The large cairn on top of the knoll measured 5m wide by 6.3m long by
1.9m high (16.4’ x 10.6’ x 6.2’) and was
distinguished by having a large, round quartz cobble placed directly in
the middle of the north face (Fig. 11). This was no accident,
and the use of quartz here and in other features on the site implies a
cultural significance quite apart from any Colonial or European
association (Muller 2007b). At the southwest corner of the
cairn was an extension or ‘tail,’ about six feet
long, that ended at a large horizontal stone slab (Fig.
Both of these distinguishing characteristics
are also found in a large cairn in South Newfane, Vermont, where a
large quartz cobble had been placed in the north face of the cairn
(Fig. 13), and at the southwest end was a wall-like extension about
eight feet long (Fig. 14).
Similarly, more than 200 miles to
the south, at the Oley Hills site, is Platform B (Fig. 15), a large
stone platform with a terrace-like extension at the north end that
ended at some large boulders, from above looking like the curved tail
of a scorpion (Fig. 16). The similar morphology among these
three examples is more than a coincidence, I believe, and reflects a
widespread cultural and architectural response to the
We had seen most of the major features at the site, but I felt we were
just scratching the surface. Several of the others wanted to
see the chamber about a quarter mile away, but I wanted to explore more
around the large cairn. Before we split, a few of us walked
down the slope to the west from the large quartz accented cairn, where
we encountered a handful of other manmade features. One of
them was a low rectangular construction with several quartz pieces on
top (Fig. 17). And further to the south on the same slope was
an impressive horizontal cairn on the edge of a rock outcrop (Fig.
This reminded me of two similar constructions I had seen
before: one at the Smith site in Rochester which traced the
edge of a curved outcrop, and was accented by a quartz cobble on top
(Fig. 19); and the other was at a site in the Delaware Water Gap in
Pennsylvania, where two careful constructions were placed on either
side of a large boulder (Fig. 20). The one in Stockbridge did
not have any quartz that I could see, but it seemed to have the same
function as the others noted above in that it simply defined and
accented the rock outcrop (Fig. 21).
Walking back to my car, I looked for another large cairn in the woods
that I had seen several years previously, and I eventually found it
obscured by a thick tangle of briers and brush in a dense pine grove
(Fig. 22). This cairn measured 5.3m long by 2.7m wide by 1.3m
high (17.3’ x 8.8’ x 4.2’) and it had
quartz cobbles intentionally clustered in the southeast corner (Fig.
Cairns were placed at a site for a reason. In some cases, and
with patience, one can discover what attracted the cairn builders in
the first place. Often it was some natural feature in the
landscape that had phenomenal attributes, such as the limestone outcrop
at the Peterborough, Ontario, petroglyph site, where the limestone is
fissured and water can be heard flowing underneath (Vastokas and
Vastokas 1973: 49). At a site in Hackettstown, New Jersey, it was a
beautiful waterfall that must have attracted the builders of the six or
seven large barrel-shaped cairns. At a large cairn site in
Hallstead, Pennsylvania, it was a ritualized spring (Fig. 24) enhanced
with two lintels and support stones, that seemingly provided the
impetus for the construction of more than 100 large and beautifully
constructed cairns (Fig. 25). At the Oley Hills site in
Pennsylvania the focus was a large erratic-looking boulder (Muller
1999. See also Fig. A, above), and at the Smith site in
Rochester, it seems that the prevalence of springs and the east facing
slope were the main reasons why 150 plus stone cairns and other manmade
stone features were placed there (Muller 2007b). These are
some of the most obvious examples.
But the Stockbridge site does not easily reveal its secrets.
It, like many other sites, probably started with the construction of
one cairn in response to some distinctive natural feature or a
phenomenal characteristic in the landscape, but that has yet to be
found. Over a period of time, other stone constructions were
added, so that like the skin of an onion, these added elements obscure
the original core. By determining the extent of the site, and
by approaching it from different directions at different times of the
year, the single feature or characteristic that stimulated all this
attention might eventually be discovered.
Muller, N.E., “Early Stone Cairns and Rows in Eastern
Muller, N.E., “Stone Rows & Boulders: A Comparative
Muller, N.E., “Vermont Platform Cairns,” 2003.
Muller, N.E., “Delaware Water Gap,” 2007a.
Muller, N.E., “An Unusual Crescent-Shaped Cairn and the
Significance of Quartz,” 2007b.
Muller, N.E., “Fahnestock Memorial State Park,”
Vastokas, Joan M. and Roman K.Vastokas, Sacred Art of the Algonkians: A
Study of the Peterborough Petroglyphs, Peterborough (Ontario), 1973.
Wessels, Tom, Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New
England, Woodstock (VT), 1997.
All illustrations are by the auther except for the following:
Figure 3 is by Dave Lacy and Figures 24 and 25 were supplied by Brian Morganti
Copyright © 2007 by Norman E. Muller