Response from Geologist: Potential Grinding Stone Discovery at Northampton Site

Dear Friends,

We received so many responses about the new discovery of what appears to be a large two-person sitting grinding stone approximately 150m from the site.

Here is the video of the potential grinding stone, if you missed it. 

What follows is a fascinating expert response we received from Nick Venti, a geologist with a PhD, a certified practicing professional, who has 10 years experience working in the northeast US. Shared with permission:

“This appears to represent a preponderance of evidence to support long-term habitation, indeed! I’m particularly struck by the potential grinding stone, and support the interpretation that it was indeed used as such. 

From your video, this object appears to be made of a distinctive quartzite, specifically the Cheshire quartzite. This rock is extremely hard, the hardest I am aware of in western Massachusetts. This formation outcrops in the Housatonic Valley, but not in the Pioneer Valley. Glaciers have transported boulders of this quartzite into the Westfield River basin, where they operate like rounded wrecking balls (as in Cummington, MA, for example), hard as they are, and these concentrate in the river due to their ability to crush rocks of other types in the river. The Westfield River boulder example illustrates 1) that though this quartzite is not necessarily confined to the far western portions of the state, it isn’t local, either. 

Very rarely does the Cheshire quartzite appear this far east, and this piece is notable for its impressive size, as such a large rock would have had to be carried by a glacier, if not moved with great labor. That is, humans living here could not have chosen a better rock for a grinding stone. Had it been found there such a large piece at this critical ecological location would have been seen as a fantastic gift from God, a coincidence of unusual fortune. 

Perhaps more likely, it would have been so valuable that it may have even been worth somehow moving its great mass to the site. 

Second, I believe it is reasonable to conclude that the well in it has been almost certainly been hewn. A close-up on the well toward the end of the video appears to show cut faces along its edge. Never have I observed the Cheshire quartzite to weather with deep recesses, like this rock. The Cheshire quartzite’s massive texture means that it doesn’t weather preferentially in any dimension, and almost invariably its boulders weather to highly smoothed spheroidal forms with few notches or creases at all, let alone deep wells.”

Thank you, Nick, for your professional analysis.

For some context on the location of the stone, this is the incredible view from where it is. Perhaps not a coincidence. There’s a choke point between the river and rocks for capturing game. A tremendous view to spot herds of caribou and monitor river traffic. And a freshwater spring. Plus of course, the bountiful resources of the river itself. Everything a village of humans would need to survive indefinitely. 

I have heard over and over our Indigenous friends tell me with all the key resources right there why would our ancestors paddle days up and down the river, and move all around to hunt, which was also a security risk. Further, there were other peoples that already lived all up and down the river. Yet this continues to be the MassDOT narrative. Everything was temporary. 

A hunting camp is a temporary camp exactly because it lacks these key resources. They said MassDOT continually has no answer for this.

Greg

4 thoughts on “Response from Geologist: Potential Grinding Stone Discovery at Northampton Site

  1. Quite close to this location is a place named “Fortification Hill”. There is no record of any English fortification having been built there, far as I can find, while it’s known that the first Europeans exploring New England and encountering existing artificial structures often called them “Indian Forts” or castles, or similar. John Pynchon, in a 1654 letter to governor Winthrop, mentions a “stonewall and strong fort in it” being “newly discovered” with “many strange reports about it” somewhere near New London (possibly the Gungywamp site?). For years I’ve tried to learn the origin for our hill’s name but no-one I’ve contacted seems to know so either I’ve been unlucky or that fact has been lost from local memory. Unfortunately whatever earned it’s designation as a “fortification” has likely been destroyed when mining operations were carried on there in the 19th century but I wonder if it was an indigenous construction, either ancient or contemporary with the initial English settlement, built of stone or wooden palisades or both. Being in a swampy area it fits the profile for a Contact Period defensive settlement, at the least. Long story short, were the general location Fortification Hill to be examined by one or more trained archaeologists (independent of the state) it may prove to be worth their while, as perhaps it’s another long term habitation site?

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  2. Greetings and thank you for your work and your sharing ,can you give me more information about the Cummington Massachusetts rounded wrecking ball as people are looking for specifically Cummington and Plainfield native documentation . I am Native and an independent researcher thank you ,Jennifer Lee Yes the issue of preserving these features is very important they need to be preserved on the national register of historic places there are so many stone features locally any ideas on how to accomplish this? Sent from my iPhone

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  3. Still don’t understand why you aren’t trying to get the artifacts back which were brought over state lines and is a federal issue

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