Did Stone-Age Giants Live in the Champlain and Hudson Valleys?
In the serene woodlands of the Northeastern United States, the Champlain Lake Valley meanders through the landscape, dividing the Adirondack and Green Mountain ranges. As the Champlain Basin ends, the Hudson River Valley begins, passing through mountain ranges and into the Atlantic Ocean. Modern headlines and history books may neglect to mention, but the forested mountains of this valley keep ancient and disturbing secrets. This area is littered with mysterious stone structures like cairns, balancing rocks, and megalithic chambers. Century-and-a-half-year-old news reports claim many large and abnormal skeletons were excavated here as well.
Today, many hunters and travelers have vanished in these forests under very strange circumstances. Skeptics understandably offer theories about glacial drifts, colonial constructions, and potential homicides or animal attacks. However, no comfortably conventional explanations stand up under the pressure of objective scrutiny.
The Mainstream History of the Valley
The conventional historic narrative holds that this valley was first inhabited seasonally by archaic Native Americans who hunted and migrated through the area. This is believed to have occurred in the archaic period around 10,000 – 7,000 BC. At this time, Lake Champlain was part of a larger body of water, a temporary inlet to the Atlantic known today as the Champlain Sea. The ice sheets from the last glacial period had depressed the landscape, filling the St. Lawrence and Ottawa River Valleys, along with the Champlain and Hudson River Valleys, with sea water.
Lake Champlain Valley (Annacecchini / CC BY-SA 4.0 )
As the glacial sheets retreated, the climate warmed, and the land gradually expanded (a process known as isostatic rebound). The waters of the Atlantic receded, leaving behind the series of lakes and river valleys. Then in the Woodland Period, beginning around 1,000 BC, Native Americans established villages, and inhabited these valleys until they encountered European explorers.
These tribes include the Abenaki-Sokoki, Pennacook Peoples, Mohawk, Mohican, Iroquois, and Algonquin. By the 17 th century AD, these peoples formed alliances in a series of wars between English and French colonists. This eventually lead to a rebellion by the Native Americans against the English, who defeated, disenfranchised and scattered them.
Cairns: Early Constructions
Cairns are piles of stone made by human beings. Across the Neolithic world, archaic people built stacks, or heaps, of stones for what seems to be a variety of reasons, ranging from trail markers, to battle memorials, to ceremonial sites. In 2020, a Welsh historical group unearthed a string of cairns dating back to 4,500 BC, believed to have been erected by the mysterious archaic culture known as the Beaker People.
Cairns can be elaborate structures, such as here in County Wicklow, Ireland (Joe King / CC BY-SA 3.0 )
The archaeologists of the project speculate that these cairns marked a burial ground; however, while they have found some Neolithic artifacts, it seems to date they have not found any human remains, believing they may simply be “long gone” due to their extreme age. Ancient Highland tradition in the British Isles carries that before a battle, each warrior would place a stone on the pile. Then, after the battle, those who survived would remove their stones, creating a shrine comprised of a stone for every soldier who perished.
Hawaii and Peru
Modern Hawaiians still today create cairns which they call ahu. According the School of Hawaiian Knowledge, an ahuis “an altar, shrine, or cairn utilized for spiritual and ceremonial purposes in both the past and the present. Usually and of varied forms, these stone structures were constructed using Hawaiian dry stack stone masonry techniques. Ahu are often the focal points of ceremonies horning Hawaiian spirituality and ancestral spirits.”
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In Peru, near the Colca Canyon, ancient cairns can be found known as Apachetas. Apacheta, translated from Quechua, means “the source where the flow begins,” and they exist at high points along the mountain trail. But, the true value of Apachetas was spiritual, and the stones were used to commune with, or appease, a higher power present in the mountains. The cairns were built up as more travelers passed the spot, stones were gathered along the trail, and then left on an Apacheta as an offering to the deities.
An Apacheta (Guidipat / CC BY-SA 3.0 )
Apachetas were believed to be charged with supernatural powers, and transmitting a prayer through them was said to bring good fortune and otherworldly protection while on the path. Prayers were often directed toward Pachamama, the deity of the soil, sky, and underworld. Other belongings were often left behind as a sacrificial tribute, including tobacco, coca leaves, shells, sweet treats and even alcohol. Hundreds of Apachetas were erected, functioning as altars to guide people along the path and so that they too may win the blessings of the beings who inhabit these mountains.
Cairns in North America
Refocusing the lens onto northeastern North America , the indigenous archaic cultures of the Arctic recognize very ancient cairns that they call inuksuit. Many of these stretch from Greenland, down into Alaska/Northern Canada, and all the way down into America’s Great Lakes Region. While the stone structures of these valleys are mostly unstudied, there was some archaeological interest in these various stone workings in the 80s.
An Alaskan inuksuk (Bernard Spragg / CC0 1.0 )
An article from the Early Sites Bulletin of 1981 reports on the excavation of a stone cairn at Master’s Lake NY. It reads, “the structure was found to have a distinct, teardrop shape. Four circular depressions were found beneath loose foliage. The oval-shaped pile was constructed of local field slabs between 24-36 inches (60-90cm) in length, primarily shist and weighing between 25 and 50 pounds (11-23kg).
“The slabs were not randomly thrown together in an assorted pile as was frequently done in field clearance. Rather, the slabs had been carefully placed one on top of the other to form a crude but somewhat effective support structure – each stone was dependent upon one below for support. Movement of any slabs would results in partial collapse of the structure.
“This building construction was repeatedly brought to the attention of the field teams [Mid Atlantic Research Company (MARC)] during excavation. Pit depression ‘X’ yielded the most intriguing items. At a depth of 36 inches (90cm) two round boulders were uncovered below a heavy concentration of roots from a nearby tree. Beneath these boulders team member, Mr. Pingotti uncovered a 10 inch (25cm) layer of moist soil. Various chips of lithic material were found in the sifter.”
The Balancing Stones
In North Salem, New York , along Route 116, sits Balanced Rock. This is a 180 ton (163 metric ton) red-granite boulder that is strangely perched atop five smaller/conical stones. Bear Rock, another nearby structure, has similar features.
Balanced Rock, NY (Daniel Case / CC BY-SA 3.0 )
In Kinnelon New Jersey, within the interestingly named Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area, there was a similar boulder atop a ridgeline balanced on three small stones. According to Bruce Scofield in an article in NEARA Journal 1983, this one known as “Tripod Rock”, and was aligned with the summer solstice. But one year after the survey was completed, the site was sold and the boulder was moved with heavy machinery.
Many have observed that these boulders balanced atop supporting stones is a recurring, archaic culture phenomenon. Across the globe, from Korea to the British Isles, we find archaic structures called dolmens that reflect this very same design. Geologists such as Steven Schimmrich claim that the boulders are a natural occurrence they call a glacial erratic. There certainly are natural processes whereby over millions of years a boulder can be transported by ice floats and find themselves precariously perched.
However, this only explains some of the structures, and it is unavoidable that the European/Eurasian dolmen and cairns were from a Neolithic, if not a Paleolithic, culture. In other words, it is unlikely that glacial forces would deposit so many perfectly balanced megaliths in close proximity to cairns and other Neolithic sites, when we know for certain in other areas of the world, these dolmens and cairns were all archaic, man-made features.
A Typical Dolmen, France ( jmathieupoirier / Adobe Stock)
Strange Discoveries in the Valleys
As you may have read here before, American news reports of the late nineteenth to early twentieth century were filled with strange accounts of abnormal ancient skeletons being unearthed. Some of these news reports place the findings directly within these same valleys that contain many of these rock structures.
For example, in November 1901, in the Minneapolis Journal recounts that hunters from Pennsylvania were in Shohola’s Glen, New York when they discovered a cave. Within the cave, the report states, that the hunters found “the skeleton of a man of gigantic size. It was swathed in rawhide trappings that kept it in a sitting posture. Near the skeleton were several bowls of reddish clay but almost as hard as flint. A rude stone tablet was found near the skeleton’s side covered with rude pictures of birds and beasts, among them one of a monster half beast, half reptile. A number of implements were also found in the cave, among them a huge ax made of stone and stone spear heads of unusual size.”
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This report is not alone, there are many others like it, and while modern historians are quick to dismiss this as fanciful, “yellow” journalism, it is again hard to imagine that such fictions would be conjured that correspond to sites we now believe to be linked to a mysterious, archaic culture.
Stranger Than Fiction
As if these forested mountain valleys and their ancient secrets were not strange enough already, there is more strangeness that carries on today. In this very same region, over the past century, there is a very odd pattern of disappearances. A string of disappearances in the 1940s occurred in a focused area near Bennington Vermont, and the psychological impact of these events was so great, that even now people refer to this area as the “Bennington Triangle.”
The Bennington Triangle is centered on the Green Mountain National Forest, VT (Rich Moffitt / CC BY 2.0 )
As recent as November of 2015, two totally unrelated, elderly men vanished without a trace. In a truly bizarre circumstance, a massive search and rescue operation was cut short in order to launch a second, entirely new search, only ten days apart. Both searches, which involved some fifty organizations and some three hundred searchers, came up utterly and completely empty. They found absolutely nothing of either of these elderly men, both of whom vanished within ten days and about forty miles of each other.
There are many other such incidents that seem to happen frequently in this area. Of course it is convenient to suspect that these are just unfortunate or ugly occurrences of people getting lost, or being attacked by an animal, or perhaps criminal mischief. But the pattern stretches back decades, even centuries, and it remains constant: people vanish in these woods.
Too Many Unanswered Questions
In the Champlain and Hudson Valleys, just North of the New York metropolis, ancient and disturbing mysteries are waiting for us to find them. Archaic cairns, rock structures, and balancing rocks are sprinkled throughout the highlands, the only hard clues we have to these old, forgotten secrets of the forests and the mountains in our own backyard.
The Native Americans place value and importance on names, especially names given to places, these names usually sum up the essence of a place. The Natives call these mountains the Adirondacks, which comes from the Mohawk“ha-de-ron-da,” which means tree eaters. According to French Missionaries, this was a derogatory reference to their primitive predecessors who did not grow crops, and when the winters became brutally harsh, would eat tree bark to survive.
Beneath the earth in the Adirondack, Green, and Shawangunk Mountain Forests, there are archaeological and anthropological discoveries to be made. But beware if you go there, never go alone, and always in the warm seasons.
Top Image: Some of the stone structures found in the Northeastern United States appear man-made. Source: Yggdrasill / Adobe Stock.
By Mark A. Carpenter
Dooling, Michael C. “Clueless in New England: The Unsolved Disappearances of Paula Welden.” Connie Smith and Katherine Hull. The Carrollton Press, 2010.
Gilson, Roger Hannigan. “Searching for Ancient Civilizations in the Catskills.” Available online: https://theotherhudsonvalley.com/2018/07/27/catskills-cairns/ July 27, 2018.
New England Historical Society. “Six Mysterious Stone Structures of New England.” Available online: https://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/6-mysterious-stone-structures-new-england/
Rutland Herald. “Glastenbury Tales: Town offers no clues to mysteries hanging over it.” (Nov. 8, 1999).
Trento, Salvatore M. “A Stone Cairn Excavation Masters Lake N.Y.” Early Sites Bulletin . Volume 9 number 1, pp. 16-17. 1981.