Stone Chambers of New England

The authors, Mavor and Dix, were a naval architect and an optical-mechanical engineer, respectively. Dix is also an expert in archeo-astronomy.

Others support this theory including the Nolumbeka Project based in Greenfield, Massachusetts. This group, comprised of volunteers who have been active for more than 40 years in preservation and historical research, has a mission of promoting a deeper more accurate depiction of the Native American history of New England, as well as the protection of sacred sites.

Nolumbeka is an Abenaki word which means “a stretch of quiet water between the two rapids”. This word likely is the source of the name Norumbega, which was used by the early European explorers and appeared on maps for the area of present-day New England from 1529 to the 1580s.

John Elliot Preaching to the Indians

John Elliot Preaching to the Indians

Many previous researchers have given no credit to pre-colonial age or Indian interests and abilities. New England colonists, in general, were too busy farming or trying to convert and/or eliminate the Indians to learn about the natives’ knowledge of astronomy. Further, this cultural ignorance was perpetrated by English land speculators and by some Christian ministers whose goal, as worded by Reverend John Eliot was to “to convince, bridle, restrain and civilize” the Indians “and also to humble them”.

It is known that the Algonquian speaking tribes along with many other peoples throughout North America, viewed the universe as divided vertically into three major realms. These included the Upperworld which consisted of the sky, the earth itself called the Middleworld, and everything below ground was called the Underworld. Caves and underground chambers allowed them to go into the Underworld, which was filled with powerful spirits. Many tribes’ have origin stories and legends that have strong connections between the Underworld.

In the meantime, the mystery remains and speculation continues regarding the mysterious stone structures.

The heaviest concentration of these stone structures has been found in Putnam County, New York; New London County, Connecticut; and Windsor County, Vermont. Massachusetts has the densest concentration of beehive-shaped stone chambers and has a total of 105 astronomically aligned chambers statewide. Connecticut has 62, New Hampshire has 51, Vermont has 41, Rhode Island has 12, and Maine has four.

Some of these sites include:

Americas Stonehenge by Stan Shebs, courtesy Wikipedia

Americas Stonehenge by Stan Shebs, courtesy Wikipedia

America’s Stonehenge, Salem, New Hampshire

On a hilltop in New Hampshire near the Massachusetts border is an archaeological site called America’s Stonehenge. This 30-acre site in Salem, New Hampshire, is the largest collection of stone structures in North America, consisting of standing stones, stone walls, cairns, natural caves, horizontal stone slabs, rock circles, and stone chambers, has long puzzled archaeologists, astronomers, and historians.

For years these formations were assumed to be colonial root cellars, but in the late 1800s, a few archaeologists began speculating that the megalithic structures, similar to some types found in Europe, were the work of ancient European settlers. The haphazard collection of walls interspersed with tall, triangular–shaped standing stones on a hill sitting on about an acre of land, contains 22 stone chambers plus other megalithic features. In the central section is a T–shaped chamber with internal structures similar to a chimney and hearth, as well what appears to be a “couch” sculpted in the rock. From this shelf, a pipe–like hole called the “speaking tube” ascends to the surface. Surrounding the central site are upright stone monoliths that are said to be aligned to predict prominent astronomical sightings.

Mystery Hill, Salem, Massachusetts Historic Marker

Mystery Hill, Salem, Massachusetts Historic Marker

In 1936, the property was purchased by William Goodwin, an insurance executive and antiquity collector, who believed that the site was built by Culdee Monks from Ireland. He named the site Mystery Hill. In 1956 the property was bought by Robert Stone, who renamed it “America’s Stonehenge”, turned it into a tourist attraction, and began charging admission to see the monoliths. The site is still in the Stone family today.

A number of theories exist as to the origin and purpose of the structures. Some believe that the acreage was used by local farmers in the 18th and 19th centuries and that more structures were built by owner William Goodwin in the 1930s. Others claim that the site was built by a Native American culture or is of pre-Columbian European origin. The site itself says that it is over 4,000 years old and is most likely the oldest man-made construction in the United States. Believers in the ancient theory say that the chambers and rock formations were utilized collectively as some kind of religious ceremonial center as well as a celestial and astronomical observatory.

In 1975, marine biologist Barry Fell from Harvard University, who also visited stone chambers in Vermont, came to visit the site in New Hampshire. There, he found a tablet inside one of the chambers, which he said was carved with Ogam characters, a Celtic alphabetic system.

Several archaeological digs have been done in the area and thousands of artifacts have been found, all of which were Native American or 18th and 19th century in origin

Featured on the History Channel and other television programs, America’s Stonehenge remains controversial. It was described by Dr. Edward J. Kealy, professor of the History at Holy Cross University as “potentially the most important stone complex in the Northern Hemisphere.” But Professor Curtis Runnels, Professor of Archaeology at Boston University, scoffs at the assertion that it is a monument built by settlers from Europe in pre-Columbian Bronze Age times, stating that “No Bronze Age artifacts have been found there.”

Other archaeologists assert that because the area was altered so much by previous owner William Goodwin, who quarried and excavated the area and moved stones and structures around, that the site has been so compromised, that current archeologists can’t take it seriously.

The site is located at 105 Haverhill Road in Salem, New Hampshire. Visitors should take Exit 3 off I–93 to Route 111 and follow the signs from North Salem. It is open to the public daily for a fee as part of a recreational area which includes snowshoe trails and an alpaca farm.

Gungywamp, Groton, Connecticut

Gungywamp Stone Circle by Randal J, courtesy Wikipedia

Gungywamp Stone Circle by Randal J, courtesy Wikipedia

Located near the mouth of the Thames River outside of Groton, Connecticut, this archaeological site consists of a wide assortment of stone chambers, a stone circle, and artifacts that have been found that date from 2000-770 B.C.

The complex is located high atop an imposing cliff, situated above a swamp feeding a stream that connects to the Thames River. The site’s chambers are beehive in shape, includes a petroglyph image of a bird with outstretched wings, a double circle of stones, just north of two underground chambers, a number of megaliths, and cairns. To some, the stone circle suggests its use as an astronomical observatory. The largest underground chamber at Gungywamp is called the “calendar chamber” because it features an astronomical alignment. The large quarried stones have been carbon dated to 600 A.D.

Archaeological excavations at the site have confirmed the presence of humans at the site over the past 4,000 years. It is also known that there was a settlement by white farmers after 1780, and the site was also utilized from time to time by Native Americans.

The word “Gungywamp” was originally thought to be an Indian word, but also translates in Gaelic meaning “Church of the People.”

A letter dated November 30, 1654, by John Pynchon, who founded Springfield, Massachusetts, lends strong support to the idea that many stone structures existed here before the colonists arrived. A portion of his letter reads:

“Honored Sir, Understanding you are now at New Haven and supposing there will be opportunity from Hartford for conveyance thither, I make bold to scribble a few lines to you… Sir, I hear a report of a stonewall and strong fort (chamber) within it, made all of stone, which is newly discovered at or near Pequet (present-day Gungywamp Range), I should be glad to know the truth of it from your self, here being many strange reports about it.”

This 100-acre site is located in the wooded hills outside of Groton just off Gungywamp Road.

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