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Upton, Massachusetts
Stone Chamber

 

Upton MA Stone Chamber entrance prior to restorationThe Upton Stone Chamber is part of Upton Heritage Park located at 18 Elm Street. The park is now open to the public. The chamber and the nearby stone cairns on Pratt Hill are on the National Register. In 2011, the entrance to the chamber was restored by master stonemason David Stewart-Smith and David Wiggins. As part of the restoration project, archaeologists from John Milner Associates conducted an archaeological investigation. In addition soil samples were taken for OSL (optically stimulated luminescence) dating. No results have been published yet (7/27/2012).

The chamber was first featured in William Goodwin’s book The Ruins of Great Ireland in New England (1946). The book featured photographs by the photographer Malcom Pearson, who

The entrance to the Upton chamber prior to restoration work to repair the left side wall.

owned the chamber at the time, and architectural drawings by Professor V. F. Fagan. The photographs show the chambers entrance prior to the collapse of the left entrance wall. The drawings show the floor level as it was in 1944. There is some uncertainty as to the original depth of the floor level and hopefully the recent archaeological investigation will resolve this question.  In 1989, James Mavor and Byron Dix published the results of their archaeo-astronomy study of the chamber. Mavor and Dix hypothesized that the chamber was used between 700-750 AD to observe the setting of Pleiades, the summer solstice around 670 AD +/- 300 yrs, and the setting of other stars over large stone mounds on Pratt Hill about 1 mile away. Besides the large stone mounds on Pratt Hill are a number of smaller stone cairns not included in their study.

The chamber consists of a tunnel which connects to a roughly round beehive interior room. Mavor and Dix noted that transition from the tunnel to the interior room’s dome was done using stone corbelling rather than a lintel stone. The dome of the chamber was created by the use of corbelling. The top of the chamber was finished with a stone slab. The present floor level of the chamber is usually quite wet. It is unclear if the chamber always had this problem or whether this was the result of historic alterations to the landscape (the chamber was on land used for farming since the early 1700’s).

Measurements (from Fagan’s 1944 drawing)

Tunnel - 14’3” long x 4’6” tall x 2’8” to 3’3” wide

Beehive room - ~11’ diameter x 10’5” tall

1944 Malcom Pearson photo of Upton MA stone chamber

Chamber Entrance (c.1944 photograph by Malcom Pearson.)

1944 Malcom Pearson photo of Upton MA stone chamber

Inside the tunnel looking out the entrance (c.1944 photograph by Malcom Pearson.)

1944 Malcom Pearson photo of Upton MA stone chamber

The back wall of the interior room (c.1944 photograph by Malcom Pearson.)

1944 architectural drawing of the Upton MA stone chamber by V. F. Fagan

Architectural drawing of the chamber by V. F. Fagan (1944)

Bibliography

Goodwin, William
1946 The Ruins of Great Ireland in New England. Boston, MA: Meador Publishing Co.

Mavor, James & Byron Dix
1989 Manitou: The Sacred Landscape of New England’s Native Civilization. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions Inc.

Taylor, Cathy
2012 [Upton Stone Chamber] NEARA Transit v.24 no.1 (Spring 2012)