By Thomas D’Agostino
As we try to trace the ancestry of our European forefathers, we always find more data that other races may have been here first. It appears that Burnt Hill in Heath is a living archeological testament to this theory set in stone. Or, shall I say, set up in stone.
Twenty-one stones sit carefully notched into the bedrock on top of the 1,855-foot rise. The stones weigh three to five hundred pounds each. There are five fallen monoliths as well as four quartz Cairns within the center of the circle.
Early speculation of the site held that the stones were originally set in place to act as property markers by local 19th-century farmers. More recent research has revealed that the stones were placed there hundreds of years before the colonists ever settled the land. Colgate Gilbert, along with the New England Antiquities Research Association (NEARA), mapped and studied the stones with astonishing results. The monoliths lined up to mark the Winter and Summer Solstice, movements of the lunar cycle, and the equinox sunrises. Because of their modern accuracy, they have concluded that this circle is not much more than a thousand years old. Some stones lined up with mountaintops suggesting that the site was not only used as an astronomical compass, but a land bound one as well. Some researchers brought forth the idea that the Indians in the area may have erected the circle but that theory has been proven to be weak at best. Elizabeth Chilton, a noted scholar of Indian history from the University of Massachusetts, stated that Native Indians used wood to build their structures, not stone. It is therefore safe to say they are not responsible for the stone circle.
Because the natives used to burn the hill each year for their blueberry crops, progress has been slow. Much evidence of the original builders has sadly gone up in smoke. There is another local legend about the stones that adds to the mystery of this ring of monoliths. It is told that H.P. Lovecraft replicated the site he renamed Sentinel Hill in his famous story “The Dunwich Horror.” The opening chapter of the tale includes a reference to “great rings of rough-hewn stone columns on the hilltops… more generally attributed to the Indians than to the settlers.”
Whether or not Lovecraft ever wandered among the ancient ruins atop Burnt Hill may be disputable but one thing stands true: the site inspires awe to all who visit.
Who are the actual builders of this stone circle to the skies? How did they transport the boulders to the site? Little cultural evidence other than some writings and carvings of other similar sites give us a good idea that the land was settled by far away people even further away in time than we thought. Their great testimony to their existence in this land can be found in the stars.
Heath is in the Northwest corner of Massachusetts. Take Interstate Route 91 to the Mohawk Trail. Take Route 8A north into Heath. Burnt Hill is located on a farm in Heath. The actual spot is located on private property so permission must be obtained to meander around the circle or you may just enjoy the view from afar.