Gungywamp in Groton, Connecticut is the kind of site that can drive archeologists crazy.
First off it is a very messy story. The site, located in the Connecticut woods less than an hour away from New Haven, consists of multiple stone chambers, rings of stones, piles of rock, Native American artifacts, mysterious etchings, Lithic artifacts, Colonial artifacts, and hundreds or even thousands of years of various settlers adopting and rearranging the site, it is difficult to tell where one historical period ends and another begins.
To add to this the site attracts what might be called archeological conspiracy theories. Among the most popular of these theories (one that crops up at multiple stone sites in the Northeast, see America’s Stonehenge) is that the site is a pre-Colombian settlement build by 6th-century Celtic Christian monks who escaped Ireland to avoid Norse aggression.
While it is easy to dismiss this theory, the confirmation of pre-columbian Norse contact in Newfoundland, and the increasing likelihood that Polynesians may have had contact in South America make it increasingly more difficult to dismiss it out of hand. Nonetheless no findings confirming the theory have ever been found by any credible linguists, epigraphers, or archaeologists, making it still a fringe theory at best.
Even less credible theories involving aliens, some kind of ancient peoples, and energy vortexes also surround the site. For the tour guides it is particularly frustrating as on a magnetometer the site does in fact exhibit occasional spikes in electromagnetic activity. This is believed by geologists to be the result of the composition of quartz, granite and magnetite rocks, but that does little to dissuade those who believe Gungywamp to be a UFO influenced “energy vortex.”
What has officially been found at Gungywamp is not much less confusing or mysterious. A lithic stone pounding tool has been found there that dates to at least 1500 B.C, which is pre-tribal Indian. The site certainly has plenty of Indian artifacts which include arrowheads, stone flakes and pottery fragments. The Native American inhabitants may also be responsible for the stone circles which some believe are astronomical tools and which others believe are colonial mill or hide tanning areas.
However, it is the multiple stone chambers that get people the most excited. Thought by most to be root cellars built by colonial settlers, they have some strange properties, including one designed to line up with the equinoxes, so that light shines though a small window. This seems not to fit with the work of colonial settlers. The 30-foot rock ledges, and eagle petroglyph only provide further mystery and confusion to the site.
Whether constructed by Colonial era European settlers, slaves in colonial times, by Native Americans such as the Pequot or Mohegan tribes, or even (however unlikely) by Irish Monks the site will no doubt provide plenty of work, and frustration, to archeologists for many years to come.
We explored Gungywamp on Obscura Day - March 20th, 2010. Photos, stories and more here
Know Before You Go
The site is half located on Ct state property and half on private land. Signs on the site for both the private sections and public lands say no trespassing, that cameras are in use and they will prosecute. Access to Gungywamp is still available. Both the state and private owners have allowed the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center to conduct tours of Gungywamp as they are the "caretakers" of the site. There is no parking at the entrance to Gungywamp and no signs posted that it is there, however, you can park at an abandoned church parking lot. (Shepherd of the Sea Chapel in Groton, Ct) It is about a 10/15 minute walk from the parking lot to the entrance to the the hiking trail. If you want to take a tour of Gungywamp go to site.http://dpnc.org/gungywamp-structures/. Tours are small group tours and you should pay on their site to ensure a spot in the tour, especially if you go for an equinox! Never fear if you want to go on one of those special times to see the solar alignments. They conduct special tours on equinoxes so you can see the alignments! The tours are $15 per adult and the money goes to support the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center. Be warned Gungywamp is surrounded on 2 sides by swamps. There are a lot of mosquitoes. Wear bug spray! Wear sturdy shoes. The trails are uneven, rocky, mucky, and often muddy in the swampy parts.