Yesterday was another productive day exploring Bear Spirit Mountain.
Ingrid & I made our way to a neighbor/friend's property to explore some of the 200 acres that he owns that is on the other side of the mountain. I was excited at the possibility of making new findings since I had not explored it yet. I have only explored about thirty percent of the five mile site to date, so there is much to see and find ahead of us.
When we arrived we started hiking along the south boundary and then worked our way into the forest from a cleared field. As we were walking we came to a long line of rocks that appeared at first to be a wall. Upon closer inspection, we noticed that there were consistent bumps and crests at the top of many of these rock piles. So, it wasn't a long wall, it was just many piles of rocks that were dumped very close to each other. It was impressive though as the line of rock piles stretched for over a hundred yards. As we continued to walk we encountered a few more of these same lines of rock piles. They were also stretching for long distances. We also noticed that there were fields nearby that had been cleared and were mostly void of rocks.
This is one of the great challenges of doing Archaeology at any site. Yes, we have confirmed many glyph's, cairns, serpent walls, etc. at Bear Spirit Mountain that are very old. But, we also encounter more recent activity that can date back just a hundred years or even less. Some of the activity can be of American Indian history of a few hundred years ago and some from early European settler and even more recent activities. Factor in that some of these structures look very similar to the ancient ones and you have to objectionably separate the time periods.
But being objectionable is extremely important to the site's integrity. We spend a lot of time thinking through the options and not just assuming everything there is Pleistocene period or older.
As we studied these rock piles some of the things that stood out that separate them from the much older cairns or walls is not only the small humps at the top of some of these piles, but also the absence of any other evidence of other American Indian structures. At other locations on our mountain the pattern is similar. Where there are walls similar to this there are also petroglyphs, pictographs, outline glyph's, base stone cairns, niche rocks, rock mounds, etc. This area was absent of anything else. Of course this absence of other structures doesn't guarantee that these are not ancient walls. But, it's telling.
The next thing we noticed is around the edges of these rock piles the build up of decomposing leaves, sticks, soil, etc. was minimal. In comparison to rock mounds at other locations on our mountain the "encasement" was considerably less. If you recall after our resitivity testing we learned that our burial rock mounds and serpent wall were buried much deeper than what we see on the surface. This occurred as leaves and other matter decomposed and began "encasing" the rock structure edges over thousands of years. Knowing that trees/leaves have only been in our area for approximately 9,000 years, a build up of only a few feet of decomposing matter takes thousands of years to happen.
As we were processing this information and coming to this conclusion that these rock lines were probably made over the last 2oo years by early European farmers an extremely ominous feeling came over me. I began to feel pain. And, then it was revealed to me that part of the reason we are seeing so many rocks in long lines and piles is many of these rocks were once burial rock mounds that happened to be in the way and needed removed for farming to happen. Each mound was dismantled and thrown into these rock pile lines. There could be dozens of these mounds that were destroyed. Now you understand why I was brought to this mountain. So much of this burial site has already been destroyed. It needs protecting, and that is one of the things I am trying to do with very limited resources. This could easily be the oldest America Indian burial site in America. Thank God there are still a few hundred of the burials rock mounds still intact. I am always reminding our neighbors on this mountain this is sacred ground. Please be respectful.
I spoke with the land owner the next day and he confirmed to me that his wife's grand father originally bought that land in 1920. He said those rock mound lines were there at that time. I estimate they were probably building those rock mound lines in the mid to late 1800's. We do look forward to returning to this area again. There is still much to explore and learn.
After grabbing some delicious lunch we spent some quality time with our new friend Hope. She has a very strong energy and is also part Cherokee. We spoke about our common Cherokee bond and our heritage. I am proud to say she is now a new member of our cadre of volunteers for the Bear Spirit Mountain! Welcome Hope! We have much to learn together.
Lunch is now over, so we headed over to where I found the Ape glyph months before. This site is over a mile from my site and is closer to where the beginning of the Bear Spirit Mountain archaeological site actually begins. I have visited this area several times before last year. But, none this year to date.
As we arrived I once again reaffirmed permission from the land owner to walk around. He, as always assures me to come anytime. We began our second jaunt of hiking and to my pleasant surprise I located the Ape glyph within 15 minutes of our search. This outline glyph sits up high on a line of Oriskany Sandstone rock outcroppings. From the back side it's about 10 feet higher than where we walked in. The other side is over 20 feet higher from the glyph to the ground and much harder to see the profile.
I climbed up the rock face next to it and began observing it. I took many new photographs, measurements. We marked its geo location by GPS. I wanted to make sure that this was a Ape face profile.
It most certainly is. And one of the new things I learned is the face has the same profile on both sides. It's symmetrical. That is something that is very rare to see. Most glyph's I encounter are one sided with just a side profile.
This photo is the front profile and the left side of the face. The forehead is the same as is the mouth feature.
There is one other major feature in this photo. You are seeing a separate rock that was intentionally lain next the Ape face profile that has been shaped into the image of a arm with a hand and fingers. It mirrors the arm/hand/fingers on the other side of this glyph. This arm/hand feature has eroded more and the features are harder to see. But, it's easy to see that it was put into this position with purpose to represent an arm and hand feature. Below is a photo of the arm and hand up close. I will give you both the original photo and the edited one.
Again, you can see this arm/hand is less detailed than the right side arm/hand due to more sever erosion. But, you also see that this rock is not part of the Ape face profile and has been put next to it intentionally. And I can see enough to understand that this is the image they were going for. A left side arm/hand to compliment the right side.
By contrast, you can see the right side arm/hand is better defined and less erosion damage. See the below photos.
The right side of this Glyph is better protected from the weather which explains why it is better preserved.
I also took some close up photos of the Ape face profile. See below.