]  conclude from the excavation that the mound, and by implication many others, was built by pre-historic Native Americans for ceremonial use, and was certainly not the result of English colonial field clearing.”

[102] Salvatore M. Trento, “A Stone Cairn Excavation Masters Lake, N.Y.,” Early Sites Bulletin vol. 9 no. 1 (1981), pp. 16-17.

Editorial Note: This article was a preliminary report and drew no conclusions. The complexity of the cairn structure and scarcity of archaeological excavation reports on cairns warrants its inclusion. The structural complicity of the cairn and the recovery of “chips of lithic material” in the accumulated fill of pit depression “X” raises some significant issues with the traditional colonial field clearing theory used to explain such structures.

“…the structure was found to have a distinct, teardrop shape. Four circular depressions were found beneath loose foliage.

 The oval-shaped pile was constructed of local field slabs between 24-36 inches in length, primarily shist and weighing between 25 and 50 pounds. The slabs were not randomly thrown together in an assorted pile as was frequently done in field clearance. Rather, the Slabs had been carefully placed one on top of the other to form a crude but somewhat effective support structure – each stone was dependent upon one below for support. Movement of any slabs would results in partial collapse of the structure. This building construction was repeatedly brought to the attention of the field teams [Mid Atlantic Research Company (MARC)] during excavation. The long axis of the structure, running approximately east-west measured 31 feet, while the shorter axis, running approximately north-south measured 19 feet.

 The maximum height of the cairn gradually sloped from 4 feet above ground level at its western end to approximately 2 feet at the eastern end. …

 … Pit depression `X` yielded the most intriguing items. At a depth of 36 inches two round boulders were uncovered below a heavy concentration of roots from a nearby tree. Beneath these boulders team member, Mr. Pingotti uncovered a 10 inch layer of moist soil. Various chips of lithic material were found in the sifter.”

[103] Dennis E. Howe, “The Beaver Meadow Brook Site: Prehistory on the West Bank at Sewall’s Falls, Concord, New Hampshire”, New Hampshire Archaeologist Vol. 29 No. 1 (1988). pp. 59

Editorial Note: Feature 5 at the site was classified as a cairn and associated with feature 9 a cremation burial. Feature 9 had “A Radiocarbon date of 5155 +/- 190 years B.P. (GX-14009) was obtained from charcoal excavated from immediately below the feature.” (pp. 61)

Feature 5 This feature, located in excavation units N0E0 and N1E0, consisted of stacked cobbles and stones … and has been identified as a cairn. The total weight of the stones and cobbles was 124.5 lbs (274.5 kg). It extended from a depth of 48 cm to 83 cm. It is likely that it was associated with the cremated human remains, Feature 9, and Feature 4. No other features like this were found on either bank of the river in the Sewall’s Falls area.”

[104] Edmund Swigart, Prehistory of the Indians of Western Connecticut: Part 1, 9,000-1000 BC, (American Indian archaeological Institute, 1974) pp. 32

“Four additional firepits were in a cloverleaf arrangement and were ringed with stones. An additional pile of river cobbles, presumably for cooking purposes, was four feet northeast of these hearths. Two additional pits did not have a large number of stones directly associated with them when they were exposed. Both, however, had piles of river cobbles appromixately seven feet away. While these hearths could conceivably have been roasting fires, the absence of preserved bone and plant remains would suggest that these, in conjunction with the neighboring stones, were used in preparation of boiled food. They might also have been used for a purpose other than cooking, however. One of these two pits was excavated by Stephen Post and Douglas Jarvis, Gunnery School students. It has returned the oldest C-14 date so far recorded for the State of Connecticut, 2515 B.C. +/- 240 years.
In addition to the seven firepits and the acorn pit, 11 other features were recorded. Three of these were piles of river cobbles 24 to 36 inches in diameter and up to 12 inches deep.  One of these had an unusual concentration 9cache) of tools next to it. Two of the five pitted stones, three anvil stones, three hammerstones, quartz cores, one quartz knife, and three crude quartz toolswere in a 12 inch area north of the stone pile. Moderately heavy concetrations of debitage were in the immediate vicinity, indicating that this might have been a work area as well.

Three other features were obvious work areas. One was an 18 inch-diamter circle, edged with larger stones and containing occasional charcoal fragments, 12 crude quartz tools, and 451 pieces of debitage per inche of soil depth. It was located threefeet north of a firepit. According to Ritchie, becuase of the stone circle there may have been a significance, possibly religious, greater than that of a normal work area connected with this feature. ...” pp. 32

[105] Dean R. Snow, A Summary of Excavations at the Hathaway Site in Passadumkeag, Maine, 1912, 1947, and 1968, (Department of Anthropology, University of Maine, 1969)

Editorial Note: This site is include becuase of its striking similarities to Feature 5 at Beaver Meadow Brook Site (#104). Three C-14 dates were obtained from different components of the burial and feature. 3050 +/- 140 BC, 1320 +/- 100 AD, 1750 +/- 80 AD. Snow argues that the 5,000 year old date represents re-interred charcoal and the other two dates are more representative of the features age. Snow’s interpretation / reconstruction of the feature indicates the stone concentration was an intentional feature of the burial ceremony.

“A concentration of boulders was discovered just to the northeast of the burial [#28] under the fill shown in the upper left hand corner of plate 11.” pp. 39

ARCHAEOLOGY: Non New England States, Canada, Sub-Artic, Central & South America

[200] Letter from Mr. J.F. Aiton to Rev. E.D. Neil in St. Paul, MN, January 17, 1852 (Institute for Minnesota Archaeology, From Site to Story website)

"Dear Sir: -- Your letter of the third instant, relating to the stone heaps near Red Wing [Minnesota], was duly received. I am happy to comply with your request, hoping that it may lead to an accurate survey of these mounds.

In 1848 I first heard of stone heaps, on the hill tops, back from Red Wing. But business, and the natural suspicion of the Indian prevented me from exploring. The treaty of Mendota emboldened me to visit the hills, and try to find the stone heaps. Accordingly, late last autumn, I started on foot and alone from Red Wing, following the path marked P on the map, which i herewith transmit. I left the path after crossing the second stream, and turning to the left, I ascended the first hill that I reached. This is about a mile distant from the path that leads from Fort Snelling to Lake Pepin. There, on the brow of the hill, which was about 200 feet high, was a heap of stones. It is about twelve feet in diameter and six in height. The perfect confusion of the stones, and yet the entireness of the heap, and the denuded rocks all around, convinced me that the heap had been formed from stones lying around, picked up by the hand of man.

But why, and when it had been done were questions not so easily decided. For solving these, I resolved to seek internal evidence. Prompted by the spirit of a first explorer, I soon ascended the heap; and the coldness of the day, and the proximity of my gun, tended to suppress my dread of rattlesnakes. The stones were such that I could lift, or roll them, and I soon reached a stick about two feet from the top of the heap. After descending about a foot farther I pulled the post out; and about the same place found a shank bone, about five inches long. The post was red cedar, half decayed, i.e. one side, and rotted to a point in the ground; hence I could not tell whether it grew there or not. The bone is similar to the two which you have. I left it and the post on the heap, hoping that some one better skilled in osteology might visit the heap. The stones of the heap are magnesium limestone, which forms the upper stratum of the hills about Red Wing.

Much pleased, I started south over the hill top, and was soon greeted by another silent monument of art. This heap is marked B on the map. It is similar to the first which is marked A, only it is larger and was so covered with a vine that I had not success in opening it. From this point, there is a fine view southward. The valleys and hills are delightful. Such hills and vales, such cairns and bushy glens, would, in my father's land, have been the thrones and play grounds of fairies. But I must stick to facts. I now started eastward to visit a conical appearing hill, distant about a mile and a half. I easily descended the hill, but to cross the plain and ascend another hill "hic labor est." But I was amply repaid. The hill proved to be a ridge, with several stone heaps on the summit. Near one heap there is a beautiful little tree, with a top like "Tam O'Shanter's" bonnet.

I then descended northward about 200 feet, crossed a valley, past some earth mounds, and ascended another hill, and there found several more stone heaps similar to the others. In them I found nothing else worthy of particular notice at present.

If these few facts, should, in any measure, help to preserve correct information concerning any part of this new country, I shall be amply rewarded for writing.

Your obedient servant,


[201] I.A. Lapham, The Antiquities of Wisconsin as Survey and Describe…, (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1855) Chap. 4.

“ The eastern extremity of Doty’s island has long been occupied by Indians, as is evinced by the regular cornhills covering nearly the whole surface, as well as by a new feature, not before observed, or supposed to be within the pale of Indian customs. The ground was originally covered with loose stones, fragments of the solid limestone rock that exists everywhere not far beneath the surface. These stones had been carefully collected into little heaps and ridges, to make room for the culture of the Native crops. The stone heaps are six or eight feet in diameter, and from one to two feet in height. The interstices are now filled with soil, and partially covered with grass and weeds.”

[202] Dr. W. M. Sweney, 1869 Address given before the Old Settlers Association, (Institute for Minnesota Archaeology, From Site to Story website)

Editorial Note: According the Institute for Minnesota Archaeology, From Site to Story website, “By the time the next traveller, Dr. W.M. Sweney, recorded these cairns, many had been destroyed. Today, the cairns of Red Wing have completely disappeared, the stone used for building or removed prior to plowing the fields. Our only record of these important Native American structures remains in the words of 19th century visitors to the area.”

" Evidences of occupation of the country [Red Wing, MN] by a race of people whose habits in some respects differed from those of the Dakota's of the more recent period, were numerous. On the sharp hill points in the vicinity of Cannon River and Spring Creek, were a number of cairns or stone mounds. These were on the highest points, where shelly rock outcropped, and always overlooked the lower plateaus or valleys on which were situated large groups of earthen tumult. The cairns were of various sizes, ranging from six feet in diameter to twelve at the base. Their shape was conical, and some in the best state of preservation had an elevation of from eight to ten feet. The base was on the bed rock and all the loose stones in the vicinity had evidently been gathered to aid to the completion of the structure. The first layer was in the form of a circle, and by in lapping toward the centre in every succeeding layer, an apex was finally reached. A majority of these structures had fallen in, leaving a circle of rude masonry from three to four feet high while the remains of the upper portion laid in a mass inside the wall, not filling the cavity, showing very conclusively that they had been built hollow. Being very desirous of ascertaining the purposes for which they were erected, I selected two of the most perfect, which were situated on an isolated hill in the valley leading from the little brook near Hawley's mill to Spring Creek. This hill is very sharp and narrow barely affording level base enough for the foundation of the large mound which was at least twelve feet in diameter and nine feet high. It had settled considerably pressing on the cavity. After an hour's hard work we were in a situation to observe the condition at its foundation. A few handsful of black mould was scattered over the bare base rock, a mussel shell nearly in powder and two remnants of wood, distant from each other about six feet in an east and west direction, was all it contained. When we found the wooded fragments they were standing upright, as stakes, supported in that position by rock, and were dry-rotted to points. With a knife I cut off all the decayed wood, the centre being a mere splinter, but enough to clearly distinguish it as that kind of oak known as swamp or blue oak. The other mound did not yield the same amount of discoveries; a little mould, and traces of what we supposed to be decayed bones or shells was all that repaid our labor.

As I observed, I think these cairns were designed as burial places, and for distinguished personages. The material of which they were composed secured them against the depredations of wild animals. Their number, however, would lead to the conclusion that it was not the common mode of sepulchre. The groups of earthen mounds in the valleys overlooked by these cairns, were counted by hundreds, and I think were once human habitations; and if my conjectures be in the right direction, these isolated cemeteries would not alone contain the mortuary remains of as numerous a people as the evidences then to be observed indicated.

These rock structures appear to be peculiar to that portion of our county lying between Hay Creek and Cannon River, and distant but two or three miles from the Mississippi River. In no other portion of our county or state have I observed remains of a similar character . . ."

[203] George P. Morehouse, “Kansas Archaeology”, in William E. Connelley, A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, (1918), Vol. 2 pp. 960-969.

“ In Marion County, a large heap or mound of shells was found years ago; and on bluffs of Wolf Creek in Coffey County, numerous stone heaps have been found in which shellsof muscles are mixed, such as are found so numerous in the Neosho River a mile away and which yield so many fine pearls even to this day. These heaps were possibly once covered with earth, which the elements have washed away. At the foot of the bluff, a probable crematory and many flint arrow points were found, - some of which with fragments of pottery were several feet below the surface where large oak trees 4 feet in diameter had grown.”

[204] Clemens de Baillou, “Archeological Salvage in the Morgan Falls Basin”, University of Georgia Laboratory of Archaeology Series Report No. 4, (Athens, Georgia: Laboratory of Archaeology, University of Georgia, 1962), pp. 16.

Full Text Available Online

Editorial Note: Baillou’s team was investigating Rock Shelter IV (9Co21) when the property owner informed them of some unusual nearby stone mounds. These mounds were also investigated and a report issued on their findings. The archaeologist determined that the mounds were man-made. Due to a total lack of artifacts in the mound excavations, they refrained from interpreting the mounds or attributing them to any particular culture. Mound I’s (9Co22) construction was sufficiently unusual for the archaeologist to state, “We should not ignore the possibility that this structure was designed as anthropomorphic effigy.” (pp. 16) What follows is a description of this cairn like structure.

“After removal of the leaves and humus, it measured 16 feet in length. At is widest part, about 5 feet from the North West end, it measured about 6 ½ feet. In the center it is about 30 inches high. This [stone] mound was surrounded by an oval ring which measured about 20 feet across its length and 13 feet across its width; there was a space about two feet wide between the ring and the central stone pile. … the South West and South portions of the circle are formed by slabs standing upright. … On the upper end of the central rock pile was a strikingly large round stone. Two lines of stone branched out from it so that the design is V-shaped – it gives the impression of a head and arms. The `arms’ are laid out with smaller stones…”

[205] Richard F Pourade (editor), Ancient Hunters of the Far West, (San Diego, CA: The Union-Tribune Publishing Co., 1966), pp.49.

Editorial Note: This book has fairly extensive details on various stone structures in southern California. These structures include sleep circles, linear stone alignments and cairns. The structures were found rocky desert environments. Based on archaeological investigations, they were attributed to the Yuman I & II and San Dieguito I cultural phases.

“… The early shrines are barren of offertory material, except for an occasional man-made flake. The shrines unfortunately contain no identifiable intermediate cultural deposits, such as Amargoss artifacts, lying between the San Dieguito and Yuman periods. If any intermediate people indulged in the practice, they merely added more stones to the cairn. Those which are adjacent to Yuman trails contain a capping of material characteristic of the period. The San Dieguito I type of shrine is most often found on the summit of a divide or in a mountain pass, as are the later Yuman shrines. There are, however, sporadic occurrences of this type which are not on summits and have no discernible trails leading to them or near them. A common variety has a large boulder as a nucleus, around and over which the cobbles were deposited. …

With the beginning of the Yuman period, wayfarers turned to a sacrificial debauch of personal property. Men deposited their tobacco pipes and women deliberately smashed whole ceramic vessels on the shrines. Shell jewelry and food offerings were also made. The trait continued throughout the Yuman period down into historic times, until even the American prospector, perhaps in a facetious mood, added contributions to the cairn in the way of a mule shoe or whiskey bottle.

At the end of Yuman I period … travelers ceased to deposit and destroy intact property and became content to pick a trail sherd or a stone while en route, for deposition in the nearest shrine.”

[206] William C. Noble, “Vision Pits, Cairns, and Petroglyphs at Rock Lake, Algonguin Provincial Park, Ontario,” Ontario Archaeology 11 (1968), pp 47-64.

Editorial Note: Noble investigated a series of 31 stone lined pits on Rock Lake. A survey of the surrounding area also revealed a cluster of 42 cairns, and several petroglyphs. The pits were interpreted as Native American vision quest pits. The petroglyphs were also classified as being of Native American origin. Noble’s conclusions are conservative, however, he does not rule out the possibility that cairns were connected to other Native American religious / ceremonial sites at the lake.

“… a distinctive cluster of low rock cairns was found. They sat openly exposed beneath the forest canopy of maple tress on the first major plateau above the lake front flat. Subsequent mapping of this cairn group indicated that there were a total of 42 structures within a radius of 160 feet: outside this radius no cairns occurred. The cairns lay between the 84 and 108 foot level of elevation above Rock Lake. All appeared to have been purposely piled and are not the result of natural phenomena.” Pp. 58

“ The rock cairns behind and above the rock-lined pits at Rock Lake cannot definitely be demonstrated to be associated with the latter structures. However, it does seem possible that such a connection did exist. The 42 cairns approximate the number of pits recorded, and they too suggest a socio-religious theme of interpretation. Could the cairns not be `tobacco-drops` or dedication cairns erected to a guardian spirit after a successful vision? Three somewhat similar cairns were found at Red Sucker Point, Lake Superior (Emerson: personal communication), one of which was seen by the author during a visit to that site in 1960. Perhaps `vision pits’ and cairns are combined in an integrated pattern.” pp. 63

[207] George C. Frison, “Linear Arrangements of Cairns in Wyoming and Montana”, Megaliths to Medicine Wheels: boulder Structures in Archaeology, Proceedings of the Eleventh annual Chacmool Conference (Calgary, Albert: Archaeological Association, Department of Archaeology, University of Calgary, 1981), pp. 145-147.

“ Direction of the cairn lines seems to have been determined largely by topography. Of six discrete lines in the southern Big Horns four generally trend east-west while two trend north-south. One is definitely in a mountain pass, but only extends partially toward the actual pass. Two were located on ridge-tops that extend from close to the bottom of the mountain slope a good distance up slope. The other three cairns lines align themselves parallel to the base of the mountain slopes, usually cross one or more arroyos, and in doing so, follow natural trails. In one instance, the beginning of the line is a single cairn while the first 2 to 6 six cairns are doubled or form a zig-zag pattern. In another instance one end is an amorphous pattern of 4 cairns. Two of the lines demonstrated two cairns side by side at the edge of deep arroyos; and in another instance, three cairns form a triangle at the edge of arroyo bank. Two lines simply begin and end with no discernible terminal pattern.” pp. 146

“ Dating of the cairns has not been satisfactory … On the other hand, Loendorf (personal communication) did find ceramics in at least one cairn in the Big Horn Canyon group, and Mulloy (1958) found Late Prehistoric period evidence in the case of the Pryor Gap cairns. The evidence argues for a Late Prehistoric and possibly also Late Archaic date for the cairns.” pp. 145-146

“Loendorf (personal communication) spent considerable time in the Pryor Mountain area and claims that a Crow Indian today will not travel Pryor Gap without making an offering of a stone to the large cairn present there. Joe Medicine Crow, the Crow Indian ethnologist, claims (personal communication 1979) his people add stones to cairns as offerings. If these accounts are accurate it would help to explain the cairn-line phenomenon.” pp. 147 Editorial Note: This claim also appears in a primary source account which specifically mentions the Crow (see Bradly, 1961 i.e. custer account). A similar claim has also been made by the Blackfoot Tribe, see source #601.

[208] Larry D. Agenbroad, “Boulder Structures in Bison Drives, Owyhee County, Idaho”, Megaliths to Medicine Wheels: boulder Structures in Archaeology, Proceedings of the Eleventh annual Chacmool Conference (Calgary, Albert: Archaeological Association, Department of Archaeology, University of Calgary, 1981), pp. 151.

Editorial Note: Agenbroad documented seven drive line jumps in Idaho used for hunting bison. The study documented several types of stone structures (stone piles, breastworks, fences, and stone circles). Based upon projectile points recovered from these sites, Agenbroad argues that these sites were used, repaired, and modified over a 7,000 year period (7800 B.P. – 125 B.P.).

“ The most common boulder features of the complexes, or any single drive, are the stone piles. Totaling 1262 in the mapped area, these piles vary in size from one stone set upon another to piles that still stand as high as four feet (1.2 m) above the surface of the drive lane. Stone piles served the purpose of drive lane markers, and in the map configuration they outline drive lanes diverging to the west and converging toward the eastern terminus of the drive.”

[209] David Morrison, “Chipewyan Drift Fences and Shooting-Blinds in the Central Barren Grounds,” Megaliths to Medicine Wheels: boulder Structures in Archaeology, Proceedings of the Eleventh annual Chacmool Conference (Calgary, Albert: Archaeological Association, Department of Archaeology, University of Calgary, 1981), pp. 176.

Editorial Note: A 1976 archaeological survey of the Elk and Thelon Rivers (Eastern District of Mackenzie) identified a number of caribou hunting drive lines refer to as “Drift Fences Sites”.

“ A drift fence (= caribou fence) is a row of stone cairns, usually a meter or less in height and spaced five or six meters apart. Individual cairns are usually of very simple construction; a few piled stones or a single upturned slab. In order to increase their visibility, they were, whenever possible, constructed along a ridge top, so as to be silhouetted along the skyline. Drift fences were used to channel caribou toward a killing place in the form of a water crossing ambush or strategically placed shooting blinds.

 It has long been recognized that the Inuit used lines of cairns which they call inukshuit (sing. Inukshuk: “like a man”) for caribou hunting …The Chipewyan use of stone inukshuit rows to hunt caribou north of tree-line seems to have gone almost entirely unnoticed.”

[210] Patrick H. Carmichael, “The Thunderbird Site and the Thunderbird Nest Phenomenon in Southeastern Manitoba,” Megaliths to Medicine Wheels: boulder Structures in Archaeology, Proceedings of the Eleventh annual Chacmool Conference (Calgary, Albert: Archaeological Association, Department of Archaeology, University of Calgary, 1981), pp. 282, 289, 290.

Editorial Note: The “Thunderbird Nest” stone cairns described in this article are relative rare in New England. Examples of these cairns have been found in Connecticut and southern New Hampshire. The article discusses three “Thunderbird Nest” cairns. The cairn labeled “Nest #2” from site EgKx-15 is the only such cairn found in direct association with a habitation site. The cairn was tentatively dated to 1700 – 1500 B.P. and Carmichael does not rule out the possibility that structure began construction in the Archaic period. The other two cairns were found in more isolated locations. Carmichael discusses five hypothesis for interpreting the structures, all center around Native American religious practice, but he draws no conclusions.

“ The Thunderbird Nest [#2] is a large circular pile of boulders with a central depression or hollow; in effect a huge stone nest. The boulders vary in size and shape, but are estimated to average between 20 and 50 kg in weight. They are primarily of granite, although the local `greenstone’ bedrock is also well represented. The Nest measures 6.5 to 7 meters north-south and 6 m east-west; and the central hollow is approximately 1.5 m in diameter. … Excavation units placed around the Nest’s perimeter yielded two end scrapers, a biface, a large corner-notched projectile point, and assorted quartz debitage. No Post-molds, ash, or charcoal were found.” pp. 282.

“ It has been suggested that these Nests are simply glacial boulder dumps. In the cases of Nests #1 and #2, the writer does not discount the possibility that the boulders were originally deposited in piles by glacial action. However, their shared traits, regular circular outline, very similar dimensions, and the presence of a central hollow are unquestionably of cultural origin.” pp. 289


(a) the Nests were built as monuments to important personages or events;

(b) they are grave markers of important personages;

(c) they were constructed for vision quests;

(d) they were built to assist in divination of the future; or

(e) they were built by individuals or groups and dedicated to supernatural powers in (1) gratitude, (2) appeasement, or (3) praise, in order gain favor.” pp. 290

[211] Kenneth C. A. Dawson, “Prehistoric Stone Features on the Relict North Shore Cobble Beaches of Lake Superior,” Megaliths to Medicine Wheels: boulder Structures in Archaeology, Proceedings of the Eleventh annual Chacmool Conference (Calgary, Albert: Archaeological Association, Department of Archaeology, University of Calgary, 1981), pp. 304,

Editorial Note: Based on limited artifact recoveries the various sites reviewed in this article were dated to 1150 B.P. to 350 B.P. and attributed Algonkian peoples. Between 65 and 70% of features surveyed were associated religious activities including the Medewin Society ceremonies. Given the isolated locations, temporary nature of the camps, and other evidence, Dawson concluded the “sites are considered to be primarily ceremonial.” pp 304.

“ Dedication structures (type C) are associated with gift-giving to the spirits. They are divided into cairns and mounds. Only one large mound structure with a depressed interior was located; it was on a lower beach. The 34 cairns are divided into two varieties: beach (cc-1; N=18) and house (cc-2; N=16). The house variety occurs inside conical lodges. The beach variety is about the size of the house variety. Beach cairns occur in isolation, usually in prominent locations. Some smaller beach cairns were associated with vision-quest pits, and occasionally occurred in pairs.” pp 304.

[212] Joseph L. Chartkoff, “A Rock Feature Complex from Northwestern California”, American Antiquity 48 (4) 1983 pp. 745-759.

Editorial Note: This article documented and analyzed six different stone structure features associated with Native American ritual activities in northern California. Chartkoff attributes these features to the Yurok, who speak an Algonkian language. Only a few short lines relevant to the subject of this paper are quoted below. However, the complete article should be required reading for researchers investigating cairns, rock stacks, stone circles, and other similar structures.

“…We recorded 63 cairns in our survey: 28 on peaks, 32 along trails, and three obvious modern  ones  with iron pipes in the center to mark points, boundaries, or mine claims.

 The peak-top cairns are not to be confused with constructed surveyors’ monuments, which were identified and recorded separately. The 28 peak-top cairns were found principally in association with [Native America] prayer-seat features. Some may be former prayer seats that had been torn down by their builders/users at the end of ritual careers …Others may serve ritual functions apart from those performed at prayer seats and rock stacks. …” pp. 751

[213] Harry O. Holstein et al, “The Morgan Mountain Stone Mound Complex, Site 1Ca32, Calhoun County, Alabama”, Journal of Alabama Archaeology, Vol. 35, No. 1 (1989). pp.36 – 59.

Editorial Note: Five stone mounds arranged in linear north-south arrangement were found on top of Morgan Mountain. The southern half of mound 2 was excavating into the subsoils. With the exception of a few historical artifacts (shotgun shells) and limited organics (nutshell fragments), the excavation provided no archaeologically significant data useful in identifying its age, purpose, or builders. The historical artifacts were determined to have been deposited on the mound after its construction. A visual inspection of mound 3 located six greenstone slabs on the surface of the mound and large pot hunter’s hole in the mound. Research revealed that the nearest possible source of the greenstone was four miles away. Two of the slabs weighed 90 and 110 lbs respectively. It was concluded that the greenstone slabs were intentionally brought to the site with considerable effort.

“ The greenstone slabs, however, are the key shred of evidence as to the purpose and builders of these mounds. Archaeologically, the use of greenstone by human populations has regionally been equated with aboriginal pursuits. Greenstone does not outcrop on Morgan Mountain. The use of slab-like rocks in association with aboriginal burials has been demonstrated archaeologically. It is suggested that the greenstone slabs recovered from mound 3 were originally in association with one or more aboriginal burials subsequently disturbed by treasure hunters. Based on excavation data, regional archaeological surveys, nearby excavation data, and common sense, the five stone mounds atop Morgan Mountain are the result of prehistoric aboriginal activity.” Pp. 56

“It has frequently been suggested that EuroAmericans may have constructed northeastern Alabama stone mounds as part of land clearing operations such as logging or agricultural field preparation … The agricultural value of Morgan Mountain, however, is almost nil. The Calhoun County soil survey indicates all of the slopes and summit of Morgan Mountain are classified as stony rough land, sandstone, a soil type which is low in natural fertility, possesses shallow topsoil and is general[ly] rocky …This coupled with the steepness of the slopes and the total lack of level land, would make this locale extremely marginal for agricultural pursuits, particularly during the 19th century with primitive agricultural technology.” Pp. 51

[214] Gerard LeDuc Ph.D., “No! Gladden and Royer Didn’t Build These Stone Mounds in Potten,” NEARA Journal, Vol. 25 Nos. 3 & 4 (Winter/spring 1991), pp 50-60.

Editorial Note: This is one of the few professional excavations of stone cairns reported. LeDuc and another professional archaeologist who participated in excavations subjected their investigations and subsequent analysis to high standards of scientific research. This article would serve well as a standard by which future cairn excavations should be measured against. LeDuc conclusions are conservative. However, he does firmly conclude that the cairns excavated predated the settlement of the area by Canadians / European immigrants. He considered the hypothesis that the cairns were built by Native Americans but felt further research was necessary to explore the issue in greater depth. The abstract of the article is reprinted below.

“[Abstract] The case is made that early settlers did not build the numerous stone mounds on the forested hillsides of Potton Township located in Quebec, just north of the Vermont border. This conclusion arises from archaeological study of two stone mound sites which revealed that the mounds had been carefully built and were not stone heaps [field clearings]. No recognizable artifacts were found but two cists were observed, as well as petroglyphs on the stones of one mound. Charcoal discovered under the three mounds excavated produced 14C dates of 1800 and 1500 BP, and 560 BP at the other. The research was further carried out with an ethno-historical survey of land titles from the early days to the present, supplemented with dendrochronological data and the examination of old aerial photographs.

 At one site, the only known early settler appears to have been a squatter who later moved his house to the village. The other settler was very poor and abandoned the land after thirteen years to move to the USA. Under the circumstances, it appears that, in both cases, it was not possible for these early settlers to have carried out all of the work required to produce the extensive stoneworks present, and that these structures predate the arrival of settlers at the sites.”

[215] James D. Keyser, Indian Rock Art of the Columbia Plateau, (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1992), pp. 34

“ Both men and women sought guardian spirit helpers through the vision quest. Initially, this ritual came at puberty as part of the rites of passage that marked the transition from childhood to adulthood. … To obtain a guardian spirit, the supplicant would go to a secluded place, often where such spirits were known to reside. There the person contacted the spirits by keeping a vigil of one to three days, during which time he or she fasted, prayed, and performed a variety of tasks designed to demonstrate worthiness. …Often a supplicant built a small circular stone structure or cairn at the vision quest site.”

[216] Bureau of Land Management, Final Statewide Oil and Gas Environmental Impact Statement and Proposed Amendment of the Powder River and Billings resource Management Plans: Northern Cheyenne Narrative Report. pp. 7-18 to 7-19.

“ The vast majority of the cultural resources recorded on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation are made up of either stone tools and tool making debris (lithic scatters) or stone piles generally referred to as cairns.

Lithic scatters are by far the most common site type on the reservation. Four hundred twenty-four (424) have been recorded as of February 2002. At least 12 are associated with springs. Most only contain stone tool making debris, a few contain fire broken rock and still fewer include non-human bone fragments. Most of the stone material used by the prehistoric and historic inhabitants of the area was porcellanite that commonly outcrops in the area. Consequently, many lithic scatters include evidence of quarrying and the initial processing of porcellanite.

Most of these sites are only known from survey data and consequently it is difficult to say during which era(s) they were used. Thirty arrow/spearheads that can be used to estimate the dates of occupation have been reported from the surface of these sites. The area has been inhabited since the Paleo-Indian Period (circa 12,000 years ago) through the Middle Period and the Late Prehistoric (ending approximately at 1750 AD).

Some cairn sites contain only one stone pile while others contain many. Cairns co-occur with tipi rings and lithic scatters. They vary widely in size and have many different functions. Cairns may mark trails or locations where specific events took place. They may be trash or site clearing piles; they may result from the building of tipi rings or sweat lodges. They can also have ceremonial functions when they are the result of people leaving offerings. Cairns sometimes mark human remains. Generally, the larger the cairn and the higher its profile (its height as measure from ground surface) the more likely it is to represent ceremonial activities or cover human remains. When cairns form linear arrangements they are called alignments. Alignment cairns are most often small and have a low profile. Generally alignments are directional markers/prayer lines associated with major ceremonial sites such as the Big Horn Medicine Wheel or drive lines, lines of stone used by groups of hunters to mark the routes on the prairie where they wanted to channel their prey (deer, antelope and bison). One alignment has been recorded on the reservation.

Fifty-four (54) sites containing cairns that are not associated with tipi rings or alignments have been recorded on the reservation. About 30% of these have associated stone tool making debris. One is associated with a location that has both prehistoric and historic rock art. On most site forms, the size of the cairns and their profile is not described therefore it is impossible to state how many have ceremonial functions. One exception to this is the very large cairn at 24RB1789.

Since cairns may mark human remains or memorialize spiritual/ceremonial activities, the Northern Cheyenne routinely avoid these sites.”

[217] Richard W. Jeffries and Paul R. fish, “Investigations of Two Stone Mound Localities, Monroe County, Georgia”, University of Georgia Laboratory of Archaeology Series Report No. 4, (Athens, Georgia: Laboratory of Archaeology, University of Georgia, 1962).

Editorial Note: Site 9Mo152 contained 3 large stone cairns and 52 small cairns. Site 9Mo153 contained one large cairn and 91 small cairns. Excavations of the large cairns produced Native American artifacts dating to the woodland period. “The excavation of small stone mounds at the two sites did not disclose data useful in suggesting their function or cultural affiliation. It would be expected, however, because of their proximity to the large mounds at their respective sites, that construction of these small mounds dates to the same general timer peiord. While no artifacts have been recovered from the small mounds, the spatial distribution of the mounds offers potentially significant information.” pp. 54

Full Text Available Online

[218] U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, North Dakota Field Office, Coteau Properties Company Federal Coal Lease by Application (NDM 91535) for West Mine Area, Freedom Mine Mercer County, North Dakota Environmental Impact Statement, July 2005.

Editorial Note: An archaeological survey of the West Mine Area recorded 1,285 Stone Rings, 405, Stone Cairns, 21 Stone Alignments, 9 Stone Lined Depressions - all were classified as prehistoric features (see Table 3.7).Appendix A contains a detail list of excavation reports and other references. Appendix C & D & E contains a detail report on the prehistoric features.

Full Text Available Online

Appendix C, pp. 102

“At the Onion Ring site, four ring features and one cairn are associated with this complex. Besant projectile points were recovered from three of the rings, while a hearth dating to approximately 1950 BP and two Besant fragments were identified in the fourth (Deaver et al. 1989). Two ring features at 32ME220 yielded Besant projectile points (Deaver 1990). A number of rings, including 10-West, 14-West, 37, 52, 53, 54 and 56 at the Bees Nest site have been interpreted to be Besant occupations based on the recovery of this type of projectile point and associated radiocarbon dates (Peterson and Peterson 1995). Of the eight ring features excavated at 32ME254, seven are believed to be associated with this complex (Winzler et al. 1998).”

Appendix D, pp. 113

“Cairns represent the second most common type of feature observed in the Coteau Mining Region. Unfortunately, less is known about this feature type than about other stone features in the Plains. Occasionally, cairns are identified as caches or trash piles. Cairns larger than three meters in diameter, or that have high vertical profiles, represent a considerable amount of expended energy and may have played important roles, such as serving as burial markers and trailside offering piles. For this reason, larger cairns are often investigated more thoroughly than are smaller cairns. One hundred and eighty-seven sites in the Coteau Mining Region have cairns. Four hundred and five cairns have been recorded in the WMA. Some of these sites also contain rings and are labeled as ring sites. Others contain only cairns or are associated with stone features other than stone rings (e.g., alignments) and/or lithic debris and are identified as cairn sites. Excluding those sites that did not specify the number of cairns, 683 cairns have been identified in the Coteau Mining Region. The accretional construction of cairns over time has been observed at a number of sites in the Northern Plains. They include Bad Pass Trail, the Rosebud Battlefield, the O’Connelly cairn, Arrow Rock and the burial at Bees Nest (Loendorf and Brownell 1980; Medicine Crow 1992; Peterson and Peterson 1995). These features are associated with trail markers (Bad Pass Trail), event markers (Rosebud Battlefield), spiritual markers (Arrow Rock) and burials (Bees Nest). A number of the cairns examined in the West Mine Area yielded diagnostics that can be attributed to more than one cultural period. These include Feature 3C at 32ME144 (McKean and Plains Village), Feature 33C at 32ME232 and feature 9C at 32ME1589. These features also contain a number of unpatinated and heavily patinated Knife River flint flakes.”

Appendix D, pp. 114

“The second type of rock alignment is the most common in the Plains. Sets or groups of very small “cairns” or markers that form a line represent it. This type of alignment was observed at sites 32ME170, 32ME1294, 32ME1519, 32ME1520, 32ME1553, 32ME1560 and 32ME1568. In the new permit area, the markers are composed of 3 to 25 rocks. The overall length for this type of alignment ranges between 15 and 180 meters.

Rock alignments are often identified as drivelines; however, other interpretations, such as topographic markers (Frison 1991), prayer lines and medicine wheel remnants, have also been given (Peterson and Peterson 1995). Subsurface investigations are usually unproductive (K. Deaver 1983b:2-13), and the surface manifestation of these features often provides the only clue to their function. It is normally more productive to follow alignments and determine what other features (such as large burial cairns) or cultural materials (such as a bison bone bed) are associated than to excavate the alignment.

“Alignments, linear arrangements of cairns or single stones have traditional cultural value when they are prayer lines, demarcate the direction of a prominent individual’s war or ceremonial deeds or point to ceremonial structures such as medicine wheels” (Deaver and Fandrich 1999:2-5). Additionally, stone alignments may have been built as part of subsistence activities, used as drivelines by hunters to gauge how they wanted to move herd animals into traps. Other alignments may mark spirit trails or pilgrimage trails to sacred landforms.”

Appendix D, pp. 114

“The Crow and the Three Affiliated Tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara) regard monumental stone structures, such as effigies and medicine wheels, as having sacred attributes. The Sioux and Assiniboines consider them wakan. Commonly, they have mythological associations with supernatural figures that make them appropriate places for fasting, prayer and making offerings. Cairns associated with these features commonly represent offerings.”

Appendix D, pp. 115

“Human remains do not need to be present for a location to be a final resting place. Cairns are sometimes made to ensure that a person returns. If that individual should die while away from his homeland, the cairn will ensure that the spirit will return to its home. Those markers without human remains are no less sacred than those that are associated with human remains.”

Appendix E, pp. 118

“Effigies found in the uplands also provide a material culture link between Hidatsa and Mandan theology and the landscape. Most effigies were boulder outlines of turtles and snakes. Generally, they are located on high bluffs along the Missouri River. The head of the turtle effigies point to the river. Historically, cairns associated with these effigy figures are related to individual offerings made to clear fogs so that buffalo herds could be found (Bowers 1965:337n)”

Appendix E, pp. 118

“Arikara ceremonial lodges are associated with large boulders. According to Howard (1972:299-300), the Yankton, other Dakota groups and the Arikara viewed large boulders as sacred/wakan, and the locales of these stones were regularly visited for prayer, prophecy and ceremonies. Two of the best-known examples of these sacred stones are the Tunkan or Oracle Stone [originally located near the mouth of the Turtle River near Redfield, South Dakota] and the revered Inyan bosdata or Standing Rock, now located at Fort Yates, North Dakota. According to Howard, both of these were originally Arikara monuments or shrines:

In each of the Arikara villages there was a sacred stone in front of the sacred or ceremonial lodge where the tribal bundles were kept. This stone represented Chief Above, the Creator. Beside it stood, during ceremonies, a cedar tree which represented Mother Corn, who had led the people from their original homeland underground. . . It would seem likely that these sacred stones, left behind by the departing Arikara, would be treated with veneration by the Dakota invaders . . . who would weave their own interpretations about them (1972:299-300).”

Appendix E, pp. 121

“Throughout their history, stones have been ceremonially important to all of the tribes involved in this project. Sacred stones recognized by the ancestors of the Three-Affiliated Tribes have been recognized, respected and honored by the later Siouian peoples as they moved in the area. Siouian peoples incorporated Arikara oracle stones into their belief systems because they had always-recognized Inyan (Stone), the Grandfather, and the first supernatural created by the Great Mystery. The sacredness or spiritual qualities of the stone features in the project area are part of the same tradition that recognized the sacred stones in Minnesota and eastern North Dakota.”

Appendix E, pp. 121

“Single stones, called glacial erratics by geologists, have long been recognized by the Sioux as having important spiritual attributes. They were used as a shrine where prayers and offerings were made.”

Appendix E, pp. 121

“Stone rings are powerful places. “When a person fasts in a circle [of stone], it is as if you are buried alive. You may not come out alive” (Tribal Consultation, Personal Communication 6/12/2000). Accordingly, rings provide a conduit from the person praying to the spirits above and there are potential spiritual consequences of going to the stone feature sites.

Stone features, described by archeologists as petroforms or effigies, are read as physical symbols of the continuing relationship between the spirit world and that of man. Effigies mark locations that have always been, and continue to be, appropriate places for fasting, prayer and making offerings, i.e. communicating with spiritual beings. The patterns made by the stones are recognized as representations of the spiritual qualities of the area. For generations people have visited these effigies and conducted ceremonies. They continue to use these places today. The tribal cultural representatives regard continued access to these sites as critical to their continuation as a people.

Cairns, stone piles created by men, may represent many different activities. They may be trail markers or contain burials. When grouped in lines they may be drive lines associated with hunting activity or prayer lines when associated with ceremonial activities. Cairns may be built all at one time or may be added to over the years by many different peoples. Cairns may hold offerings. Generally, the larger the cairn and the higher its profile the more likely it is to be associated with human remains or a particular ceremonial activity (Deaver 1986).”

[219] Jannie Loubser & Tommy Hudso, “The excavation and Dating of a Stone Pile, Walker County, Northwestern Georgia, The Profile (The Society for Georgia Archaeology), Summer 2005, pp. 8-10.

Editor Note: The site consists of 27 stone cairns and one stone wall located on a northeastern slope between two springs which drain down slope and merge into a single creek. The stone cairn was excavated and then carefully rebuilt. A charcoal sample from the base stone layer of the cairn was C-14 dated to AD 1660-1800.

The current owner of a 700-acre ranch on Pigeon Mountain, Walker County, bought the property in 1948 from a Euro-American family that owned it since the late 1930’s. This family had a tradition that there were already stone piles on the land when their ancesttors first took possession of it. Taken at face value, this tradition implies that the Cherokee Indians that lived in the area prior to removal could have piled the stones.This short article presents ethno-historic eyewitness accounts and tentative archaeological evidence that historic period Cherokee Indians could indeed have piled these stones.” p. 8

“Although the intercept of the AMS [C-14 date] with the calibration curve is AD 1670, other possible dates with the 1 Sigma range are equally likely. Overall, however, given the evidence presented here, we propose that a pre-European American date is most likely (i.e. between AD 1660-1800). This would place the stone piles roughly within the time period that Adair [See 416] and Bartram saw similar piles during their travels through Georgia and neighboring states.” p. 10

[220] N.C. Nelson, “Contribution to Montana Archaeology,” American Antiquity, vol. 9 No. 2 (Oct. 1943) pp 162-169.

“Immediately below the mouth of the canyon, on the Pryor Valley floor proper, there is to be seen a series of artificial stone heaps or cairns, the function of which is problematic. Circumstances did not permit a detailed survey but most of those between the road and the creek apppearedto lie in a straight row while two, at least, lay outside, near the road. The upper and larger of these two, twelve meters in diameter and 150 centimeters in height, lies west of the creek, situated at the base of a steep promontory cliff known as Arrow Rock. It was reported to contain artifacts. To make certain of this a trench two meters wide was cut fully halfway through the mixed earth and boulder deposit. the results proved that at least the upper half of the accumulation was moderately rich in the usual stone objects, glass beads and animal bones.  More abundant were bone and shell ornamental items, cheifly heads and pendants. The surprise was the collection of some 200 potsherds. Why these things were present in the cairn is difficult to say, but presumably they must have been left as oferrings.” p. 166

[221] P. A. Brannon, “Aboriginal Remains in the Middle Chattahoochee Valley of Alabama Georgia”, American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 11 No. 2 (Apr. - Jun., 1909) pp. 186-198.

“While potsherds and other debris are met with here, no flint chips are seen. Numerous small stone-heaps have been found scattered over the cemetery where it is not too deeply covered with sand, and throughout the wooded tract north of the [earthen] mound for a distance of 150 yards. The writer has opened numbers of these cairns, in some cases using a rod to the depth of two and half to three feet, but nothing was found except stones that had been exposed to fire, some charcoal, and occasional fragments of charred bones which are probably not human. Some very large stone beads have been taken from the cemetery, but no shell objects have been seen.” p. 189

ETHNOGRAPHY: New England Region

[300] Ezra Stiles, Extracts from the Itineries and Other Miscellanies of Erza Stiles, D.D., LL.D., 1755-1794, ed. Franklin B. Dexter, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1916). [Quoted in William S. Simmons, Spirit of the New England Tribes: Indian History and Folklore, 1620-1984, (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1986), pp 252]

Editorial Note: “Sacrifice Rock” is located at 394 Old Sandwich Road, Plymouth, MA. It isu crreuntly owned and maintained by Plymouth Antiquarian Society www.plymouthantiquariansociety,org

“ [1762] Mr. Williams told me that on the Road from Sandwich to Plymouth [Massachusetts] there is a large Stone or Rock in a place free of stones; and that the Indians immemorially have been used, whenever & as often as they pass this large Stone, to cast a stone or piece of wood upon it. That Stones not being plenty, pieces of Wood is most commonly used, & that there will once in a few years be a large Pile on the Stone, which is often consumed by the firing of the Woods for Deer. That the Ind.s continue the Custom to this day, tho’ they are a little ashamed the English should see them, & accordingly when walking with an Eng. They have made a path round at a quarter Mile’s Distance to avoid it. There is also at a little Distance another Stone which they also inject upon, but pass it with less scruple; but are so scrupulous that none was even known to omit casting Stone or Wood on the other … The Indians being asked the reason of their Custom & Practice, say they know nothing about it, only that their Fathers & their Grandfathers & Great Grandfathers did so, and charged all their Children to do so; and that if they did not cast a Stone or piece of Wood on the Stone as often as they pass by it, they would prosper, & particularly should not be lucky in hunting Deer. But if they duly observed this Custom, they should have success. The English call them the Sacrificing Rocks, tho’ the Indians don’t imagine it a Sacrifice – at least they Kill & offer no Animals there, & nothing but Wood & Stones.

 N.B. There is such a heap of Stones accumulated from such a Custom of passing Indians, between New Haven & Milford about three miles out of Milford upon the Road. Another Heap at Stockbridge by the Housatunnuck Indians.”

[301] Anon, “A Description of Mashpee”, Quoted in William S. Simmons, Spirit of the New England Tribes: Indian History and Folklore, 1620-1984, (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1986), pp 253.

“[1802] They still however preserve a regard for sacrifice rocks, on which they cast a stick or stone, when they pass by them. They themselves can hardly inform us why they do this, or when it began to be a custom among them. Perhaps it may be an acknowledgement of an invisible agent, a token of the gratitude of the passenger on his journey for the good hand of Providence over him thus far, and may imply a mental prayer for its continuance: or perhaps, as many of the vulgar among the English carry about them lucky bones, and make use of other charms to secure the smiles of fortune, so these sticks, which are heaped on the sacrifice rocks, may be nothing more than offerings made to good luck, a mysterious agent, which is scarcely considered as a deity, which is spoken of without reverence, and adored without devotion.”

[302] Edward Kendall, Travels Through the Northern Parts of the United States in the Years 1807 and 1808, (New York, NY: L. Riley) [Quoted in William S. Simmons, Spirit of the New England Tribes: Indian History and Folklore, 1620-1984, (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1986), pp 253-254]

“[1807] Two Sacrifce Rocks are on the side of the road leading from Plymouth to Sandwich. One of them may be six feet high, and the other four; and both are ten or twelve feet in length: and they differ in nothing, as to their figure, from masses of granite and other rock, which are scattered over the surface of all the adjacent country. All that distinguishes them is the crowns of oak and pine branches which they bear, irregularly heaped, and of which some are fresh, some fading, and some decayed. These branches the Indians place there, from motives which they but obscurely explain, and for doing which their white neighbours therefore generally suppose that they have no reason to give. When questioned, they rarely go further than say, that they do so because they have been taught that it is right to do it, or because their fathers did so before them: if they add any thing to this, it is, that they expect blessings from the observance of the practice, and evils from the neglect.

 But to whom is this worship offered? To a manito; and by manito, through the religious prejudices of the whites, is usually understood a devil. It was with great pleasure therefore that I heard, from the lips of the aged missionary of Mashpee, in this neighbourhood, the enlarged view he took of this matter: `One Day,’ said he, `as I was riding past a Sacrifice Rock, I saw two Indian women dragging a young pine-tree, and setting about to lay it on the rock. It was so large and heavy, that the undertaking almost exceeded their strength: however, they persevered. My approach a little disconcerted them, but I only smiled on them as I passed; for I considered the act as an acknowledgment of a providence, and therefore not be hastily rebuked.”

[303] Melissa J. Fawcett, Medicine Trail: The Life and Lessons of Gladys Tantaquidgeon, (Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2000), pp. 21, 24.

Gladys Tantaquidgeon, Mohegan – “In the Mohegan language, the spirit of rocks is acknowledged in the names of our leaders: a male leader is called sachem (which means rock man) and a women leader is referred to as sunqsquaw (which translates as rock woman).” pp. 21

“ Not far from Moshup’s Rock, Mohegan Church sits atop Mohegan Hill beside a pile of rock rubble. This was a sacred site long before Mohegans built their Christian church and ages before the English introduced Christianity to the hill. Prior to building the church, the tribe held the Wigwam festival on that site at the end of each corn harvest, beneath a giant chestnut tree.” pp. 24

[304] Frank G. Speck, “The Memorial Brush Heap in Delaware and Elsewhere”, Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Delaware, vol. 4 pp. 17-23

“In the esteem of an archaeologist there would be a strong difference between a memorial heap formed of stones and a more superficial  one formed of twigs and branches of trees. The former is almost imperishable; the lattter decays in the course of a few years and leaves no signs to mark its location. Essentially, however, the two are identical in function in being built of material at hand by the trailside picked up and cast upon the mounded mass as a contribution to local superstitution with or without a knowledge of its source. The reason for differentiation in the materials of construction of the heaps lies in ecology. On the Coastal Plain from Cape Cod southward along the seaboard, stones being generally absent, the available material is only tree and shrub growths. In the glaciated terrian of New England rounded stones are everywhere within reach and these enter into the mass thrown together to form marker piles. In the southern Delaware peninsula the nature of the terrian dictates the use of brush or branches in making contributions to the heap.

The element of sacrifice previals in some areas where the Indians feel that they must make a gift to the spirit, often one of ghostly nature, whose phantom inhabits the baleful spot. I shall refer to one such in the Indian settlement of Mashpee, Mass., where I photographed a “brush heap” of pine branches, on which one of the tribesmen had cast an almost empty whiskey bottle, as an offering to the spirit confined to the ground beneath it. It was explained as a “payment” sacrifice to the victim of some tragedy enacted on the site to assure safe passage for some fearsome wander on a dark night. On the Scatticook Indian reservation near Kent, Connecticut, where a small band of descendants of the converted Mahican nation lived, was another heap of stones rising several feet above the ground, added to by the people who passed by casting another stone on the pile. Here, I was told certain of the credulous and timid Indians frequently poured out a swallow or two of the whiskey on their homeward way as a treat to the ghost of a murdered comrade whose shade abode there.” pp. 19

“Southern Massachusetts also has a memorial marker in the stone-heap category. On the main highway between Edgartown and Chilmark, on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard is a small pile of round cobbestones appropriately marked by a tablet enclosed with a fence - a conspicuous archaeo-historical site for the tourist. It marks the spot where missionary Thomas Mayhew, Jr. who converted the tribes on Martha’s Vineyard, bid farewell to the company of natives who accompanied him this far from their village when he took his departutre for England in 1657. It was on this voyager that he was lost. Says the historian Banks, “No Indian passed by it without casting a stone into the heap, that by their custom had grown like a cairn.” pp. 22

“The Mohegan Indians of central Connecticut, in the mid-seventeenth century, threw down the stones forming the lower level of a huge pile to mark the northern boundaries of the domain of Uncas, and added to the mound of stones whenever they passed the marker on their journeys to Harford on tribal business. This noteworthy accumaltion of rocks lies on a jutting ledge above the main road leading from Norwich (near where the Mohegan headquarters lay to Harford on the Connecticut River. I recall its impressive location and size equalling the dimensions of a modest mound construction. ...” pp. 22

“My latest notice of a memorial stone heap, located on eastern Long Island, N.Y., comes in a letter (1944) from Carlos Westez (Red Thunder Cloud), a Catawba who has spent some years among the Montauk and Shinnecock people there. He writes, Bob (butler) and I spent Fourth of July with Charles (Butler). We cycled down and resumed an old Montauk custom of piling stones at Poggatticut’s resting place every time we pass the spot. Wonder what the highway commissioner will think and do when he sees the stones.” Aside from the quaint sentiment of this letter its interest lies in its coincidence with the usual observations on brush and stone heaps made by others.” pp. 22-23

[305] Gideon Hawley, “A Letter from Rev. Gideon Hawley of Marshpee, Containing an account of his Services among the Indians of Massachusetts and New-York, and a Narrative of his Journey to Onohoghgwage, July 31, 1794 (Boston, MA: Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, ser. 1 [reprinted], vol. 4) pp. 50-67

Editorial Note: The quotation below was requoted in (1) E. M. Ruttenber, History of the Indian Tribes of Hudson River, (Albany, NY, 1872) pp. 373-4. (2) Frank G. Speck, “The Memorial Brush Heap in Delaware and Elsewhere”, Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Delaware, vol. 4 pp. 17-23

“We came to a resting place, and breathed our horses, and slaked our thirst in the stream, when we perceived our Indian looking for a stone, which having found he caste to a heap, which for ages had been accumulating by passengers like him who was our guide. We inquired why he observed that rite. He answered that his father practiced it and enjoy[n]ed it on him. But, he did not like to talk on the subject. I have observed in every part of the country, and among every tribe of Indians, and among those where I now am in a particular manner, such heaps of stones or sticks collected on the like occasion as the above. The largest heap I ever observed is that large collection of small stones on the mountain between Stockbridge and Great Barrington. We have a Sacrifice rock, as it is termed, between Plymouth and Sandwich, to which stones and sticks are always cast by Indians who pass it. This custom or rite is an acknowledgment of an invisible being. We may style him the unknown God, whom this people worship. This heap is his altar. The stone that is collected is the oblation of the traveler, if offered with a good mind, may be as acceptable as a consecrated animal. But perhaps these heaps of stones may be erected to a local deity, which most probably is the case.” pp. 59-60

“[Frank Speck comments] E. M. Ruttenber, from whose historical masterpiece, the above is quoted, thinks Hawley’s description is marred by a disposition to invest unexplained customs of the Indians with suppositions. He disagreed with the clergyman’s idea of worship in the act as a recognition of the “unkown God” or of a “local diety.” He personally knew of such a stone heap adjcaent to the Hudson river, on the Livingston Patent near the boundary between territories of the Wappinger, and the Mahican, called “Wawanaquassick, which term he gives as meaning “where the heaps of stone lie.” The said heaps of stones were those “upon which the Indians throw another as they pass by, from an ancient custom among them.” He thought that being near the side of a trail or regularly traveled path and usually at or near a stream of water, the heaps had no commemorative chracter beyond serving to indicate to subsequent travelers that a friend had lingered there to refresh himself at the same time throwing a stone or stick on the place. ...”

[306] Eva L. Butler, “The Bush or Stone Memorial Heaps of Southern New England”, Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut vol. 19 (April 1946), pp. 2-12.

Editorial Note: Butler’s article is an exhaustive analysis of historical accounts on stones heaps in Southern New England and should be required reading for any researcher involved cairn studies. Butler sorts fact from fiction and clarifies some important factual issues about several well known stone cairns.

“... In November1734, the Rev. John Sergeant, tutor at Yale, left New Haven and traveled north through the wilderness with the idea of starting a mission for the Indians. As Sargeant and his Indian guide and interpreter, Ebenezer Poo-poo-nuck, were wending their way over the trail between what was to become Great Barrington and Stockbridge, Massachusetts, they passed one of the memorials. Sergeant wrote in his journal, “There is a large heap of stones, I suppose ten cart loads, in the Way to Whan-tu-kook, which the Indians have thrown together, as they passed by the place; for it us’d to be their custom, everytime one passed by, to throw a stone on it.” “ pp. 3 [See #512 for full quotation and original citiation]

“In 1823, The Rev, Timothy Dwight wrote that this memorial [cairn mentioned by Rev. Hawley] was on Monument Mountain, a spur of the Great Green Mountain Range. The monument was then about six or eight feet high in the form of an obtuse cone, and had been formed by the “slow accumulation of rocks thrown upon it one at a time by passing Indians.” [See #507 for full quotation and citation]

Monument Mountain was destroyed in the 1840’s but there is a record that some time previous to its destruction, A Mr. Joseph K. Pelton may have seen what was the last Indian attempt to perpetuate it in its ancient form. Mr. Pelton a native of the place, met two descendents of the Stockbridge tribe at the tavern [cairn] on the Mountain.They had recently arrived from the “west” and, being familiar with the traditions of their tribe but not with the locality, they asked to be directed to the monument. Mr.Pelton accompanied them to the memorial and said that “after standing for some time thoughtfully and in silience about the pile, each cast a stone upon it and turned away.” “ pp. 4

[307] Patricia E. Ruberstone, Grave Undertakings: An Archaeology of Roger Williams and the Narragansett Indians, (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001)

Editorial Note: Ruberstone has a 2 page discussion of bush and stone heaps and their relationship Narragansett death & burial practices. The quotation below summs up her detailed discussion and interpretation of these features from Native American point of view.

“To most European Americans accustomed to the monotonous and labor-intensive task of field clearing in New England, piling stones may have been a familiar, everyday practice, not a behavior typically associated with ritual. Moreover, the stone heaps, which they sometimes referred to as “sacrifice rocks,” neither resembled altars nor exhibited traces of the blood and carcasses of sacrificial victims. If they were commemorative monuments, as some Natives claimed, the heaps certainly did not look like those built by Europeans and did not impose meaning in the form of sculpture or inscription. Instead, they required participation. Through simple ceremonial acts, the living made contact with ancestors, much as the stones they heaped on the pile touched and mixed with those placed there by earlier generations of Narragansetts. In the ongoing creation of these monuments, the living kept in touch with the dead and honored them by  impressing on the monuments their own meanings, histories, and memories.” pp. 167

[308] Ephrain G. Squier & Edwin H. Davis, “Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley,” Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, vol. I (Washington, D.C. Smithsonian Institute, 1848 [1998 reprint])

“A few small mounds have been observed composed entirely of pebbles, of the average size of one’s fist, unmixed with earth, excepting what had gradually accumulated over them. Several of those surrounding the great [earth] work on Paint creek (Plate XXI, No. 2) are of this description, and are supposed, by the residents of the vicinity to be missiles of the ancient people, thus conviently deposited ofr use in case of attack upon the supposed fortress! Unfortunately for this hypothesis, the magazines are outside the walls.” pp. 181

[309] Reuben G. Thwaites (ed.), Travels and Exploration of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France 1610-1791. The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents. (Cleveland, OH: The Burrows Brothers Company, 1899), Vol. XLIV

Editorial Note: Father Chaumont spent time at the Saint Michel mission located in the Seneca village of Gandagon located in the present Ontario County in New York State.

“[1656-1657] He [Father Chaumont] had a fine opportunity, on the way, of ridiculing the superstitution of the Infidels. His guide offered him a piece of wood, to throw upon two round stones which, surrounded by evidences of the superstitution of these poor people, are encountered upon the road. It is the custom, in passing, to throw a small stick on the stones by way of homage, and add these words: Koue askennon eskatongot, - that is to say, ‘Here is something to pay my passage, that I may proceed in safety.’ ”pp. 26-27

ETHNOGRAPHY: Non-New England States, Canada, Sub-Artic, Central/South America

[400] James Mooney, Myths of the Cherokees, (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1900), pp. 380-381.

“ Preparations were under way to renew the fight when the Cherokee offered to recognize the river as the boundary, allowing the CATAWBA to settle anywhere to the east. The overture was accepted and an agreement was finally made by which the CATAWBA were to occupy the country east of the river and the Cherokee the country west of `Broad River’, with the region between the two streams to remain neutral territory. Stone piles were heaped up on the battlefield to commemorate the treaty, …The fact that one party had guns would bring this event within the early historic period.”

[401] Walter E. Roth, “An Inquiry into Animism and Folk-Lore of the Guiana Indians [British Guiana]”, in Thirtieth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1908-1909, (Washington, D.C.: 1915), pp. 174

“ …Above the cataracts of the River Demerary are abundance of red and white agates, which remain untouched by the natives, who avoid them from a principle of superstitious veneration, as they are dedicated to the service of their magical invocations. Probably some idea of this nature may form the basis of the practice noted by Brown, in the Cotinga District, in connection with certain small artificial stone-heaps on the sides of the paths over the Savannah Mountains. These were 3 to 4 feet in height. The Indians with him, in passing, had added to the heaps by dropping on them stones picked up near by; he could never learn their object in so doing, for when questioned about it, they only laughed. (In the Gran Chaco, the Indians, on going over a pass, will place a stone on the ground, so that they will not get tired on the way.)”

[402] Tom Hill. (Warrior, Nez Perce War, 1877), “Stone Heaps of the Nche-wana” [July 5, 1911] The McWhorter Collection, Washington State University Libraries / MASC, Pullman, Washington State.

“ Those stone heaps you ask about: They were made this way. Years ago the old Indians would send their children, their little boys when about ten and twelve years old, to the mountains to stay seven days and nights. The boy made a pile of stones and then sat down. He must not eat; must not drink water. He must not sleep at night. But when May-wik [morning] comes, he can sleep sitting this way [assuming recumbent position]. The boy must think about the things that his father has told him. It will make him good. Then when he sees something out there in the night, that thing will talk to him. It will tell him what to do. The guidance is good. It makes the boy strong; It goes with him through life.

Some times there is an old man who has lost all his people. He feels lonely; he is sad. He goes up on the mountain some where. He builds up stones. He sits there and cries; for he is alone in the world. In this way were many of those stone-heaps made. The white man should not tear them down.”

[403] Joe Tuckaho (Nez Perce), “Stone Heaps of the Nche-wana” [July 5, 1922] The McWhorter Collection, Washington State University Libraries / MASC, Pullman, Washington State.

“ Long time ago Indian boys were sent to mountains by their father, or next kin. Maybe it is an old man; a good hunter, a great warrior or medicine man who sends the boy. That boy must stay two or three days and nights in a lonely place.  He must not drink water, he must not eat food. He must pray and call on the Ruling Spirit. He must not sleep; but after a time he will fall down and sleep. He then sees things; hears strange things. The boy piles up stones so that his people will know that he has been there. Perhaps such are the stone-heaps you saw on summit of the big boulders along the Nche-wana.

[404] Alfonso Ortiz, The Tewa World: Space, Time, Being and Becoming in a Pueblo Society, (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1969), pp. 20.

“ The third tetrad represents the [village’s] principal shrines of the directions. First in the directional circuit is Than Powa, `Sun-water-wind,` represented by a pile of large stones at the northern edge of the village. At the western edge of the village is Awe Kwiyoh, or Spider Woman, represented by a single stone; to the south is Nu Enu or Ash youth, also represented by a single stone. Appromixately one mile east of the village is a low hill with a pile of stones on top; this is Ti Tan He I or `Large Marked Shield,` the shrine of the east. There are numerous other shrines dotting the landscape around each Tewa village, as abundantly clear from Harrington’s (1916) account. But these four are the principal ones of the directions, in the sense that regular, patterned usages and meanings attach to these, and not to the others. …

Three of the shrines are located in the middle of refuse dumps. This follows from the ancient Pueblo practice, as noted in the original myth, of burying the dead near the village, and then leaving a rock or pile of stones to mark the spot. Thus one informant told me: `Long ago we buried the dead there and left a pile of stones. Every pile of stones you see shows where the xayeh [souls or spirits] live, for the dead have become xayeh.’ ”

[405] Peter Nabokov, Two Leggings: The Making of a Crow Warrior, (Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1967), pp. 58-59, 62.

Editorial Note: These quotes refer to two separate vision quests that Two Leggings did.

“… My grandmother had loaned me a white-painted buffalo robe and had given me a stick with two eagle feathers and painted with white clay. After building my rock pile on the highest place I planted this stick at the head and fasted for four days.”

“… We arrived at the top before dark and built our little rock piles two feet above the ground. Covering them with fresh pine branches, we then laid down flat rocks.”

[406] Ake Hultkrantz, The Religions of the American Indians, (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1979), pp. 70-71.

“…Among the Charrua in Uruquay [South America], men who wish to obtain guardian spirits seek a secluded hill with a stone mound.”

[407] Gary P. Nabhan, The Desert Smells Like Rain: A Naturalist in Papago Country, (San Francisco, CA: North Point Press, 1987), pp. 61-63.

Editorial Note: A photograph of the shrine is given on page 62 of the book.

“ At the same time, Papago love kids above all else in life. This feeling comes out in the story of the Children’s Shrine, an altar where at one time the Papago made a grave sacrifice in order to save the world. On a floodplain near Santa Rosa, the shrine is a pile of rocks surrounded by a five-foot-tall semicircle of dead ocotillo shoots forming a wall against the wind.

 One June day, I was driving by the shrine with Gregorio, Isidro’s youngest boy. We decided to go over to the shrine, because Gregorio had never seen it. He stood by it awhile, glancing around at the ancient ocotillo wall that had piled up in ceremonies over many decades. Gregorio was curious about the gifts to the shrine left atop of the cairn – a bracelet, a picture of a dark girl in a wedding dress, a half-dollar coin, ribbons, baby toys, and feathers.”

[408] Sun Bear, “Honoring Sacred Places”, in The Sacred Landscape, Frederick Lehrman (ed.) (Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts, 1988), pp. 39.

“ As we walk over the mountain there are many sacred places where people have vision-quested and prayed. You see the offerings they have left. In one place it is a painted deer skull; in another, a cow or buffalo skull. In other places there are eagle feathers tied to a tree; or feathers from other winged ones. There are stones piled as an offering and as a thank you on a rock. These are all good ways to give energy back to the earth for what she has given to people. In our way an offering is left for a vision received, or a prayer and offering is made for a vision yet to come.”

[409] Ella Cara Deloria, Waterlily, (Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1988), pp. 39-40.

Editorial Note: This is a fictional story. The detailed description and the Deloria’s expertise on Lakota culture justify its inclusion.

“They had climbed the south side, about the middle of the butte. The pile of prayers was at the west end, `sunset end.’ … And so, with the grandmother holding each child by the hand, the three approached the shrine. Innumerable stones were there, of every size and description, each chosen according to the taste of the petitioner. Many were tiny pebbles, baby prayers. Here and there the stones were red with paint, some still vivid, others now dull. The rest had been washed clean of any paint by the snows and rains of many years.”

[410] Thomas E. Mails, The Cherokee People: The Story of the Cherokees from Earliest Origins to Contemporary Times, (Marlowe & Company, 1996), pp. 104.

“When, as they came to the top of the mountain or hill, the war party encountered a pile of sacred stones left by earlier war parties, each man would throw another stone on the pile as a prayer that God would spare his life.”

[411] Karen Bassie, The Jolja’ Cave Project, (Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc.) website.

“ Making ritual offerings to the mountain god was and still is an important Maya custom. In A.D. 1675, Dominican friars journeyed through the mountains of Alta Verapaz, Guatemala to convert the Chol Maya living in the region … At the top of a mountain pass, they found a ritual site where travelers made offerings to the mountain god. In 1894, Karl Sapper journeyed from northern Alta Verapaz to Yucatán via the Petén, and returned via Tabasco and Chiapas. He noted that: `At the crossing of the roads, all the Indians of Guatemala and Chiapas belonging to the tribes of the Maya family erect crosses, to which the passerby pay their respects in a singular fashion. Usually the Indian, who crosses such a pass for the first time, carries with him a stone, so that stone heaps of considerable size are frequently to be seen at these crosses…On important mountain passes the Kekchi Indian presents incense offerings burning a certain amount of copal before the cross and there repeats his prayer. At many crosses in addition to these ceremonies he dances. If a Kekchi Indian on his journey over a mountain road comes to a place where there is no cross he still presents the same offering, but addresses his prayer not to the Christian God but his chief heathen divinity, Tzulteccá (mountain/valley god)’. ”

[412] Paula Guinn Allen, Pocahontas, (HarperSanFrancisco, 2003)

“In the clearing was a hobboma, an arrangement of rocks located in an area with a particularly powerful energy field. These fields, or vortexes (or votices), as they are sometimes referred to, enable a seeker who was properly instructed to gain information in ways that some might call paranormal. Hobbomacks, many of which still exist today, were scattered all along the Atlantic seaboard from Nova Scotia to South Carolina and were so potent that Oral Tradition cautioned avoidance except under certain conditions ... Hobbomaks contained the same powa-energy - as human beings, the same energy as the deer, the trees, the fowl, the winds, and the rivers. It is the powa, the intelligence-bearing energy, that holds everything in place, within which and because of which all that is moves into and out of an infinite series of multitudinous kinds of existences.” pp. 28-29

[413] Edgar R. Quick, “Stone Mounds on the Whitewater”, Bulletin of the Brookville Society of Natural History, No. 1 (1885).

Editorial Note: The complete text of the article is quoted below.

“The investigator of the traces left by former dwellers of this part of the Whitewater Valley finds many things to puzzle him; not the least interesting among them are the stone mounds, or what would in other countries be called cairns. While the common earthen tumuli are to be found on nearly every prominent eminence or terrace bordering the river valley, but three of the former, large enough to be of special interest to the investigator, are known to the writer, within the boundaries of the county. The so-called stone mounds are composed almost entirely of stone loosely heaped together, with only such intermixture of soil as has accumulated from the decay of vegetable substances that have gathered in the interstices between the stones. As originally built, I am led to think they were not mounds, but small enclosures, loosely built of stone, in rude dry walls, which have been thrown down by natural forces and the careless investigations of men who took no note of what they did or saw.

The three mentioned are now mere stone heaps, the smallest of which is situated on what is known as Boundary Hill, a spur of the Silurian formation which underlies and forms the sides of the valley. This hill is about two miles west of Brookville, on the West Fork of the Whitewater. The mound, when last visited by the writer, was but a low tumulus about twenty feet in diameter and scarcely two feet high, composed almost entirely of small rough stone, such as are found on all our hillsides where the Silurian rocks are near the surface. What little investigation was made disclosed a few broken human bones, among them the lower maxillary of a child, showing the permanent teeth protruding under the empty sockets of the temporary teeth; and animal bones, among which were those of the land turtle and the teeth of a fox or dog.

A second and somewhat larger mound is situated on one of the highest hilltops immediately north of Brookville, overlooking the town and the valley of the East Fork. The stone are somewhat smaller, completely covering the surface, but the whole appearance of the structure leads one to believe that they have been gathered and heaped upon the surface of an ancient earthen mound, as the superstructure bears every resemblance to other small earthen mounds in the vicinity. By inquiry I am informed that pits have been dug into it in past years, which disclosed human bones including one complete skeleton.

The third, which is the largest and most interesting, is situated on the highest point of a bold headland, overlooking the main river, three miles southeast of Brookville, on its eastern bank, and separating the river valley from that of Little Cedar Creek. This hill, which has long been known as "Brown's Hill," form the fact that a squatter by the name of Brown lived at its base at an early day, is of an oval base about one-half mile in length, its longer axis running north and south. It is joined at its northern extremity to the main ridge which separates the two valleys before mentioned. At its juncture with the main hill it is scarcely one hundred feet in height, but rises gradually in the form of a ridge, affording scarcely the width of an ordinary roadway on its top, more than two hundred feet to its highest point, near its southern extremity, when it declines abruptly to the river and terrace formation at its base. The highest point affords but a few square rods of level ground, which are entirely covered by the stone mound which is composed entirely of rough stone which have been gathered on the adjacent hillsides, which is proved by the fact that no loose stone small enough to be carried by hand are found near the mound. No stones larger than a strong man can carry are found in the composition of the mound, which is entirely of stone to its very base. The dimensions of the structure are about thirty by forty feet, and about four feet in height, the sides dropping over the sides of the hill, which are very steep at this point. A few years since an ash tree was growing on the top, near the center, having taken root in the soil which had gathered in the spaces between the stones, but it did not thrive and has decayed and disappeared. This mound has always been a place of interest to the people of the neighborhood, and many rude, unsystematic investigations have been made, but have developed very little regarding the object of the original structure. People who visited the place more than sixty years ago say that it was a walled inclosure of oval form, but little more than a rod in extent, consisting of a rude, dry wall a few feet high, and empty within except a confused mass of human bones heaped promiscuously at the bottom of the inclosed space. The searcher who delves for its secrets will now find numerous fragments of human bones, a few sherds of rude pottery, such as are now found on the most recent formations of the river valley. But what is more interesting is the fact that numerous bones of small mammals, birds, and the land turtle, also shells of the river mussel, of the same species now found in the river. Among the bones of mammals I have identified those of the fox, groundhog, and muskrat. The observations of the writer and what has been learned from others leads to the thought that this class of structures are among the most recent in origin of all aboriginal remains in this part of the country. In the Southern States the erection of stone mounds are directly traceable to the modern Indians, even down to the advent of Europeans, while in the North among the Hurons,tribes, and many kindred tribes, what was called the feast of the dead was celebrated every few years, when all the dead of each division or clan were collected and deposited in a common sepulcher, making such an accumulation of bones as would account for the quantity originally found at the Brown's Hill mound. In a case mentioned by the Jesuit missionary, Brebeuf, a pit was used instead of a walled inclosure, but the transition would not be great so long as the object seems to have been the collection and preservation of the remains of the dead. All through the valley rude implements and pottery are found which indicate that the country bordering the river was recently inhabited by barbarous men. The local collector knows of many sites where villages have been which contained a large population long since the builders of the mounds departed. By the washing away of the river banks, rude camp hearths are disclosed, showing traces which can be but two or three centuries old. All this and many more things leads the inquirer into this subject to ask what became of the dead. Occasionally a rude grave is discovered, often dug into a mound from the top, and a few cemeteries have been discovered where less than a score of graves are disclosed. The investigation of the history of the stone mounds has perhaps partially answered the question.” pp. 3-5

[414] L.A. Kengla, “Stone Mounds of Hampshire County, W. VA.”, Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, Showing the Operations, Expenditures, and Condition of the Institution for the Year 1883 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1885).

“The mounds or graves described in this paper are situated on the eastern side of the South Branch Mountain, Hampshire County, West Virginia, about 1 1/2 miles from the mouth of the South Branch River, on the property of Mr. Charles French. According to early accounts, the entire region between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Ohio River was owned by the Massawomee Indians. The immediate locality (Fairfax Grant) was, however, the hunting ground of the Tauxenents, a band, perhaps, of the above-mentioned powerful tribe.

The settlement of this district by the whites drove this tribe across the Alleghanies; and, after their departure, the country seems to have been a border line of warfare between the Delawares of Pennsylvania and the Catawbas of Virginia. This narrow and rough valley, from the mouth of the river to Moorefield, Hardy County, West Virginia, and probably far beyond, is replete with traditions and evidences of many a stubborn struggle - not only between contending tribes, but also between the Indians and the intrepid pioneers of West Virginia. The locality of these mounds, known as "Shin Bottom," was also the theater of contending, bloodthirsty savages. In close proximity to the graves there is a great bowlder standing on the side of the wood, to which a very interesting tradition is attached. It is called "Indian" or "Painted Rock." On its eastern face there is a figure, supposed to represent a man in the act of throwing a tomahawk. One can easily distinguish the rude outlines of a human figure, but the hand and tomahawk have been rendered obscure by the frequent violence of curiosity seekers. The lines are clear, strong, and of a dim red color. The tradition, as given by the inhabitants, is in substance as follows:

"At this point two hostile tribes, probably the Catawbas and Delawares, met and fought a terrible battle, in which all, with one exception, were killed, on the conquered side, and he succeeded in making his escape. Exasperated at this the victors, to complete their direful work, followed, brought back, and killed the unfortunate wretch, and with his own blood traced this figure on the rock."

The same account is given by Mr. Samuel Kercheval in his "History of the Valley," but with the variation that this warrior made a safe escape by jumping into the river and swimming with his head under water till he reached the Cohongornton, North Branch of the Potomac. (Page 48.)

The upper portion of this rock protects the side upon which the figure is sketched, from destruction by the elements. The South Branch of the Potomac was called Wappatomaka by the Indians. Throughout this entire range of mountains Indian mounds are numerous, and a comparatively unexplored field of archaeological treasures awaits development. The frequency of stone graves may in some degree be accounted for by the abundance of material suitable for their construction, by their proximity to fields of contest, to village sites, and to a most abundant hunting ground. They are found in much greater proportion in this than in any of the neighboring ranges. Their position cannot be restricted to any particular locality, for they are found on either side, on top, at the foot of the mountain, and in various places throughout the valley, sometimes on the river bank or on some small stream, or even in the central portions of the bottom lands. They are, however, less numerous on top of the ridges than in lower situations.

These stone graves are quite numerous in the vicinity of the "Indian Rock." In shape, both external and internal, they resemble modern graves;, and since they contain an inclosure like a coffin, the term grave is very applicable to distinguish them from the earth mounds. They vary much in size, the smaller being mainly confined to the low lands while the largest are more frequently found on the tops and sides of the mountains. Those of any considerable dimensions are generally flat on top and the smaller convex. The stone of which they are made depends upon the locality; those opened were constructed of gray sandstone. The upper layers consisted of pieces as large as our street granite paving blocks, which gradually increase in size as the interior or "coffin" of the mound is reached. The "coffin" is made of large bowlders of the same stone. These stones are rarely spherical, but range from a few inches square to a weight of several hundred pounds.

No. 1. The first grave examined was situated midway on the side of the mountain. It was built in a small hollow or ravine, down which in - wet seasons water flowed. Within 40 or 50 yards there were three others, two of which were opened and examined.

It (1) was very large, about 50 feet in length, 25 in width, and from 4 to 5 in height. It was flat on top and extended lengthwise north and south. The excavation was commenced on top at the southern extremity. After working downwards and northwards through the mass of rock for the distance of 3 feet, we came to some very large bowlders. Taking these as a guide we continued to work along the western side towards the north end of the mound. All the rock that remained at the north end and over the body of the "coffin" or cavity was next removed, and the earthy debris cleaned away. From the south end of the "coffin" was then removed the large rocks with which it was filled.

Then began the examination of the dark earth with which the floor was covered. The mass of the material was decayed wood-earth together with a small quantity of light colored clay. At the lower end were found one long bone and more fragments, presumably leg or thigh bones, and at the north end a fragment of a skull. No pottery or stone implement of any description was exhumed. The sides of the casement for the remains were constructed of large bowlders 1 1/2 foot high, placed closely together throughout the entire circuit. Beneath there was a floor of flat stones, and at the upper end one was raised about 2 inches above the rest, near which the fragments of skull were found.

No. 1 B. As yet only half of the first mound had been torn away, and encouraged by the find, though we mainly directed our attention to the discovery of stone implements, the destruction of the remaining mass was begun.

Commencing on the east side of the grave just opened we soon reached another wall of large boulders, running in a direction parallel to and placed directly alongside of the wall of the former. Upon removing the stones from the sides and central portions as before, the excavation of the coffin was commenced. But a most careful search was ineffective in bringing to light any relics. The absence of all human remains may be possibly attributed to the position of the mound, which was such that a very large quantity of water annually passed through it, rendering the decomposition of the bones more rapid.

No. 2. About 20 yards to the right, when looking down tile mountain and facing the east, a second grave was opened, which was situated a little to the side of the hollow.

This mound, though not so large, extended in length in the same direction, north and south, as the former. In appearance, (save that it was not flat,) both externally and internally, it was similar to that of the one previously explored. It contained a single inclosure or coffin. No remains except a fragment of a long bone were found.

No. 3. A third of this group, situated about 30 yards down the mountain and on the lower side of an old road, was examined. Its construction and general outlines were the same as those already described. No remains were discovered, and from its position in the deepest part of the hollow it is supposed that all traces had long since been destroyed.

No. 4. The fourth mound was situated about 200 yards from the "Indian Rock," near the base of the mountain. Though much smaller, it resembled the above in all particulars. A large number of fragments of bones belonging to various parts of the body were collected. The exterior shape of the mound had been very much disfigured by hunters.

Mr. French, the owner of the property, needing stone for building purposes, had previously opened several graves and removed from them a quantity of bones and some pieces of pottery.

There were no means by which we could Judge the age of these mounds, even approximately. The first graves or stone heaps examined were encircled by a grove of oak and locust trees of an inferior size. Near the fourth there grew several large oaks, but all were at too great a distance to be of any avail in such a determination. The amount of earthy matter on or within could not be relied upon as affording any definite clew, since very little could penetrate the grave, and what was there could easily have been deposited in the lapse of time by nature. The stones were not placed immediately upon the corpse, perhaps; but they rested upon logs and brush, which were supported by the walls of the inclosure. If this supposition be correct, the amount of debris could have been greatly increased.

It is generally supposed that these mounds were quite small at first, and were increased in size by new interments and by the addition of stone from time to time. It is said that whenever a friendly Indian or tribe passed a grave, each individual, out of respect, added a stone or more to the heap. Though this may be plausible, it is just as likely that it was the final interment of the body, and that the size of the mound depended upon the rank and tribal standing of the person. If, on the other hand, these interments were only temporary, it is probable that the large mounds were the final resting places of a large number of bodies by secondary interment.

This hypothesis is in accordance with the customs of many tribes, east and west, and was practiced by the natives of the lower districts of Virginia long after its settlement by the whites. The total absence of all stone implements is accounted for by the residents, the supposition being that these were women's graves or of those members of the tribes who were of minor importance. The find of pottery in one or two would strengthen this supposition.

This theory is again to some extent sustained by the opening of several mounds on the top of this mountain yielding bones, pyrites (cubo-octohedral, crystal), arrow-heads, and fragments of pottery. In contradiction, however, to the above, one grave, opened by Mr. Joseph Pancake on his farm in the river bottom, about 2 miles above Romney, in this county, contained a celt, a pipe, and some arrow-heads.

On the front of this pipe, at the upper rim of the bowl, there was carved an eagle in a neat and tasteful manner. Some years ago the party from whom were procured the above specimens opened a large mound in Mineral County, West Virginia, near the town of Ridgeville. In external appearances, according to report, it was similar to those described, but, instead of in a coffin-shaped repository, the body was buried in a sitting posture. The skeleton was nearly whole at the time of exhumation; the feet rested upon the floor; the legs against a wall, above which in the seat were the thigh bones; and against a second wall leaned the bones of the back and chest. The arms seemed to have been placed in a careless position at the side, with the hands open and lying upon the shelf with the thigh bones. The head rested in a recumbent position on a third shelf. A fragment of pyrites was found near by, which is supposed to have been placed in one hand. Among the bones and debris there was discovered a brass button of continental style.

For the authenticity of his description the narrator referred to several gentlemen residing near the locality, who were present and assisted in the work, and in whose possession the bones were when last heard of. Other mounds and remains were found in abundance as the country was cleared and the land cultivated. The specimens of pyrites and pottery found on the South Branch Mountain have been added to the collection of archaeological remains from the district, deposited at Georgetown University.” pp. 868-72.

[415] John Lawson, A New Voyage to Carolina: ;  Containing the Exact Description and Natural History  of that Country: Together with the Present State thereof. And  a Journal of a Thousand Miles, Travel'd thro' several  Nations of Indians. Giving a particular Account of their Customs,  Manners, &c. (London, 1709).

Full Text -

“[1709] The bones they carefully preserve in a wooden Box, every Year oiling and cleansing them: By these Means preserve them for many Ages, that you may see an Indian in Possession of the Bones of his Grand-father, or some of his Relations of a larger Antiquity. They have other Sorts of Tombs; as where an Indian is slain, in that very Place they make a Heap of Stones, (or Sticks, where stones are not to be found;) to this Memorial, every Indian that passes by adds a Stone, to augment the Heap, in Respect to the Deceas’d Hero.” pp. 22

“[1709] On Saturday Morning, we all set out for Sapona ... This day, we met with seven heaps of Stones, being the Monuments of seven Indians, that were slain in that place by the S'nnagers, or Iroquois. Our Indian Guide added a Stone to each heap.” pp. 44

[416] James Adair, The History of the American Indians. (London, 1775 [Reprint edition: Johnson City: The Watauga Press, 1930])

“[1775] To perpetuate the memory of any remarkable warrior killed in the woods, I must here observe, that every Indian traveller as he passes that way throws a stone on the place, according as he likes or dislikes the occasion, or manner of the death of the deceased.

In the woods we often see innumerable heaps of small stones in thoses places, where according to tradition some of their distinguished people were either killed, or buried, till the bones could be gathered: there they add Pelion to Ossa still increasing each heap, as a lasting monument, and honour to them, and an incentive to great action.
Though the Cherrake do not now collect the bones of their dead, yet they continue to raise and multiply heaps of stone, as monuments for their dead; this the English army remembers well, for in the year 1760, having marched about two miles along a wood-land path beyond a hill where they had seen a couple of these reputed tombs, at the war-woman’s creek, they received so sharp a defeat by the Cheerake, that another such must have inevitably ruined the whole army.”pp. 193.-1994.

[417] “Stone Heaps”, Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, vol. 1 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institute, 1848)

Full Text Available “Making of America Books” Project, University of Michigan

“  Rude heaps of stone, occasionally displaying some degree of regularity, are not uncommon at the West, though by no means peculiar to that section of country. It is exceedingly questionable whether any of them belong to the same era with the other works here treated of, although they are usually ascribed to the mound-builders. The stone mounds of which mention has already been made, are very different structures, and should not be confounded with these rude accumuluations.
   One of the most remarkable stone-heaps in the course of these investigations , is situated upon the dividing ridge between Indian and Crooked creeks, about ten miles south-west of Chillicothe, Ohio. It is immediately by the side of the old Indian trail which led from the Shawanoe towns, in the vinicity of Chillocothe, to the mouth of the Scioto river; and consists of a simple heap of stones, rectangular in form, measuing one hundred and six feet in length by sixty in width, and between three and fourt feet in height. The stones are of all sizes, from those not larger than a man’s head, to those which can hardly be lifted. they are found in great abundance on the hillslopes, - the fragments or debris of the outcropping sandstone layers. Some are water-worn, showing they were brought up from the creek, nearly a mile distant, and although they weree disposed with no regularity in respect to each other, the heap was originally quite symmetrical in outline. The stones have been thrown out from the centre, and an excavation of considerable depth made in the earth beneath, but withour results. The heap is situated upon the highest point of land traversed by the Indian Trail; upon the water-shed, or dividing ridge, between the streams which flow into Brush creek on the on side, and the Scioto river on the other.
     Another heap of stones of like character, but somewhat less in size, is situated upon the the top of a high narrow hill, overlooking the small valley of Salt creek, near Tarlton, Pickaway county, Ohio. It is remarkable as having large numbers of crumbling human bones - to say nothing of living black snakes - intermingled, apparently without order, with the stones. A very extensive prospect is had from this point. Upon the slope of a lower hill near by, appears to have been formerly an Indian village. Many rude relics are uncovered on the spot, by the plough.
     Smaller and very irregular heaps are frequently amongst the hillls. They do not generally embrace more than a couple of cartloads of stone, and almost invariably cover a skeleton. Occasionally the amount of stones is much greater. Rude implements are sometimes found with the skeletons. A number of such graves have been observed near Sinking Springs, Highland county, Ohio; also in Adams county in the same State, and in Greenap county, Kentucky, at a point nearly opposite the town of Portsmouth on the Ohio.
     Heaps of similar character are found in the Atlantic States, where they were raised by the Indians over the bodies of those who met their death by accident, or in the manner of whose death there was something unusual. Dwight, in his Travels, mentions a heap of stones of this description which was raised over the body of a warrior killed by accident, on the old Indian trail between Hartford and Farmington, the seat of the Tunxis Indians, in Connecticut. Traces of a similar heap exist on the old trail between Schenectady and Cherry Valley in New York, with which a like tradition is connected. They were not raised at once, but were the accumulation of a long period, it being the custom for each warrior as he passed the spot to add a stone to the pile. Hence the general occurence of these rude monuments near some frequented trail or path.” pp. 184-185

[418] “Stone-Heaps - Stones of Memorial - Stone Circles”, Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, vol. 2 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institute, 1851)

Full Text Available “Making of America Books” Project, University of Michigan

Editorial Note: This article is largely an expanded version of the “Stone-Heaps” article which appeared in vol. 1

“A stone-heap, somewhat resembling those first described, though considerably less in size, is situated on the Waterco River, in South Carolina, near the mouth of Beaver Creek, a few miles above the town in Camden. It is thus described in a MS. Letter from Dr. Wm. Blanding, late of Camden, addressed to Dr. S. G. Morton of Philadephia:

    `The land here rises for the distance of one mile, and forms a long hill from north to south. On the north point stands what is called the `Indian Grave.’ It is composed of many tons of small round stones, from one to four and five pounds weight. The pile is thirty feet long east to west, twelve feet broad, and five feet high; so situated as to command an extensive view of the adjacent country as dar as `Rocky Mount’, a distance of twenty miles above, and the river for more than three miles at its lowest stages.’

   A stone-heap was observed, a number of years since, on praire, in one of the central counties of Tennesssee. `Upon removing the stones, near the centre of the pile was found a stone box, six feet long and three broad, formed by joining with care the edges of flat stones. Within it was found the decayed skeleton of a man. No weapons or other relics accompanied the skeleton.’
   The smaller stone-heaps of the West seem to have been connected with some system of burial, and were perhaps designed to protect the bodies of those who casually met their death among the hills, or in some encounter with an enemy, from stacks of wild animals, as well as to point out their places of sepulture. It is still customary among some of the Indian tribes to carefully envelope the bodies of their dead and place them in trees or on scaffoldings, for the same prposes” pp158-159

“...The `Elk-horn pyramid,’ on the Upper Missouri, is regarded with deep reverence, and no hunter passes it without adding another horn to its proportions. This accumulation has been going on for a long period, and the pile is now reported to be not far from fifteen feet high, and corresponding laterl proportions. It is composed entirely of elk-horns, many of which are found upon adjacent praires. An instance of this practice of accumulating stones and other materials is mentioned by Mr. Schoolcraft, in which the offerings consisted of sticks and twigs. It is highly probable that most of the great heaps of stones scattered over the country owe thier origin to this practice. It is further possible that some of them may have originated in a practice mentioned by Beverly, who states that the Indians sometimes signalized the conclusion of a peace, or some other memorable action, by burying a tomahawk, and raising over it a heap of stones - (Hist. Virginia, p. 164)” pp. 160.

[419] Roberts, David, “The long Walk to Bosque Redondo”, Smithsonian Magazine, V. 28 No. 9 (Dec. 1997)

Pg. 51 “Not far from the monument vistors center, I came across a pile of stones. Beginning in 1971, Navajos who had ventured here from todays reservation had adopted the practice of carrying a single stone each from their homes to deposit on this spot, a travel shrine. the pile, partly covered by a drift of snow,, had every bit the power of walls built of engraved stones that I had seen in the Ladakh region of India, each stone carried miles to the site by a Budhist pilgrim.”

[420] United States. Congress. House. Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, Proposed additions to the national wild and scenic rivers system : hearings before the Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred First Congress, second session ...Washington : U.S. G.P.O. : For sale by the U.S. G.P.O., Supt. of Docs., Congressional Sales Office, 1992.

Editorial Note: Letter from Elwood H. Miller, Jr., Chairman, The Klamath Tribe [Oregon], dated 6/5/1990 to Representative Bruce Vento

“Of equal weight is the spiritual importance of the River to the Klamath people. Spiritually, the River expresses the value of life. Its location and terrain have made it a locus for vision and crisis quests. Innumerable stone cairns throughout the canyon attest to its long and continued spiritual use. These cairns are pages in the Klamath people’s history, a very real connection to the lives and spirits of those who walked the earth in the near and distant past. Studies of this area for the purpose of assessing the impact of further development have often looked at the `archaeological’ value of various sites in the River canyon. Yet for the areas Native American peoples these archaeological sites are much more than scientific curiosities. These `archaeological’ sites are all places where our ancestors lived and died, worshipped the Creator and buried or cremated their dead. These sites were not merely points of economic convenience : they were the places chosen by the creator for our ancestors to worship, respect and serve the ends of creation, of life itself.” pp. 243

[421] Hubert Howe Bancroft, The Native Races of the Pacific States of North America, 1882

“It was customary in all the towns of Yucatan to erect at the limits of each of the four quarters, east, west, north, and south, two heaps of stones, facing each other, and intended to be used during the celebrationof two solemn festivals, which were as follows: In the year of which the dominical letter was kan, the sign was bohnil, and according to the Yucatecs, these both ruled in the south. They made this year, of baked earth, and idol which they called Kanu Uayeyab, and having made it, they carried it out to the heaps of stones which lay toward the south. They then selected a principal man of the place, and in his house they celebrated the feast. For this purpose theymade another image, of the god Bolon Zacab, and placed it in the chosen house, in a prominentplace, so that all who arrived might see it. This done, the nobles, priests, and people came together, andset out by a road swept clean, ornamented with arches, and strewed with foliage, to the southern heaps of stones, where they gathered about the idol Kanu Uayeyab. The priest then incensed the god with forty-nine grains of maize, ground up and mixed with copal; the nobles next place incense in the brazier, and burned it before the idol. The incense burned by the priest was called zacah, that used by the nobles, chahalte. When these rites were completed, the head of a fowl was cut off and offered to the idol, which was now placed on a litter called kante, and upon its shoulders were placed other little images, as signs of abundance of water and a good year, and these images were frightful to behold. Amid dances and general rejoicing the idol was carried toward the house where the statue of Bolon Zacab had been placed, and while the processionwas on the road, the nobles and priests partook of a beverage made from four hundred and fifteen grains of roasted maize, which they call picula kakla. ...” pp.702-703

[422] Warren W. Caldwell & Roy L. Carlson, “Further Documentation of `Stone Piling’ During the Plateau Vision Quest,” American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 56 No. 3 (Jun. 1954), pp.441-442

“A large variety of aboriginally constructed stone monuments has been noted in the Columbia River valley as a consequence of recent intensive archeological activity in the area.

One of the most interesting groups occurs upon a long basaltic talus slope, some five hundred feet above the north bank of the Columbia River opposite the town of Mosier, Oregon ... Several varietiesof structures are present: (1) low, rectangular, cairn like piles of stone with axes perpendicular to the general flow of the slope, and formed by quarrying from the talus, thus leaving a shallow pit on the up slope side; (2) high stone walls, one and one-half to three feet wide and two to five feet high, that crossthe flow of the slope and frequently intersect in a geometric “zig-zag” motif; and (3) deep circular pits, quarried to a maximum depth of eight feet into the slope, and surrounded by a high lip formed of the material so removed. This group of structures covers with varying intensity an area of approximately ten acres. ...

Ray [FT 1] notes that piling and arranging of stones during the guardian spirit quest is widely distributed in the Middle Columbia area. Spier and Sapir [FT 2] indicate that piling of stones was look upon by the Wishram as a means of physical and spiritual preparation for approach adulthood. The custom was to assign the young tasks such as piling stones in prescribed patterns as part of the conditioning toward receptivity to the spirit vision. Furthermore, the structures so created constituted physical proof of both the physical and by inference mental application to the requirements of the quest. Such activity was carried out in areas remote from human concourse and normally to be avoided, yet reasonably accessible from centers of habitation. The area under consideration is immediately adjacent to the Wishram village wagl’nxak and the White Salmon-Klickat settlement tgasgu’tcu in an area of shee faulted cliffs and caves. Such areas are ethnographically indicated as possessing the potential atmosphere for the spirit quest. Thus there is reasonable evidence to suggest that the stone structures represent an incidental product of Plateau spiritual life.” pp. 441-442

[FT 1] Verne F. Ray, “Culture Element Distribution: XXII Plateau,” Anthrpological Records Vol. 8 No.2.

[FT 2] Leslie Spier & Edward Sapir, “Wishram Ethnography,” University of Washington Publications in Anthrpology Vol. 3 No. 3.

HISTORY: New England Region

[500] Samuel Penhallow, The History of the Wars of New-England with the Eastern Indians, or a Narrative of their continued Perfidy and Cruelty ..., (Philadelphia, PA: Oscar H. Harpel, 1859 [reprint of 1726 Boston edition with memoir, notes, and appendix by O. S. Harpel])

Editorial Note: Samuel Pemhallow was the official representative for New Hampshire at the Casco Bay peace conference in 1703. The following quotationis his eyewitness account of the event.

“At the arrival of Governor Dudley [representing Massachusetts] in the year 1702, the whole body of Indians was in a tolerable good frame and temper; but being animated by the French, they soon began to threaten and insult the English; upon which, in the succeeding year, June the 20th, a congress was appointed at Casco [Bay, Maine], where the chiefsof the several tribes met, viz: Mauxis and Hopeland, from Norridgewock, Wanungunt, and Wanadugunbuent, from Penobscot, Wattanummon, Adiawando and Hegen, from Penacook and Pigwacket.

Mesambomett and Wexar, from Amasconty, with about 250 men in 65 canoes, well armed, and mostly painted with variety of colours, which seemingly were affable and kind, and yet in some instances gave cause of jealousy.

A tent being fized for entertaining the Governor and gentlemen who accompanied him, together with the sagamores; his Excellency very kindly saluted them saying; `That as he was commissioned by the great and victorious Queen of England, he came to visit them as his friends and brethren, and to reconcile whatever differences had happened since the last treaty.’

At this, they made a pause, but after a short intermission, Captain Simmo, who was their orator, arose, and said, `That they acknowledged his favour in giving them a visit at such a juncture, with so many of the Council and gentlemen of both Provinces; assuring him, that they aimed at nothing more than peace; and that as high as the sun was above the earth, so far distant should their designs be of making the least breach between each other.’ And, as a testimony thereof, they presented him a belt of wampum, and invited him to the two pillars of stones, which at a former treaty were erected, and called by the significant name of the Two Brothers; unto which both parties went and added a greater number of stones.

This ceremony being performed, several volleys were discharged on each side; and the Indians added their usual dancing, singing, and loud acclamations of joy. Trading-houses in several places were hereupon engaged; and that the price of commodities should be stated, and an armorer fixed at the public charge. Many presents were also made, which they kindly received; so that every thing looked with a promising aspect of settled peace: And that which afterward seemed to confimr it, was the coming in of Captain Bomazeen and Captain Samuel, who informed, that several missionaries from the Friars were lately come among them, who endeavored to break the union, and seduce them from their allegiance to the Crown of England; but had made no impression on them, for that they were as firm as the mountains, and should continue so, as long as the sun and moon endured.” pp.16-17

[500A] Letter from Captain Cyprian Southack to Governor Dudley, dated “Casco Bay May the 17: 1703 from on board the Maj`tys ship Province Galley” quoted in William Goold, Portland in the Past with Historical Notes of Old Falmouth [Maine], (Portland, ME: Printed for the author by B. Thurston & Company, 1886)

“Sir on the 11 of May at 2 oclock afternoon we got off the dead man from Cousins’ Island, and no sign of any French or Indians about the bay. At 7 oclock afternoon came down to the fort (New Casco) and the next morning we buried the man at our heap of stones.”

[501] Edward E. Bourne, Ancient History of Kennebunk Written in 1831, (Kennebunk, ME: Starr Press, Inc., n.d.), pp. 48.

“Whenever they returned, or came in, from their [war] expeditions, they erected near their wigwams a pile of stones, in a conical form, two or three feet high. So long as the pile remained, they were at peace with the whites. But whenever war was to be resumed, the pile was thrown down.”

A similar version with minor wording differences appears in:

Edward E. Bourne, The History of Wells and Kennebunk [Maine], (Portland, ME: B. Thurston & Company), 1875.

“Whenever they came in from their raids they erected near their wigwams a pile of stones, in a conical form, two or three feet high. So long as this pile remained they were at peace with the whites; but when war was to be renewed, it was thrown down. They were never guilty of a violation of the armstice signified by this monument.” pp. 328

“There was one among them who seemed to have more of the spirit of civilized man. Ambereuse, living in one of the wigwams on Mousam river, was a man of peace; never manifesting any propensities for strife and war, but always desiring to live on friendly terms with the white man. He was never known to have any agency in war. He said he did not like war. Whenever his companions deserted their wigwams for their direful work, he remained at home; and though the pile of stones was prostrated, he continued his associations with the settlers as intimately as if peace was undisturbed. We suppose he was of the number of those who were them denominated `praying Indians.’ This friendly Indian lived here till 1752, when he removed to South Berwick.” pp. 328-329

[502] William T. Williams, Letter to Publishing Committee of the Massachusetts Historical Society (July 1832), reprinted in Skicinuwok Wanbanaghi: People of the Aurora, Part III, ed. Peter Lenz, (Norway, ME: Dawn Fire Publishing Collective, 1995), Pp. 32-33.

“ I have visited the ground where the rival chiefs, Uncas and Miantunnomoh are buried. Uncas buried in the royal burying ground, so called, which was appropriated [given to] the Uncas family … Miantunnomoh is buried in the east part of Norwich at a place called Sachem’s Plain, from the event of his death; and is buried on the spot where he was slain. But a few years since a large heap of stones, thrown together by the wandering Indians, according to the custom of their country, and as a melancholy mark of the love the Narragansets had for their fallen chief, lay on his grave: but the despicable cupidity of some people in that vicinity has removed them to make common stone wall, as it saved them the trouble of gathering stones for that purpose. The spot of his sepulture is, however, yet known.”

[503] ??, The History of Montgomery County and Fulton Counties, NY, (F. W. Beers & Co., 1878).

Editorial Note: Charlestown, NY

“ It was also on this road that the famous `stone-heap’ was situated. There is a tradition that, long prior to the Revolutionary war, a white man was murdered at this spot, and the edict was issued that every Indian, in passing this spot, should throw a stone upon it. Who issued the command and when it was issued, are questions whose answers are lost in the dim distance of time. The fact remains that every Indian who passed the spot did cast a stone upon it. One authority says: `Somewhere between Schoharie creek and Caughnawaga commenced an Indian road or foot-path which lead to Schohaire. Near this road *** has been seen, from time immemorial, a large pile of stones, which has given the name `Stone-heap Patent’ to the tract on which it occurs, as may be seen from ancient deeds.’ Rev. Gideon-Hawley, in the narrative of his tour through the Mohawk country, by Schoharie creek, in 1753, makes the following allusion to the stone-heap: `We came to a resting-place and breathed out horses, and slaked our thirst at the stream, when we perceived our Indian looking for a stone, which, having found, he cast to a heap which for ages has been accumulating by passengers like him who was our guide. We inquired why he observed that rite. He answered that his father practiced it and enjoined it on him. But he did not like to talk on the subject. *** The custom or rite is an acknowledgement of an invisible being. We may style him the unkown god this worship. This heap is his alter. The stone that is collected is the oblation of the traveler, which, if offered with a good mind, may be as acceptable as a consecrated animal. But perhaps these heaps of stone may be erected to a local deity, which most probably is the case.’ On this, Ruttenber remarks: `The custom referred to had nothing of worship in it. *** The stone-heaps were always by the side of the trail or regularly traveled path, and usually at or near a stream of water. The Indians paused to refresh themselves, and by throwing a stone or stick to a certain place, indicated to travelers that a friend had passed.’ ”

[504] Capt. Franklin Ellis, History of Columbia County, New York, (Philadelphia, PA: Everts & Ensign, 1878), Chap. 3, pp 15-21.

Editorial Note: Excerpt from Mohican land deeds to Robert Livingston in 1684 and 1685.

“where the Indians have laid several heaps of stones together by ancient custom among them”

[505] John Warner Barber, Connecticut Historical Collections, Containing a General Collection of Interesting Facts, Traditions, Biographical Sketched, Anecdotes, etc., Relating to the History and Antiquities of Every Town in Connecticut, with Geographical Descriptions, (New Haven, CT: Published by Durrie & Peck and J. W. Barber,1838 [1856 Improved Edition]) p. 199

“For a long period after the settlement of this place, it was called Chuse-town, so named from Chuse, the last sachem of the Derby Indians, who is said to have derived this name from his manner of pronouncing the word “choose.” His proper name was Joe Mau-we-hu; he was the son of Gideon Mauwehu, a Pequot Indian, who was the king or sachem of the Scatacook tribe of Indians in Kent. It appears that Gideon, previous to his collecting the Indians at Kent, lived in the vicinity of Derby, and wishing to have his son brought up among the white people, sent Joe to Mr. Agar Tomlinson of Derby, with whom he lived during his minority. Chuse preferring to live at Derby, his father gave him a tract of land at the falls, called the Indian Field. Here he erected his wigwam, about six or eight rods north of where the cotton factory now [1836] stands, on the south border of the flat. It was beautifully situated among the white-oak trees, and faced the south. He married an Indian woman of the East Haven tribe. At the time Chuse removed here there were but one or two white families in the place, who had settled on Indian hill, the height of land east of the river, and south-east of the cotton factory, in the vicinity of the Methodist and Congregational churches. These settlers wishing Chuse for a neighbor, persuaded him to remove to the place where the house of the late Mrs. Phebe Stiles now stands, a few rods north of the Congregational church. When Mr. Whitmore built on the spot, Chuse removed back again to the falls, where a considerable number of Indians collected and built their wigwams in a row, a few rods east of the factory on the top of the bank, extending to Indian hill. Near the river, in the Indian field, was a large Indian burying ground; each grave was covered with a small heap of stones. Mr. Stiles, of this place, purchased this field about forty-six years since, of the Indian proprietors, and in ploughing it over, destroyed these relics of antiquity.” p.199

NOTE: A footnote on page 200 lists Barber’s source for this information as “Eunice Mauwehu, aged 72 years, youngest daughter of Chuse, is still living (1836) at Scatacook, In Kent, and it is from her that most of the particulars respecting Chuse and the Indians are derrived.”

[506] James W. Tucker, “Our Town”, The Hampton Union [NH], Thursday, September 10, 1959.

“ There is good reason to believe that it was the custom of Indians in the colonial days to erect a conical pile of stones near their settlements to indicate that they were at peace with their neighbors. There also is evidence that they have been known to bury a stone ax in the center of these unique peace monuments which they inevitably tore down whenever they started on the war path.”

[507] Timothy Dwight, Travels in New-England and New-York, (London: William Baynes and Son, 1823).

New Milford CT Cairn

“After we had examined the falls of this river, and its passage through the mountain below, my companions ascended the summit of that on the eastern side, for the purpose of seeing a monument of stones, formed in a manner generally resembling that which I have heretofore described, in these letters, as existing on Monument mountain, near Stockbridge. It was intended to mark the grave of an Indianchief who was buried here.

This chief was one of the Scaghticokes: a tribe which I have heretofore mentioned, and of which New-Milford was formerly to principle residence. His crime was the murder of one of his own people. In consequence of this act he was immediately pursued by the avenger of blood; who, among the Mohekaneews, and among the Iroquois also, was usually, the enarest male kinsman. The chief fled to Roxbury, a township bordering New-Milford south-eastward, thence to Woodbury, and thence to Southbury: in which township he came upon the river. He then directed his course up the stream till he reached the summit of this mountain, where he was overtaken and killed by his pursuer, on the spot in which he was buried.

The figure of this monument was, in one respect, different from that which is in the neighbourhood of stockbridge. That was an obtuse cone. This is a circular enclosure, surrounding the grave. Both were, however, gathered in the same manner. Every Indian, at least of the tribe to which the deceased belonged, considered himself as under a sacred obligation, whenever, he passed by, to add one stone to the heap; as did, I believe, those of every other tribe belonging to the same nation. In this gradual manner monuments were accumulated.

It is remarkable, that both are on high and solitary grounds, remote from every Indian settlement; and that the persons buried there were excluded from the customary burying places of their respective tribes; places considered, I believe, by all the Mohekaneews as consecrated ground. Of both it is also true, that the Indians have declared the obligation to cast any more stones upon them to have ceased for a considerable period. Of the chief buried here, it is certain, that he was considered as having committed a gross crime. ... Within a short6 time past, some young gentlemen studying physic in the neighborhood, attemped tp dig up the bones of the deceased chief. The attempt, while it destroyed an interesting relic of Indian manners, gave very great offence to the Scaghticokes, who threatened them with violence for the injury done to their tribe.” vol. III, pp. 386-387

Barrington / Stockbridge MA (Mounument Mountain) Cairn

“ From Barrington on our way to Stockbridge, we crossed Monument Mountain, a spur from the Green Mountain Range. The name is derived from a pile of stones about six or eight feet in diameter, circular at its base and raised in the form of an obtuse cone over the grave of one of the aborigines. The manner in which it has been formed is the following: Every Indian who passes by the place throws a stone upon the tomb of his country-man. By this slow method accumulation, the heap is risen in a long series of years to its present size.” vol. II, p. 362


“From Sheffield, the next morning, Thursday, September 20th, we rode to Stockbridge to dinner, and in the afternoon proceeded to New-Lebanon, thirty miles. On our way to Stockbridge we went to the Indian monument, mentioned in a former part of these letters; and, to our great regret, found it broken up in the same manner as that at New-Milford.

I ought in my account of that to have added, that this mode of erecting monuments was adopted only on peculiar occasions. The common manner of Indian burial had nothing in it of this nature. The remains of the dead at home, were lodged in a common cemetery, belonging to the village in which they had lived. Sometimes there were laid horizontally, and sometimes were interred in a sitting posture. Their bows and arrows are said to have been buried with the men; and with them, and perhaps with women also, various utensils. These, it is said, they believed to be necessary, or at least useful, to their departed friends in their journey towards the happy region in the south-westm where, according to their mythology, all the brave and good will be finally gathered. It is remarkable, that they erected no monuments over them, nor commenorated them by any external objects whatever. Instead of this they would never themselves name them, or without resentment suffer them to be named by others. In the year 1665, the celebrated Phulip went toNantucket, for the purpose of killing John Gibbs, an Indian of the island, who had mortally offended him by naming one of his deceased relations. Gibbs, however, escaped, being concealed by Thomas Macy, an English inhabitant.

These monuments were plainly erected under the sanctions of religion: for every Indian felt himself religiously obliged, when he passed by, to cast a stone upon them. How long this obligation extended is to me unkown; but it had its termination: for the indians, in both these instances considered themselves as having been released from it a good number of years.

Both of them were also raised upon extraordinary occasions. What those occasions were it may now be impossible to determine.” vol. III, pp. 391-392

[508] Tim Fohl, “Confessions of a Former Professional Rockpopper”, NEARA Journal Vol. 37 No. 2 pp. 13-15

Editorial Note: Tim Fohl spent the summers 1949 and 1950 as farm hand on a farm in Vermont. One of the major farm task he was involved with the clearing stone from farm fields. He discusses the different field clearing methods and the resulting field clearing piles they created. In the article he also discusses “artifact piles” or what we referred to as “stone cairns”. He makes a major distinction between the two types of piles.

“The character of the piles of Figures 8 and 9 [Fig 8 - split boulder cairn, Fig. 9 - stone cairn on a boulder] are very different than that Figures 5,6, and 7 [Figs. 5,6,7 show typical stone piles resultung from field clearing]. In fact it would be impossible to create piles of the artifact types [i.e. cairns] by the methods used to clear fields unless a very laborious set of extra steps were taken. It is very hard to believe that the extra effort would be expended on a broad scale unless there was some real reason for it. My experience is that the activity of choice when one tired of moving rocks was to sit down!
I have described rock clearing methods - practiced on farms - which relied on animals to supply extra power. These are almost surely the methods practiced for centuries on similar properties. These methods do not result in piles that resemble many artifact piles [i.e. cairns]. In fact, they physically cannot yield piles of the sort thought to be the work of Indians.”

[509] Aaron Young, Esq. (ed.), Transactions of the New Hampshire State Agricultural Society for the Year 1860 (Dover, NH: G.H. & S.E. Twombly, 1961)

Full Text Available “Making of America Books” Project, University of Michigan

Editorial Note: This quotation is intriquing. Herod Chase, farm owner, mentions the “stone-heaps” covering the field in such a manner that hints that this was an oddity. Further research is need to determine if Herod Chase was first person to farm this property or not. The farm was located in Deering, N.H.

“The farm is well walled and bushes kept down. When I moved on the farm every acre of the field was covered with stone-heaps, from 25 to 40 per acre, and now not one is found in the mowing.” pp. 189

[510] William Cothren, History of Ancient Woodbury, Connecticut, from the First Indian Deed in  1659 to 1872 ... (Woodbury, CT: William Cothren, 1872)

Full Text Available “Making of America Books” Project, University of Michigan

Editorial Note: Two woodcut illustrations that accompany this chapter are at the top of this webpage.

“...The Indians always laid out a trail, or path, from village to village, by the graves of their chieftans.
   The Indians had a very beautiful custom of honoring their dead chiefs, when laid in their last repose. As each Indian, whether he was on his hunting expeditions or the war-path, passed the grave of his honored chief, he revently cast theron a small stone, selected for that purpose, in token of his respect and remembrance. At the first settlement of the town, a large heap of stones had accumulated in this way, and a considerable quantity yet remian, after the tillage of the field in its vicinity for the long period of two hundred years. These stones, thus accumulated, were of many different varieties, a large number of them not to be found in this valley, nor within long distances, showing clearly, that there was a purpose in their acummulation and verifying the `tradition of the elders,’ that they were gathered there ad a monument of respect and honor to a buried chieftain. There can be no doubtof the correctness of the statement as to where Pomperaug, Nonnewaug, Wecuppemee and Mauquash were buried. Pomperaug had been dead only about ten or twelve years, when our fathers came hither. Nothing is more natural than that his grave should be pointed out to them. Their first church was built within eight rods of the place, and the first minister’s house was not more than twenty rods away. Nonnewaug lived for more than forty years after the first settlement, and Mauquash, the last sachem of the Pootatucks, died in 1758.
   The latter was buried under an apple-tree, in the `old chimney lot,’ so called, now belonging to Amos Mitchell, a short distance east of the old `Eleanor Mitchell House,’ and a short distance from the elevated plain on which stood the principal and last village of the Pootatucks in our territory, the last and sad remnant of them having removed in 1759, and joined the Scaticooks at Kent, where there are still a few individuals, now (1871) remaining, on their reservations in the mountains, under the care of a white overseer, appointed by the State. There was still quite a mound remaining over him a few years since. Hisburial place is near `Tummaseete’s old orchard.’ There are a dozen of these treees still remaining, seeming to flourish well, there being apples now (June 1871) growing on them. Several of them are more than three feet in diameter, and were disposed around the area or plaza of the village of wigwams. This orchard was called an `old orchard,’ in several conveyances, dated more than 150 years ago, and was no doubt planted by the Indians soon after the advent of the whites within the bounds of Stratford in 1639.” pp.881-882 (vol. II)

“  And Nonnewaug, too, at the appointed time, slept with his fathers, and the small remnant of his people buried him in the beautiful plain at the foot of the musical falls that are called by his name, where his father’s people had been buried before him, true to thier instinct of selecting the most beautiful places by the river-side, by the slivery cascade, or in the verdant plain. An apple-tree was planted at the head of his grave, which still stands there, the faithful guardian of the ashes that repose beneath its grateful shade.It is a venerable tree,some 150 years old, but does not bear the marks of so great an age, though there are several decayed places in it, so perfectly shown in the accompaying [wood] cut of the grave and tree, taken by the artist on the spot during the last summer. When the writer first visited it, twenty years ago, there was a large hillock, or mound, raised over the grave, which remained, distinguishing the sachem’s, by it size, from the other graves around him, till a few years ago, when the present owner of the field committed the sacrilege of plowing it down, saying he was not going to have such an old `hummock in his field,’ much to the regret of every true antiquarian, and lover of ancient things. The mound thus destroyed was some ten feet long, six feet wide, and four feet high, having been gradually formed, in the same way, as in the case Pomperuag’s grave.” pp.884-885 (vol. II)

[511] Hamilton Child (Editor), Gazetteer and Busines Directory of Chittenden County, Vermont, for 1882-83, (Syracuse, N.Y.: Printed at the Journal Office, 1882), p. 61

“In several localities throughout the county [Chittenden County, VT], however, there has been found indubitable proof that the Indians have, at some period, resided here in considerable numbers, and for many years. In Shelburne, ob the eastern side of the mouth of the river, a field of about twenty-fice acres was found by the early settlers, which showed undoubted evidences of having been cleared and cultivated for a length of time, as there were no stumps of the original timber. This clearing was in a square form, and had a heavy growth of the original timber on all sides, and two large trees of the original growth left standing in the center. There were numerous heaps or piles of stones on the field, which must have been carried there, probably for camp fires, as there were no stones in the soil. This clearing was evidently abandoned by the savages a number of years before any settlement was made by the whites as it was covered with a thick growth of small trees, unlike the surrounding timber, apparently of about thirty years in growth. Arrow heads, flints, and other articles were also found in large numbers, which was conclusive evidence of its having been occupied by savages for many years.” p. 61

[512] Samuel Hopkins, Historical Memoirs, Relating to the Housatunnuk Indians: Or, an Account of the Methods Used, and Pains Taken, for the Propagation of the Gospel Among the Heathenith Tribe, and the Success thereof, under the Ministry of the late Reverend Mr. John Sergeant ... (Boston: S. Kneeland, 1753) reprinted in Historical Memoirs Relating to the Housatonic Indians (New York: William Abbatt, 1911), the Magazine of History Extra No. 17.

Editorial Note: Samuel Hopkins quotes liberally from Sergeant’s Journal and the following is from the journal:

Full Text (PDF - 24M)

“[November 1734] There is a large heap of stones, I suppose ten cart-loads, in the Way to Wnahtukook [Stockbridge, MA], which the Indians have thrown together as they have pass’d by the place; for it us’d to be their custom, every time any one pass’d by, to throw a stone upon it. But what was the end of it they cannot tell; only they say their fathers us’d to do so, and they do it becuase it was the custom of their fathers. But Ebenezer [Indian interpeter] says he supposes it was design’d to be an expression of their gratitude to the supreme being, that he had preserv’d them to see the place again. These things Ebenezer told me by the way, as we were riding to Wnahtukook ...” pp. 24-25

[513] Richard Hyde, [Letter dated Norwich, 9 Oct. 1769], reprinted in Samuel Drake, The book of the Indians, (Boston: Antiquarian Bookstore, 1861, 8th Edition)

Note: Despite being written 125 years after the events described in the letter, Samuel Drake found that the basic events described by Richard Hyde in the letter supported by colonial records (pp. 64-65).

“The following facts being communicated to me from some of the ancient fathers of this town, who were contemporary with Uncas. ... [Drake omitts some of the opening remarks] [In the year 1644] That before the settlement of Norwich [CT], the sachem of the Narraganset tribe [Miantunnomoh] had a personal quarrel with Uncas, and proclaimed war with the Moheg[an]s: and marched with an army of 900 fighting men, equipped with bows and arrows and hatchets. Uncas be[ing] informed by spies of their march towards his seat, Uncas called his warriors together, about 600 stout, hard men, light of foot, and skilled in the use of the bow: and upon a conference, Uncas told his men it would not do to let ye Narragansets come to their town, but, they must go and meet them. Accordingly, they marched, and about three miles, on a large plain, the armies met, and both halted within bow-shot. A parley was sounded, and gallant Uncas proposed a conference with the Narraganset sachem, who agreed. And being met, Uncas saith to his enemy words[s] to the effect: `You have got a great number of brave men with you, and so have I. A’nt it a pity that uch brave men should be killed for a quarrel between you and I? Only come like a man, as you pretend to be, and we will fight it out. If you kill me, my men shall be yours; but if I kill you, your men shall be mine.’ Upon which the Narraganset sachem replied: `My men came to fight, and they shall fight.’

Uncas having before told his men, that if his enemy should refuse to fight him, he would fall down, and then they were to discharge their artillery [arrows] on them, and fall right on them as fast as they could; [Drake summarizes this portion of the manuscript (indicated by italics) “this was done, and the Mohegans rushed upon Miantunnomoh’s army `Like lions,’ put them to flight and killed `a number on the spot.” they `pursued the rest, driving some down ledges of rocks.’ The foremost of Unca’s men got ahead of Miantunnomoh, and impeded his flight, drawing him back as they passed him, `to give Uncas opportunity to take him himself.’]

In the pursuit, at a place now called Sachem’s Plain, Uncas took him by the shoulder. He then set down, knowing Uncas. Uncas then gave a whoop, and his men returned to him; and in a council then held, `twas concluded by them, that Uncas, with a guard, should carry said sachem to Hartford, to the governor and magistrates, (it being before the charter,) to advise what they should do with him. Uncas was told by them, as there was no war with the English and Narragansets, it was not proper for them to intermeddle, in the affair, and advised him to take his own way. Accordingly, they brought said Narraganset sachem back to the same spot of ground where he was took: where Uncas killed him, and cut out a large peice of his shoulder, roasted, and eat it; amd said, `It was the sweetest meel he ever eat; it made him have strong h[e]art.’ There they bury him, and made a pillar [stone heap], which I have see but a few years since.” p. 66

[514] Charles J. Taylor, History of Great Barrington, (Berkshire County,) Massachusetts, Great Barrington, (MA: Clark W. Byran & Co., Publishers,1882)

Note: This historical account is largely a rehash of earlier accounts. However, it adds several useful historic facts including the fact that the stone cairn had been rebuilt prior to 1882.

“Monument Mountain - Its Monument and Traditions.

The Monument Mountain - the Mas-wa-se-hi [FT 1] of the aborigines, is, deserving of more than the passing mention which has been made of it, as it is a favorite place of resort of pleasure seekers from abroad and from the surrounding villages, and is justly celebrated for the extraordinary beauty of the scenery which summit affords. Its tradition, beautifully woven in verse by our once Berkshire poet, the late William Cullen Byrant, has imparted to this mountain aworld-wide notoriety. The summit of the mountain, to which the Indian name, as well as its present title, more particulary applies, and which is situated in quite the north part of Great Barrington, about one half mile south of the Stockbridge line, rise precopotously to the westward of the county road leading from Great Barrington to Stockbridge, to the height of several hundred feet. It is formed of quartz rock, thrown up, in some great upheavel of nature, into wild and craggy ledges and overhanging precipices. The name which is now accorded to the mountain originates froma rude pile of flint stones, which formerly stood at the foot of the southern slope of the higher part of the mountain, a short distance to the west of the county road. This pile, which was `some six or eight feet in diameter, circular at its base, and raised in the form of an obtuse cone,’ [quote from Dwight see #507] was of aborginal origin, and was in existence before the white settlers occupied the valley. By vandal hands, this monument was thrown down more than forty years since, the stones scattered about, and an excavation made beneath it, probably in expectation of discovering hidden treasures. The stones, now thrown together in a circle, still makr the site of the monument. Its erection has been attributed to several causes. The tradition on which Byrant’s poem is founded - which, however poetical it is, may be deemed frivolous and not in consonance with Indian character - is, that an Indian maiden, having formed an extraordinary attachment for her cousin, whom the customs of her tribe forbade her to marry, threw herself from the mountain precipices and perished; that she wasburied at the base of the mountain, and the accumulated pile marked her resiting place. [FT 2] Another and perhaps more plausible - though unconfirmed - tradition is, that the territory of the Muh-he-kun-nucks was once invaded by a hostile tribe; that the former lay in ambush for their enemy in the passes of the mountain, fell upon them and defeated them with great slaughter; and that the pile commemorates that event.

In a letter written from the Indian Town in November 1735, the writer says of this pile of stone, `it is raised over the first sachem who died after they (the Indians) came into this region. Each Indian as he goes by adds a stone to the pile. Captain Konkapot tells me it marks the boundary of the land agreed upon in a treaty with the Mohawks. The Muhecunnucks being entitled to have all the country for their hunting ground within one day’s journey in every direction from said pile. He also says a chief was buried there but the stone is added to keep distinct the monument.” [This “letter” first appeared in the Berkshire Courier 11/15/1866. Historian Lion G. Miles argues that the letter is probably a forgery - “The Mystery of the Monument Mountain stone heap” The Advocate Weekly April 06, 2006] Konkapot was an intelligent and respectable Indian, and his statement is entitled to some consideration. But, whether marking the grave of a sachem or not, this, as well as other similar; though usually smaller, piles of stones, which were not uncommon in the country, probably had its origin in a mysterious religious custom of the Indians. This is more fully explained in the following absract from a narrative written in 1794, by Rev. Gideon Hawley of Marshpee, Massachusetts, of a missionary tour made by himself into the Indian country in New York, in May, 1753. Mr. Hawley had previously been a teacher amongst the Indians at Stockbridge, and was familiar with habits and customs. In following an Indian path along the Schoharie Creek, accompanied by an Indian guide and some others, he says, `We came to a resting place, and breathed our horses, and slacked our thirst at the stream, when we perceived our Indian looking for a stone, which having found, he cast to a heap which for ages had been accumulating by passengers like him, who was our guide. We inquired why he observed this rite. His answerwas, that his father prcticed it, and enjoined it on him. But he did not like to talk on the subject. I have observed in every part of the country, among every tribe of Indians, and among those where I now am (Marshpee) such heaps of stones or sticks collectedon the like occasionas the above. The largest heap I ever observed, is that large collection of small stones on the mountain between Stockbridge and Great Barrington. We have a sacrifce rock, as it is termed, between Plymouth and Sandwich, to which stones and sticks are always cast by the Indians who pass it. This custom or rite is an acknowledgement of an invisible being. We may style him the unknown God, who this people worship. This heap is his alter. The stone that is collected is the oblation of the traveler, which, if offered with a good mind, may be as acceptable as a consecrated animal.’ [See #305] [FT 3]

The Rev. John Sergeant, in passing from Great Barrington to Stockbridge, in the company of Ebenezer Poo-poo-nuck, an Indian interpreter, November 3d, 1734, on the occasion of his first visit to the Indians, observed thos mounument and made the following record in his diary: `There is a large heap og stones, I suppose ten cart loads, in the way to Wnah-tu-kook, which the Indians have thrown together, as they passed by the place, for it us’d to be their custom every time any one passed by, to throw a stone upon it. But what was the end of it they cannot tell; only they say their fathers us’d to do it so and they do it becuase it was the custom of their fathers. But Ebenezer say, he supposes it was designed to be an expression of their gratitude to the supreme Being, that he had preserved them to see the place again.’[See #512]

The following incident related by Mr. Joseph K. Pelton, an aged and estimable citizen of this town, now deceased, is of a character somewhat similar to that recorded by Mr. Hawley. Many years since, and previous to the time when the pile was thrown down, Mr. Pelton met, at the tavern then kept above Monument Mountain, two Indians of the Stockbridge tribe, who had recenlty come to this part of the country from their homes in the far west, to visit the graves and hunting grounds of their ancestors. Entering into conversation with Mr. Pelton, they made inquires about the location of the monument, and at their request he accompanoed them to the spot. After standinf for some time thoughtfuly and in silence about the pile, each caste a stone upon it and turned away. Mr. Pelton enquired of them the cause of its erection: they were unable or unwilling to answer; they gave him no information, but, as in the case mentioned by Mr. Hawley, did not like to talk about it.” pp. 44-48

FT1 - “Mas-wa-se-hi: this is the orthography given by Rev.Jeremiah Slingerland. definition, `a nest standing up,’ or `the standing up nest,’ with reference to the form of the cliffs of the mountain.”

FT2 - “This story was related by an aged Indian woman, and was communicated to Bryant; and Mr. Slingerland says that in cases of excessive grief it was not uncommon for the Indian to say, `I will go and jump off Mas-wa-se-hi.’ “

FT3 - “The narative of the Rev. Gideon Hawley, from which the above abstract is made, is found in Vol. 8, page 630, of the Documentary History of New York.”

[515] John McPhee, "Travels of the Rock," The New Yorker, February 26, 1990, p. 108-117

"When I asked him [Don Matinzi, local historian] one day if he knew of many other erratics bestrewn through the Plymouth woods, he thought for a while and counted few. The great Laurentide Ice Sheet had not, in this region, been generous with large boulders. There was one on Sandwich Road called Sacrifice Rock. It was sacred to the Wampanoags, of whom Massasoit was chief. Even today, offerings will appear from time to time on Sacrifice Rock -- handfuls of pebbles, branches of trees. Its actual name is Manitou Asseinah (God's Rock). It sits by the roadside unfenced. When we went to see it, Matinzi said, with some ambiguity, "This is the only rock that does have a history that relates to the area." The boulder had come to rest six and a half miles from Plymouth Rock. Coarse-grained, with large crystals of pink feldspar, it may have derived from greater depth."

HISTORY: Non-New England States, Canada, Sub-Artic, Central/South America

[600] Anon, Johnstown Tribune, February 9, 1856.

“ Mr. Goughnour settled in what is now Conemaugh Township in 1798. Cambria County [Pennsylvania] was then a wilderness and not known to geographers. At the date of Mr. Goughnour’s settlement the Indians had departed from their Conemaugh hunting grounds, but he says that he had found heaps of stones erected over Indian graves, flint arrows, elk horns, and other relics of their presence. A few of these stone heaps are still standing on the banks of the Stonycreek above Johnstown.”

[601] Lt. James H. Bradley, The March of the Montana Column, Edited by Edgar I. Stewart, Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1961. pp. 54-55

“ [1876] Today we passed a pile of small stones situated on the ground overlooking the Yellowstone [river], just below the Place Skulls. I noticed that some of my Indian scouts paused there, picked up a stone, spit upon it, and cast it upon the pile. Upon inquiry I found that this was done as an act of devotion which they believed would insure them good fortune in their enterprise. They say they have made it a custom for many years, and that the pile of stones was mainly formed in this way. It was however, according to their traditions, originally built as a landmark when they first arrived in this country many generations ago. The same tradition asserts that the Crows left such piles scattered along the route by which they migrated from the southeast, so that they could find their way back if they ever desired to do so. They assert that even now they can follow these piles all the way from the upper Yellowstone to the Arkansas River, and some of my scouts pointed out a knoll to the southeast where they said the next pile was to be found. I had no opportunity to confirm the truth of this statement, but have been told by white men familiar with the country that to all appearances such a line of stone piles does exist, though in some cases the stones are now dispersed and in others wholly or partially buried in the soiled deposited over them by the wind.”

[602] Samuel T. Wiley and W. Scott Garner (editors), Biographical and Portrait of Blair County, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA: Gresham Publishing Co., 1892), pp. 44.

“ Stones of memorial constitute the second class of Indian stone heaps. They were thrown up in heaps at the crossing of trails, and on the summit of some mountain, and each Indian that passed added a stone. `Lawson’s Carolina,’ published in 1709, at page 309, makes mention of the Indians in the south piling up these memorial heaps.”

[603] John C. Van Tramp, Prairie and Rocky Mountain Adventures, or, Life in the West. (Columbus, OH: Segner & Condit, 1870)

“  In traversing the old road between Taos and Santa Fe, the eye of the traveler is oftentimes arrested by rude wooden crosses half embedded in stone-heaps. These crosses mark the spot where some one has been murdered by hostile Indians, or the equally formible ladrones - as the banditti of Mexico are usually called. The stone-heaps which encircle the base of these rude structures are, as I am told, accumulated by a custom of the country which requires each Mexican who passes them to add a stone to the pile already gathered, and mutter a prayer for the repose of those who slumber so dreamlessly below. If the frequent recurrence of these sad memorials of crime be taken as a proof, the number of persons who die a violent death in New Mexico must be very great.” pp. 213

[604] M. Thomas Hatley The Dividing Paths: Cherokees and South Carolinians through the Era of Revolution. Oxford University Press, 1993.

"In 1761, victorious South Carolina forces marching against the tribe interrupted their march to bury their dead left uninterred in the haste of retreat on the hillside the year before. Stone cairns built by the Native Cherokee tribespeople to honor their warriors killed in battle stood beside the river trail that preceded the road. ... Though Cherokees returned to live here after the Revolution, within a few decades the rich farmland passed from Cherokee to american hands, and the victors collected the cairn stones, mortaring them securely into the chimneys of their new houses." pp. XI

[605] Wilcomb E Washburn, Bruce G. Trigger, The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Amercas. Cambridge University Press, 1996.

"Other Plains peoples also erected stone cairns and still revisit them periodically to commemorate noteworthy battles where their heroes, whose names are still passed on from generation to generation, triumphed or fell in battle." pp. 22

[606] Peter Nabokov, A Forest of Time: American Indian Ways of History. Cambridge University, Press, 2002.

"Cairns, piled-up rocks, were another way the Plains Indians marked their historical landscape for future generations. the heaps of rocks in and around Pryor Gap, Montana, denote where Crows still commemorate supernatural and historical occurrences; visitors add offering rocks, coupled with prayers, for the Little People, remembering how they rescued a long-ago abandoned baby, and tribal storytellers take youngsters to cairns where famous warriors fell in battle." pp. 143

[607] Robert Adams, Jr., “The State in Schuylkill”, The American Historical Record, and Repertory of Notes and Queries, vol. 1 (1872) pp. 261-268

“They were sometimes ladi in the field under stone heaps. Upon a hill 300 feet above the Tennessee, there is an ancient cemetery of the cherokees within the space of an acre. Round rocks from the bed of the stream had been laid together forming cone shaped piles, from four to eight feet high. Twenty-five had escaped the ravages of time and the vagrant curiosity of men. In one I found rotted peices of wood, and decayed human and animal ones. The deposition in this instance had been made in a shallow cavity. From another I took three small bells, of perforated hollow metal, containing solid balls, resembling sleigh bells, obtained probably from Europeans having intercourse with the natives. Such `tinkling prnaments,’ attached to bear skin pelts, were worn around the ankles of the Indian women, in the dance. The heaps were the work evidently, of a recent race. Regarding the decomposition of animal remains which they contained, making an allowance for exposure to air and moisture and the size of trees growing among the displaced rocks, they may be dated back a couple of centuies.

These may distinguished froma class of stone heaps with which they are sometimes confounded. In the `Gaps’ and crossing places of the mountains artificial piles are observed which had theur originin the superstitution that connects some goodfortune with their accumulation. In this belief the cherokee on a journey or the war-path, were accustomed, at certain places to throw a stone, hoping by this act, to escape evil and secure a safe return. From such beginnings, by the custom of warriors pressing to add to the mass, arosethese piles varying in heights and bulk. They differ from such as covered the human remains in being irregular in form and composed of such light materials as may be easily taken up and thrown down.

At `Indian Grave Gap’ the distinctionmay be noticed. On one side of the pass the grave of a chief, celebrated by tradition, was marked by a come of rocks, of nearly the same dimensions. Opposite was the misshappen heap of a superstitious erection. It contained no relics and bore no mark of great antiquity. Tradition assign it to the modern Indians. Similar stone works of this description occur frequently in some of the western States. They are mentioned as extant in the South, by Adair and other old traders and narrators. Travellers in other countries speak of mounds having similar import.” p. 267

[608] William Bartram, Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida [1791] reprinted in William Bartram: Travels and other Writings, (Library of America: 1996).

Georgia (1770's)

"I mounted again, and followed the trading path about a quarter of a mile through fields, then gently ascended the green beds of the hills, and entered the forests, being a point of a chain of hills projecting into the green vale or low lands of the rivers. This forest continued about a mile, the surface of the land level but rough, being covered with stones or fragments of rocks, and very  large, smooth pebbles of various shapes and sizes, some of ten or  fifteen pounds weight: I  observed on each side of the road many  vast heaps of these stones, Indian graves undoubtly." p. 285

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