SHUTESBURY SHRINE FOR Enigmatic stones copyNew England is famous for its endless miles of meandering stone walls, random rock heaps scattered through the woods and winter storage chambers. But few give any thought to stone built tunnels or drystone “bee hive caves” of various sizes, huge perched boulders, rocking stones and giant monoliths. NEARA members have been studying these curios for over forty years searching for, clues and sometimes answers to who might have built them, when and why.






Pierre Mereaux, CARNAC: Des pierres pour les vivants, Kerwangwenn - 29540 Spezet, Bretagne: Nature & Bretagne (1992 Edition): 244 pages.

This incredible book was sent to me some years ago by Patrick Ferryn who is an enthusiast of Mereaux’s work. I immediately felt that someone needed to make his original research available in English because it is meaningful to everyone interested in megalithic construction and cultures worldwide.
I had the good fortune to meet Mereaux in Brussels in 1994 and he graciously corrected my translation and encouraged my efforts.
Why is this book so important? Mostly because Mereaux asks many of the same questions that we have been asking about our enigmatic American stonework, but he looks at these questions in a very original way and in great detail.

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Trans by Roslyn Strong, NEARA Journal, Vol. 1, No 2., Winter 2001


NEARA Journal, Vol. 1 No. 2, Winter 2001


 1946      Goodwin, William B. The Ruins of Great Ireland in New England. Meador, Boston

Centering around Mystery Hill in North Salem, New Hampshire, now called America's Stonehenge, Goodwin posits a migration of Culdee monks to New England where they built numerous stone structures.

1998   Dix and Mavor, Manitou, The Sacred Landscape of New England's Native Civilization. Inner Traditions, Rochester, VT

"Manitou is one of the most important books that we have come across since we have been publishing Annals of the Earth. The author's tracking, uncovering and deciphering of the Native American Stone works and ritualized landscapes of New England is a wonderful archaeological detective story."   Nancy Jack Todd

2006    David Goudsward, Ancient Stone Sites of New England and the Debate Over Early European Exploration. McFarland & Company, Jefferson, NC

                              Another view of a range of topics including various stone features.


Visit the amazing ancient stone work of the Orkney Islands.

Chamber intro test  2Over the years stone chambers have been dismissed as nothing more than farmers’ root cellars. Why do some have long narrow entrance passages? In some, the light of the rising or setting sun creeps in illuminating the rear wall only during the summer or winter solstice. Many chambers are located near rivers or streams, while others are clustered in one area.



Yet they are important examples of antiquities in New England. They are conspicuous as constructions and yet little or nothing is known about their history. The chambers are widespread, occurring in densities from as many as 200 chambers in Putnam County New York, to as few as two or three in the state of Maine. As can be seen in the photos section, two or three architectural styles are quite common: flat fronted, corridor fronted, and underground. Other chambers may not fit any of these patterns.

Some facts are:

  • Chambers are made from large stones, with both corbelled or post-and-lintel ceiling structures. They are usually built on bedrock.

  • Some are recent with regular, smoothly cut stones.  Some have been modified recently including added brick and mortar.

  • Some chambers have been reported to be ancient, based on with carbon-14 dating of charcoal.

  • Some chambers allow viewing of specific horizon events, such as solstices, equinoxes, heliacal rising of the Pleiades, etc.

There are three extreme views as to the nature of Stone Chambers. One is the conventional view that they are just colonial period root cellars. A second is the speculative view that they were built as an extension of the same Neolithic culture that built passage tombs and "beehives" in Ireland. A third is that the chambers are part of Native American spirituality, a New England version of the Kiva. There is enough variety among the chambers to support any one or all of these views.

Stone chambers are fragile and are being destroyed at a steady rate.


Tall stones standing on the New England landscape memorialize historic events as well as ordinary people. Tall stones serve as cemetery monuments, boundary markers, gate  posts and fence supports. Standing stones have served as calendars in prehistoric cultures. They have marked the progress of the solar year telling agricultural people when to plant and had guided the organization of their religious rites and festivals. There is a hill top right here in New England the carries standing stones that mark the seasons.


TRIPOD ROCK NJ3Glacial action on the New England Landscape left many stones in unusual positions which geologists call glacial erratic. Some are  so easily explained. There are gigantic boulders perched precariously on supporting stones from a different source and placed in a defined geometric pattern. Some are sited so as to mark solar alignments for major calendar events.


STONE PILES STACKS and PLATFORMS ICON The action of the glacier also left New England’s soil permeated with stones, which needed to be cleared before planting could begin. They were often tossed in piles or built into the many stone walls we see scattered through the countryside. Some of the rock piles were used as boundary markers and recorded in early land records as “stake and stones” or heap of stones. Some stone piles that we see are too carefully constructed to fit these categories. We know, for instance that the Vikings built stone cairns as memorials or burials mounds. Native Americans, also built memorial cairns, each wayfarer adding a donation stone as he passed by. Archaeologists have found evidence of Indian burials under stone piles. Other piles are arranged in an array that indicates viewing important astronomical events.
Additional investigation may provide answers to yet unknown uses of these constructions.


Seats circles and rows - 1 Often rough stones are laid out in circle, but their meaning is unknown. Others more geometrically organized resemble western"medicine wheels" and may also have astronomical alignments. This doublecircle  may have served a utilitarian need such as a grinding trough. Stone seats maybe U shaped enclosures probably used for vision quests, astonomical viewing, perhaps hunting blinds, or some other unimagined purpose, while long rows or single large rocks meadering willy-nilly through the wood may be very old for an unknown purpose or simply "Colonial clutter."


more mysteries - 3Possibly the most enigmatic of all stone structures is the arcaded stone tower in Newport ,Rhode Island. Cited by Governor Benjamin Arnold in his 1675 will as "my stone built mill", resurrected  as a Viking ediface by Danish Scholar, Carl Christian Rafn in 1837 followedby nearly 175 years of debate over its origins.