(1) Chamber #3 at Gungywamp - Rectangular
(2) Chamber #4 at Gungywamp - D Shape
(3) Chamber C6-24 at Montville - Rectangular
(4) Chamber C6-25 at Montville - D shape chamber [anchor boulder], D shape enclosure [entry]
(5) Chamber #2 at Gungywamp - Rectangular
(6) Enclosure associated with chamber #2 at Gungywamp - D shape
(7) Chamber #1 at Gungywamp - Rectangular
The above illustrations show chambers from two sites and their respective interior shapes. The sizes are scaled to be relative to each other. The listing of chambers is in the sequenced order they were built. This was done to show a progression of shape and type of structure(s). Below is an explanation of the sequences. Not shown but included in following explanation is the lodge and enclosure in the north complex of Gungywamp.
Top – Two basic shapes.
1st – Two chambers (1 & 2 in illustration) in south complex at Gungywamp associated with 2nd generation moon ceremony. One is rectangular shaped and second is D shaped. Each has a large boulder for at least one wall.
2nd – Two chambers (3 & 4 in illustration) in Montville associated with each other. Each one has the same type of retaining wall holding in the mound over the chamber(s). One chamber is D shaped with an anchor stone and an attached D shaped enclosure without an anchor stone. This chamber has a crude shaft from outside to inside chamber. It also has small crude second chamber inside large chamber. Second chamber is rectangular shaped.
The two different shapes are carried forward from original two chambers at Gungywamp. The idea of two chambers is maintained. An enclosure is added to the main event chamber with a light shaft but lacks an anchor boulder. Enclosure has a well defined straight wall to create the “D” shape.
3rd – Two chambers and a separate enclosure (5,6, & 7 in illustration) at Gungywamp sun ceremony. Both chambers have a rectangular shape. Larger of two chambers has a well built light shaft and a well built second chamber inside the large chamber. Both chambers have an anchor boulder. Large chamber has two parts. Smaller chamber has one part. Furthermore, there are two rectangular shapes but no D shape. To compensate a D shaped enclosure is added to the ceremony held at small chamber. A short ledge was utilized for the straight wall in D shape while a stone wall was used to form the semi-circular part. Short ledge equates to anchor boulder in chambers. Enclosure was separated from the chambers.
4th – One lodge (not illustrated) and one enclosure at Gungywamp’s 3rd generation moon ceremony in north complex. The lodge was a covered structure with a rectangular shaped interior. It replaced the chamber. The enclosure had a short ledge wall and semi-circular stone wall to form the D shape.
This gave the moon ceremony the necessary two structures one with a rectangular shape and other with a D shape. However, the lodge structure even though it mimicked the chamber it was not a chamber. Chambers were built out of stone found in the ground and buried underground to create a space in the Underworld for people to enter that sacred space. Lodge was built above ground in Middleworld for people to enter an enclosed sacred space. It took the chamber structure and placed it in a different world. The enclosure was already in Middleworld with access to the Underworld, therefore no change was needed.
The limited study here suggests chambers probably began being built in the latter part of Early Woodland Period. The Middle Woodland period sees the height of chamber construction and the introduction of the enclosure type structure. The enclosure becomes a structure at first in the Upperworld and later switched to Middleworld. It was used in Upperworld ceremony and later converted to function with an Underworld ceremony, the addition of ledge. The enclosure is carried forward circa mid-Late Woodland and on into historical period. The chamber remained in use through mid-Late Woodland when it was abandoned. At that point a switch is made to an above ground lodge structure mimicking the chamber.
Chamber Site C6-24 & C6-25 Montville, CT
This is a site with two stone chambers. It is located on west side of Thames River a few miles northwest of Gungywamp site that is on east side of Thames River. There are remarkable similarities and traits common to both sites.
Montville chamber site has a stream with flowing water and a swamp with still water. Chambers were built near top of hillock the on down slope. The two chambers are associated and one hundred feet apart.
Chamber C6-24 is situated to face uphill so that a person entering walked downhill into it. The interior height is four feet and three quarter inches. A person would need to bend slightly when inside. Chamber has a rectangular shaped interior with a straight back wall (west), a slightly curved out south wall that approximates a straight wall and an anchor stone that forms the whole north wall, it too is straight. The south and west walls were built of cobble size stones that were “smoothed through pounding and crude ‘dressing’.” (Barron 1984: 5) The entry opens east and was partly closed forming a constricted entrance. Closed section was constructed with a single stone on lower half. A second large stone that was worked was set in the top half has fallen out of place. Large roof slabs were “pressed tightly together” in the ceiling. The tight roof slabs does not match the looseness of the top entry stone. Top entry stone may have been added to chamber as a closing feature.
Outside the chamber was mounded over with soil and a short retaining wall was built to hold in mounded soil. On top of soil on top of chamber roof a single quartz stone was found. Inside another special stone was found on the dirt floor, a twenty pound water-washed smooth stone with scarring marks and small artificial fractures on each end. This large hammer stone appears to be the tool used to smooth the interior walls.
Chamber C6-25 is situated on down slope facing outward to southeast. It has two parts an enclosure attached to the chamber. Length of enclosure and chamber are approximately the same 8’ 6”. Enclosure has a straight east wall and a half-circular west wall forming an enclosed space. Chamber has a large anchor stone that makes up most of its interior east wall. There is an open space under edge of anchor boulder in the interior. Chamber room has a semi-circular west wall creating a curved narrow elongated room. Full height of interior reaches five feet four inches high enough for a person to stand upright and walk inside at rear. Inside entrance on left side is a shaft two feet above floor level. Shaft is large 13” w x 20” h x 4’ 2” l. It extends from inside to outside on a southwest orientation. Interior room leads to a second small chamber-like space in rear. Small rear room was dug out of raw earth and angles upward. Barron states, “Facing outward from this point, the line-of-sight passes directly along the underbelly of the ‘anchor stone’, through the entry portal [entrance], and along the northerly wall of the atrium [enclosure].” Rocks in a random pattern obscured the entrance to enclosure. Loose rocks may have been a closing feature.
Starting with enclosure a retaining wall was built out and around chamber enclosing both structures. Earthen fill was used to create a mound level with enclosure and to cover chamber.
Each chamber has an earthen mound with a retaining wall. This one feature forms a link between the two chambers. There are two chambers in close proximity to each other and in turn they are in close proximity to two different water sources a swamp with still water and a stream with flowing water. One chamber is plain while other chamber has features. One chamber has straight walls forming a rectangular shaped interior, second chamber has curved walls forming a semi-circular D shape interior. Two chambers are two of the same type of structure. The difference in interior shapes makes them opposites.
A comparison to Gungywamp’s chamber shows similarities but differences at same time. In 2nd generation moon ceremony and sun ceremony there are two chambers per ceremony. This matches the two chamber set up in Montville. In moon ceremony chamber #3 has straight walls forming a rectangular interior shape. Chamber #4 has a semi-circular interior D shape. Chamber #4 also has a drain underneath underside of anchor stone on interior. In sun ceremony chamber #2 has straight walls forming a rectangular shape with a height that makes a person bend slightly inside. Chamber #1 is six feet high allowing a person to walk in standing upright. It has straight walls forming a rectangular interior shape. An anchor boulder was used at entrance to form the interior wall of a second small chamber. Entry was originally constricted by a walled portion of entrance. At rear of chamber #1 on southwest corner there is a shaft from inside to outside at top of wall. Shaft emits sunlight at sunset on the equinox.
The two Montville chambers have corresponding interior shapes to two chambers in moon ceremony. Montville’s chamber C6-24 is rectangular and C6-25 is semi-circular D shaped. Chamber C6-25 has a shaft from inside to outside and a second chamber room like chamber #1 at sun ceremony. Chamber C6-25 has a semi-circular D shaped enclosure with one straight wall attached to chamber. Sun ceremony at Gungywamp added a separate enclosure. Enclosure has a semi-circular D shaped interior with one straight wall and was built to accompany the rectangular chamber #2. Enclosures are Upperworld structures.
Sun ceremony’s chamber #2 was closed with an artifact placed inside the chamber and a pure quartz stone slab put in its entry. Chamber C6-24 had a pure quartz stone placed on top of chamber and a special hammer stone inside. Quartz was used at Gungywamp to contain spirits within a structure, likewise appears to have been done at this chamber. A special hammer stone placed inside on floor suggests an offering. Chamber was possibly semi-closed by having the top portion of entry filled in by an additional stone that was not tightly fitted. Every other stone in chamber C6-24 was tightly fitted except the fallen stone this suggests the fallen stone was used for the purpose of closing even though it did not entirely close the entrance, it was a symbolic closing. Chamber C6-25 has what appears to be fallen stone in what should be entrance to enclosure. Again this suggests a symbolic closing. Both chambers at Gungywamp’s sun ceremony were closed.
Chamber C6-24 has two part entry: one half is full height and second half is half height. Half height appears to be a feature. “Personal eye-witness of one investigator notes that sunrise light from the Winter Solstice enters the entry portal area and shines upon the rear foundation stone.” (Early Sites Bulletin vol. 11 no. 1, pp. 5) This suggests there is a sunrise alignment inside the chamber without a narrow light beam. An alignment of sun at sunrise brought the Sun Spirit inside the preparation chamber.
Chamber C6-25 faces southeast with a shaft that is angled southwest. It is situated on a down slope which opens to a wide vista of countryside. People have noticed sun rays on winter solstice penetrate the chamber. Shaft in chamber #1 was used to funnel sunlight at sunset on equinox inside the chamber. Chamber C6-25 appears to have a crude but same set up to work with winter solstice sunset. Second room inside this chamber is formed from “raw earth”. Raw earth is the Underworld whereas chamber has stone-lined walls within the Underworld. Anchor stone has a space underneath its underside exactly where a shaft of sunlight from winter sunset would hit. Underside of anchor stone is a portal to the Underworld.
Montville’s C6-24 and C6-25 chambers represent an intermediate stage between 2nd generation moon ceremony and sun ceremony created circa 455 A.D. middle of Middle Woodland period. In intermediate stage the enclosure is a part of chamber not a separate feature at same time it creates two parts to the main structure used for the main event. Second chamber without an enclosure creates a two chamber arrangement. The use of two different interior shapes, place the chambers between moon ceremony and sun ceremony.
Gungywamp has a swamp and a brook. Montville has a swamp and a stream (brook). The same two natural features which are opposites of each other.
Winter Solstice Ceremony
Chamber C6-24 may have been used for a dual purpose. One purpose was for a shaman to make contact with Underworld Spirit in a preparation ceremony. In this ritual Underworld Spirit is called forth into the chamber. Second purpose was for shaman to make contact with Sun Spirit. Making contact with Sun Spirit brought the spirit into the chamber and ceremonial area. No contact is made in main event chamber. Any contact with a spirit(s) needs to be done in preparation chamber. The top half of closed portion of entry was open and suggests it was a spirit portal to Upperworld. The half open entry allowed rays from sunrise to enter the chamber and hit the back wall. This would have given preparation chamber a two part ceremony with two spirits.
Chamber C6-25 was used by two shamans for the main event. One shaman entered the Underworld chamber to await Sun Spirit’s arrival. Second shaman entered Upperworld enclosure, a sacred enclosed space where shaman called upon the sun sphere to send a beam of light into the chamber. Shaman inside enclosure then calls Sun Spirit to enter light beam portal so it can enter the subterranean Underworld inside the chamber. In part two, shaman inside the chamber calls forth Underworld Spirit from the raw earth small chamber to be present at underside of anchor boulder. At sunset sun’s sphere creates a beam of light inside chamber to underside of anchor boulder, a place to enter the Underworld. Underworld Spirit is there waiting to guide, upon Sun Spirit’s arrival the two spirits enter the Underworld. Main event has two parts in two opposite worlds, and two opposite world spirits.
The winter solstice sunset ceremony takes place during same time period as 2nd generation winter moon ceremony took place. Both ceremonies take place at dusk but winter solstice is with the sun and sunset while winter moon ceremony is with the moon at moonrise. Sun is associated with day and moon is associated with night. One ceremony was held on east side of Thames River and second on west side of Thames River. This suggests Native Americans had territories and, that the various local groups shared responsibility of seasonal ceremonies and shared knowledge of how to build a ceremonial site. The retaining wall around outer edge of chambers appears to be regional not functional and was not adopted by the groups at Gungywamp.
Hunt’s Brook Chamber in Montville, CT
Three chambers are located in Montville. According to J. Whittall’s map these chambers are approximately a mile apart. Two are C6-24 and C6-25, the other is the Hunt’s Brook chamber. Hunt’s Brook chamber was built into the hillside. It has a 37½ foot long tunnel entrance into the chamber. Chamber’s back wall is exposed ledge. Chamber opens northeast at 60 degrees. At entrance to chamber there is an anchor stone with three vertical marks 1 & 11. Number three is associated with the presence of a spirit(s) inside the chamber.
Hunt’s Brook chamber is near a large cairn field with approximately one hundred cairns, and two enclosures. It is not known if there is a connection between the two.
A second chamber indicates a second ceremonial area within a local area on west side of Thames River. The vertical lines a 1 & 11 suggest a gap between building of two ceremonial areas. The 1 & 11 shows up at Gungywamp in middle of Late Woodland when the Native Americans stopped going into the Underworld chambers. Hunt’s Brook is placed in the sequence pattern where it post dates the two chambers C6-24 and C6-25 and Gungywamp’s sun ceremony circa 455 A.D. but is prior to 1370 A.D.
At Gungywamp on east side of Thames River the site starts out with a single moon ceremony. Later a reconfigured moon ceremony replaces original ceremony. Circa 455 A.D. an equinox sun ceremony is added. That gave the Gungywamp site two ceremonies.
This reinforces the idea that there were local regional groups who controlled territories on east and west sides of the Thames River dating from at least the Middle Woodland period. It also indicates each group worked together with the other group to maintain balance not only within a ceremony but within each one’s local territory. Each area Montville and Gungywamp (Groton) have two seasonal ceremonies apiece. This indicates the local groups shared seasonal ceremonies. The reason was to have balance in the lower Thames River area. They also shared knowledge of how each one dealt with setting up and upgrading symbolic features.
The idea of two like structures as in two chambers and two differently shaped interiors one rectangular and other semi-circular migrates from Gungywamp over to Montville. The idea of a light shaft built into a chamber for a solar alignment and the 1 & 11 concept migrates from Montville over to Gungywamp. This suggests people from Gungywamp were common visitors to Montville’s ceremonies and likewise Montville’s people frequently visited Gungywamp’s ceremonies.
Petroglyph in Preston, CT
The town of Preston is located in southeastern Connecticut approximately twenty miles north of Groton (Gungywamp) and on same side of Thames River, the east side. It is at a major Y junction on the river. In Preston there is a ten foot high by fourteen foot long glacial erratic boulder with vertical lines. Below the line of lines is a horizontal crack with an upside down crescent shape the length of the boulder. The lines were carved into boulder seven feet above the ground. The lines are spaced out individually and in groups. Two or three lines cross another line, otherwise they are separate. In one place there is a short line above a longer line. Lines range in height from two inches to four and a half inches. The lines were carved in curve that dips down slightly forming a crescent shape. D. Barron counted approximately thirty lines. One set of lines clearly forms an X which may have been counted as a single line by its creator. Twenty nine lines equates to twenty nine days in the moon’s month. The curved crack creates a crescent shape like in the crescent phase of the moon. The curvature of vertical lines also creates a curved crescent shape.
Several hundred yards south of petroglyph boulder is a granite stone with three fish-like figures. The presence of three marks in close proximity to the petroglyph indicates a ceremonial site with concepts that equate to those in southeastern Connecticut.
The number of lines 29 and two crescent shapes suggest a moon ceremony was held at Preston.
Petrogylph in Hampton, CT
Located on old Route 6 is another boulder with short vertical lines. Old Route 6 is part of an old Indian trail between Massachusetts (Boston) and central Connecticut (Hartford). According to James Whittall the lines were extensively weathered.
Photograph of Hampton boulder shows an upward crescent shaped crack across length of boulder. The line of lines crosses crack on one end of boulder where crack curves up toward top of boulder. The crescent shaped crack and line of vertical lines are extremely similar to similar features on Preston boulder. Depending upon how the individual vertical lines are counted either increases or decreases the end result. If every line is counted individually there are thirty two lines. However, some lines cross another line and may have been counted as a single line by the carver. In that case the number is twenty nine.
In both Hampton and Preston there are two X’s and an upside down V. This data comes from attempting to decipher chalked lines and may not be totally accurate. An on site inspection is necessary. However, the basic patterns and number of lines is remarkably similar on both boulders.
Diffused Versions of Moon Ceremony
Throughout the different three generations of moon ceremonies at Gungywamp each version was altered to fit the needs of the generation who created it. Although the basic moon ceremony remained constant it was continuously being altered. Another factor to consider is each territory established its own version of how ceremonies should be set up. On west side of Thames River the two chambers C6-24 and C6-25 function slightly different than on east side at Gungywamp. Ideas from one side migrated to other side but were not copied exactly. This added diversity to each other’s ceremonies.
Vertical lines and row of stones are similar in basic form and were both utilized for different versions of the moon ceremony. Hampton and Preston boulders each have a band of variable short lines and a crescent shaped crack underneath the band. At Groton (Gungywamp) there are two rows of standing stones set perpendicular to the length of row. Viewed from one side the standing stones present narrow vertical bars in a band-like shape, the row. The bars vary in height being very short on extreme ends with mixed heights in the middle section. The short vertical lines on the boulders have mixed heights. At Montville (Hunt’s Brook chamber) there are three short vertical lines carved into anchor boulder at entry. Hunt’s Brook chamber opens northeast (60 degree). Sixty degrees is too far north for any sunrise, the degree heading is closer to moonrise in December. The carved vertical lines are like those found on the Hampton and Preston boulders only the number differs. At Hunt’s Brook the vertical lines represent the number three in the 1 & 11 arrangement of the number. At Gungywamp the people adapted the 1 & 11 arrangement when they set up their 3rd generation moon ceremony post Hunt’s Brook chamber. The standing stones common to Gungywamp site were placed in a very narrow triangle with two standing stones on NE corner on top of cliff where moonrise occurs with a third standing stone on the opposite south side. Previous triangles had the standing stones spaced out with equal distances between each one. In the 3rd generation moon ceremony the row of stones is replaced by an elongated cairn with pointed ends and three short triangular shaped standing stones on top. The three tall standing stones were placed in line with cairn on north and south ends. This created a situation whereby there were short and tall standing stones, mixed heights. Each version of the moon ceremony varied according to the group or generation. The 3rd generation is radically different than the original and 2nd generation at Gungywamp. The original and 2nd generations only have the row of stones in common. Just within the Gungywamp site the moon ceremony has to be followed via many factors to realize that there are three versions of the same ceremony. This diversity appears to manifest itself in other versions within Connecticut. There are probably more versions to be found.
Hampton is in the central part of the state, Preston, Groton and Montville are in the Thames River Valley in the southeastern part of the state. Groton and Montville are on opposite sides of the river and show that ideas migrated back and forth. Preston is north at a major junction in the river. Preston shows a possible link to Montville both sites utilized short vertical lines. Hampton and Preston each have ex-large boulders with very similar short vertical lines in a band plus a crescent shaped crack underneath. This shows ideas migrated across the state between southeastern and central parts.
Gungywamp’s original moon ceremony start up date is circa Late Archaic. The moon ceremony at Gungywamp appears to have been held continuously uninterrupted from Late Archaic through the end of the Late Woodland. It is possibly still being held secretly. Montville’s Hunt’s Brook Chamber site predates Gungywamp’s 3rd generation moon ceremony. This suggests the people on the west side of the river were holding their own moon ceremony at same time the people on the east side of river (Gungywamp) were holding their moon ceremony. The two boulders with the same format suggest a similar time period. The distance between the two boulder sites adds to the possibly that each group held their own moon ceremony at the same time.
How and when the moon ceremony was adopted by the Connecticut Native Americans is not known. At some point in their pre-history it was used by at least four different territorial groups, more may exist. Three of these groups were from the southeast in the Thames River Valley and one was from central Connecticut. Each created their own version based upon another group’s knowledge and symbolism.
Number Three and Triangles in Connecticut
The number three shows up in various forms across Connecticut. Gungywamp in Groton has four sets of threes. There is one set with standing stone and bridge feature forming a giant triangle enclosing the north end of the south complex. This was associated with 2nd generation moon ceremony. At sun ceremony there are three single standing stones that form a second giant triangle to enclose the sun ceremonial area. One of those standing stones is linked to chamber #1 via a stone wall between the two features. In these two set ups the standing stones are spaced approximately equal distances from each other. In north complex two standing stones were placed together on top of cliff on north side in line with a single standing stone on south side. This formed a narrow giant triangle with a 1 & 11 set up. In between three short triangular shaped standing stones were placed in a row atop the boat cairn.
The common factor was the triangular shape and the number three. Each factor was interchangeable.
Beyond Gungywamp in Connecticut there are three known chambers and a petroglyph site with either an association with the number three and/or triangle.
1- French River Chamber
Three standing stones on top of mound over the chamber arranged in a triangle shape. (Across Before Columbus, NEARA, 1998, pp. 263)
2- Hunt Brook Chamber in Montville, CT
On anchor stone at entrance to chamber are three vertical lines arranged as 1 & 11. The same arrangement is seen at Gungywamp in north complex with individual standing stones. This chamber opens to northeast and may have been associated with a moonrise.. (Early Sites Bulletin Vol. 11 no. 1, 1984, pp. 7-11)
3- Quinebaug River Chamber in Thompson, CT (northeast part of state)
Inside chamber three standing stones were built into the west wall. Two have triangular tops and one is a vertical rectangle. This creates a 1 and 2 set up of standing stones. (Early Sites Bulletin vol. 18 no. 1, 1991, pp. 2)
4- Petroglyph site in Preston, CT (approximate 20 miles north of Groton where there is a major Y branch junction in the Thames River.)
5-Petroglyph at Gungywamp site its location is unknown.
A boulder with vertical marks in a line across the stone. There are two lines one on each extreme end that appear to enclose two other sets of lines. In middle are a set of three tall lines followed by a set of three shorter lines (Cahill, 1993: 48.
Near a large glacial erratic with a line of short vertical lines across the face of boulder are two other features. (See Moon Ceremony below.) Several (#?) hundred yards south of inscription a rough granite slab was found with “carved outlines of three zoomorphic “fish-like” figures.” No illustration accompanied the description. Zoomorphic fish-like suggests some form of triangular shape. Three of these features were carved into the granite slab. The other feature is a set of cupules found in the vicinity. As of when the article was printed this feature had not been relocated. (Early Sites Bulletin vol. 11 no. 1, 1984, pp. 13-15)
At Gungywamp’s moon ceremony number three and triangle start out as separate features unattached to any structure. At sun ceremony one of the three standing stones got attached to a chamber. That standing stone has a rectangular shape. At 3rd generation moon ceremony a set of three triangles are placed atop a structure, the cairn. A stone slab whose location is unknown was found with two sets of three’s enclosed between two addition lines. The petroglyph shows the use of sets of three’s in a band-like image similar to the large boulders with long bands with numerous lines.
The French River chamber has three standing stones on top of chamber. Montville chamber uses vertical lines in a one and two arrangement to form a symbolic three without a triangle. Quinebaug River chamber brings the three inside the chamber and introduces another arrangement. One rectangle and two triangles form the number three and utilize two different symbolic shapes.
The changes in form and arrangement reflect what was found at Gungywamp and at same time suggest sequencing. Number three and triangle were both used to contain spirit(s) inside a structure or ceremonial area. With each next generation the configuration changes but not its usage
1 & 11 (One and Two) Arrangement
The 1 & 11 arrangement of number three is a specific design. It is encountered in a variety of combined features.
1- Hunt’s Brook chamber’s vertical lines 1 & 11 on the anchor stone.
2- Gungywamp’s south complex with one bridge cairn with an open space under the bridge and two bridge cairns placed on ground. Combined the three bridge cairns and associated standing stones form a giant triangle enclosing north end.
3- Gungywamp’s north complex with two standing stones on top of NE corner of cliff and one standing on south side set up in a narrow triangle enclosing the boat cairn.
4- Quinebaug River chamber with a vertical rectangular slab and two vertical slabs with triangular tops placed on interior wall.
5- Dogtown in Gloucester, MA with two perched boulders and one pedestal boulder set up in a triangle.
6-Lunenburg, MA with one triangular shaped pedestal boulder and two perched boulders.
Clustered Number Three
Clustered three refers to three features clustered together. They are sometimes the same object and other times different objects.
1- Hunt’s Brook chamber with three vertical lines on a single boulder.
2- Preston’s three fish-like features carved into a granite slab.
3- Dogtown’s (MA) three boulders clustered together on a hilltop to form a small triangular area.
4- Gungywamp’s three short triangular standing stones on top of boat cairn.
5- Quienebaug River chamber with three standing stones placed side by side in west wall of interiror.
6- French River chamber’s three standing stones on top of chamber in a triangle shape.
Pedestal boulders are ex-large stones placed on top of small support stones on bedrock. Most have three support stones but there are exceptions. The pedestal boulder comes in two types: a large chunky stone and thick flat stone slab nicknamed table or tabletop. The feature is found throughout the Northeast region but is more prevalent in its southern areas. Reference to seven examples of pedestal boulders with photographs have been located in printed literature. They are located as follows: Lynn, MA (3 support stones), North Salem, NY (pink granite, 5 support stones), Westport, MA (table style, 3 support stones), Sullivan, NH (3? support stones), Kinnelon, NJ (triangular shape on top, 3 support stones), Brooklyn, CT (3 support stones), Montville, CT (3 support stones of which one is triangular shaped), Lunenburg, MA (triangular shaped table style 3 point support, 2 support stones and ledge). One other found by the author is in Gloucester, MA (3 support stones).
The pedestal boulder is sometimes found in conjunction with perched boulders. A perched boulder is a boulder set either on bedrock or on top of a bed of smaller stones. Perched boulders are not raised off the ground per se. They have a solid base which is either bedrock or small stone.
Only one reference to this set up of two and one shows up in literature. It is in the book Medicine Trail and is in reference to Granny who is a spirit. “Granny also had two diamond-shaped eyes and a third, central spirit eye. (Fawcett, 2000: 84) This comes from Mohegan tribal beliefs.
The common factors among all three above subjects are the number three and triangle. Some separate the two symbols and others integrate the two symbols.
The pedestal boulder category was included because most have three support stones while a few have triangles integrated into the feature. Pedestal boulders have more than support stones each one is raised off the ground on exposed bedrock. At the Gungywamp site the open spaces on undersides of boulders built into chamber walls were utilized as a feature to access the Underworld.
Pedestal boulders by design do not require three support stones they can have any number as seen in the North Salem, NY example with five support stones. Yet the majority of these features have three support stones. The number three was extensively used at the Gungywamp site in Connecticut to contain spirits.
Combining the two symbols, the number three in three support stones and the triangle suggests a spirit was present underneath these raised pedestal boulders.
The following three examples show combined usage of number three and triangle in the same feature. Each utilized a different method to achieve the same result.
The Kinnelon, NJ pedestal boulder has a raised triangular bar across width of boulder on top. Triangular bar is oriented north toward two small perched boulders with a narrow space between them in the direction of a notch between two hills about three-quarters of a mile distant. This pedestal boulder was set up among naturally occurring and numerous perched boulders on the hilltop. The two perched boulders may or may not be a natural occurrence. What is of interest is the triangular bar across top oriented due north towards a notch in the hills. (Trento, p271)
The Montville, CT pedestal boulder has two small support stones and a large triangular slab with a third small support stone to slightly raise the triangular slab. (Mavor & Dix, 1989: 111) This places a triangle underneath the boulder.
The Gloucester, MA site is at a placed called Dogtown. It has two perched boulders and a pedestal boulder arranged in a triangle shaped area. The boulders were set up on exposed bedrock atop a hill. Nearby is a small cairn site. The use of two perched boulders and one pedestal boulder equates to the 1 & 11 arrangement of the number three.
The following example incorporates the number three and a triangle with the addition of water sources seen at the Gungywamp site. The Lunenburg, MA pedestal boulder was created by quarrying a triangular slab and moving it a few feet to edge of a high ledge. The pedestal is a table style stone slab supported by two small stones on its wide end and ledge on its pointed end. It was placed beside a one and a half foot wide fissure in the bedrock. The pedestal boulder marks the eastern end of the rocky hill and is above a swampy pond. Marking the western end of the rocky hill are two perched boulders. One is described as a Y shaped table style stone slab. Second is a perched boulder with a spherical shape, the smaller of two, it was found 100 feet away. The perched boulders are above a stream below a waterfall that was dammed up. At the dam which is between the perched boulders and the pedestal boulder there is a stone wall that runs perpendicular south to north up to the top of the hill and over the other side. A small one person rectangular enclosure opens to the east was built up against but not integrated into the wall. Each feature was built at a different time. “Looking along the axis of the enclosure to the west, Mavor found himself looking directly at the smaller balanced [perched] boulder. When this summit location was viewed from each of the two perched boulders below, it appeared as the horizon for alignments to the extreme positions of the moonrise in the northeast quadrant.” (Mavor & Dix, 1989: 113-115)
The Lunenburg site has swamp “still” water and stream “flowing” water. It utilized opposite ends of a rocky hill on east and west. A pedestal boulder was arranged so it was adjacent to a fissure in the bedrock. That places a raised pedestal boulder in direct contact with a spirit portal. Pedestal boulder is triangular in shape incorporating the basic triangle to contain a spirit. A stone wall runs from the flowing water to top of hill and a little beyond. That links the valley on south side with its water source to hilltop on north side with moonrise.
The concept of balance is seen in the two sets of specialized boulders, and two types of water bodies. The arrangement of two perched boulders and one pedestal boulder equates to the 1 & 11 arrangement of the number three. There is an enclosure in the Upperworld and a spirit portal to the Underworld. This appears to be a moon ceremony site with the possibly of two moonrises, an extreme nineteen year event and an annual yearly event. (See Gungywamp for use of the four directions, and swamp and stream water in conjunction with 3rd generation moon ceremony)
In each of these examples a triangle shape and the number three are present. Both features were used extensively at the Gungywamp site to contain spirits. The distinct usage of the 1 & 11 arrangement of the number three as far northward as Gloucester suggest diffusion of the idea. Likewise appears to be the same with the usage of the triangle symbolism. It ranges from northern New Jersey up the east coast of New York through Connecticut and on up to northeast Massachusetts.
Moon beliefs and ceremonialism have been documented in historical records in the northeast from contact period through the early nineteenth century.
1) In Roger Williams’ book A Key into the Launguage of America he states the Native Americans had thirty seven gods [spirits]. A partial list is East, West, North, South, House, Woman, Children, and Southwest. “Creatures in whom they conceive doth rest some Dietie [spirit]: The Sun God, The Moone God, The Sea, The Fire God, …” (p.124-5)
2) An article entitled “Virginia’s Prehistoric Observations” refers to the Iroquois mid-winter ceremony also called New Year’s ceremony. “The mid-winter ceremony is set in January or February, beginning with the new moon.” (Chafe 1963) (from Rock Art of the Eastern Woodlands edited by Faulkner, article by Hranicky p 136)
3) In Cautantowwit’s House Simmons says “the Mohegans of Connecticut believed births often occurred when the moon was full and that butchering should be performed under a full moon” (Speck 1928 p 273)
4) In the book A Time Before New Hampshire under songs, dances and ceremonies there is a reference to the moon. “… Moon, Nanibosad, the ‘all night walker.’ ” (p 146)
5) In the book Indian Heritage of New Hampshire & Northern New England the author Piotrowski quotes from D. Gookin’s 1644 book. “Their religion is as other gentiles are. Some for their God adore the sun, others the moon, and some the earth. Others the fire and like vanities.” “Yet generally they acknowledge one great supreme doer of good and they call him Woonand or Mannitt.” (p.74)
6) According to Dr. Ruth Phillips nineteenth century Great Lakes Indians believed that “The sun and moon, also very important manitos, controlled the orderly alternation of day and night and the cycle of the months.” (Phillips, 1984: 24)
7) Inuksuit – Silent Messages of the Artic lists a mid-winter moon festival (pp. 63-4, 42)
8) Shanawdithit, a Beothuk of Newfoundland made several drawings of which one was a half-moon on top of a staff. “The legend accompanying it is as follows: ‘Kuus (moon) handle painted red 6 feet long.’ ” Howley’s text from which the information comes from goes on to say, “No. 3. This represents the half moon inverted, and is named ‘Kuis.” (Willoughby p.69 from Howley, The Beothucks or Red Indians, p.250)
9) In Roger Williams’ book he mentions Feast or Dance that were both public and private. Reason for holding either were given as: Sickness, drought, war, famine. Also, “After harvest, after hunting, when they enjoy a caulme [calm] of Peace, Health, Plenty, Prosperity, then Nickommo a Feast, especially in Winter, for then they run mad once a year in their kind of Christmas feasting.”
The moon was looked upon as being embodied with a spirit. It regulated ceremonies, along with the sun controlled night and day, and in song was called the “all night walker”. From the artic to the mid-Altantic to the Great Lakes the moon was a vital part of the Native American Indian’s world. Each group appears to have had its own perception and beliefs. Williams’ data does not relate to the moon but it does say a Winter Feast. Gungywamp’s Moon Ceremony appears to have occurred in early winter and have marked an important point in the year.
Bird Petroglyph with crescent moon at Gungywamp site.
At Gungywamp site the bird effigy in the row of standing stones has a curved up wing tip. On end of wing a secondary line was carved curving outward in the shape of a small crescent moon.
Franklin, New Hampshire
In the Proctor collection there are two pendants illustrated with a crescent moon and one pendant with a single curved line in the shape of the letter C possibly representing the moon (Proctor, 1930: Plate XII & XIII).
On Evan farm two miles west of the Connecticut River there is a single, large boulder in a field. Carved into the boulder is a crude face and what appear to be two crescent moons, one larger than the other. Also, on the boulder are numerous small holes. (Lenik, 2002: 105)
Upper Susquehanna River region of New York
In the Yager collection at Hartwick College, Oneonta, New York there are four circular, small stones and one pendant. They are incised with dots, circles and partial circles. These five artifacts have been attributed to moonstones or calendar stones. “They seem to suggest an attempt to record astronomical observations on stone disks.” (Lenik, 2002: 198) The dots are arranged in a circle around the outer edge on all the stones. Two of the stones have twelve dots and three of the stones thirteen dots. Two of the stones have a hole in the center, one each with twelve and thirteen dots. All except one stone have a complete circle in the center. Three have partial circles within the complete circle. One is a single curved line the other two have three curved lines in progressive size, large to small. (Lenik, 2002: 198-200)
In the Proctor collection from New Hampshire and on the Vermont boulder the moon is depicted in its crescent state. The Beothuk representation of moon, Kuis is the inverted half moon. In the Yager collection from New York the moon’s yearly cycle is depicted via the twelve or thirteen dots, and its various stages are represented by incised single lines. The complete circle suggests a full moon while the partial circles suggest different stages of the half to quarter or crescent stage of the moon. This depicts both a year long cycle and a month cycle. At Gungywamp the rows of standing stones with twenty nine stones represent the days in the moon’s month with a curved row equal to a crescent moon shape.
Staffs and Posts
At Gungywamp’s south row of standing stones there was a specially built post hole. It was packed with clay to resist caving in and further protected by a flat stone cover. This was a feature that was repeatedly used in the moon ceremony. In the History of the Indians of Connecticut both a staff and a post are mentioned (DeForest, 1851: 13).
The Connecticut staff is in conjunction with Uncas. “…a curious staff, also said to have belonged to the old sachem, descended for a long time in the Uncas family, and were finally given by a Mohegan squaw, to Mrs. J. B. Goddard, who resides next to the Mohegan cemetery, and in whose possession I saw them.” (DeForest 1853: 13)
A Beothuk woman, Shanawdithit from Newfoundland was captured in 1823 and died in 1829. During this time she made a set of drawings on various subjects about her people. “Among them [the drawings] are several staffs the height of a man, each terminating at its upper end with a different symbol.” (Willoughby 1973: 63, 65, 69)
The single example of a post is in association with Connecticut warriors. “… warriors, fiercely painted, and grasping their arms, moved in a circle round a painted post.” DeForest 1853, 34)
These few examples indicate the staff and post were both in use by Connecticut Native Americans. The Newfoundland example shows some staffs had symbolism added to the top. Two symbols were recorded as representing the moon and the whale. The idea of a post or staff with a symbol of the moon on top and placed in the hole beside the row of standing stones at Gungywamp is highly plausible.
NOTE: Please consult the “Gungywamp Decoded” article for citations for structures at the Gungywamp site.
Barron, David P.
DeForest, John W.
Fawcett, Melissa Jayne
Gilmore, Donald and Linda McElroy (Editors)
Lenik, Edward J.
Mavor, James & Byron Dix
Philipps, Dr. Ruth B.
Proctor, Mary A.
Whittall, James P. II