(MYSTERY HILL, SALEM, NEW HAMPSHIRE)
This archeological site was originally opened to the public in 1958 as “Mystery Hill Caves.” The name became “America’s Stonehenge” in 1982 as acquired data indicated its relationship to the Stonehenge in England (see Photos).
Various names have been given to the many structures found at the site. William B. Goodwin who was the first researcher to purchase the site in 1937 labeled some, like the Sacrificial Table. Frank Glynn named many while he was president of the Connecticut Archeological Society in the 1950’s as he was correlating the site with Bronze Age cultures of Europe.
The site is thought to have been constructed principally to predict astronomical events and is under continuous research and study. Such events were of considerable importance to the maritime culture that is thought to have predominated in the area. The public generally accesses only 20 acres of the total 110 acres. Continuous efforts are made to date various excavations using the radio-carbon method. Estimates have produced dates as early as 2,000 B.C. with all alignments having been fixed around 1,500 B.C. The alignments that have been identified are as follows (see MAP):
A. Equinox Alignment.-- This alignment is accurate for both Spring and Fall Equinox sunsets.
B. Moon Standstill Alignment.-- As viewed from a large boulder about 20 ft. north of the south end of this wall, the Winter Solstice Stone becomes the most southerly position of the 18.61 year cycle of the moon. At the end of each cycle due to its seeming nonmovement this phenomenon is referred to as the Standstill of the Moon. The Winter sunset alignment also passes across the southernmost end of this wall.
C. Winter Solstice Sunset Monolith.-- This was the firs monolith suspected to be a solar alignment. Robert E. Stone photographed it at sunset on 21 December, 1970. The principal stone marked the southern most set of the sun at about 2,000 B.C., but today has changed because of changes in the earth’s tilt.
D. February 1st Sunset Alignment.-- This standing stone is aligned to the setting sun on the first of February. It also lines up with the northern edge of a stone circle 25 ft. to the west, off the trail system. It has been determined to be a lunar minor alignment. Another lunar alignment passes through the center of the “Watch House.”
E. November 1st Stone.-- This stone is aligned with the November 1st sunset, a date that has considerable importance in many ancient calendars.
F. Large Curved Wall.-- This wall that is aligned to true north is similar to post colonial walls that were used as rock dumps, but additional research is required. The May 1st sunset alignment crosses the northernmost end of the wall.
G. Summer Solstice Sunset Monolith.-- This is similar to the Winter Solstice Monolith but lines up with the summer solstice sunset, the most northerly setting of the sun about 2,000 B.C. at the Salem, New Hampshire latitude.
H. Eye Stone.-- The stone is badly weathered but contains an unknown carving. It appears to be another lunar alignment for the 18.61 year cycle of the moon as viewed from the observational center.
I. True North Stone.-- This stone (Photo) aligns with the true north for the pole star. Excavations around the base of the stone uncovered a fire pit located at a higher level than its base. This indicates that the stone has been in place prior to the fire pit. A radio-carbon dating of charcoal samples give a date of 650 A.D.
J. Summer Solstice Sunrise Stone.-- This stone was aligned with a stone circle located ca. halfway between it and the viewing platform around 1,500 B.C. At that date the sun rose at the top of the notch in the far northeast horizon. By 2004 the sun rises at the bottom of that notch. The difference is due to the changing tilt of the earth and this provides another means for determining the age of the site.
K. May Day Monolith.-- May day is an important day that has been celebrated since ancient times. This fallen stone is the largest monolith to be discovered at the site. It aligns with May 1st to the present day.
L. Multi-Stonding Stone Wall.-- The wall is still mostly in its original condition. A number of standing stones are slightly leaning and resemble the teeth of a shark.
M. Equinox Sunrise Stone.-- At the spring and autumn equinox the sun rises over this fallen monolith.
N. November 1st Sunrise.-- There is a fallen stone here that is aligned with the November 1st sunrise. There is a “V-shaped” notch at the edge of what was the top of the stone. In this way it is similar to the Bert Stone, one of the two stones aligned with the Winter Solstice Monolith.
O. Bert Stone.-- From this stone with its notch on top it is thought one would observe the winter solstice sunrise.