Hidden across the rocky highlands of America´s quaint New England landscape are hundreds of mysterious “megalithic” Stone Chambers, possibly of ancient origin. Expertly constructed of mortar-free masonry and covered with earth, these strange structures—some astronomically aligned—are found nowhere else in North America. For decades, intense debate has divided New Englanders as to their age, origin, function, and meaning. Are they colonial root cellars, native American sweat lodges, or prehistoric European temples? In August 2017, I traveled across several U.S. states to study these Stone Chambers and learn more about them. What I found was as amazing as it was baffling.
Me investigating the Stone Chamber on the old Mead Farm in Kent, NY. www.RichardCassaro.com
Unbeknownst to most Americans—and even to most New Englanders—a cluster of mysterious Stone Chambers lies scattered across a wide expanse of several New England states (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and Connecticut). Many are situated near a natural waterway.
These strange beehive-shaped / igloo-shaped structures bear clear evidence of incredible planning, design, engineering, and craftsmanship. The chambers exhibit common features, although construction details of individual chambers differ. All have an entrance portal, but none have an actual door. Dimensions of the chambers vary, with some chambers measuring up to 40 feet in length and 10 feet in height.
The Stone Chambers are mostly spread across New England: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and Connecticut. www.RichardCassaro.com
Some researchers have dubbed them “beehive” chambers because of the often “conical” shape of their central rooms. Some chambers are circular while others are rectangular in form. Most are freestanding. Some are built into the hillside.
Amazingly, the chambers are all made of dry masonry stones, irregularly shaped. The stones fit together precisely, with no mortar gluing them together, clearly indicating the incredibly high level of skill and craftsmanship of the chamber builders. But by far the most remarkable feature about the Stone Chambers—and this absolutely astonished me when I first saw it—is that all the chambers employ megalithic masonry in the form of several ton roof slabs (of granite and quartzite) that lock together without mortar and with incredible precision.
All the chambers employ megalithic masonry in the form of several ton roof slabs that lock together without mortar and with incredible precision. www.RichardCassaro.com
The walls of many—but not all—the chambers are “corbeled,” which means they are made up of piles of stones arched inward to support the megalithic ceiling stones. This highly-sophisticated architectural technique is ancient, found in such far-reaching places as Egypt, Mexico, China and India. The corbeling technique is used to support arches, parapets and floors, and it is one of the reasons why the Stone Chambers have survived this long—far outlasting the actual farmhouses of the colonial settlers who are credited with having constructed them.
Several chambers have large trees of significant size growing on top of them, demonstrating their structural sturdiness by their ability to withstand the outgrowth without collapsing:
Several chambers have one or more trees of major size growing on them. www.RichardCassaro.com
Unfortunately, many of the chambers have been torn down or quarried for their stone. Others have been repeatedly vandalized, dismantled, destroyed, or abandoned. No artifacts have been found inside any of the Stone Chambers.
Many of the chambers are aligned to the rising of the sun on special days, like the summer and winter solstices (June 21 and Dec. 21) and spring and autumn equinoxes (March 22 and Sept. 22), as well as specific solar and lunar events of the year. Some are aligned along north-south and east-west axes. The so-called “Calendar II” chamber, located in South Woodstock, Vermont, is aligned with the rising sun on the Winter Solstice:
Left: Winter Solstice Sunrise alignment at the “Calendar II” Stone Chamber in Vermont. (Photo courtesy of Bill Vieira.) Right: Winter Solstice Sunrise alignment at Newgrange, a 5,000 year old passage tomb in Ireland. www.RichardCassaro.com
The Calendar II chamber is in fact one of the biggest and best-known Stone Chambers in all New England. At the Calendar II chamber—so-called because of its Winter Solstice alignment—the megalithic stone roof slabs are the biggest I´ve seen in any of the Stone Chambers across New England, measuring more than 15 feet across and over a foot thick, probably weighing several tons each.
The two photos above show how megalithic roof slabs of several tons each and fifteen feet long cover the Calendar II Stone Chamber in South Woodstock, Vermont. www.RichardCassaro.com
The chamber interior measures roughly 10 feet by 20 feet. This is also one of the few Stone Chambers to have what for lack of a better term can be called a “ventilation shaft” located on the very top of the chamber. See below:
Calendar II Stone Chamber showing entrance in foreground and “ventilation shaft” in background, partially illuminating the back wall. www.RichardCassaro.com
All of this is obviously very interesting, and more than a little mysterious. Are the Stone Chambers really “root cellars” built by colonial farmers? Or could they be something much different, and perhaps far older?
The idea that colonial farmers created such complex and well-crafted megalithic “root cellars” for their fruits and vegetables—which to this day are still perfectly intact, even though their farmhouses have long since vanished—is a bit strange. In fact, for several decades researchers have been asking a variety of questions challenging the mainstream interpretation. These researchers have pointed out many interesting discrepancies. For example, colonial settlers described in their writings the existence of strange “Indian forts” in and around New England; these descriptions seem to match the Stone Chambers. Also, no written records exist of the colonial farmers ever building even one of the Stone Chambers. Rather, there is evidence that the practically-minded farmers used the already-existing chambers as root cellars.
”Farmers wrote in diaries about building stone walls and farmhouse foundations, barns, orchards, but nothing about building these stone structures. It’s not far-fetched to think that instead of 1492, maybe in 500 A.D., explorers came ashore and built them.”
—Sam Oliverio Jr., New York Times
The Stone Chambers are now considered by many to be one of the great mysteries of North America. The question is, if the colonial farmers didn´t build them as root cellars then what exactly are they? Who built them, and why?
Three main theories exist regarding the origin and purpose of the chambers:
1. COLONIAL ROOT CELLARS
This theory, already explained, suggests the colonial farmers who settled America in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries built the chambers to store and preserve their root crops during New England´s harsh winters. As more fertile and less rocky pastures were discovered during the Westward expansion, New England was abandoned and reverted back to forest, leaving only the root cellars and stone walls as evidence of any past human habitation.
2. NATIVE AMERICAN SHRINES
Many researchers now believe the Stone Chambers were built by the Native American Indians or perhaps their ancient ancestors who lived in New England before the arrival of the first Europeans. Native American Indians in other parts of North America (i.e., the Adena and Mississippian cultures) created entire cities and ceremonial centers with stone and dirt, so the organizational and technical skill was certainly prevalent in the region or not far from it.
3. PREHISTORIC EUROPEAN TEMPLES
According to this theory, ancient Celts, Druids, Phoenicians, Norsemen, Libyan sailors, Iberian adventurers, and Irish monks made their way to New England before Columbus—some say before Christ—and built the chambers. Proponents of this theory point out similarities between the Stone Chambers, with their unmortared walls and celestial alignments, and many megalithic European sites like Knowth and Newgrange. Similar stone structures of widely varying age and function have been documented from Britain, Scotland, France, northern Canada, and southeastern Italy.
Left: Interior of Knowth, a Neolithic passage grave in Ireland. Right: Interior of Stone Chamber on Route 6 in New York State. www.RichardCassaro.com
Jim Viera, a New England author who has been studying the Stone Chambers for many years, tells an interesting anecdote that indicates the Stone Chambers were not built by the colonial settlers but were instead found by them:
“At the Pound Ridge Historical Museum in New York exists a faded letter dated July 1742. It is from a priest writing back to a local farmer who had just discovered a stone chamber near his property in the woods. The priest instructed the man to stay away from the chamber because it was the work of the devil and was a place where the devil enters this world. Why would this admonishment take place if it was a colonial root cellar as modern archaeologists insist? These stone chamber sites often have large standing stones, stone animal effigy mounds, wells, cairns and wall complexes associated with them.”
Proponents of the idea that the chambers are ancient point out the existence of other apparently man-made megalithic structures in the Hudson Valley to support their beliefs. One example is a site called “Balanced Rock,” a giant boulder that rests on six conical rocks located on Route 116 in North Salem, weighing as much as 80 tons.
I visited and studied Balanced Rock in October 2015, a huge rock perched atop a ring of much smaller stones located in North Salem, NY. www.RichardCassaro.com
The original sign at the site, erected by local historians, described it as a glacial erratic deposited in the Ice Age. But several years ago, a new description was added, explaining the possibility that the rock could be a dolmen or ceremonial stone erected by Celts who may have visited the area more than 2,000 years ago.
In recent years, the North Salem Historical Society changed the description of Balanced Rock to include the possibility that the rock may be a Celtic memorial. www.RichardCassaro.com
To date, most archaeologists feel that the prehistoric European temple explanation for the Stone Chambers lacks archaeological context. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” they say, and rightfully so. Unless a bronze ax of demonstrable European origin is found in a sealed archaeological layer in or around any of the Stone Chambers, the mainstream view is that these amazing megalithic monuments are colonial root cellars and nothing more.
For me, the megalithic size of the roof slabs coupled with the incredibly advanced craftsmanship of the stones is extraordinary evidence enough. I will be returning to the Stone Chambers with further blog updates in the near future, and I am also currently working on a short film describing my experiences visiting and entering the chambers.
You can learn more about who I am and my research in my books:
Richard Cassaro’s new book, The Missing Link, explores the meaning, transformations and propagation of the ancient world’s most important religious icon. His first book, Written in Stone, is a wide-ranging exploration of hitherto-unknown connections among Freemasons, medieval cathedral builders and the creators of important ancient monuments, in support of his theory that a spiritually advanced mother culture, lost to history, is behind many of the world’s architectural and artistic traditions.
Prior to the publication of Written in Stone, Cassaro enjoyed a successful career as a U.S. correspondent, professional journalist, and photo researcher for Rizzoli Publications, one of the world’s leading media organizations. Cassaro, who is a graduate of Pace University in New York City, has examined first-hand the ancient ruins and mystical traditions of Egypt, Mexico, Greece, Italy, Sicily, France, England, India, Peru and Spain; he has lectured on his theories to great acclaim in the United States, Egypt, Italy, Spain and Peru.
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