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New Salem, MA - Bears Den Chamber

New Salem MA Bears Den Chamber

Bears Den Chamber

It is located at the southeast end of a plateau of land near the top of a steep slope. It is a walk-in height rectangular stone chamber with a entrance passageway. The main room of the chamber is 5 feet 2 inches wide by 7 feet long and is covered with a single large capstone. There is a corbell transition from the vertical walls to the capstone. The passageway is 1 foot 10 inches wide and 5 feet 10 inches long. Outside the entrance is 4 x 6 feet earthen platform. The axis of the passageway is oriented 124 degrees magnetic north. The chamber is currently being used for ceremonial activity as evidenced by the presence of a fresh tobacco offering.

New Salem MA Bears Den Chamber

Entrance to chamber with earthen platform outside the entrance.

New Salem MA Bears Den Chamber

Diagram from field notes

New Salem MA Bears Den Chamber

Interior chamber as seem from inside the passaegway.

Near the chamber a single galvanized metal bucket was found. These buckets are found at other Native American ceremonial sites and are thought to be indicators of 20th century ritual activities at these sites. The recent tobacco offering supports this theory.

New Salem MA Bears Den Chamber

Transition from room to passageway.


The chamber was placed at the extreme top of a hillside. Its tunnel entry is set to the far north side.  It is walk-in chamber that is the height allows a person to walk upright into the chamber room. The room is spacious. Its size suggests two people may have occupied the inside during a ceremony.

The loose tobacco offering is recent, showing Native Americans are still using the chamber.

Chambers are generally built underground. Underground can be a natural embankment like this chamber or a mounded embankment like the Wendell Twin Chamber. Either way the embankment or mound, places the chamber underground. Underground is the Underworld.  A person entering a chamber therefore enters the Underworld, a sacred place.

A short distance away is good size on ground cairn and several on stone cairns were seen. They are close enough to be an extension of the site that includes the chamber.




Copyright (c) 2005-2008, James E. Gage & Mary E. Gage. All Rights Reserved.