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America’s Stonehenge | A Historical Site Shrouded in Mystery

In the heart of the woods atop a granite-studded hill in Salem, New Hampshire, stands a site shrouded in legend – America’s Stonehenge.

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This collection of stone structures dubbed America's Stonehenge remains a puzzle.

Nestled in the woods in Salem, New Hampshire, this collection of stone structures dubbed America’s Stonehenge remains a puzzle.

Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks

Once known as the roadside attraction Mystery Hill, America’s Stonehenge includes mysterious rock formations, a warren of man-made caves and chambers, and stone walls that stretch across the hilltop. The origin and purpose of the structures has been hotly debated among scholars and amateur sleuths for years, raising far more questions than answers.

The sign provides some background information on America's Stonehenge.

The sign provides some background information on America’s Stonehenge.

Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks

We visited America’s Stonehenge two days after their annual summer solstice celebration to explore the ancient mysteries locked deep within this site.

Several conflicting theories have been put forth about this mysterious site.

Several conflicting theories have been put forth about this mysterious site.

Could this winding maze of stone structures have been built by an ancient culture for ceremonial purposes? There’s no doubt that a native civilization made use of this area, as fragments of bowls and stone tools have been uncovered during archeological excavations. Evidence of large fire pits, possibly used in the manufacture of pottery, have also been uncovered, and carbon dating suggests parts of the site may have been constructed 4000 years ago.

The watch house.

The watch house.

Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks

Or perhaps pre-Columbian, migratory Europeans constructed this place for religious rituals and ceremonies. The Celts, Norsemen, Mediterraneans, and other European populations have all been considered as builders of this stone oddity. While no hard evidence has been found to support this assumption, it does spark one’s imagination.

And then there’s the sacrificial table. One of the most curious relics at America’s Stonehenge, this slab of granite, weighing over four tons, has a groove scored into its perimeter to collect liquid and drain it off the side. Did an ancient people perform sacrificial rites here? Or was this simply a colonial device, used to press fruit or make lye soap?

The main attraction -- the sacrificial table.

The main attraction — the sacrificial table.

Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks

Just below the slab, a speaking tube – a narrow channel carved through stone – links to a cramped chamber. Could someone have once crouched there and used the tube to project his voice out from beneath the sacrificial table in a deity-like fashion?

The oracle chamber.

The oracle chamber.

Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks

And what about the giant astronomical calendar made of standing monoliths? The stones appear to align with solar and lunar occurrences that could relate to either farming or ceremonial events. Some scholars have said the alignment is a coincidence, while others claim it truly is a calendar.

The astronomical chart at the site plots the stones.

The astronomical chart at the site plots the stones.

Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks

The summer solstice sunset monolith.

The summer solstice sunset monolith.

Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks

The summer solstice sunrise stone.

The summer solstice sunrise stone.

Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks

The true north stone.

The true north stone.

Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks

A peaceful, undemanding hike with panoramic views of lush forests and hills fading into the distance, the walk around the astronomical trail was my favorite part of the day. I paused to linger at each stone, consumed in thought about the generations of people who have passed over the rocky surface of this hill on which I stood. I pondered the lives of native people thousands of years ago, painstakingly forming vessels out of the clay deposits nearby. I wondered when Europeans first gazed out on this same view.

A goddess molded from clay lay near the summer solstice sunrise stone, her arms still cradling the spent blooms of floral offerings, remnants of the gathering.

A goddess molded from clay lay near the summer solstice sunrise stone, her arms still cradling the spent blooms of floral offerings, remnants of the gathering.

Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks

The myths and legends surrounding this place are conflicting and fanciful. The enchantment of this hill is that certain answers will likely never come and our imaginations are free to conjure another new tale to add to those already existing. The magic is in the mystery.

AS - climbing sign

So what is the true origin of America’s Stonehenge in Salem, New Hampshire? We can’t answer those questions, so you’ll have to decide for yourself. Be sure to share your favorite theory section in the comment section below!

Have you ever visited America’s Stonehenge?

Comments
  • Having been born there, to me the rock walls look no different than the other thousands of miles of 17th century stone walls that crisscross the New Hampshire woods.

    Reply
  • There is no mystery to this made-up site. It is the result of 18th and 19th century activities, and William Goodwin, who purchased the site in the 1930s because he believed the site was evidence that Irish monks had lived in the Americas hundreds of years before Columbus. The site has been modified and “re-created” by stone quarrying, Goodwin and others who have moved the stones to where they think were/are the stones original locations.

    The presence of prehistoric tools and signs of habitation only prove that Native Americans once lived at the site. There is no evidence that they or any other group used the stones.

    Reply
  • Michelle

    Interesting! It resembles Skara Brae over here in Orkney. I am originally from MA/NH but live over here now with my Scottish husband. Someone should compare Skara Brae and this mystery place!

    Reply
  • This brings to mind another new england stone structure in Mass, Goshens Park stone caves & tunnels where they were hoping to find elements of giants, a race of people over 8 feet tall, maybe why the fire pits so big! More stories of the search for these people on History channel.

    Reply
  • RoseAnn

    Visited for the first time a few months ago. Wear good walking shoes. We enjoyed our time walking around Stonehedge NH. Kids will love exploring. The pictuers are perfect. Hope to go back another time.

    Reply
  • I once read that some of the most archeologically interesting formations will never be known because they were chopped up to make curbstones for Lowell, MA.

    Sigh.

    Reply
  • Betty-Ann

    This place will definitely be on my “bucket list”. I never even knew it was there. It seems almost magical.

    Reply

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