September 24, 2015
Is ‘America’s Stonehenge’ For Real? Either Way, It’s Very Cool!
By Rik Stevens
Salem, NH (AP) Using the astronomical chart on a table in the covered tower, visitors aim their gaze along worn arrows to huge, upright stones hundreds of feet away. Beyond each slab of granite, clearings stretch the eye to the horizon on a dazzling day in late summer New Hampshire.
On Wednesday’s autumnal equinox, people will flock to the woods near the Massachusetts state line, watch the sun rise or fall over the massive chunks of granite and decide for themselves whether they’re standing amid relics of ancient history or pure hooey.
This is ``America’s Stonehenge,’’ a weird, one-acre grouping of rock configurations named for the mysterious formation on England’s Salisbury Plain. It has drawn believers who say it’s a thousand or more years old and skeptics who say the evidence suggests it was the work of a 19th century shoemaker.
One view of the mysterious rock structures
For $12 visitors get to meander along well-trod footpaths through walls of stacked granite, some overtopped with slabs that weigh several tons to form cave-like enclosures like the ``Sundeck’’ chamber and ``V-hut.’’ The spooky centerpiece is the ``Oracle’’ chamber, complete with what is billed as a secret bed and a speaking tube where words spoken from inside the chamber could be heard outside at the equally eerie ``Sacrificial Table.’’
Owner Dennis Stone firmly believes the site — called ``Mystery Hill Caves’’ when it opened in 1958 — is as much as 4,000 years old, the work of Native Americans or perhaps ancient Europeans who arrived millennia before Columbus.
``They actually did shaping to these. It’s like shaping an arrowhead,’’ Stone said in a rapid-fire voice, pointing to the giant slabs. ``Stone against stone. So the technology used to take them off the bedrock and shape these stones was a stone-age technology, not a metal age technology.’’
Stone said three carbon dating efforts indicate the site was used about 4,000 years ago and one fire pit is 7,300 years old (scientists say the research proves only that there was a fire and that none of those dates is linked to human activity).
``We think the design of the site looks more like a spiritual site,’’ Stone said. ``It has a huge amount of work that went into quarrying each building but there isn’t a lot of room.’’
Anthropologists and archaeologists believe America’s Stonehenge was more likely the homestead of shoemaker Jonathan Pattee, who settled here in 1823. In his 2006 book ``The Archaeology of New Hampshire: Exploring 10,000 Years in the Granite State,’’ Plymouth State University archaeologist David Starbuck called America’s Stonehenge ``unquestionably provocative, puzzling and, above all, controversial.’’
Starbuck notes the 19th century quarrying marks on many of the stones and said the site has been altered so many times over the decades — particularly by owner and researcher William Goodwin starting in 1936 — that there will never be a way to settle the argument over its genesis.
``There is probably no serious, trained archaeologist who believes that it was created thousands of years ago,’’ Starbuck said this week.
``There’s a huge burden of proof when you make controversial claims,’’ he said. ``They’ve always had that problem. That doesn’t take away from the inherent interest in that site. It is a curious place and it is worth visiting.’’
Did sacrifices take place on this table?
Invoking Stonehenge can automatically boost interest in a place. Witness the stir caused earlier this month when researchers announced they had discovered evidence of standing stones believed to be remnants of a major prehistoric monument two miles from Stonehenge. And then there’s Carhenge: The junk-car tribute to Stonehenge that has been an attraction in the Nebraska panhandle since 1987.
Like Starbuck, Meghan Howey, an anthropological archaeologist at the University of New Hampshire, also thinks the site was a colonial dwelling and said there are commonplace explanations for some of the more fantastic features. For example, the ``Sacrificial Table’’ bears the same sort of drainage channels that would be found on a rock slab used to make soap. Still, she understands the desire to impart meaning where none may exist.
``People in England have an attachment to Stonehenge because it was built by their ancestors,’’ she said. ``We don’t feel a connection so we’re always looking for a connection.’’
Pausing during a recent visit, retirees Marie St. Onge and Carol Stevens said they believe America’s Stonehenge means something _ even if they don’t know exactly what.
``With the caves that are dug and the way things are laid out, I would go with it 99 percent that it’s original,’’ said St. Onge.
Stone doesn’t know for sure the who, when, how or why of America’s Stonehenge but he says the evidence points to something greater than skeptics believe.
``They’re kind of ignorant of all the facts of the site,’’ he said of critics. ``I’m not saying they’re stupid. Just that they don’t know the facts.’’
Voice Of America Broadcast Site In NC Is Last Of Its Kind
By Emery P. Dalesio
Raleigh, NC (AP) A corner of rural North Carolina is the last U.S. site transmitting that staple of Cold War spy movies —shortwave radio broadcasts from the Voice of America.
Despite broadcast satellites and cell phones, miles of transmission towers spread across 2,700 acres east of Greenville are blasting radio waves into space that bounce back to Earth thousands of miles away.
The last Voice of America shortwave transmission station in the United States spreads across 2,700 acres eastern North Carolina’s flat coastal plain, ready in a crisis to blast news to the world’s remote corners.
The taxpayer-funded transmission site near Greenville, named for legendary broadcaster and former director of VOA’s parent agency Edward R. Murrow, reserves a domestic option for the government broadcaster that has overwhelmingly gone digital or sends its signals from overseas sites.
``The Greenville plant is so big, has such big transmitters and such a variety of antennas, that any event in the world VOA could turn on a transmitter and be broadcasting’’ to a big swath of the globe from Northern Europe across Africa to Latin America, said David Snyder, 66, Monroe, Ohio. He’s a director of the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting in suburban Cincinnati and was the supervisor of a similar transmission sister site there that closed in 1994.
The U.S. government followed Germany and Japan into the early world of international communication during World War II. In Bethany, Ohio; Dixon, California, near Sacramento; and Delano, California, near Bakersfield, the government built powerful antenna fields to blast high-intensity electromagnetic waves into space, bouncing them off the ionosphere to rebound back to Earth thousands of miles away. The last of the stations opened in 1942 closed in 2007.
Studios were in Washington, D.C., and from there shows were relayed to the sites in Ohio, California and, starting in the early 1960s, two new transmission farms amid North Carolina forests and fields about 20 miles southeast of Greenville.
The 2,800-acre VOA transmission tract for Site A went silent a decade ago. North Carolina’s Wildlife Resources Commission is expected to acquire it in the coming months.
The commission last month voted to accept a free land transfer from the National Park Service. A council of top elected state officials still must approve the transfer, possibly next month. More than $500,000 in state and federal funds will be used to tear down 160 steel towers and otherwise prepare it for a wildlife conservation zone.
The VOA’s remaining Site B primarily broadcasts news, entertainment and highlights of Americana in English and Spanish to Cuba and Latin America, said Lesley Jackson, a spokeswoman for the Broadcasting Board of Governors. The federal agency oversees all U.S. media aimed at an international audience. It employs 3,600 people at VOA, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Cuba-directed Radio/TV Marti with an annual budget of $740 million.
VOA alco communicates via direct-to-home satellite, web streaming, mobile phones, social media and by buying broadcast time on more than 2,000 local radio and TV stations around the globe willing to carry its shows. VOA now broadcasts in 45 languages to an audience of about 170 million people per week in nearly 100 countries.
Shortwave radio transmissions are much less frequent, but still used in touchy regions in the world that lack reliable media. So the Broadcasting Board of Governors continues operating shortwave sites in Botswana, Germany, Kuwait, Northern Mariana Islands, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the island of Sao Tome off the African coast, Jackson said.
Snyder said he hopes the agency keeps the VOA site in North Carolina on the air.
``If they shut down every shortwave plant in the country, then every transmitter that VOA has shortwave is basically under the control of foreign governments,’’ Snyder said. ``In my viewpoint, it’s scary to turn the last one off.’’