Granite Geek: New Hampshire Archaeology Up To And (Maybe) Including America’s Stonehenge

Oct 28, 2014

Whatever the history of America's Stonehenge may be, you have to admit this is the best sign you're going to see on the internet today.
Credit Michelle Souliere via Flickr/CC - http://ow.ly/DtUCm

Ancient archaeology is the kind of thing that, with the right find, can quickly capture the public’s attention and fascination.

And yet a New Hampshire group that studies ancient stone structures is turning 50 this week – and few Granite Staters have heard of it.

That, it turns out, is by design. To explain, we turn to David Brooks, who writes the weekly Granite Geek science column for the Nashua Telegraph and GraniteGeek.org.

For starters, what do we have in the way of ancient stone stuff that archaeologists might find interesting?

This group, the New England Antiquities Research Association, is interested in lithic, which I guess is the term for stone, antiquities and archeology. And one thing I learned is that there are more sites than I know about, because they don't tell us about them.

You call it "security through obscurity."

That's an old-fashioned computer term, which says if you hide stuff, so that people can't find it easily, you don't need to lock it up. If they're doing a dig, and somebody says, I found this interesting stone structure that may possibly have been assembled or built by the natives before colonialists come, or I found some petroglyphs, some carvings on the rock, they don't send out a press release, saying, hey, cool, we're going to be studying it. Because if they do, they're afraid that people will swoop down on it and damage it or disrupt it or even steal stuff.

I've always thought, well, there isn't any [archeology in New Hampshire], but apparently there is some - we just don't know about it.

The NEARA members say the site they're most often asked about America’s Stonehenge – how much can we set the record straight on what this attraction really is?

America's Stonehenge, for those who don't know, is a series of stone structures on a former farm in Salem. It's been a tourist attraction for a while now; it was originally called Mystery Hill. 

The question as to what the archeological history of America's Stonehenge, that question is muddled, I think is a fair way to say it. One of the problems is, one of the guys who originally bought it saw these structures and decided they were evidence that Irish monks had come here before the European colonialists. And he was so excited about this idea that he moved some of the stones around to fit with his theories better.

There are people you will hear - and America's Stonehenge itself sort of claims it, not entirely - that this is 4,000 years old, long before the Europeans arrived, neolithic civilization. There are other people who say that these are typical stone formations that were build by farms all over New Hampshire and New England.

The most famous example of the different points of view is the so-called sacrificial stone, which is this big flat stone with grooves carved in it. Perhaps the grooves are there to capture blood from animals that have been sacrificed, but it's also quite possible that the grooves are there to capture lye for making soap. You can find similar stones in many farm sites around New England.

It's fair to say that nobody really knows - it's a neat place to visit, no matter what your beliefs or certainties are.

And it's not hidden, so it's got that going for it.