America’s Stonehenge

America's_StonehengeOn a hilltop near the Massachusetts border are a series of low stonewalls and cobbled rock chambers called America’s Stonehenge. The entire complex covers about 30 acres (12 ha) of hills and woodland, around which extends an apparently haphazard collection of walls interspersed with tall, triangular standing stones. The site’s central feature is Mystery Hill, situated on a single acre, which contains 22 stone chambers (dolmens) and other megalithic features. Immediately surrounding the central site are upright stone monoliths aligned to predict prominent astronomical sightings.

In the central part of Mystery Hill are several engaging points of interest. The centerpiece is a T-shaped chamber with internal structures similar to a chimney and hearth, as well as a “couch” sculpted right out of the living rock. From the couch, a pipe-like hole called a “speaking tube” ascends to the surface and runs directly below an enormous rock table weighing 4.5 tons (4,080 kg). The tube may have been used for some kind of spooky oracle because it distorts voices from below, and the table may have served as a sacrificial altar because of the carved gutters on top surmised to catch blood. Surrounding the “Oracle Chamber” are more than 20 stone chambers of various sizes, which may have been used as shelter for the Bronze Age inhabitants or some kind of religious ceremonial center. There is evidence that the entire complex is built over a natural cave system, but no entrances have yet been located. Instead, deep well shafts have been discovered, and the most intriguing pit leads not to a cave, but to a natural fault where a cluster of quartz crystals were recovered. The crystals may have been mined nearby, or were placed ritualistically into the well to indicate this site as a power point. It is known that crystals were worshiped or used for tools by ancient cultures.

The hilltop position of the megalithic “beehive” chambers and walls suggests a defensive settlement. The arrangement of its walls and structures also functioned as an observatory. The Summer Solstice Sunrise Monolith is situated where the sun rises over an upright slab of granite on June 21 of each year. The top of the stone is uniquely shaped to match the landscape on the horizon where the sun rises. The place to view this is in the middle of a stone circle, where other astronomical computations can be made. Nearby the stone circle there is a tall rock called the True North Stone, which was determined in 1975 to have lined up with the pole star Thuban around 1750 BCE , and is on the main central axis from which other alignments can be calculated. These alignments include the annual summer and winter solstices (June 21 and Dec. 21) and seasonal equinoxes (March 22 and Sept. 22), as well as specific solar and lunar events of the year. Several of the low stonewalls also indicate true north-south and east-west alignments. It is interesting to note that all astronomical sightings at America’s Stonehenge are in a position to accurately predict their events around 1500 BCE — the difference is due to the earth’s changing tilt over several thousand years — which is further evidence in determining the age of the site.

Formerly known as the Mystery Hill Caves, America’s Stonehenge is more of an academic problem child than a mystery. Professional archaeologists who refute any European contact before Columbus or the Vikings routinely dismiss this sprawling complex as a fraud, ignoring even the most basic evidence. For instance, a white pine tree found growing through one of the walls conclusively determined its tree-ring age to be at least 30 years older than the birth date of farmer Pattee, the first homesteader on the hill. Jonathan Pattee purportedly created this megalithic complex as a hoax in his spare time, then after all his work, turned around and started dismantling and selling the larger slabs for spare change. Yet how Pattee could have erected megaliths weighing 15-20 tons (13,600-18140 kg), dug drainage canals through the bedrock without using modern tools, and aligned markers to indicate solstices and equinoxes was never explained by the stodgy academia. It is known that at least 20% to 50% of the site was devastated by quarrymen in the 1920s who hauled away “cartload after cartload” of the megalithic stones to build sewers and curbstones in Lawrence, Massachusetts. All that’s left today are the skeletal remains of a much larger site. Perhaps the most startling evidence indicating the real age of America’s Stonehenge is the carbon dating of charcoal debris excavated for analysis. Two separate tests in 1969 and 1971 determined the age of America’s Stonehenge to be at least 3,000 and more likely 4,000 years old. In addition, pottery shards found at the site seem unrelated to anything Viking, Irish or Native American, suggesting even older voyagers visiting New England in the Bronze Age. The seafaring Mediterranean Phoenician and their Celtic allies from the Iberian peninsula seem the most likely candidates. Along with the characteristic megalithic stone-slab chambers and associated henge stones marking celestial events, rune-like inscriptions have been deciphered as Iberian Punic and read as a dedication to the Phoenician sun god Ba’al. Other inscriptions identified at the site bearing the Celtic Ogam script refer to Bel, The Celtic sun god, long suspected to be the same god as the Phoenician Ba’al. Just the terrifying thought of such pagan gods being worshiped on the Puritan shores of New England has kept the Semitic and Celtic people excluded from their deserved role in American prehistory. Beyond a hoax, the picture of America’s Stonehenge emerges as a thriving first century BCE Celtic community, Punic trading post, pagan religious center and Iberian astronomical observatory.

Getting to America’s Stonehenge

Located in North Salem, America’s Stonehenge is only about an hour’s drive from downtown Boston, and 18 miles (30 km) from the Atlantic Ocean. Boat captains of antiquity would have reached the hilltop location by navigating up the Merrimack River to a tributary that runs just below the site. Most visitors today drive to America’s Stonehenge and take Exit 3 off the I-93 to Route 111. Motorists should follow the signs from North Salem. The land around North Salem, New Hampshire is becoming increasingly urbanized by the encroaching urban sprawl of Boston.