August 22, 2011

Wicked Weird: The 3 Most Bizarre Ancient Structures in New England

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3. The Calendar II Chamber

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In the woods of South Woodstock, Vermont rests the mystifying man-made structure known as the Calendar II Chamber. The chamber includes nine stone lintels, or horizontal supports, the largest of which weighs just under 6,000 pounds.

As with the other so-called "calendar chambers" of the South Woodstock/Putney area, Calendar II has an astronomically-aligned construction. For example, on the winter solstice, the sun rises between a notch in two distant hills and then shines into the chamber's entryway. In addition, on the summer solstice the sun rises over a triangular stone set in a nearby stonewall, while two nearby standing stones form a true (as opposed to magnetic) north-south alignment.

There are two primary schools of thought on the origins of Calendar II. Mainstream anthropologists point to Native American origins, whereas the late Harvard zoologist, Barry Fell, believed that ancient, pre-Columbian Celts from Ireland -- or Portugal -- were responsible for its creation.

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2. Mystery Hill: America's Stonehenge

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Scattered across 30 acres of land in Salem, New Hampshire is a complex of man-made walls, chambers and other megaliths. Dubbed "Mystery Hill" in 1936, the site was officially renamed "America's Stonehenge" in 1982. This renaming was intended to help distinguish the site's status from that of a roadside oddity to an area of legitimate archaeological significance.

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One of the most intriguing works within America's Stonehenge is the large, flat "sacrificial stone," which has grooved channels that some argue were used by pre-Columbian ancient Celts for channeling blood. However, mainstream archaeologists put forth that farmers from the 18th or 19th centuries used the site, and the "sacrificial stone," for extracting lye from wood or for making cider.

Former owner of the site, William Goodwin, was so convinced that ancient Celts were responsible for building America's Stonehenge that he moved many of the site's stones to better support his theory. What an idiot. Despite this archaeological sabotage, Barry Fell was still convinced that America's Stonehenge had pre-Columbian Celtic origins.

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1. The Newport Tower

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Also known as the Mystery Tower, the Old Stone Mill and the Viking Tower, the Newport Tower is a roofless, cylindrical stone tower that is perched upon a hilltop in Newport, Rhode Island. The tower stands upon eight legs that are topped by irregular stone arches. Throughout the structure are seemingly irregular arrays of windows, holes and shallow recesses, including on second-story recess that resembles a fireplace.

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As is the case with America's Stonehenge, mainstream archaeologists point to colonial origins for the Newport Tower, often citing that it is reminiscent of colonial-era Dutch windmills. However, another school of thought is that vikings, specifically Norwegians and Swedes, constructed the tower in the 14th century before Columbus reached the New World. A third school of thought is that ancient Chinese explorers built the Newport Tower in the 15th century as a lighthouse.

Like the Calendar II chamber, the Newport Tower has astronomical alignments built-in to its design. For example, on the summer solstice you can peer through the tower's south window and see the sun -- as a narrow slit of light -- set above Windmill Hill through the tower's west window.

Adding further intrigue to the mystery of the Newport Tower is that a skeleton outfitted with brass weaponry was found in nearby Fall River, Massachusetts. American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, wrote a poem about this skeleton -- The Skeleton In Armour -- in which he references the Newport Tower.

Further Reading:

If you like this post, check out Wicked Weird: The 3 Most Bizarre Happenings In New England History

P.S. Hey there! If you liked this post, I have a hunch you'll love NEON DRUID: An Anthology of Urban Celtic Fantasy. It's a collection of 17 short stories all rooted in Celtic mythology.

P.P.S. You can also check out my new blog, Irish Myths, where I unveil the secrets of Celtic mythology, Irish mythology, and Irish folklore.

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