The stone object shown in this photograph is a wall (rather than a pile or row) because it meets six criteria. It’s a (1) discrete (2) cultural object made of stone (3; natural or artificial), is much longer than wide (4), is continuous (5), and meets both height requirements (6). Taxonomically it is a CLOSED variant of the PANEL subtype, of the SINGLE type, of the FREESTANDING family, of the class WALL, of the STONE domain.
ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?
If you’re only interested in mapping the footprint of stone walls on a property, all you need is a definition. If you want to differentiate them, then you will need a classification. And if you want to do this scientifically, you will need a taxonomy. This page presents one, the only one I know of for New England walls. If you’re not up to this level of precision, then I suggest the much simpler typology presented elsewhere on this website.
Part of this taxonomy was published as an earlier version in Exploring Stone Walls (2005). Refer either to that book or to the page stone wall science for a description of the terms and criteria used.
WHAT IS A TAXONOMY?
A taxonomy is a rigorous classification system based on objective criteria that are well defined. The word taxon is singular. The word taxa is plural. Taxonomies are hierarchical, with less inclusive taxa nested into more inclusive taxa, for example Linnaean species nested into genera. The best taxonomies are dichotomous: based on decision trees that force the user into progressively more specific categories based on yes or no answers to very specific questions.
NOTES AND CAVEATS:
- This taxonmy is a work in progress. Though I’ve had plenty of discussions with experts about it, it has not yet been anonymously peer-reviewed for a scientific journal.
- All taxonomies are compromises between the one category that includes all, and the many categories in which there is one for every unique object.
- Taxonomies are cumbersome, because they require decision-trees based on salient observations.
- The first printing of Exploring Stone Walls contained an error, in which the same class is given two different names: stone rows and stone lines. They are both the same thing. For consistency use the term stone row wherever you encounter the term stone line in this first printing.
- If you have suggestions for how to improve this in future editions, please contact us.
THE TAXONOMY ITSELF
Begin with the most inclusive taxon, the Stone Domain