Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Upton Chamber

Special thanks to the authors of the Rock Piles blog for posting a link to the recent discussion of Professor Gordon Freeman's analysis of the Sun Temple at Majorville in Alberta, Canada.

The Rock Piles site contains a host of descriptions and photographs and links to reports about the numerous stone sites of the New England region of North America. It is truly an incredible resource for those who are interested in studying or visiting these amazing places and learning more about humanity's past.

Many of these sites are completely unknown to the "academic community," which generally ignores evidence that might threaten the dominant historical paradigm, such that many sites go unprotected and largely unstudied (except by the intrepid individuals operating outside of the mainstream of academia and publishing their work in outlets such as Rock Piles).

As I wrote in this blog after a visit to the Gungywamp site in Connecticut last year:
The fact that the academic and conventional historical community stubbornly refuses to consider any explanation for these sites that includes ancient civilizations from other continents dooms these areas to obscurity and discourages their examination by large numbers of talented thinkers who might otherwise contribute some valuable perspectives to their study. Even though there are many such sites that have been photographed and written about, there are no doubt many more which are unreported by landowners who see no benefit to talking about them, but who see several disadvantages to doing so (especially when reporting their existence invites disrespectful trespassers who deface the ancient sites and leave their junk and charred firepits all over the area). It is also a sad reality that many of these ancient stone sites have no doubt been dismantled over the centuries to furnish materials to build other structures, to clear farmland or grazing land, or simply to get them out of the way.

The cavalier treatment these important sites have received from an academic and archaeological community that jeers at any explanations other than the approved solution is a true disservice to those who wish to pursue the truth.
This problem is reflected in the header of the Rock Piles title banner, which states: "This is about rock piles and stone mound sites in New England. A balance is needed between keeping them secret and making them public."

Fortunately, there are engaged individuals and groups who are taking steps to try to preserve some of these critically important locations in New England. One of these is the New England Antiquities Research Association (or NEARA), which along with the Upton Historical Commission and numerous concerned individuals recently concluded a six-year long effort to rescue and preserve the impressive stone chamber generally known as the Upton Chamber, in Upton, Massachusetts.

Less than two weeks ago, the Rock Piles blog posted a link to a report in the Boston Globe describing the successful completion of the Upton Heritage Park, now open to the public. This is an extremely important example of coordinated action for the preservation of a site that truly should be open to everyone. The story reports that the town of Upton spent $400,000 to purchase the acreage containing the stone chamber so that it would not become the site of a new housing development.

The map above shows part of the town of Upton, using the Google Maps terrain visualization feature. I've added a small black rectangle at the site of the stone chamber, which is located in the acreage west of Elm Street (and is accessed from Elm Street) looking northwest across the Mill Pond. This rectangle is actually too large to represent the actual chamber, but it's as small as I can make it.

The chamber itself is reached through a low entrance with a massive lintel stone across the top. Inside the entrance there is a long corridor (about 14 feet in length) leading to a circular "beehive" chamber about 12 feet in diameter and 12 feet high. Corbelled stone architecture was used in its construction, very similar to corbelled stone chambers in Ireland (where the chambers are often covered in earth, just as the Upton Chamber is). This article from November of last year has a good photograph of the entrance to the Upton Chamber, and this site contains a hand-drawn diagram of the plan of the chamber with a top view and side view.

This site also contains a photograph of the entrance to the Upton Chamber, as well as some discussion of the research of James W. Mavor, Jr. and the late Byron E. Dix, who spent several years examining the Upton Chamber, beginning in the 1970s. Through their efforts, they determined that its northwest-facing entrance provides a view of the horizon on Pratt Hill, about a mile away, and upon exploring Pratt Hill they located several mounds or cairns that provide precise markers for the observation of heavenly bodies from the vantage point of the chamber itself.

In their excellent and essential book on the stoneworks of the New England region entitled Manitou: The Sacred Landscape of New England's Native Civilization (1989), Mr. Mavor and Mr. Dix discuss the Upton Chamber and the Pratt Hill alignments in great detail and with numerous diagrams. They demonstrate that the cairns on Pratt Hill indicate the setting position of the summer solstice sun and for the stars of the Pleiades.

The map above shows the sightlines from the Upton chamber to the horizon created by the top of Pratt Hill to the northwest of the chamber, based on a diagram found in the Manitou book on page 39. Pratt Hill is now heavily wooded, but the authors explain that records from the nineteenth century indicate that it was not always so.

Their analysis suggests that the alignments may have been designed circa AD 700. They certainly believe that the chamber predates colonial settlers who began to arrive on these shores in the centuries after Columbus. While Mr. Mavor and Mr. Dix do not make this assertion, the celestial alignments, passage entryway, and corbelled "beehive" architecture are similar enough to structures in Ireland and elsewhere around the world to suggest the possibility that the Upton Chamber and corresponding cairns on the horizon of Pratt Hill might be the work of ancient Celts or other "Old World" seafarers (see discussion in this previous post, among others).

I had the opportunity to visit the Upton Chamber in September of last year (and to help the archaeologists and other individuals involved with the preservation efforts who were there that day to move a large stone that vandals had tumbled down in front of the entrance from one of the stone walls that emanate outward from the site of the chamber itself). Below is a picture showing the entrance as well as a picture I took from the impressive inner chamber looking outwards towards the entrance.

We should all be grateful to those involved in chronicling and especially preserving the sacred historical sites of the New England region such as the Upton Chamber, including those involved in the Rock Piles blog, the NEARA, the Upton Historical Commission, and should do whatever we can to support their efforts.