Yesterday, the publicist for America’s Stonehenge demanded that I take down my review of an America Unearthed episode about the site because, among other things, I had mentioned that archaeologists have noted that many of the stones at the site have been moved into reconstructed positions, making it difficult to ascertain whether alleged alignments at the site were original or the product of restoration work (accidental or on purpose). Publicist Mark Eddy took issue with this and wrote that it was “inaccurate” to suggest that past owners of the site had moved the stones. As I mentioned yesterday, this was not my opinion but that of several archaeologists who visited the site over the past four decades.
Archaeologist Ken Feder helpfully provided me with some photographs that demonstrate that the stones are not in the position they were in when William Godwin documented the site for his 1946 book The Ruins of Great Ireland in New England. Using these as a guide, I researched some additional photographs that help to tell the story.
The first photograph is of the “Sacrificial Table” as it appeared in Godwin’s 1946 book.
This photograph, from the invaluable America’s Stonehenge: Documentation, Analysis, Interpretation website (which documents changes made specifically by Goodwin and others), shows that the supposed table, once flush with ground level, later appeared suspended on stone “legs” sometime prior to 1960, either in the last years Goodwin owned the site or in the first years when Robert Stone operated the site under lease from Goodwin. (Goodwin, as noted in the comments below, claimed to have found the legs in situ while excavating beneath the stone.) Stone would later buy the site outright, and it is currently owned by his son Dennis.
The next photograph is from Feder’s visit to the site in the 1970s, two decades after the Stone family took over the site. Note that the so-called table has had an upright stone placed alongside it.
The final photograph is from Feder’s return trip in the 1990s. Note that the large upright stone to the side of the so-called table has been removed. This is what the table looked like when I visited around the same time.
This ought not to be surprising since Goodwin himself took many photographs of the site before his restoration work began, which allows us to see some of the changes that have been made both by him and the Stone family. Eddy, for example, failed to note that in the 1980s his boss’s family constructed a brand new “ancient” stone wall extending from the right side of the so-called “Oracle Chamber” entrance. This wall does not appear in an early 1900s photograph of the site from before Goodwin’s ownership.
Behold the difference as the same feature appears in a modern image posted to the TripAdvisor.com website. (But note that some of the topmost slabs were removed in the early 1900s due to quarrying activity.)
Let’s do one more! This is a late 1930s photograph of the so-called East-West chamber as it appeared in Goodwin’s 1946 book.
Here is the same chamber today as it appears on the StoneStructures.org website:
I think it should be fairly obvious that the site is not in the same condition it was in when William Goodwin bought the place, or when he sold it to Robert Stone. Consequently, there is sufficient reason to require extra proof that a given stone was in its current position in ancient times in order to support the claim that any alleged astronomical alignment is genuinely ancient and purposeful.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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