Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sacred & Ancient Sites of New England

Visiting sacred sites does necessarily mean the need to take a trip to the far-reaches of the world.  Often, close to home, there are sacred and ancient sites that go unnoticed.  Here are some that exist in New England, many of them accessible to the public. 

 Mystery Hill
America's Stonehenge
America's Stonehenge (Photo credit: dolescum)
Folks in and around Salem, New Hampshire don't often speak of Mystery Hill, unless asked directly about it. Like most people who live close by a historical site or attraction, Mystery Hill has become commonplace. However, the site offers visitors a step into the ancient past - a past where monoliths heralded the change of seasons and witnessed ancient religious ceremonies.
Scientists and researchers believed that the 30-acres at Mystery Hill were used by Bronze Aged Celts back as far as 3000 BP. Due to the lack of household and gravesite artifacts, researchers believe the area was used chiefly for ceremonies. People still use the monoliths as an accurate yearly calendar.
Many of the characteristics of Mystery Hill are unique. For instance, there is an Oracle's chamber with a shaft that opens up underneath what is believed to be an altar. When someone talks into the shaft, the voice is heard amplified and distorted around the altar.

Vermont's Chambers 
In Putney and South Woodstock, Vermont, there are several structures known as "Calendar Chambers." These chambers are thought by some to have been built by the ancient Celts due to inscriptions found on the stones. As evidenced by their name, it appears that the purpose of the chambers is to use them as calendars. Calendar II located in South Woodstock is aligned to the solstice. 

The Upton Beehive
The controversy over who built the Upton chamber, a huge stone structure resembling a beehive, is still hotly debated. Located in Upton, Massachusetts, the structure has long been a focal point for archeologists and dreamers, alike. Some researchers believe it is merely another root cellar created by a colonial farmer. However, others believe that the structure could date back to 700 - 750 CE because it mimics accurately, structures found in Ireland built around the same time. In addition, the entrance, which is long and narrow, is aligned to the summer solstice, an architectural element found often in Ireland and the Great Britain. 

Gungywamp stone circle
Gungywamp stone circle (Photo credit: Wikipedia
Another archeological site that inspires myth and mystery is the Gungywamp of Groton, Connecticut. The 100-acre site has artifacts and structures that date as far back as 2000 BC. In addition to stone rings dating back to between 280 and 630 C.E., Gungywamp has several "root" cellars or calendar chambers, which accurately signal the equinoxes. Native American artifacts have been found throughout the site, along with those of early settlers. 

Narragansett Tribal Village
Unfortunately, not all ancient sites are recognized as such. The discovery of an entire First Peoples (Narragansett) village in Rhode Island several years ago has cause great upheaval in the Rhode Island village. The site has been described by archeologist as a "nationally significant" discovery is on land slated for development. The significance of the find is that the entire village, homes, granary, burial sites, etc. lie just under the surface. Archeologists, who were asked to do a preliminary excavation of the site, found numerous artifacts along with the remains of the village. They have estimated that the village dates back to around the 1300's.
In May 2011, judges of the US Court of Appeals in Boston ruled against the contractor; thereby opening the way for the First Peoples village to be preserved. 
Foxboro State Park
F. Gilbert Hill hiking trail (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
A trip to Foxboro State Park leaves a visitor pondering the who, what, when, where, why and how of the over 25 different rock formations found throughout the park. The park is located on the highest area between Boston and Providence. This coupled with the numerous rock formations, leads archeologist and researchers to believe that the area within the park is "sacred land."
There are six different types of rock formations found at the park - aligned boulders, dolmens, standing stones, perched boulders, prayer seats, and stone piles. Each of these formations alone sets an archeologist's heart thumping; finding six different types in one location is overwhelming.
Theories as to who placed the stones in their present locations, why they are there and what they were used for are open for discussion. 

Long History
The New England states are among the oldest in the history of our country, however, the ancient historic sites found in New England indicate that the history of the area is much older than most of its European ancestors ever realized.
Note: Many ancient historic landmarks are on private land. If you wish to view them, please take the proper steps to gain permission. Also, please do not move or remove stones from any of the sites. Remember, for those who once used these sites, they are sacred. Please treat them with the greatest respect.
Linda M. Rhinehart Neas, M.Ed. is a member of the TNS class of 2013. She is a writer, poet and educator.  She lives in Western Massachusetts with her life-partner, Roger.
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