Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Mystery Explored: Who Built New England’s Stone Walls?

History is a lie, agreed upon.” — Voltaire
Rising above the southern Illinois plain, just across from the modern city of St. Louis, sits the most spectacular of all ancient human-engineered sacred centers in North America, called Cahokia.
This earthen step pyramid consists of four gigantic terraces comprising 22 million cubic feet of soil. It's base, in excess of 14 acres, is larger than that of Egypt's Great Pyramid and it is more than 100 feet high. In mass it is exceeded in the world only by the Mexican pyramids of Teotihuacan and Choula.
When European colonists arrived in North America, they were astonished to discover hundreds of thousands of earthen mounds and pyramids mostly throughout the eastern half of the country. Carbon dating has revealed that the mound construction began at least 5,500 years ago at Poverty Point, Louisiana. The amount of soil used to create the earthen embankments at Poverty Point would fill the Great Pyramid 30 times. The centerpiece of the ceremonial center was a massive bird effigy 70 feet high and 640 feet wide. These structures were often massive, geometrically perfect earthen squares, rectangles, circles and octagons that connected roads up to 50 miles long, 180 feet wide and 12 feet high and joined them in an elaborate network. The entire region was transformed into a sophisticated geometrically patterned, astronomically aligned landscape.
The amount of earth moving, the elaborate and exquisite artifacts recovered from the mounds and the precision involved in their creation was so difficult to explain that scholars of the time frequently speculated that the Egyptians or a race such as the lost tribe of Israel built these structures.
In the southwest of America, Anasazi cities laid out on the ground are exact reflections of all the major stars in the Orion Constellation. Monuments found there show knowledge of sophisticated astronomical phenomena, including the 26,000-year cycle of the precession of the equinoxes. The stonework and architecture are also stunning and inexplicable, such as building celestial observatories into sheer cliffs. First, why have most people never heard of these constructions and second are we to believe that as these amazing feats happened all around the country thousands of years ago, there was nothing ancient or noteworthy in the woods and fields of New England? In reality, the evidence suggests that the whole area of the Northeast at some distant time was completely transformed into a ceremonial landscape of stone.

Mathematics of the Gods
Archaeologists from Earlham College intent on debunking the notion of astronomical calendars on the ground such as Stonehenge, concluded that the Newark Earthwork site in Ohio is, in fact, a massive lunar calendar of amazing precision that could predict eclipses and that its builders understood sophisticated astronomy such as the moon's 18.61-year metonic cycle.
The Newark Earthwork site is also built with the same architectural mathematics as the Great Pyramid of Egypt, including the 51.8-degree angle incorporated into its construction. This 51.8-degree angle, as well as the 43.5-degree angle found at the world's largest pyramid of Teotihuacan in Mexico, allow the two pyramids to use pi to an exacting degree. Archaeologists concede that pi is used in their construction, but they say it is by chance. Instead of the normal 45 degrees, these two idiosyncratic angles are carefully chosen to make this sophisticated geometry possible.
When I learned about the massive scope of building and the complexity of the civilizations that created these structures, I was mystified why none of this was taught in our schools. This same bias ignores the fact that New England possesses an enormous number of astronomically aligned stone constructions. It is as if there is an imaginary circle drawn around New England that represents a total absence of pre-colonial construction although there are enigmatic pre-colonial remains in every other part of the country as well as virtually every part of Canada, Central and South America. This irrational historical blackout has its roots in the prevailing attitudes of the first colonists. When the pilgrims first landed in New England and began to acquire land, they needed to believe that the land was empty and the natives were ignorant savages. This despite the fact that the landscape was littered with strange stone construction. Within a generation or two, the myth took firm hold and every stone creation was concluded to be built by colonials. It is necessary to understand the paradigm that existed and continues to exist that has allowed such a level of ignorance to shape theory.

To the moon and back
This leads us to the stone walls of New England. Local folklore states that every stone wall you see was built sometime in the last 400 years. This seems like a reasonable supposition at first glance. Colonials definitely built walls for property boundaries and agricultural uses. Timber eventually became scarce in the colonies and fencing was needed as land was farmed and livestock raised. We are told that the majority of the walls were built in a roughly 50-year window between the Revolutionary and Civil wars. How many walls did and does New England actually have?
A 1939 study done by an engineer using agricultural records estimated there were 240,000 miles of stone walls east of the Hudson River right after the Civil War. This very conservative estimate was done using incomplete data and didn't account for other areas in the Northeast that possess large numbers of stone walls. The actual figure is well over 500,000 miles, many researchers estimate — equivalent to a stone wall that circles the earth 20 times or all the way to the moon and back. Does it seem likely that a colonial population struggling for survival, involved in several all-encompassing wars and working difficult and unforgiving land could have accomplished this feat? It would have been the most costly and labor-intensive undertaking in colonial history. The total sheer tonnage of New England stone walls represents an amount greater than all the world’s pyramids, stone temples, stone complexes and ancient stone structures combined.

Walls without colonial purpose
An indication of the antiquity of many walls is their seemingly irrational construction and placement. If the reason for walls was for agricultural purposes and boundary markers, then a massive amount fall into some unknown realm. There are stone walls 12 feet high with 20 foot bases, walls that undulate wildly, tying into huge glacial erratics, beginning and ending without seeming purpose and defining no boundary; walls that are balanced with exact precision and have large holes throughout their entire length; walls with precise geometric shapes such as squares, triangles and rectangles embedded in them; walls that have the exact same strange building techniques used in Martha's Vineyard to Pennsylvania and all around New England including in Ashfield, Plainfield, Hawley and other surrounding towns.
There are walls that follow no property boundaries or deed lines; walls that enclose huge swamps, climbing up 30-foot cliffs, using precariously perched stones weighing 5,000 and 10,000 pounds apiece; walls that consist of quartz that geologists determined to be brought from miles away because the area in question possessed none; stones actually quarried and used in construction when there is ample stone in close proximity if the purpose was to clear land or build boundaries; quartz quarried and made into walls, walls that end abruptly with serpent and effigy heads, walls with massive amounts of stone cairns and effigy mounds next to them that have the same construction techniques; walls over mountains that were never settled or farmed; walls that head straight up mountains built on such extreme slopes that your lungs burn just to walk them — many, many walls that use countless stones weighing several tons in totally inaccessible areas that could not have been made without the benefit of beasts of burden.

Astronomical orientations
Many astronomical observatory stone chamber sites also have wall complexes determined to be associated with them. Several of the sites have been dated 1,000, 2,000 and up to 5,000 years old. Also, a large number of walls are located on paths that lead to the setting sun on the solstices.
In the Northeast, the angle of that path is approximately 123 degrees southeast for the winter solstice sunrise and 303 degrees northwest for the summer solstice sunset. Standing along this line, one would see the sun rising on the southeast horizon on the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice and, six months later, if you turned around 180 degrees, you would see the sun setting at that point on the horizon, on the longest day of the year, the summer solstice.
The area we live in is a particularly good example of how unrealistic the notion of exclusive colonial construction is. Our towns were some of the last to be settled and the first to be abandoned. The very small populations of the towns could never account for the immense number of walls unless huge labor pools were imported to build them like a Roman era construction project, of which there is obviously no record. Take the town of Hawley, which is an area 30.9 square miles, first settled in 1770. It contains a dizzying amount of walls, however its population at the time in question was 539 in 1790, 1,089 in 1820 and 600 in 1879. Could this meager population be responsible for over a thousand miles of walls in town? Hiking on isolated Parker Hill (elevation 2020 ft.) in the Hawley State Forest last week, I found a 200 foot long solitary wall near the top. It is the only wall anywhere near the peak, pointing with an apparent equinox orientation directly at Mt. Wachusett. The wall terminates at a massive balanced stone arrow pointing true north just like many others I have found on Hawley mountain tops that also point true north. Why build a short wall on a windswept inaccessible peak that seems to serve no purpose?

A feat to rival the pyramids
All this is backed up with colonial reports of walls existing when they arrived here and old records referring to Indian stone fences or walls that existed before colonials.
Mystery walls of ancient origin have been studied, dated and cataloged all over the eastern U.S., Texas, California, Utah, eastern Canada and on and on. Carbon dating has also been eye-opening at many sites. A team of Harvard archaeologists studied and dated an ancient stone wall at the Flagg Swamp rock shelter to 2,700 B.C. This site was later destroyed to make a cloverleaf for Interstate 495.
After weighing the evidence of the theory that colonials built all the walls we see, it just doesn't add up. Just like the mound-building phenomena and other massive engineering feats of antiquity such as building pyramids, New England's stone wall network is a feat of improbable and amazing proportion. It is as enigmatic as Stonehenge, Easter Island and Machu Picchu.
The reality is that we have a Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark-style mystery right here in our own backyard. The question is who built many of the walls and what was their purpose? Asking this leads to a series of answers that archaeologists have yet to explain.
This is part one of a two part series.

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