THE MYSTERIOUS MEGALITHS OF NEW ENGLAND
LOCATED in the heart of modern-day New England stand sites of such great antiquity, sites so enigmatic, so sophisticated and seemingly inexplicable, serious scientists and archaeologists have denied their study because of their monumental implications: it would force them to throwaway their preconceived notions about the achievements of ancient man into the historical garbage can.
The impressive Megalithic ruins of Mystery Hill, near North Salem, New Hampshire, photographed by Malcolm Pearson in 1946, were at first interpreted as the works of Culdee monks who had fled Iceland just before the arrival of the Northmen. Further research has assigned them an origin of much greater antiquity – perhaps as old as 3000 B.C. Evidence indicates that this site, and others like it were made by Bronze Age Kelts as predictive calendars and ceremonial centres for religious gatherings. Photo courtesy of the author
Mystery Hill, the Upton Cave, Calendar I and Calendar II, Gungywamp and Druid’s Hill are just several of the names given some incredibly important historical sites of which many have never heard a whisper. But their existence – and their importance – is becoming harder and harder to hide as more are discovered and interested folk become exposed to their grandeur.
Sometime in the late 1600s or early 1700s, early American colonists began discovering and utilizing underground “root cellars” made of large but manageable pieces of dressed stone as storage houses for food stuffs. Colonists were also finding numerous stone buildings, usually of “one story, circular or rectangular in form, and up to 30 feet in length and up to 10 feet wide and eight feet high or more.” Many included roof slabs or lintels of several tons. Many also had carefully crafted openings in their roofs which allowed a small amount of light to pass through to the interiors. The colonial newcomers were convinced that these so-called root cellars had been constructed by the former Amerind inhabitants of the area – irrespective of the fact that their Indian neighbours showed little hint of an ability to work in large stone or the desire to do so. Before long, the inheritors of these properties thought their own American ancestors had built these cellars – some which were eighty feet deep and lined the entire way with roughly hewn stone.
Simultaneously, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of oddly-inscribed flagstones were being found in the surrounding New England woods, carted off by farmers For use in stone walls or in larger stone structures in them settlements of the growing northeast. The angular cuts on these stones looked much like the marks a plow makes when it strikes a submerged piece of stone – at least they looked that way to most of the simple country farmers of the day. Others believed the markings appearing in rocks all across New England were “the action of the roots of trees.” For decades nothing at all was thought of them. As any New Englander can tell you, the entire northeast is strewn with large chunks of striated stone material left from the last era of glacial recession.
Dighton Rock on the Taunton River seemed a hodgepodge of grafitti until Cotton Mather suspected that the engravings covering its face were ancient scriptural alphabets including Keltic ogams and Viking runes.
Photo courtesy of the author
But a local Puritan clergyman, Cotton Mather, was not convinced. In 1712 he discovered some strange incisions on an exposed seaside rock face in Dighton, Massachusetts – far from where any plough could have marked it. He immediately wrote to the Royal Society in London, England, to inform them of his find and to convey his belief that the rock carvings were in fact an ancient scriptural alphabet – perhaps several differing ancient alphabets. Unexpectedly, his letter generated little interest. The scientists of the Royal Society were already busy exploring newly discovered rock inscriptions in neighbouring Ireland. These European inscriptions were later identified as Irish Hinge Ogam, a form of Gaelic Keltic writing unknown for centuries and stubbornly undecipherable.
It is referred to as “hinge” Ogam because a central dividing line or a facet edge was used to separate the subtly different individual characters. Little did anyone know at the time, the inscriptions found on both sides of the Atlantic were firmly connected.
Yet how could Celtic writing, a style reminiscent of that from the first millennium B.C. be in America? Who were the authors of the many rock engravings? How could the carvers possibly have got to America a thousand years before the birth of Christ? Why had they come and what evidence is there to support such a far-fetched notion? And what of the large stone structures found across the American northeast, eerily similar to types found in Europe?
The answers were being spoken loudly and clearly if someone could only listen to what the rocks and buildings themselves had to say. But time seemed to be running out. Thousands of the inscribed rocks were being broken up for building material and the larger stone structures were being dismantled or vandalized, destroying the monumental works of these mysterious builders.
For answers, we first tum to an odd stone arrangement found in the hills of New England. The Mystery Hill complex, the largest and most sophisticated of its kind in North America, covers over 30 acres and is composed o monolithic standing stones, stone walls and underground chambers, most of which are aligned to obvious astronomical points. Even now the site can be used as an accurate yearly calendar utilizing the stones set up over two thousand (perhaps as long as 5,000) years ago. The lack of household artifacts and grave goods leads us to believe that the site was a ceremonial centre and neither living quarters nor a “city”.
Over the years the more interesting features and structures on-site have been given un-scientific names that insinuate inferred function. The “Watch House” is the name given to a chamber structure located outside the main complex at Mystery Hill. The roof is a massive, quarried slab of granite of several tons. On the back wall of the chamber the stones contain a high percentage of white quartz, a stone found in its pure form in many of the neolithic structures over the world and treasured by ancient peoples for its reflective qualities. This particular chamber is aligned to the February first sunrise and lunar minor south. At sunrise on this date the sunlight enters the entrance of the chamber and slowly moves along one wall until it illuminates the quartz crystals at the back wall, making the semi-precious gems sparkle noticeably. February first was one of the eight most important divisions of the Keltic year as we shall discuss in more detail later.
The “Oracle Chamber” is one of the most interesting and important structures located at Mystery Hill – or anywhere for that matter. It is significantly larger than any other chamber found at the site and contains unique characteristics found nowhere else in any of the other megalithic sites in New England.
A 4 inch by 6 inch shaft lined with thin facing stones, runs from the exterior and enters through the interior wall at about chin level. The “Speaking Tube,” as it is called, emerges above ground, yet concealed underneath a sacrificial altar with runnels. It would seem that the speakers within the Oracle Chamber could talk into the tube, their voices warped and amplified, carrying up to the altar above and creating quite an impressive sound to a group of worshippers who might be gathered around the altar-in effect making the altar talk.
Also found across the Mystery Hill site are huge monolithic standing stones (some now fallen) all of which line up to sun, moon or star alignments as seen from a central viewing slab located by one of the earlier researchers at the site. From this slab, monoliths align to the Midwinter solstice sunrise and sunset, the November one sunrise and sunset the Spring and Fall Equinox sunrises and sunsets, the May one sunrise and sunset, the Midsummer solstice sunrise and sunset, the August one sunrise and sunset and true north (this stone is aligned to the star Thuban, the pole star of 2,000 B.C.). On these days the sun will either rise or set above worked monolith stones. Exact alignments coincide, according to scholars and astronomers, with a date of 2,499 B.C.to 1,900 B.C.
Other impressive constructions on the site include a number of underground chambers with clear astronomical alignments. The calendrical orientations of these slab-roofed chambers, it would seem, would rule out these structures being constructed as root cellars by early American colonists or the woodlands Indians of the northeast as neither were concerned with alignments that coincide with the most important of yearly Keltic celebrations. Further, noted archaeo-astronomer Byron Dix has determined that New England is replete with underground chambers. He says, “there are some 105 astronomically aligned chambers in Massachusetts, 51 in New Hampshire, 41 in Vermont, 62 in Connecticut, 12 in Rhode Island, and 4 in Maine.” Suffice it to say, it is obvious that the alignments found at Mystery Hill and other sites are not random.
One of the central features of the Mystery Hill site is the sacrificial table/altar. It is a 4.5 ton grooved slab whose purpose is still under debate by scholars. In the words of archeologist and Mystery Hill curator Robert Stone: “others believe it was used for sacrifices, not only because of its central location, its size but also because the Oracle speaking tube was beneath it, as well as the carved channel [for the draining of blood] on the top surface. It is positioned on four worked stone legs and is located at the centre of the site in a large courtyard.”
A photograph of what is known as the ”sacrificial altar,” centrally located at the Mystery Hill complex. It is a massive 4.5 ton grooved slab. Was it the site of human sacrifice conducted by ancient travellers escaping religious persecution? Photo courtesy of the author.
It too bears a striking resemblance to altar stones found at megalithic sites in Europe. And we do know that blood sacrifice and altars such as these were connected firmly to Neolithic religions. But even more than mere physical resemblance to European sites, it was carbon dating, carried out under the supervision of respected scientists from Geochron Laboratories in 1971 that supported the disputed claims of researchers who were being ridiculed for insisting that Mystery Hill was a site of extreme antiquity. Carbon tests conducted on charcoal found alongside a stone pick and a hammer stone unearthed at an excavation near one of the underground chambers reveal a date of 2,000 B.C. The artifacts were clearly related to Neolithic pieces of the same era in the British Isles and Iberia. The excavation pit carbon tested had been undisturbed before digging and layers of strata above were perfectly intact.
Unfortunately, many of the other structures at the site were carted away, vandalized or destroyed yet what remains should be viewed as one of the most important historical sites in the Western Hemisphere. And Mystery Hill is not-by far-the only megalithic site in New England whose origins are somewhat clouded.
Megalithic constructions known as dolmens can be found all across New England, the western part of Europe and even into Syria and South Africa. Dolmen comes from the Breton word for stone table as the dolmens in many instances are three, four or five smaller boulders topped by an immense, flat topped boulder than can weigh any where from several tons to 90 tons. Many of these capstones are however roundish, dressed stones, and not flat topped.
The dolmen usually was erected to commemorate the death of a chieftain or an historical event of great importance and scriptural incisions usually accompany the dolmen on stone markers. Some experts believe that the dolmen was actually a tomb that was then covered in huge amounts of earth-in effect a tumulous tomb in which the earth has been eroded away. Dolmens are frequently occurring structures in the American north east. There are in fact over 200 examples of dolmens in New England alone and some very impressive examples can be found in our country as faraway as California.
Another frequently occurring megalithic structure familiar to all readers is the stone circle. We know of the great Stonehenge complex in England with its huge stones found there and the many calendrical alignments they delineate. But there are ancient stone circles in New England as well. Probably the most intriguing archaeological site in Connecticut is located in Groton and is called “Gungywamp,” thought to be an ancient Indian name, but actually ancient Gaelic meaning, “Church of the People.” Besides containing beehive chambers and petroglyphs, the Gungywamp site has a double circle of stones near its centre, just north of two stone chambers. Two concentric circles of large quarried stones-large slabs laid end to end-are at the centre of the site. Extensive fire burning on some of the slabs is apparent which leads many to believe it was an ancient altar. Nearby there are several large pillar stones and one boulder slab that have been carefully positioned along astronomical site lines.
Visiting the Gungywamp site on the afternoon of September 21st, Dave Barron, the head of the Gungywamp Society, saw a sight that he would never forget. He said,
“The setting sun had cast a beam of light through the vent shaft at the back of the chamber. This beam of light slowly moved down the east wall and spotlighted into the small beehive crypt near the entrance. This stone-lined tube was designed precisely to permit the Equinoctical sunset to fully penetrate the chamber’s dark interior on only two days during the year-March 22nd and September 21. The high density of garnet in the stones magnified the intensity of the sunlight entering the chamber. It certainly acts as a predictable calendar. The Gungywamp site has been carbon dated to 600 A.D.”
James Whittall had this to say about an astonishing megalithic site he viewed at LeBlanc Park in Lowell, Massachusetts:
“There I saw a sight I had not seen since my travels in the British Isles. Situated on a mound were weathered megalithic stones. I was filled with disbelief – it just couldn’t be – Western Europe, yes, but here in Massachusetts – no. The reality of the scene was astonishing.”
This oval mound was measured at 112 feet long by 56 feet wide. And the stones, as Whittall predicted, provided astronomical alignments. The monoliths were oriented east to west, and bearings of the sight indicated that it had been used to observe solar events.
The first observation was made on September 22nd, the fall equinox, from the highest stone on the western side from the peak of the eastern most stone. The sun set behind stone number four just as Whittall had surmised.
This article was originally published in The Barnes Review and is reprinted here in edited form with the kind permission of the author. The mission of The Barnes Review is “… To Bring History Into Accord With The Facts, in the tradition of the Father of Historical Revisionism, Dr. Harry Elmer Barnes. ”