Also known as Mystery Hill, America's Stonehenge
is located about 40 miles north of the city of Boston
, and about 25 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean
. Running across the 30 acres of hillside is a megalithic maze
of low walls, cave-like primitive buildings, and tunnels that are spread out in an unorganized, seemingly random fashion.
While the hill is compared to the English Stonehenge
circle, it is physically quite different. Stonehenge is located on a plain, not a hill, and is arranged neatly as a series of concentric circles
and squares. Mystery hill is a jumble of disorder. The stones involved in Stonehenge are larger, up to 45 tons. The stones at Mystery Hill are smaller (the largest is about 11 tons) and the construction less intricate.
However, both sites apparently share some functions. Firstly, they served as observatories
. Each has been found to have astronomical alignments including summer solstice
. Secondly, almost nothing is known about the builders of either location.
While the type of ceremonies that may have gone on at Stonehenge is not known, it is possible to reconstruct some of the apparent activity on the hill. One of the main features of the site is an enormous flat stone, like a great table, resting above the ground on four legs. Around the edge of the table runs a groove
that leads to a spout
. This great slab has been named the "Sacrificial
Stone" and certainly may have served such a function. The gutter
probably allowed the blood of the sacrifice to drain off the top.
Underneath the Sacrificial Stone is a shaft eight feet long leading to an underground chamber. It seems reasonable that this allowed a priest
concealed in the chamber to speak as the voice of an oracle
. To a crowd gathered around the altar the sound would appear to float up from the Sacrificial Stone like the voice of some mystical spirit.
In addition to the oracle chamber and the Sacrificial Stone the site has a number of other artificial caves and passages. At least one was constructed with a drain to keep them from being flooded. The purpose of the rest of these structures, except one which appears to be a water well, are unknown.
The recent history
of the hill starts with Jonathan Pattee, a farmer who lived on the site from 1826 to 1848. There are many different and conflicting
stories about Pattee, including rumors
that he had built the structures, with the help of his five sons, for no apparent reason. This isn't generally considered to be true, as one of the site stones was found locked in the stump of a tree that started growing around 1769, long before Pattee came to the area.
In 1936 the site came into the hands of William B. Goodwin. Goodwin had a pet theory
that Irish monks
had crossed the Atlantic long before Columbus
and were responsible for the structures on the hill. Goodwin conducted his own form of "archaeology
" on the site by getting rid of whatever evidence that didn't fit his theory. The loss of these artifacts
is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to solve the area's mysteries.
Currently the site is administered by the "America's Stonehenge" foundation and is open to visitors. A fee, used to preserve and research the site, is charged.
How old is Mystery Hill?
fragments have been tested and found to go back as far as 1000 B.C. Carbon dating
of artifacts found at the site reveal dates from 2,000 B.C. to 995 B.C. The astronomical
orientation of the stones suggest a date of around 2,000 B.C.
Who built it?
This is still a mystery
. The Native Americans
living in the northeast before Europeans
arrived didn't build in stone. The colonial farmers didn't arrive in the valley until 1730 and we know from the locked stone that construction must have been started before 1769. The 39 years in between seem a short time to build such a set of structures and the Sacrificial Stone/Oracle doesn't seem to fit with the colonist's religious beliefs.
It is theorized that the site was built by an ancient civilization
we know nothing about, but such theories are considered unlikely by many, though the site does bear resemblance to temples
in ancient Greek