Saturday, July 12, 2008

Looking for Mr. Goodpile

When I go pile hunting in Roxborough, specifically in the Wissahickon valley, I don't expect to see too many of the intact piles that we see on other blogs documenting more rustic locations. Like everywhere else, time takes its toll here. But the toll a large town or a city exacts on history and its physical remembrances and that the countryside takes are of vastly disparate magnitudes.

So I was pretty excited this morning to find a small stone wall snaking its way up to the crest of a hill. The wall is unremarkable, and really amounted only to "pavement": a row of rocks at ground level. Given its appearance, though, and the scattered stones I found about it, I suspect it was once a bit higher. Shortly the wall expanded into the following shattered pile:

And this, I thought, was as good as it gets. I was wrong, as happily wrong as I've ever been when out pile hunting. The wall/paving continued for a bit and erupted into the following beauty at the very top of the hill:

note the wall I mentioned off to the right of this pile. It continues a good bit farther.

I have never found piles of this caliber in the Wissahickon Valley. Never. I'm still a bit stunned. Given the multiple millworks down below, I figured most of the easy to access stone lying about would have been used in the construction of dams, millhouses, and living quarters. That this site was maintained in such condition is impressive.

All told, I found about 6 piles up here including this magnificent cairn. All connected by the wall, which seemed to snake around the site, forming a natural enclosure with the northern lip of this steep hill (more or less the the horizon in this picture).

I will not be giving any further hints about this location. If you're a dedicated hiker of the Wissahickon, you have a decent chance of finding it. Clearly, the stick jammed into its center indicates that I'm not the only one who's been here. But this locale is too precious to risk exposing to the local flavor of ne'er-do-well.


pwax said...

Unfortunately, that nicer pile looks recently re-constructed.

Corey Hart said...

Could be, but the pile is contiguous with the stone pile shown in the preceding pic, and the half buried row. It also extends several inches below the surface of the soil, so I'm fairly sure that this cairn is at least on the site of the original pile. It's hard for me to visually date the mica schist here. It maintains a luster in the face of hundreds of years of weathering and moss and lichen find friendlier purchase on the local quarzite. I'll try and get some more shots of the surrounding area to see if I can identify what, if anything, is new and what's not.

SG259n said...

I'm new to the Philly area, and to the investigation of Neolithic sites in eastern North America, but I'm wondering about Devil's Pool. Has anyone done a survey of the pool floor, to see if there are any artifacts left there?

Thanks very much for all the interesting info.

Corey Hart said...

I worry about the floor of Devil's Pool It is so frequently disturbed by divers from the cliffs and aqueduct overhead that there has to be considerable loss/destruction of any artifacts left there.

There is also an allegation that one city administration filled in the deepest part of the pool with concrete (that would be at the very base of the falls) because of all the drownings that have occurred there. I have found little to no support this hypothesis. The bottom of the pool is sand from ground mica, or so my feet would tell me.

the best time to go artifact hunting would be in the autumn, when its too cold to swim there.

Incidentally, there is another cleanup of the pool on August 9. I will be there and working this time. Maybe we could find some artifacts then :)