Solstice sunrise. (
All photos on this page are Copyright America's Stonehenge.
Used with permission)
Mystery Hill: America's
About 40 miles north of the city of Boston, and
about 25 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, is what appears
to be the greatest, and perhaps oldest, megalithic enigma of North
America. Mystery Hill, also known as "America's Stonehenge", is
a site that has puzzled archaeologists for almost a century.
Running across the 30 acres of hillside are a series
of low walls, cave-like primitive buildings, and tunnels that
are spread about with, according to one archaeologist, "gigantic
confusion and childish disorder, deep cunning and rude naively."
While the hill is compared to the English
Stonehenge circle, it is, at first glance, physically quite
different. Stonehenge is located on a plain, not a hill, and is
arranged neatly as a series of concentric circles, horseshoes
and squares. Mystery Hill seems a jumble in comparison. 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.
Both sites do have some common points, though. Firstly,
they served as observatories. Each has been found to have astronomical
alignments including summer solstice. Secondly, we know almost
nothing about the builders of either location.
"Sacrificial Stone." It has a gutter running
around the edge.(Copyright
America's Stonehenge. Used with permission)
While we don't know the type of ceremonies that
may have gone on at Stonehenge, we do know something about 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" (left) 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 disembodied 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. Pattee was a farmer who lived on the site from 1826 to
1848. There are many different and conflicting stories about Pattee,
including that he was a robber, ran an illicit still, and operated
a stop on the famous "underground" railroad that spirited escaped
slaves from the south to safety. One thing for sure is that he
used one of the structures as a cellar for his farmhouse.
Rumors abounded that Pattee had built the structures,
with the help of his five sons, for no apparent reason. This seems
unlikely 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
the enigma of Mystery Hill is so deep.
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 the site? Pottery fragments have been
tested and found to go back as far as 1000 BC. Charcoal from one
fire pit, measured by radiocarbon dating,
was found to be 4000 years old.
Who built it? Unknown. 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 religious beliefs.
(Copyright America's Stonehenge.
Used with permission)
Was the site constructed in ancient times by a people
we know nothing about? That seems likely. Some theorize that site
might be linked to the Greek or Phoenician cultures of the Mediterranean.
Certainly there is a startling similarity between the construction
of the oracle on Mystery Hill and those found in ancient temples
in Malta and Greece.
The truth is we may never know who built this site.
We may never know how they used the astronomical information contained
in its alignments. We may never know what the voice of the oracle
said. And we may never know what, or whom, was sacrificed on its
hard, cold, great, stone altar.
Visitor Information for America's Stonehenge.
Copyright Lee Krystek 1997.
All Rights Reserved.