Maine Chapter

Maine's prehistory was formed by the retreat of the glacier about 12,000 years ago, inundating the coastline and extending far into the interior. By 5,000 BP the people known as the Maritime Archaic or Red Paint People were utilizing the rich resources and burying their dead ceremoniously painted with red ocher, hence the name.

The many subsequent Native groups left a culture inherited by living native tribes, the Penobscot, the Passmaquoddy and the Micmac. Maine's unique geography with 3500 miles of deeply indented coastline and islands, the small amount of fertile land mostly along the rivers, the high mountains and generally rocky soil, has affected the settlement patterns.

By the time George Popham attempted his ill fated settlement in 1607 near the mouth of the Kennebec River, there had been many other poorly documented voyages. Arrival of the first Europeans resulted in disastrous epidemics that wiped out a large percentage of the population.

The 70+ Maine Site Reports contain many that were first reported by the Early Sites Research Society (ESRS) Jim Whittall, Malcolm Pearson, Mystery Hill, Mead Stapler and others. Most have been updated, copied and reside in the archives of the NEARA library in Concord.

As we explore the landscape we find it filled with many typical New England stone walls (and many stone rows that do not fall in that category), a few stone chambers, a surprising variety of well built cairns, and some inexplicable stone constructions.

Spirit Pond


Without doubt the best known and most controversial discovery of Pre-Columbian European presence in Maine was made in 1972 by a quintessential Maine Yankee named Walter Elliott.malcolm-pearson-obverseSpirit Pond Runestone Obverse

He spotted three mysterious stones at the edge of Spirit Pond, in Phippsburg, Maine. About six by eleven inches, one stone clearly featured a rough map and all with strange writing placed randomly on one side, and a few marked and crude drawings on the other. The second stone bore a dozen letters on one side, and the third contained a long message of sixteen lines neatly inscribed on bomalcolm-pearson-map-stoneSpirit Pond Map Stoneth sides of the stone

Walter Elliott took the stones to the Bath Maritime Museum, where director Harold Brown suggested that the marks might be in the Norse runic alphabet. Subsequently the stones found their way to Einar Haugen, Distinguished Harvard professor of Scandinavian languages and history. In his published evaluation, he was adamant in crying fraud, hoax, modern artifact, “a few Norse words in a sea of gibberish”.  The rank and file of Scholars stood behind the Haugen pronouncement.  For more infromation:

 

Articles:

“The Spirit Pond Inscription Stone, Rhyme and Reason”, Suzanne Carlson, NEARA Journal, in two parts, Vol. 28- 1&2, 1993 and  Vol. 28- 3&4 1994  (Click on link to view & download in PDF format).
“The Runestones of Spirit Pond, Maine”, Einar Haugen,  Man in the Northeast No 4,62-79 1972.

Books of Interest:

Hall, Robert, The Kensington Stone is Genuine, Hornbeam Press, Columbia SC, 1982

Spirit Pond Links

The Last King’s of Norse America, The Spirit Pond and Kensington Runestones: a Saga of Medieval History 

 

Kennebec Bingham Cairns
 Edit for summary and photos. Read or download the full article Bingham dig for web.pdf

 

Belmont Chamber

Solstice alignment at the Belmont Chamber:

belmont-chamber2Belmont Chamber
Following up on Doug Schwartz’ 1995 work at the Belmont, Maine, Chamber, Ros Strong and Sue Carlson decided it was time to revisit the question of its astronomical alignments. Doug’s prediction that during the lunar minor standstill the full moon’s glow would light the rear wall of the chamber on the winter solstice was validated by the owner that December. The minor lunar standstill was really the next year, 1996-7, but 1995-6 was very close. Doug had also suggested that something might happen during the summer solstice sunset.

Sue, an enthusiastic user of Google’s Sketchup for 3D architectural computer modeling, constructed the primitive “Virtual” chamber shown above, right. To do this she set the longitude, latitude, solstice date and declination based on GPS and corrected compass readings. After setting “show shadows”, she scrolled through the sunset hour watching the sunbeam travel across the floor   of the chamber and evaporates at the back corner of the southeast wall.

On the evening of June 21, a NEARA group and the owners gathered at the chamber around 6:45, clutching cameras while trying to wish away the low clouds visible through the trees on the horizon.  Slowly the show began in accordance with the virtual test. The photo (above left) shows a small faint rectangle beginning its creep up the back wall.  As the shaft of light moved across the chamber wall, the clouds dimmed its glow. But at the moment the full orb was visible by an observer – and camera – from the inside corner. For us, especially those who have never observed this sort of astronomical event, it was truly “awesome.”

belmont-solsticesolstice sunset, Sketchup model

belmont-chamberSketch of Belmont Chamber

We know there are other chambers that track solar-lunar astronomical events in the Northeast. Byron Dix and Jim Mavor studied Massachusetts’ Upton Chamber and Vermont’s Calendar I in depth. Other sites such as the Burnt Hill Standing stones in Massachusetts and the Bingham Cairns in Maine have been verified. Others have been rumored or reported.

 

Send your information about astronomical sites to us, and we will pass it on.

 Whitefield Cairns
Write copy and select photos

 

Jefferson, Whitefield cairn 3-5Whitefield cairn 3

 

 Since I am located in midcoast Maine and our active members are scattered, scheduled meetings are rare. We did host a most successful semi-annual meeting in Portland in April 2011 with keynote speaker Dennis Stanford of the Smithsonian and field trips that included a tour of the Osher Map library, Spirit Pond, the North Whitefield cairns and the Jefferson Chamber.

Historical research on the N. Whitefield cairns continues with the help of Jay Robbins; still no clue as to any reason for this huge construction. Clayton McLaughlin of Fairfield and Rob Sirois of Gorham have been out in rugged areas taking GPS readings on some old sites and new ones such as Beech Hill. We are particularly interested in adding this new information to current topo maps as part of a professional looking site report.

Roslyn Strong


Maine Upcoming Events

Of interest to NEARA members in Maine may be the upcoming meeting of the Maine Archaelogy Society which will take place on Sunday October 29, 2017 in the Edward T. Bryant Sciences Building at the University of Maine, Orono, Maine. For directions click the link Global Sciences Bldg.

 

  ARTICLES

ANCIENT NOROMBEGA Voyages of Simon Ferdinando and John Walker to the Penobscot River 1579-1580,  Bernard De Costa NEARA Journal Vol. 43-2 Winter 2010

In the third volume of "The Narrative and Critical Victory of America" (pp. 171 and 186), the writer has stated a few facts with respect to Simon Ferdinando, who, so far as his knowledge extends, led the first English expedition to the region now covered by the State of Maine, but then known as a part of Norombega.

 

 BOOKS OF INTEREST

MAINE The Pine Tree State from Prehistory to the Present, Richard W. Judd, Edwin Churchill, Joel W. Eastman eds. University of Maine Press, Orono 1995
This comprehensive history surveys the rich history from Prehistoric times to the early 1990s though  a variety of fields including archaeology, anthropology, ethnic studies as well as  history of such subjects as eyes of politics, culture, economics, labor, military and maritime history.

TWELVE THOUSAND YEARS American Indians in Maine, Bruce J. Bourque, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln 2001
An excellent history of the earliest archaeological work in Maine with photos and a good bibliography.


LINKS

Abbe Museum
Meddybumps Archaelogy paper from EPA

Maine Archaeology Society

Maine Historical Society

Maine State Museum

Maine State Archives
The Maine State Archives maintains approximately 95 million pages of official State records considered to be permanently valuable.