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Mystery Hill--America's Stonehenge?

In the quiet woods of New Hampshire, there lies a mystery. Strange monuments of stone are interspersed among the trees. Some look like squat houses, others like enclosures of some kind, and there's a large, flat stone with a channel cut around it that looks perfect for some bloody ritual.

This is America's Stonehenge, also known as Mystery Hill, and it's been attracting the curious for generations. The owners claim it could be 4,000 years old, built by a lost Native American tribe or some unknown civilization. Others think that druids or Irish monks sailed across the sea and built this as a ceremonial center. Researchers claim to have found that some of the standing stones have astronomical alignments and would have helped the ancient builders schedule their harvest and plowing as well as religious rituals.

It's not all ancient mysteries either. The site has 105 acres of woodlands open to snowshoeing in winter, and there's an alpaca farm where you can pet the friendly creatures or even take one home if you're willing to plunk down a few grand.

But is this really "America's Stonehenge"? Professional archaeologists tend to dismiss the claims on several grounds--no ancient European artifacts have been found at the site, the structures aren't all that similar to ones found in Europe, and in fact look more like Colonial period storage buildings. The "sacrificial altar", according to one archaeologist, looks like a Colonial apple press. There's also the problem that the man who bought the site in the 1930s allegedly moved around many of the stones to make it look more impressive.

But that doesn't stop a devoted subculture of enthusiasts who believe this was one of the major religious centers of an advanced civilization whose remains can be found all over new England and beyond. Championed by the popular writer Barry Fell in his book America B.C. and a host of other authors, these folks are conducting research into America's past that tells a widely different story than those of professional archaeologists. Their theories range from lost civilizations, visits by European civilizations before the Vikings, to stranger ideas involving Atlantis and aliens.

As a former archaeologist, I have to say I lean strongly toward the "reworked Colonial era farm" theory. Yet America's Stonehenge is a strangely evocative place, and one cannot help feel an eerie tingle when wandering amidst the silent stones. There's something about them that creates an air of mystery that is hard to dismiss.

And everyone loves a good mystery.

Filed under: History, Learning, North America, United States

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