Despite the lack of treasure found on Oak Island, there appears to be something strange about the whole thing, and that’s enough for some adventurers. The Money Pit is far from the most intriguing thing on, or around rather, the island. Many think this possibly man-made feature is the reason for flooding in the Money Pit. Since the discovery of the Money Pit, six more companies have tried, and failed, to recover treasure from the island and many blame this watery obstacle for it.
What is this most dastardly foil of an obstacle?
Smith’s Cove appears to have come into the Oak Island Saga some time in 1965. Robert Dunfield agreed that the Money Pit was flooding due to some kind of boobie trap, and he thought the source was probably the beach (Oak 2015). He drew several diagrams, outlining what he thought had occurred to create a funnel system, starting at Smith’s Cove and ending at the Money Pit (Oak 2015). This idea caught on quickly with other treasure hunters and became part of the cannon of the Oak Island Saga.
When the Triton Company took over excavations in 1971 they made note of what they thought were man made structures:
“Historians and archaeologists who have worked closely with Triton throughout the operations believe that this structure is probably the remains of the original builders’ coffer dam[sic] erected during excavation of the flood tunnel and its underwater collector drains. Other discoveries made by Triton at Smith‘sCove include: matted organic material identified by the National Research Council as coconut fibre[sic] (which is consistent with 1850 reports of masses of coconut fiber underlying the beach where it seems to have been used as a filter to keep the collector drains from clogging); the remains of a ruler or framing square; an unusual antique wooden box; and a wrought iron caulking tool.” (Oak 2015)
Now, a cofferdam is often constructed as a way to enclose an area in order to pump it dry so that it can be used as a staging ground of other work or other land use. It’s also a practice that’s been around for along time. So it’s not unusual to see something like this in action dating back to the earlier centuries, especially on an island that has a historical connection to shipping and fishing.
Much has been made of the artifacts found around Smith’s Cove, but as these were discovered as part of a treasure hunt and not an actual archaeological dig, thereby implying the context of these artifacts is completely gone, the reliability of these artifacts is questionable. Take for example Triton Co.’s interpretation of the wooden box found being used for rock removal during tunnel digging (Oak 2015). There is absolutely no reason to assume this based on what has been presented to us. The only evidence offered up by the sympathetic website, Oak Island Treasure, is that the movie ‘The Great Escape’ used what they assume is a similar process in a digging scene (Oak 2015). Not exactly convincing.
There are other issues with the idea of a flood system boobie trap.
An independent study was done by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) for Triton Co. and their results were not exactly supportive of this idea. Despite being very limited in their ability to collect data, WHOI, was able to do some testing.
The major issue WHOI encountered was Triton’s control over what they were allow to even look at. The chief researcher involved in the investigation stated that the researchers were led to the spot and handed material supposedly retrieved from under the sand (Joltes 2002b). No archaeological excavation was conducted and the WHOI researchers were not allowed to collect their own samples for comparison (Joltes 2002b).
Despite this, WHOI did a variety tests and looked at a few key points of evidence offered by Triton Co. The first of which was getting a C14 date for the coconut husks allegedly found on the island and inside the Money Pit. The dates obtained by the C14 tests indeed show a date of 1130, +/-70 years. The major issue here is that these samples were handed to WHOI and they were not allowed to collect comparative samples to make sure that these samples were legitimate and from the area in question. As we know from historical documents, Oak Island was used for shipping and fishing (O’Connor 2004, Bartram 2005), and many guess that it was used for pirate smuggling (Nickell 2000, O’Connor 2004, Oak 2008). These coconut husks could easily have gotten there as part of packing marital used in cargo shipping (Joltes 2002b). Or the dates could be compromised by mishandling or other contaminates. As WHOI couldn’t collect comparison samples, there’s no way to know or trust this date.
WHOI also poured a sensitive dye into Borehole 10-X, who’s water levels vary at the same rate as the Money Pit, and then monitored the coastline around the island to check for evidence of the dye (Joltes 2002b). No dye was detected emerging anywhere around the island (Joltes 2002b). They also conducted side-scan sonar studies of the area looking for any kind of channels between the Money Pit and the shoreline, finding nothing (Joltes 2002b). Thus concluding that:
‘no direct connection to the surrounding ocean was found during the study (Gallo, 2002).’ (Joltes 2002b)
So where is the water coming from if not the sea?
Well for starts the water in the hole and the Money Pit is not actually seawater. It’s ‘brackish’ indicating a freshwater lens on the island (Joltes 2002b, Bartram 2005 ). Geologically this is possible as Graham Harris explains:
Geologically the island is a drumlin. Composed almost entirely of dense glacial till, it is a remnant of the last Ice Age. This till overlies anhydrite bedrock, with which is associated some minor limestone. Anhydrite possesses the dubious property of being exceedingly soluble, more so in salt water than in fresh. Paradoxically Oak Island is the only island in the region to be underlain by anhydrite. On the adjacent mainland, and on other islands in the region, sounder limestones and slates can be found at shallow depth.
…digging the first shaft through dense till into the underlying anhydrite is a simple operation fraught with little peril. But once the excavation fills up with water, drawn into it through systemic seepage paths within the anhydrite, these seepage paths will enlarge progressively. The greater the pumping activity the greater the rate of solution of the anhydrite and, of course, the greater the rate of inflow. Once started it is a vicious circle, and one likely to prove catastrophic as the solution passages enlarge.
Treasure-seekers centuries later would repeatedly attempt to dewater the workings by pumping – an exercise as fruitless as trying to pump the Atlantic Ocean dry! In recent years, massive sinkholes have developed offshore showing that the seepage paths radiating outwards from the base of the Money Pit have grown great indeed.
– Recovering the Oak Island Treasure, Graham Harris, C&G Association Journal, Spring 2002. (Bartram 2005).
If Smith Cove isn’t connected to the Money Pit via a drainage system, why are there man made structures there?
Aside from possible shipping use, there is another interesting and plausible suggestion for man-made structures in Smith’s Cove. The production of salt from sea water.
Salt was important back before the invention of refrigerated shipping for preservation of perishable cargo, especially fish (King 2010). The first recorded owners of Oak Island were Gifford and Smith, two New York fishing agents in 1753 (King 2010). As salt was both an expensive and important part of the fishing industry, its perfectly acceptable that Gifford and Smith were also manufacturing their own salt. More support of this is in the shape and location of the five finger troughs that are found in Smith Cove (King 2010). There is also evidence of boiling pits used in the manufacture of salt and this whole process easily explains the presence of the artificial beach created by the cofferdam (King 2010).
Last and probably least, when Triton Co. brought in WHOI to examine their evidence, they showed the WHOI researchers a video. This enhanced CBC video, taken from the bottom of Borhole 10-X, supposedly shows a wooden casket and an severed hand. WHOI researchers were unable to see anything in the film. The water was so murky and the video so badly lit, that it was impossible to distinguish objects clearly (Joltes 2002b).
There is one last factor to consider here, Oak Island is irrecoverable compromised as a site.
Since the late 1700’s Oak Island has been a treasure hunters’ paradise, peaking in the 1960’s with as many as 40 active treasure pits (Bartram 2005). As such there are more holes on that island than in Swiss cheese. What little archaeological evidence recovered shows this to true. Not to mention all the stories about Oak Island’s Treasure are just that, Stories.
There are no known hard records for the discovery of the Money Pit or excavations of the Onslow or Truro companies from the 1800’s (Bartram 2005). There is, however, a strong oral tradition passed from McInnis, Smith and Vaughan that spawned several newspaper articles during the time (Bartram 2005). From these, the folklore of the island was born properly and has since been handed down as fact and evidence even when devoid of both.
The truly sad part of all this is that any actual archaeology that may have been on that island is now probably distorted beyond recovery. All in the name of some rumored treasure that no one is really clear what it might be. It really give new meaning to the terms ‘Fool’s Gold’ and ‘Wild Goose Chase’.
Yay! We’re about halfway through the first season! I grossly underestimated how long it would take to review this series. There is just so much that needs to be addressed in each episode, it’s daunting. I am learning to break-up the posts into smaller posts that I can then link you too for more information. It’s still a lot of research and reviewing though, but I think it’s worth it.
As usual, if you don’t want to read through the whole break down, feel free to skip to the In Summary section at the bottom, but as always, if you have a comment or question, which I do welcome, don’t be surprised if I tell you to read the whole post first.
We open this episode with a sepia-toned film of a man getting his hair cut while listing to the old-timmey radio. An announcer is telling us, H.G.Wells style, about a mysterious collection of stone structures that has been discovered. We then see haircut man walking through the woods and stopping, awestruck when he finds several piles of stone.
Wolter does a voice-over here talking about Stonehenge, calming that its origins and meaning are still shrouded in mystery. This is not true in the way Wolter means it, but hey, we have to set a tone right?
Wolter goes on:
“Some advanced civilization that knew enough about the sun moon and stars to align theses stones in a very specific way.”
Yah, it’s called every ancient civilization ever, Wolter, seriously.
He then goes on to make the extraordinary claim of the show, that there is a Stonehenge in America and that this henge and actual Stonehenge were built by the same people.
We start in Salem, New Hampshire at a place now called American Stonehenge, but what was once called Mystery Hill. We meet Kenlsey Stone, son of the owner, who meets us at what is the central observatory of area. It’s a large covered gazebo. (Your +25 sword of BS slaying has no effect on it, and it’s not on fire.) There are small ‘standing stones’ that are arranged around the central point. It’s apparent from a casual glance that these stones were placed in a deliberate pattern and probably line up with something, probably solstices, equinoxes, and cross-quarter days.
Wolter correctly points out here that many ancient cultures all over the world made note of these points of the year. He then ruins it by throwing up a simplistic definition of archaeoastronomy. He tells us that he saw archaeoastronomy in Georgia and that somehow connected Native Americans to the Mayans. (spoiler: he didn’t and it doesn’t)
He then makes another claim that caught my attention:
“The ancient practice of archaeoastronomy seems to tie many advanced cultures together.”…”and it also seems to tie them to America”
A couple of things here.
Archaeoastronomy is a very common practice in most, if not all, prehistoric, ancient, and some modern cultures. It’s not a definitive sign of advance vrs not-advanced cultures. It was a tool necessary for everyday life, especially among agricultural societies. It was practiced on a large scale, as seen in Stonehenge and the like, as well as on a small scale. My point here is it’s not a mystical magical unifying secret that only elite cultures were capable of understanding. It was part of basic everyday life and was common because anyone can keep an eye on the sky and see that things change up there according to the seasons. It’s pretty much common sense.
I think Wolter just made the claim that the diffusionism of archaeoastronomy came out of America. I may just be confused here, but if that is true, this is a major deviation from his normal claims that everything was brought to America by white people.
Now we’re focusing on one stone in particular, and we get to watch Wolter rubbing it as epic music swells in the background. Wolter asks Stone what happens in the circle and Stone tells us that the sun rises in the middle of the stone, but that they think it might have risen at the top point of the stone at some point in the past. Wolter agrees and there is a fancy computer-generated model to show us where the sun might have been in 1800BC. We’re not immediately told why this date is important, but hey, we’re building anticipation here!
Wolter tells us that things can move the axis of the earth, like earthquakes, (or just the natural wobble of the planet), and we can use that for dating purposes. He then makes the claim that archaeoastronomy is more accurate for dating than C14 dating. This argument is, weird, and important for the story Wolter is trying to tell here and I’ll get to that in a minute.
Wolter tells us that the stones in the circle look weathered, which really means nothing. Any stone exposed to the elements will be weathered and Wolter has admitted as much in previous episodes of the show. I’m guessing he’s just talking out loud here.
Before we move on to how this henge is connected to Stonehenge, let’s recap a little here.
We are being grossly misled here by not being given the full story of Mystery Hill and Americans Stonehenge. I cover it detail in my blog post here, but to briefly recap:
The area known as Mystery Hill was once owned by Jonathan Pattee in 1837 (Gilbert 1907) and always had a bunch of natural caves and rock outcroppings. Pattee also built tons of structures on the land himself and these were commented on historically (Gilbert 1907, Starbuck 2006).
The land passed into the hands of William Goodwin in 1937 who dubbed the area Mystery Hill (Wright 1998, Starbuck 2006, Crystalinks N.d.). He then began to move and quarry the rocks and structures already on the land in order to “restore” what he thought was Irish monastery (Starbuck 2006, Crystalinks N.d.) completely destroying the context of the area.
Robert Stone bought the land in 1967 and the Stones have made a few improvements of their own (Starbuck 2006, Crystalinks N.d.). Adding a museum and changing the name to “America’s Stonehenge” trying to link the area to Stonehenge in England (Starbuck 2006).
Several archaeological digs have been done in the area. Of them, the one led by Gary Vescelius in 1955 recovered over 7000 artifacts, all of which were Native American or 18th and 19th century in origin (Starbuck 2006, Crystalinks N.d.).
What all this means is that American Stonehenge is completely out of context and even if it had been an actual ancient site, there is no way to ever know this due to the activities of Goodwin et al. Also, nothing has ever been found to suggest the area was ever settled by Ancient -Europeans.
Wolter makes a claim that archaeoastronomy is a more accurate way to date a site than C14 dating. He’s not entirely wrong, in some situations this can be correct. However, the reasons he’s making this claim isn’t because of these unique situations.
Mystery Hill has been excavated several times in the past, and one of the most recent excavations sent off charcoal samples to an actual lab to be c14 dated. The dates that came back do not support Wolter’s claims that the site dates back to 3800 ya. or 1800 BC.
Wolter is also neglecting to mention that you can make the sun line up with pretty much any single object if you just move around it till the sun lines up. You can probably witness something in your back yard (if you have one) lining up with the sunrise/set by chance. Or you can do what was probably done here, and deliberately put something there (see my note above about Goodwin et al).
Wolter’s computer-generated model, though cool to look at, would only be valid if there wasn’t evidence that the stone he was using was probably moved and set up there intentionally by Goodwin et al.
Wolter appears to be trying to obfuscate the actual facts here in order to manufacture a mystery where there is none. Which is the show’s M.O., it’s just way more pronounced here this time.
But, we’re not done here yet.
After Wolter gets done rubbing all the stones and making weird claims about archaeoastronomy, Stone tells us that he’s got more to show us. Stone claims that this evidence will tie America’s Stonehenge to the actual Stonehenge. Of course, Wolter wants to see it!
What is this amazing evidence you ask?
Lines on a map.
Stone takes us to his computer and pulls up Google Earth, and then proceeds to draw a line between to points. What two points? Why, Americas Stonehenge and actual Stonehenge! Amazing!
Unless you remember your basic math and graphing skills here and remember that you can draw a straight line between any two arbitrary points.
To add to the drama of this magical line, Stone proceeds to show us that the line continues (as all lines do) and then “ends” in Beirut. Why does it end here? Because why not? There is no explanation as to why our arbitrary line between two arbitrary points must end in Beirut, it just does. That’s good enough for Wolter who immediately begins making up a connection for it. It has something to do with Phoenicians around 1200 bc, and the math is all bad, but whatever! We have our connection!
At this point we get to meet Dennis Stone, father of Kenlsey Stone, and we get a very brief and sterilized history of Mystery Hill. We’re told about Johnathan Pattee and how the area used to be called Pattee’s Caves back in 1907. We’re even taken to what is possibly Pattee’s old house and Wolter makes his proclamation that Pattee couldn’t have made any of the structures on the site because:
“There’s no way Pattee could have built this, it just wreaks of being really old”
Very scientific of you Wolter.
Wolter tells us that if it’s old, it’s important. Not important enough to actually research, but hey, we’re busy building a mystery here. Wolter also dismisses Pettee’s ability to have built structures on his own land despite evidence that he in-fact did:
“He built massive stones walls when he had all these trees and he could have used wood? I don’t buy that”
Yes, it’s much more believable that Ancient Phoenician-European-Irish Monks came to New Hampshire in 1800 BC to build a monastery in the middle of nowhere so they could recreate Stonehenge and worship Baal. Oh wait, we haven’t gotten there yet.
So now Wolter is telling us that large flat rocks are like clocks and indicate the age of a structure. He doesn’t tell us how this works, but it apparently confirms something of his story. Stone tells us that there’s more on-site to connect it to the Phoenicians and we’re introduced to the Baal Stone.
The stone, with its random scratching, was supposedly translated by Barry Fell back in the 1970’s and apparently is a dedication to the god Baal. Wolter makes a big production out of examining the stone, and eventually decides that the stone is old.
Personally, anything translated by Barry Fell is immediately invalid. Also, the writing doesn’t look anything like the Phoenician alphabet. So I’m not going to beat this dead horse.
The Stones inform us that they have one more mega piece of evidence that connects the site to the Phoenicians, a giant sacrificial table.
The table is an impressive structure. It’s roughly 9′ by 6′ and has an inner groove running the perimeter of it. It appears to be set up on stone supports and the drainage groove feeds directly into what appears to be a chamber of some sort.
Wolter is suitably impressed and begins talking about Exfoliation Weathering, defining it as loss of stone surface due to changes in moisture and temperature. Basically the stone was exposed to the elements, as is clearly the case. He tells us again that such weathering can be used like a clock, but never really gets beyond the whole “looks old to me” thing.
What the table is supposedly set up over is what the Stones are calling the Oracle Chamber. It looks to me like a natural chamber that was used as a cold cellar, probably by Pattee. The Stones explain that the table was purposefully set up over the chamber so that when a sacrifice was done someone else, a priest possibly, would stand below and speak. The voice that would come from under the table would have been a “god” voice.
Well, needless to say, Wolter has decided that this site is now actually the handy-work of Phoenicians, based on nothing, and we’re off to find more not-evidence to support this already decided conclusion.
Before we go though, I want to spend a moment with this new dump of information.
Things to remember about the Mystery Hill/American Stonehenge site.
Goodwin et al moved things around. There’s actually pretty well-documented evidence of this via pictures throughout the years. The website Mystery Hill NH, Americas Stonehenge provides a lot of this themselves. Whether they knowingly throw doubt onto the site or not, they have historical pictures that clearly show the progress of the changes at the site.
Jason Colavito, also has an excellent show and tell of the changes started by Goodwin and continued into at least the 1990’s. His photos cover not only the movement of the the “sacrificial table” but also the renovation of several of the stone structures on the site.
The pictorial sequence of the “sacrificial table” is of most interest here because you can see where it was originally located. It’s clearly set close to the ground, with perhaps enough space for a small jug or large bowl. Which is exactly what one would expect to see of a Lye Stone or Cider Press (more on that in a moment). In subsequent images, you can tell that the stone has been moved and set up on legs, presumably over the so-called “Oracle Chamber”, and that other stones have been added and subtracted over the years.
It is well documented that when Johnathan Pattee bought the land there were numerous natural caves and rock outcroppings that he was known for using for storage and quarrying purposes.
Of all the archaeological excavations that have been done on the site, none have ever found anything that was unexpected or out of place. All artifacts have been Native American or 18th-19th Century in origin.
Let’s talk about the Cider Press, aka the sacrificial table.
As stated above, the stone was obviously moved after Goodwin purchased the land and has been updated ever since.
Before it was moved, it was in the appropriate configuration to be what it actually is, a cider press or lye stone. Its large size and square shape make me more comfortable saying it’s a cider press over a lye stone, but honestly the construction for both is similar and if you google cider press stones, you will see identical stones found all over the country.
Both cider presses and lye stones were a common household item in the 18th and 19th centuries. One was necessary for making soap, the other necessary for making hard cider, which is as American as apple pie.
But we’re off to Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA. to talk with Professor Mark McMenamin who is presented to us as a Phoenician Researcher. Dr. McMenamin is a professor at Mt. Holyoke College, but his field is geology and paleontology. Dr. McManamin does however have an interesting hobby, and that’s proving Phoenicians made it to America before anyone else. His evidence? Seven unprovenanced coins found across the US. He’s published several books and articles touting support for his theory, but in the end, it falls short in the evidence category.
With this in mind though, it’s no wonder Wolter wants to talk to him. As we watch Wolter drive (he drives a lot) while epic music plays, trying desperately to convince us we’re not just filling time, Wolter provides a voice-over. He’s still trying to tell us that the arbitrary line drawn through the two Stonehenges is legitimate and that the Phoenicians did it deliberately because they knew about the sky.
“If the Phoenicians knew about the Polaris star, chances are they knew about the rest of the sky too.”
Apparently, it was easy to not notice the sky back in ancient times. I mean, looking up was hard and all, so ancient man didn’t bother with it much. Unless they knew about one star in particular, then they might have noticed the rest of the sky was up there too, maybe.
Once we get to Dr. McMeanamin, he tells us about his idea that there is a map on the back of Carthaginian coins. He says the strange shapes found at the bottom of some coins are actually maps of the world.
To make this true, you have to add squiggles where there aren’t any (Africa in the picture) and ignore bumps that are clearly there (between Sardinia, Sicily and Italy and again between Italy and India in the picture) Also why is everything so badly out of proportion? You’re telling me they can sail across an ocean, trek inland to Salem, New Hampshire, rebuild Stonehenge with perfect alignment with not just actual Stonehenge but also Beirut, but they can’t get landmasses in proper proportion on their stunningly artistically detailed coins? Of which they apparently only brought seven with them?
But Wolter is A-Ok with all this and loves the whole idea of secret, nearly illegible, maps on coins. How would you even use such a tiny and imperfect image to navigate anyway? There’s so much wrong with this.
Anyway, since History Channel has more money than it know what to do with, it sends Wolter off to England to visit actual Stonehenge. We meet Dr. Henry Chapman and Wolter immediately launches into his hard sell that the Phoenicians built the American Stonehenge. Not only that but the Phoenicians actually built both Stonehenges! Wolter shows Dr. Chapman his line on Google Maps, and Dr. Chapman give him a hearty Nope.
Dr. Chapman points out several flaws in Wolter’s story, one of which being math. There’s an 800-year difference between the Phoenician culture and the building of Stonehenge. Dr. Chapman also brings up that we know Stonehenge is an ancient calendar and that it’s not surprising that since humanity is similar and is observing similar things, they would develop similar ways of tracking such things. Or what we call convergence in the field.
Predictably Wolter doesn’t like this answer, but Dr. Chapman doesn’t budge. So we cut that interview short and race back to America so we can watch the summer solstice at America’s Stonehenge.
We fade out around this point with Wolter’s insistence that these structures are built by ancient people. Wolter is now telling us that Stonehenge was somehow used for navigation, and that the people who came here were proto-Phoenicians. I guess at least he’s adapted his story based on new information…kinda. Wolter makes a bunch of “I believe” statements and says:
“Someone had to assemble those stones, someone with a vast knowledge of archaeoastromnomy”
Someone like Johnathan Pattee, William Goodwin, and the Stone family?
What you really wanted to read.
There was a surprising amount in this episode, but most of it was easily debunked.
The two main cruxes of Wolter’s argument can be basically eliminated.
The site known as Mystery Hill/Americans Stonehenge is out of context and comprised. This is documented by not only Goodwin’s own work but by historical photographs. Everything there has been altered, the Stonehenge, the Table, the Oracle Chamber. Walls have been built, structures have been renovated. And these changes have persisted up into the 1990’s. If there ever was a site there, it’s gone and there’s no way to get it back.
Barry Fell is not a reliable translator and the Baal Stone is clearly not Phoenician. You don’t have to be an expert to see that.
Everything else about this place is just trimmings. It’s typical speculation with no evidence to support it. Even Wolter’s line through both Stonehenges is complete bunk since I can link Stonehenge with any other point on a map, two points make a line! Math!
What evidence there is consistently links the site to both Native American occupation and 18th -19th century occupation. There is nothing to support the presence of anyone else being there.
Wolter’s dismissive attitude towards the actual evidence in support of his own unsupported ideas is distressing, and is getting worse as the series goes on. Just something to keep in mind.
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For those who don’t know, the Bosnian Pyramids are not actual pyramids, they are a cluster of natural hills in central Bosnia and Herzegovina that started life off roughly pyramid in shape. I say they started that way because years of “excavation” on the hills has transformed them into what Sam Osmanagich, the ‘founder’ of said not-pyramids, wants them to be.
Osmanagich has decided that several of the hills in the range are actually pyramids and he’s renamed them as he sees fit. Visocica Hill, at 720 feet, is renamed the Pyramid of the Sun. Pljesevica Hill, at 350 feet, is renamed the Pyramid of the Moon. He claims there are others, a Pyramid of Love, A Pyramid of Earth, one to a Dragon, ect. I’m not entirely sure why any of them have the names that they do, but it made sense to Osmanagich, so we’ll run with it.
Osmanagich also makes the claim that there are labyrinths under the pyramids and long man-made tunnels. These tunnels supposedly connected the pyramids at one point and then filled in with sea water when the glaciers melted.
Let me state here that no professional archaeologist believes these are pyramids, calling it:
“A cruel hoax on an unsuspecting public [which] has no place in the world of genuine science (Bohannon 2006).”
That hasn’t stopped Osmanagich, who in true fringe style has tried to connect the names of actual archaeologist, geologists, and other scientists to his work. Most have either denied association with the project or been exposed as either unqualified or frauds (Rose 2006).
But what of the claims?
Aside from claiming hills are pyramids when they are clearly not, Osmanagich claims they are the oldest pyramids in the world. He says they are 12,000 years old putting their construction during a time when most of Europe was under a glacier and agriculture wasn’t really a thing yet (Woodward 2009). I’ve never really seen how he proposes prehistoric Hunter-Gatherers managed to build the largest pyramids on earth or why they would bother. He’s made a lukewarm argument that they are burial mounds, but there are no bodies associated with them.
What’s more, these incredibly advanced Hunter-Gatherers also apparently knew how to make and pour cement, and that is how they covered the sides of the pyramids (Woodward 2009). Never-mind that the geology of the hills matches that of the surrounding area, and the ‘cement’ Osmanagich is finding is actually alternating layers of conglomerate, clay and sandstone (Woodward 2009). Osmanagich’s cement idea is supported by French materials scientist, Joseph Davidovits, who also thinks the real pyramids in Egypt were made with poured concrete blocks (Woodward 2009). Because of this idea, Osmanagich instructed his workers to carve the hillside to create the impression of a stepped pyramid for the Pyramid of the Moon (Woodward 2009). So, like other fringe researchers in the past, he’s altered the area to fit his expectations, and then wants to pass it off as being authentic.
In this vein, Osmanagich has started digging in the ‘tunnels’ beneath the hills. Stating that he is going to widen these tunnels and extend them so that they will connect witht the other pyramids (Woodward 2009), never mind if they don’t currently. He claims that there are boulders that bear carvings that date back to 15,000 years ago, but that claim was challenged by a geologist and former employee who claimed the carvings appeared overnight, put there by another one of Osmanagich’s workers (Woodward 2009).
Yet Osmanagich is unapologetic in his blatant alteration of the area, and why shouldn’t he be?
Osmanagich says he plans to dig all the way to Visocica Hill, 1.4 miles away, adding that, with additional donations, he could reach it in as few as three years. “Ten years from now nobody will remember my critics,” he says as we start back toward the light, “and a million people will come to see what we have.” (Woodward 2009)
Osmanagich has official backing from the Bosnian Government (Woodward 2009). The Pyramid of the Sun Foundation, owned by Osmanagich, rakes in hundreds of thousands of dollars in public donations and thousands more from state-owned companies (Woodward 2009). He’s got copious amounts of attention from the media and was awarded a seat on a scientific council in Russia (Woodward 2009). Creating fake archaeology and history is quite lucrative.
All that said, Osmanagich still can’t answer basic questions about the construction of the site. Things like, where did the workers come from? Where did they live while they worked? Who fed them? How did they make the cement? Where are the mixing stations, the pouring platforms, the tools? Where is the trash from all these people living one place? Where is the graveyard for the workers that died? Who organized them? What compelled them to build? And so on, and so on, and so on.
As is so often with the fringe, they see something big and shinny, and don’t think about the details. The details that real archaeologists want, the details that are real evidence. The details that every actual archaeological site possesses. These are always lacking because they are overlooked. As Ken likes to say, you can fake an artifact, but you can’t fake a whole site. Osmanagich had already run up against this with the international archaeological community, and it’s starting to catch up to him at home as well. We’ll just wait and see were all this ends up, but I’m guessing it’s not going to end well.
Now dubbed “America’s Stonehenge” in Salem, New Hampshire, the location once known as Mystery Hill continues to draw tourists to what is touted as being evidence of pre-Columbian contact. Evidence of who is still up for debate.
The site itself is about 30 acres of land just off route 111 in Salem. It’s a sprawling complex of stone structures, walls, natural caves, and some would say Megaliths that are no taller than tree saplings (Wright 1998). It’s a well-known tourist destination that is open to the public for a fee and hosts hiking trails, llama pins, and an interpretive museum.
The site itself is supposedly shrouded in mystery as to its origins and purpose. It has multiple claims to its origins, all of which appear to be pre-Columbian in nature. Few even acknowledge the possibility that prehistoric Native peoples lived in the area before White settlers came. All of them ignore the documented history of the site or the damage done to it by its prior inhabitants. So what is this mysterious hill all about?
The Known History of Mystery Hill.
We know the area was owned back in 1837 by Jonathan Pattee, and that he built most of the structures originally on the property (Gilbert 1907). We know at that time the area had a good number of natural boulders and rock outcroppings, and that there were several natural caves that Pattee used as storage (Gilbert 1907). We know this based on evidence including drill marks on the stone used to build the structures that match 19830’s quarrying practice (Starbuck 2006).
We also know that William Goodwin bought 20 acres of the land in 1937 and dubbed the area Mystery Hill (Wright 1998, Starbuck 2006, Crystalinks N.d.). The overall layout of the area was drastically altered by Goodwin who was convinced the area was evidence of Culdees in America (Starbuck 2006, Crystalinks N.d.). Goodwin apparently believed these Irish monks came over to America in the 20th century and constructed the caves around the site as part of their monastery (Starbuck 2006). Due to this belief, Goodwin and his supporters apparently further quarried the area and moved stones and structures around to what they believed were the ‘original’ locations in order to further support their ideas (Starbuck 2006, Crystalinks N.d).
In 1957 the land was leased to Robert Stone, and ten years later the Stone family bought the land (Starbuck 2006). The land still belongs to the Stone family, and they have made a few improvements of their own (Crystalinks N.d.). Adding a museum and changing the name to “America’s Stonehenge” due to the parallels that Stone sees to the great megaliths of Stonehenge in England and other Celtic sites (Starbuck 2006). There is still no evidence of ancient Celts in the area.
Several archaeological digs have been done in the area. One of importance was led by Gary Vescelius in 1955 (Starbuck 2006). His team recovered over 7000 artifacts, all of which were Native American or 18th and 19th century in origin (Starbuck 2006, Crystalinks N.d.). These artifacts were noting out of the ordinary for the area and line up perfectly with what is expected from the archaeology in the area. There was no evidence of anything related to Irish monks or Celts.
The Stone family still owns the land and it has become a bit of a tourist location. The museum there acts as an interpretation center for the site and offers a variety of ideas for the visitor to chew over, and appears to display the artifacts discovered during the actual archaeological digs done on the site.
What’s so Mysterious about Mystery Hill aka America’s Stonehenge?
To answer that we’d have to look a the variety of claims made about the site. They run quite the gambit, and none of them go for the ordinary or the everyday.
We already know of Goodwin’s belief that Irish monks made their way to America and picked this area as the site for their monastery. But there is also the belief that the site is far older than that. An idea put forth by Barry Fell in his book America B.C. claims that the site was occupied by Iberian Celts due to scripts he saw around the area (Wright 1998, Starbuck 2006, Crystalinks N.d). Fell claims to have found inscriptions that link the site to Baal worshipers as well (Wright 1998, Starbuck 2006). These scripts are only seen as such by Mr. Fell and no authority on Ogham, Phoenician or Iberian scripts believes them to be authentic in any way.
The current popular idea about America’s Stonehenge is that the site is actually a giant astrological calendar set up by Bronze Age peoples of unknown origin (Feder 2010, Crystalinks N.d.) The date commonly pitched for the site is 4,000 years old and is claimed to have been gotten from retrograding the alinements of the sun with the standing stones (Wright 1998, Cryistalinks N.d.). The two major issues with this is the known relocation of most of the site by Goodwin and, presumably, the Stone family (Wright 1998, Starbuck 2006, Feder 2010, Crystalinks N.d.). Because of this, no reliable information can be gleaned from the positions of any of the stones, standing or otherwise.
The second major issue with this is that there is no physical evidence of Bronze Age peoples on or around the site. When Ken Feder toured the site, he noticed a lack of bronze artifacts. When he asked about their absence he was told. “You don’t think those ancient people would have left all those valuable bronze tools just laying around, do you? (Feder 2010).” Actually yes, that’s exactly what we expect. Bronze artifacts are found all over Europe, Africa, and Asia. It’s the reason we know there was a bronze age.
Other fun stories about the site come from David Starbuck when he visited the site in 1970 his guide told him that the whole site, stone chambers, trails, walls, and all were actually a giant representation of an Indian or Asian face wearing a peaked hat. This image was an ancient mental concept that had crossed the Bering Straights ten thousand years ago and that this image had been repeated in ‘Indian’ art all across American for thousand of years (Starbuck 2006). Starbuck rightly points out that “Every time another absurd theory is added to the mix, it becomes harder to accept any of the elaborate tails told about the site. (2006)”
So Where is the Evidence for Mystery Hill?
There are two major pieces of evidence offered up regularly. The first is a large flat stone carved with grooves set above an empty chamber that is called the “Sacrificial Table”, The second is a series of Carbon-14 dates. Unfortunately, neither are terribly convincing.
The “sacrificial table” as it’s called, is clearly a cider press or rather large lye stone. Pretty much anyone familiar with 18th -19th century homesteading knows what these are as both were pretty indicative of everyday life. You can even Google either term and see lots of images of stones that are similar to identical to the “sacrificial table”. I can only assume here that the owners of the site still call it that to drum up drama. As for the “Oracle Chamber” underneath it, it’s merely a happy coincidence that the chamber produces echoes. Obviously, it was meant for liquid collection and probably storage as well.
The C-14 dates are a little more inserting. Normally C-14 dates would be good forms of evidence. Especially when taken with care and taken in context. Apparently, however, the samples taken from the Mystery Hill site don’t quite fulfill these criteria. C-14 dates are taken from charcoal samples at a site, preferably taken from the feature meant to be dated. According to Starbuck, the charcoal samples from Mystery Hill were taken randomly from the site with nothing of human origin in association with them. Meaning they were completely random samples of charcoal that had no known association with features. What this means in a greater context is that the dates are meaningless. I have seen pieces of the testing results report created by Geochron Laboratories, Inc as linked on the Mystery Hill site. Regardless of the date given, if the samples were taken willy-nilly from wherever on the site and nothing of context was associated with them, it really doesn’t mater.
Now, if we assume that the samples are good, and were taken with care and context, the dates provided still aren’t that shocking. with a date of 2995 BPE +/- 180 years. That still puts the site well within the expected habitation for prehistoric Native peoples. It’s also still not evidence of anything European or Celtic in nature. As all of the archaeology done on the site backs up the presences of Native peoples on the site (Wright 1998, Starbuck 2006, Feder 2010, including at the quarry sites (Crystalinks N.d) there is no reason to think that these C-14 dates are indicative of anything out of the ordinary.
So What’s Left?
Not much really. Evidence shows that the Mystery Hill/American Stonehenge site is what it appears to be to the trained eye. A multicomponent site having both a prehistorical component and evidence of 18-19th-century habitation. Which should surprise no one. There is even documentation of Johnathan Pattee owing and building on his land. Natural caves were known to exist there, as were natural outcroppings of rock. As we move forward there is documentation and evidence of William Goodwin et all moving and changing the site, thereby destroying any context the site had. There is even some suggestion that the alteration of the site continues to modern-day, making it impossible to trust any interpretation of the site’s structures
There is no evidence of anything else.
Bob Goodby, then president of the New Hampshire Archaeological Society, put it best when interviewed by Karen Wright in 1998:
“Goodby assured me that no reputable archaeologist took the pre-Colombian lure seriously. The inscriptions were bogus, and there was no other evidence that an ancient, old-world culture had ever occupied Mystery Hill: no signs of the food preparation, garbage disposal, living areas, or burial grounds that are associated with other megalithic sites. Although there is an unusual amount of stonework on the hill, he said, it doesn’t differ in kind from other structures built by New Englanders in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. (Wright 1998)”
Starbuck adds a few words of his own about the whole deal:
“The moment the first stone was moved to a new location by William Goodwin, the entire site lost any chance of being taken seriously by scholarly community. … Yet site integrity is everything to an archaeologist, and this site is severely compromised. (Starbuck 2006)”
“If an early site truly has merit, it doesn’t require bizarre interpretations. (Starbuck 2006)”