Gungywamp, A Virtual TourDISCLAIMER: This virtual tour description does NOT in any way give "permission" to anyone to tour the Gungywamp land and its sites. The Gungywamp Society does not own any part of the Gungywamp land or its sites. Persons interested in touring the Gungywamp land and its sites are advised to get the permission of property owners and/or contact the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center which partners with the Gungywamp Society in the goal to preserve the Gungywamp lands and its sites. The Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center gives tours with the permission of Gungywamp property owners.
A Little Background
The Gungywamp complex, located a little over a mile from the U.S. Submarine Base in Groton, Connecticut, has had many controversial interpretations associated with it. In short, archaeological excavations and document research indicate that the Gungywamp complex contains paleo and woodland Native American artifacts (stone implements and pottery shards) and colonial and Early American structures and artifacts. Contrary to wild theories on the Internet, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to indicate that Native Americans anywhere near the Gungywamp complex or other Northeast American areas built "stone temples" or that Celtic monks, Vikings, Phoenicians or Egyptians were ever in the Gungywamp complex. Earliest written primary source documentation indicates that Native Americans throughout Northeast America (and a good deal of the rest of North America) built usually seasonal structures from trees (saplings and bark) and other plants. There is no primary source documentation, either from Native American eye-witnesses or from European eye-witnesses, that "stone temples" or other stone structures of any kind were built by Native Americans in Northeast America or existed prior to European settlement. For more evidence of eye-witness accounts of Northeast American structures see The Story of Connecticut, Lewis Sprague Mills, 1958, pp 38-42; Handbook of North American Indians, Vol.15, "Mahican", T. J. Brasser, 1978, pp 198, 199; Native American Architecture, Peter Nabokov and Robert Easton, 1989, pp 52-61.
The colonial and Early American stone structures and artifacts found in the Gungywamp area do not differ from other sites in the Northeast U.S. The colonial and Early American sites in the Gungywamp share similarities with other sites which were once used for sheep farming. Sheep farming was prevalent in areas like the Gungywamp in colonial times and up to the late 19th and early 20th century for the production of wool, vellum (sheep hides), soap from rendered fat after slaughter, and food. Historian Susan Sutherland, member of the Groton Open Space Association was given a tour of the Gungywamp area in 2009 and wrote an article about another sheep farm about 5 miles away from the Gungywamp complex which has similar stone structures to the Gungywamp's structures. Ms. Sutherland's article is entitled Colonial History: The Sheep Farm, Early Edgecomb Family and Fort Hill Brook Industrial Sites. It is well documented that there were numerous small publishing companies that existed in colonial and Early American times in the region, and they made extensive use of vellum to make book covers.
The Latham family donated the land that forms much of the Gungywamp complex to the YMCA in the 20th century, and the Latham will stipulated that the land was to be preserved as a natural recreational area. The will also stipulated that if the YMCA no longer wished to retain the land that the property would then become owned by the State of Connecticut. As of 2009, the former YMCA part of the Gungywamp complex is in the final process of being turned over to the State of Connecticut to be enjoyed as a natural recreational area. The other parts of the Gungywamp complex are owned by private landowners who have given welcoming permission for tour guests to walk the trails of the Gungywamp sites since the 1970s.
Our Tour BeginsThis virtual tour will use the former YMCA entrance as our starting point. The tour follows the trail from the parking area that crosses the dam and then passes a pond/marsh area to the right that was used as recently as the mid-20th century as a cranberry bog. Cranberry still grows in some areas, including in the old parking lot of the former YMCA property. Past the pond/marsh area the trail then comes to a T which forms the loop trail of the Gungywamp sites. Turning left at the T the first site brings us to an example of the geological history of the Gungywamp.
Echo Rock is a large boulder placed in its present location by the glaciers that once covered much of North America. This glacial erratic is in a valley running roughly north and south that in early geologic time was once an offshoot of the current Thames River which is only a little over a mile away. Ledge is seen to the boulder's east and forms the valley's walls. The boulder is called Echo Rock because when people climb on top of the rock and speak in normal tones the acoustics of the valley and ledge walls cause the sound to carry farther. For more information on Echo Rock see the Stonewatch 2006 article, Erratics of the Gungywamp.
Continuing in a northerly direction on the trail from Echo Rock, parallel to the ledge on the east of the valley (right of the trail), presents to the tour guest some interesting ledge features. There are overhangs in some parts of the ledge that very much suggest the possibility of more Native American dwelling sites, similar to ledge overhang sites found elsewhere in the Gungywamp complex, and found in many other sites throughout the Northeast and elsewhere in North America. Gungywamp Society researchers gave a tour to archaeologist and University of Connecticut professor Dr. Kevin McBride in the spring of 2009 and Dr. McBride indicated that one overhang site in particular along this ledge line may be considered for future excavation.
Probable Quarry Site
Photo by S. Buchanan
This site, approximately an 1/8 - 1/4 of a mile from Echo Rock and seen on the left of the trail, may have been used to quarry granite stones for use in the construction of colonial and Early American structures found in the Gungywamp area. As typical for colonial and Early American stone structures, no drill marks have ever been found on any of the stones used in the Gungywamp structures. Basic quarrying of granite stones was done by building fires under large stone ledges so as to heat the rock, then pouring cold water on the rock so as to fracture it into blocks.
Small Ledge Site
Photos by S. Buchanan
Approximately five minutes of walking roughly north from Echo Rock and past the possible quarry site, takes us across the former YMCA property into privately owned land. The dividing line between the former YMCA land and the private landowners is a very old colonial rock boundary wall seen on the right (the loop trail will bisect this old colonial rock boundary wall again later in the tour). A short distance on the right past the colonial trail is a small Native American ledge site. Test pits were excavated by Gungywamp Society researchers and volunteers in 2007 and 2008. A small quartz point dating from the woodland era was uncovered, along with some small quartz chips that came from the point-making process.
Photos by S. Buchanan
Native American "Squatter" Site
Photo by S.Buchanan
In the early twentieth century, Native American "squatters" lived in the Gungywamp area. These Native Americans were Narragansett (although some have said that they were Pequot). These squatters were said to have lived off the land and off the charity of nearby farmers for their food. Evidence of at least one of their sites is seen on the trail on the right approximately a hundred feet from the small ledge site. In the 1980s a shallow square (roughly 10 x 10 feet) was excavated by Gungywamp Society researchers and a few artifacts (a trolley token, some buttons, broken glass) were uncovered.
Photo by S.Buchanan
A slight diversion from the loop trail in necessary to see the next two sites. At the Native American "squatter" site the trail becomes another T. Turning left on the trail at this T takes the tour guest past another geologic feature on the right known by some as the "Cliff of Tears." It has been named dramatically by certain people who have tried to attach paranormal activity to the Gungywamp complex and believe that this particular ledge causes emotional turmoil in people. No such emotional outbursts have ever been witnessed by Gungywamp Society researchers in all the many years tours have been given to many, many tour guests. The Gungywamp complex does have slight electromagnetic features due in large part to iron ore deposits found in the area, and these electromagnetic features are not at all uncommon geologically.
The overhang of the cliff ledge presents very likely possibilities of more Native American dwellings, as have been found in other ledge sites in the Gungywamp complex. Also of interest, some researchers of Native American customs cite the fact that there are three boulders at this cliff ledge, two on either side of the trail and a third just across a little stream/wetland area. These three boulders could have been placed in a row by glacial activity (not uncommon). All three boulders have a few smaller stones piled on top of them (and are covered with moss, indicating those smaller stones have been piled on for a long time) and all three of these boulders are situated in a straight line. Some believe that these boulders could have been placed purposefully in a row by Native Americans as some possible religious ritual. Perhaps in Native American belief the positioning of these boulders and the piles of stones on top of them hold some spiritual or directional significance, especially given the likelihood that the cliff ledge was most likely used for yet another shelter. Geologically, the cliff ledge is part of a fault line that runs northeast through Lantern Hill (near the current Foxwoods casino in Ledyard/North Stonington) and continues through northwest Rhode Island and into Massachusetts.
The "JC III" Surveyor's Inscription
Photo by S. Buchanan
Just past the cliff ledge and slightly off the trail on the right is a very old moss-covered rock wall that includes a glacial stone that has an apparent surveyor's marker inscribed into it. Gungywamp Society researchers found document evidence which indicates that parts of the Gungywamp lands were owned in the 17th century by Governor Winthrop's sons and by a Christopher family. One of the Christophers was John Christopher. The inscription seen above indicates "JC" although some see the inscription looking like "IC" with an apparent Roman numeral 3 (III) after the JC initials. Perhaps the "III" may indicate the third survey marker (no other "JC" inscriptions have yet been found in the Gungywamp area), or the III may represent John Christopher being the third so named in his family. It was a common practice by surveyors in colonial and Early American times to put their initials or some other identifying feature at certain points on their survey lines. For example, the New London Day newspaper published two articles (Sunday, December 6, 2009 A1and A6; Monday, December 14, 2009, A1 and A3) about former slave Venture Smith who lived from c. mid-1770s to 1805. Upon gaining his freedom, Venture Smith obtained land on Barn Island in Stonington, Connecticut. Venture Smith surveyed his newly acquired land and "on two of the boundary rocks they found carved the letters "S" and "P," probably for the neighboring Stanton and Palmer lands, and on another, "ID," for the abutting property owner John Denison. The letters "I" and "J" were often used interchangeably in colonial script." ("Venture Smith's Story Continues to Inspire," A1 and A6.) As another example of survey markers carved in stone, George Washington surveyed an area in Natural Bridge Park, Virginia, and inscribed his initials, "GW," on one of the walls of the cliff that was included in his survey.Gungywamp Society researchers excavated on either side of the old rock wall, including right in front of the glacial stone in the rock wall on which the JC III inscription was made. Researchers found only ledge under just a few inches of soil. A very controversial figure, a self-styled epigrapher named Barry Fell, now deceased, visited the Gungywamp complex in the 1980s and, without doing any document or archaeological research, pronounced that the "JC III" inscription was a "Christogram," a Christian symbol. Mr. Fell also said the same about another set of inscriptions, the Roman letter "R," found in a stone face that formed a rock wall and stone chamber area a short distance away from the "JC III" inscription. Mr. Fell and others after him claimed that these inscriptions gave evidence of the presence of 8th century Celtic monks settling in the Gungywamp area. For further debunking of this "Christogram" theory see the Stonewatch Winter 2003 article, "The Chi Rho Controversy Rages On: Two Views."
Important note to tour guests: After viewing the "JC III" inscription please go back to the loop trail. The trail that leads off the loop trail and continues past the cliff ledge and "JC III" inscription leads toward the property of a private landowner who wishes not to have visitors on his property.
Backtracking on the trail from the "JC III" inscription site and the cliff ledge (now on the tour guest's left), the tour guest will then pass the Native American "squatter" site on the right and proceed in a southeast direction back on the loop trail.
A short distance past the Native American "squatter" site is a pile of rocks on the right. This site has been called a "boat-shaped cairn" believed by some to have been constructed by Vikings. This pile of stone is on top of ledge (unlike Viking boat-shaped burial sites), and it has been altered significantly just in the short span of years since (and probably before) the Gungywamp Society was founded in 1979.
Photos by S. Buchanan Proceeding down the trail the tour guest will cross a stream that runs through the southern part of the Gungywamp complex and ends at the pond/marsh on the former YMCA land. Scattered on the stream's bed are iron ore clumps of varying sizes. As previously mentioned, Governor Winthrop's sons owned part of the Gungywamp area in the 17th century and mined iron. The smelting area the Winthrop sons used has not yet been found.
The Large Native American Ledge Shelter Site
After crossing the stream, the trail diverts just a little from the loop trail again. Crossing the stream the tour guest will go up a trail on the left alongside another cliff ledge. At the top of that trail is a shallow cave, with a slab boulder at the entrance of that cave. That slab had fallen off the original roof of the cave at least hundreds of years ago.
This large ledge site, called the Vogt Indian Ledge Shelter Site after the name of the landowner on whose land this site is situated, was very productive in terms of Native American artifacts when excavated in the 1980s and early 1990s. The site was excavated down to 95 cm before striking bedrock. David Barron, founder of the Gungywamp Society in 1979, led the excavations and consulted with Connecticut State Archaeologist Dr. Nicholas Bellantoni, who estimates that this Native American ledge site's oldest artifacts may possibly date as far back to at least 1,500 to 2,000 BC. Mr. Barron recorded his findings at the Vogt Indian Ledge Shelter Site:
Late Woodland type of Iroquois pottery (1,200 to 1,600 AD) and cedar stokes were found at the 25 cm level within the eroded 'apron' soil. Early Woodland projectile points and kiln-dried, grass-tempered pottery, bones, and lithic tools were unearthed just within the shelter itself. Archaic times are represented by crude, dentate pottery tempered with sandy pebbles, projectile points, hammer stones and fired hearth stones. At the 35 to 50 cm level laboratory samples of charcoal match the known age of several unique projectile points (Susquehanna Points circa 500 to 1,500 BC), giving radio carbon dates as early as 770 BC. At the base rock level, only the crudest of flakes, scrapers, and fired exploded hearth stones were found. No charcoal or fragments of wood/organic residues were discovered to help date this lowest level. The total absence of charcoal suggests that the fires burned in these several hearths were extremely hot and that they burned totally to ash. This lowest level may range back in time to a period of 1,500 to 2,000 BC, and even earlier, as suggested by Connecticut State Archaeologist Nicholas Bellantoni.
Indian Ledge Shelter. Photo by Steve Hart
On the left, hammer stone with carved notches for finger grips. Points (arrow heads) upper right. Pottery sherds under points and to right of hammer stone. Photo by P. BuchananBacktracking down the trail from the Vogt Indian Ledge Shelter Site, the tour guest then proceeds along the loop trail with the stream now on the right. The trail curves to the left and about 75 feet on the left there is a small clearing. Off to left of this clearing is another thin trail leading off of the loop trail which will take the tour guest to another interesting site.
The Vogt Chamber Site
Photos by S. Buchanan
On the left at the small clearing is a thin trail that goes off the loop trail and leads up a slight incline. About 40 feet up this thin trail on the right can be found the remains of a stone chamber, called the Vogt Chamber Site, built into a small ledge. On top of this ledge and going off to the upper left of this small ledge is the remnant of a very old colonial rock boundary wall. From the thin trail directly in front of the small ledge and chamber remains can be found a series of the inscribed Roman letter "R."; A few Roman letter "R" inscriptions can be detected just barely on the ledge face to the right of the chamber remains and a few more can be found on the right inside wall of the chamber remains. Barry Fell described these R inscriptions as Chi Rho Christograms and he claimed that 8th century Irish monks must have come to the Gungywamp area and made these inscriptions. The Chi Rho Christian symbol combines the Greek letters "X" (chi) and the Greek letter "P" (rho), which form the first sound (CH or K) and the second sound in the word Christos. In Christian symbolism these letters were (and still are) superimposed over each other in a few different ways. However, the inscription found in the Gungywamp at the Vogt Chamber Site is clearly a Roman letter "R" and not Chi Rhos. For more explanation as to why the inscribed Roman letter "R" found at the Vogt Chamber Site is not a Christogram but rather most likely some kind of a survey marker or simple graffiti, see the Stonewatch Winter 2003 article, "The Chi Rho Controversy Rages On: Two Views."
Excavations were made at the Vogt Chamber Site by David Barron in the early 1980s. Charcoal excavated from a crude hearth just inside the entry on the right of the chamber remains was sent for carbon dating to Geocron Lab in Massachusetts. The lab gave the charcoal an estimated date of +/- 1745 AD. Another group which promotes Barry Fell's ideas about Christograms being in the Gungywamp area claim that they have carbon dating for charcoal bits found randomly at deeper levels at various locations around the front part of the chamber remains at the entry of the chamber that date back to c. 1130 AD. No hearth areas were identified. The problem with carbon dating charcoal in which there is no evidence of a hearth site is that forest fires set off by lightning strikes in recent or ancient times can leave charcoal remains, including root burn, and these charcoal remains are therefore obviously not man-made. Therefore, these ancient carbon dates for charcoal found at the Gungywamp by another group of excavators can in no way absolutely infer human origin but are most likely indicative of those charcoal samples originating from natural forest fires set off by lightening strikes.
Another excavation made at the Vogt Chamber Site by the Gungywamp Society researchers was conducted in 1995 to the right of the chamber remains directly in front of the ledge under where a few of the Roman letter R inscriptions are found on the ledge face. A roughly 2.5 x 3 foot rectangle was excavated approximately 3 feet down to glacial loess. The only artifacts found within 12 inches down were remnants of a late 19th to possibly early 20th century whiskey bottle and remnants of an oxen shoe.
Backtracking down from the thin trail by the Vogt Chamber Site, the tour guest will come back to the small clearing and take the loop trail that leads off sharply to the right through a stand of large evergreen trees on the right.
Tour guests are urged to not continue on the trail that curves off to the left past the stand of evergreen trees on the right since that will take the tour guest to the backyard of one of the private landowners. We urge tour guests to respect the generosity and privacy of the private landowners in and around the Gungywamp area who allow visitors access to their property.
According to land records found by Gungywamp Society researcher Jack Rajotte, the loop trail that the tour guest walks along at this point through the stand of large evergreen trees was once part of a colonial road system called "the main highway." From the clearing this same old trail proceeds left through the private landowner's backyard and heads up through Ledyard, and some say remnants of it go through various private properties and town roads up through to North Stonington. On the right from the clearing where the tour guest follows the loop trail away from the private landowner's backyard, "the main highway" proceeds on through to the former YMCA property and originally went down to the Thames River a little over a mile away.
The loop trail, or "the main highway," goes through the stand of evergreen trees on both the right and left and comes to a bridge over the same stream that was crossed earlier where the slag iron was found. Crossing the stream again, the loop trail winds through a beautiful old grove of mountain laurel bushes (mountain laurel florets are Connecticut's state flower and a protected indigenous plant).
The Three-Sided Colonial Foundation Site
Photos by S. Buchanan
About 100 yards from the stream crossing on the right of the loop trail, or "the main highway," is the three-sided foundation of a very small colonial house built into a small hillside. The remains of a fireplace can be seen on the right of the site's remains. Gungywamp Society researchers reconstructed the fallen sides of the colonial foundation and excavated along the front and back of the site. Colonial square nails and a fragment of metal scissors were the only artifacts that were found at this site.
Old Colonial "Stair Step" Rock Boundary Wall
Photo by S. Buchanan
The dividing line between the property of one of the private landowners and the former YMCA property is a very old colonial rock boundary wall. This rock boundary wall was crossed earlier in the tour just before the small ledge shelter that was excavated in 2007 and 2008. It is one the longest continuous rock walls found in the Gungywamp area. It continues from the former YMCA property to the west and runs roughly straight through the Gungywamp area, across North Gungywamp Road (a dirt road off of Gungywamp Road) and proceeds into woods onto private property. A number of the rock walls in the Gungywamp area zigzag and some were clearly used for livestock enclosures, but this very old colonial rock wall, thickly covered in moss, runs straight.
As the tour guest walks the loop trail, "the main highway," and crosses through the gap in this very old rock wall, the tour guest will notice on the right that the rock wall continues up a steep incline. The construction of this rock wall was clearly built with stability in mind. Instead of placing the rocks to slope with the steep incline, which would make the rock wall unstable, the rock wall builders dug into the steep incline so that the rocks could be placed horizontally, thereby causing the rock wall to form a sort of "stair step" design up the steep incline.
As the tour guest stands on the loop trail at the rock wall's gap, on the left the rock wall appears to end by the wetlands. But in the 1980s and later in the 1990s, David Barron and others waded through these wetlands and plunged walking sticks down into the soil along the same line where the rock wall should be. Sure enough, their walking sticks struck rock. Past the wetlands, the rock wall re-emerges to proceed across the unpaved North Gungywamp Road and into the woods onto private property.
Clearly this very old straight rock wall forms a boundary line. This very old colonial rock wall may have been constructed by either the Winthrop sons or the Christopher family in the 1600s."Stone Bridges" Site
Stone bridge used most likely to drain water from the north hillside across the "main highway" and down into the bog. (Image: Juliana Lewis)
Two piles of cobblestone on boulders on either side of one of two stone bridges along the "main highway" Image: Juliana Lewis)
Proceeding along the loop trail, "the main highway," about 200 feet from the colonial rock boundary wall, the tour guest will see on the left another stone wall. Within that stone wall are two flat stone "bridges," approximately 2.5 - 3 feet long, joined between medium sized boulders, some of which were glacially placed. Piles of smaller stones, some moss covered but most clean of moss, are on top of some of the boulders. There are also some vertically-placed standing stones within the stone wall.
Some believe that these flat stone bridges in this rock wall represent a Native American belief that the bridges represent the crossing over from this life to the next, and that the stones placed on top of the boulders are also part of Native American traditions. Others believe that the standing stones are Celtic in origin hearkening back to pre-Christian Celtic traditions, and that the stones placed on top of the boulders are Celtic "cursing stones" and "give evidence" of the presence of 8th century Celtic Christian monks living in the Gungywamp. (Apparently in some Irish traditions, "cursing stones" were said to be dumped into a body of water to represent the grudges one person may hold against another. By leaving the stones in the depths of a body of water where they could not be easily retrieved, the grudge-holder was symbolically releasing the grudge, or curse, instead of continuing to harbor ill-will against another. How that fits into explaining the pile of rocks on the boulders of a rock wall in the Gungywamp area is a bit nonsensical.)
A more plausible and practical explanation for the flat stone "bridges," the standing stones, and the piles of stones on the boulders that form the rock wall along the left of "the main highway" seems obvious when the tour guest looks to the right of the trail. Directly across from the rock wall with the flat stone "bridges" is a very steep incline formed mostly of solid ledge. We know from historical records that winters throughout colonial and Early American periods were very snowy. Run-off from that snow coming down the ledge onto "the main highway" would have certainly caused some major blockages with piles of snow, flooding from melt-off, and icy conditions (a dangerous situation for horse transportation). It seems far more likely that the flat stone "bridges" formed a very basic gutter system deliberately built into the rock wall structure to allow run-off from the ledge to be diverted underneath the flat stone "bridges" and down into the wetlands area that can be seen beyond on the other side of the rock wall.
The standing stones found within the stone structure are also very important in an area which has a tendency to get muddy. In Scottish rock wall building techniques, vertical standing stones have been used for centuries in horizontal rock wall structures so as to provide additional stability (see Stonewatch2004). In another rock wall structure only a short distance on the loop trail, "the main highway," there are several more standing stones placed in the walls to provide stability. There are no "rhythmic", "numerological" or "directional" significance apparent in the placement or number of standing stones which either stand by themselves or are found within the rock walls in the Gungywamp area.
As for the stones placed on top of the boulders in the rock wall where the flat stone "bridges" are placed, many of these stones have been placed in recent years. Many of these stones are clean of moss, which indicates that they have not been long on top of the boulders. There does seem to be evidence of some stones being on top of the boulders for long periods of time because of the moss evidence. These moss-covered stones may have been placed there by Native Americans many decades ago, or they could have been placed by colonial or Early American travelers on "the main highway" as part of clearing the road of stones which emerged on the trail due to soil erosion caused by traffic on the trail.The Rows of Standing Stones & The Eagle Inscription
Once the tour guest goes past the flat stone "bridges" in the rock wall on the left, the tour guest will see another trail on the left. That trail leads to North Gungywamp Road. Instead, the tour guest will stay on the loop trail, "the main highway." There will now be seen rock walls on both the left and right of the loop trail. Within the rock wall on the right the tour guest will see more evidence of standing stones. The rock wall on the right will veer here and there, winding slightly left with the trail which also winds slightly left. Then the tour guest will see that the rock wall ends, yet a row of standing stones placed closely to each other continues. On one of those standing stones the tour guest will see the inscription of an eagle's head and the top part of outstretched wings. Controversy has swirled about why this bird effigy was carved into one of the standing stones. The eagle was certainly a very prominent and popular motif in colonial and Early American times. Was the carving a patriotic expression set within one of the standing stones. Taking into account the rest of the colonial and Early American sites, all that seems apparent is that the bird effigy was most likely carved by either a colonial or Early American artist. This standing stone is placed in very close proximity to a line of standing stones that form one side of a large enclosure. Some have suggested that these standing stones formed an area where sheep were corralled, restrained by a rope which likely ran alongside the row of standing stones, and then sheered of their wool or possibly slaughtered.
Excavations were conducted in the 1980s and early 1990s around these standing stones. The standing stones were discovered to be held firmly in place underground by rock brackets which prevent the standing stones from being toppled easily (although, unfortunately, some vandals have pushed over some of the standing stones).
Drawing by the late Art Hayward, Sr.
Depiction of Bird Effigy. Photo by Charles Clough.
The "Birthing" Chamber
Photo by S. Buchanan
Proceeding along the "main highway" trail past the row of standing stones, there is another thin trail off to the left which proceeds up a steep hill. On top of this hill there is a small, partially dismantled chamber. Further on the other side of this hill, about 75 feet away, is located a house foundation dated c. 1783 (based on a coin found at the threshold of the entrance) known as the "Adams" house. This small former chamber is built into a glacially deposited boulder, next to a rock wall. Some of the stone slabs that formed the low roof of this chamber are found on the ground around this site. A horizontal carved notch can be seen near the top of the glacial boulder where one of the stone roof slabs once rested. Once leaves and debris on the inside of the chamber next to the glacial boulder are removed, observers can see that the underlying ledge had a small canal carved out to provide drainage from the inside of the chamber. This chamber most likely had a door so as to keep a mother sheep and its young protected from predators.
State Archaeologist Nicholas Bellantoni commented once while viewing this site that birthing chambers were not uncommon among colonial and Early American farms.
Dismantled Chamber Remains
Photo by S. Buchanan
The tour guest will then proceed back down the trail to the "main highway" trail, and then turn right. Up a small incline, the tour guest will see on the left the next chamber remains alongside the trail. These chamber remains are located about another 75 feet away to the south-southeast from the "Adams" house foundation. This former chamber was built into natural low-lying ledge.
The "Adams" House
Photos by S. Buchanan
Veering right on the "main highway" trail from the chamber remains, the tour guest will then come upon the remains of the presumed "Adams" house on the right of the trail. Document records indicate that an Adams family lived somewhere in the Gungywamp area. According to researchers George and Nancy Jackson (Connecticut Archaeological Society Bulletin, Vol. 44), The Adams family were merchants, not farmers. Scanty research indicates that "spinster" Johanna Adams may have lived in the house built, presumably, by her father. A copper "ha'penny" dated 1742 with the inscription "GEORGIUS" was found near the fireplace hearth (presumably this coin was minted in the colonies rather than in Britain, where colonial minters typically used a "U" instead of the British "V" when spelling King George's Latin name). Numerous pottery and china fragments, as well as livestock bone fragments, knives, knife handles, spoons, buttons, glass bottle fragments, window pane fragments, and fired bricks were found in and around this site, including a bit of a plate depicting part of a ship and including the dates 1758 - 1805, apparently commemorating British Lord Nelson's birth date and his death at the Battle of Trafalgar. There were scores of pipe and pipe stem fragments also found in and around this site. This house may have been used for workers employed to run the tan bark mill, located only about 75 feet to the south-southwest of this house.
Photo by S. Buchanan
Just a short distance up the trail from the presumed "Adams" house remains, also on the right, is a stone enclosure. This enclosure is located just a short distance from a tan bark mill, off on the left from the trail. The floor of this enclosure is ledge, which slopes downward, and there doesn't appear to be any entrance to the enclosure area. Based on its apparent relation to the tan bark mill, it is presumed to be a possible storage area used for tanning production. Because of the sloping ledge floor, it seems likely that the enclosure was not used for penning animals or for human sleeping quarters.
The Tan Bark Mill
Photos by Charles Clough
Photo by S. Buchanan
Walking from the stone enclosure area the tour guest will come upon the tan bark mill. Tour guests will also notice a drainage area coming off from the tan bark mill down toward a basin carved out of the underlying ledge. This tan bark was either one or two-armed, and most likely human-powered rather than animal-powered (the mill site is on unlevel ledge which is not stable for hoofed animals). One or two men pushed the arms which were attached to the millstone around the mill, crushing oak bark in the mill grooves. The water run-off with the tannin from the oak bark would drain from the opening in the mill and collect in the basin carved out of the underlying ledge. That tannin liquid would then be used in the tanning process.
During colonial and Early American times, vellum (tanned sheepskin) was used by the myriads of bookmakers that existed during these times. Gungywamp Society researchers have found many livestock bone fragments in and around the "Adams" house, and much of the structures around the tan bark mill (the stone enclosure, the "Adams" house, the chambers, and the row of standing stones which could have been used to corral sheep) bears similarities to other sheep farms in area. Clearly, the tan bark mill and its accompanying structures built near it indicate that this was a site used in the making of vellum from, most likely, the tanning of sheepskin.The "Calendar" Chamber
Photo by Charles Clough.
Located only about 30 feet below a small ledge from the tan bark mill is the "Calendar" chamber, which was most likely used as storage in the tanning process. This chamber is called the "Calendar" chamber because the vent at its back allows the mid-afternoon sun to shine into the chamber around the time of the spring and fall equinox. The vent opening can be seen at the back of the chamber. The chamber also has a small beehive-shaped mini-chamber inside of it, just on the right upon entering the chamber, indicating that it was used as some kind of storage area, presumably related to the tan bark mill only about 30 feet away.
Much has been made about the equinox feature of the back vent area of the "Calendar" chamber. Several days before and after the spring and fall equinox, the light from the afternoon sun slowly lights up the right wall of the chamber, and eventually shines on a lighter colored rock at the entrance to the small beehive chamber, thereby helping to just dimly illuminate the beehive chamber. Colonials and Early Americans were certainly no strangers to methods used to track the sun's movements to indicate when spring and fall began. Given that the owners of the Gungywamp lands who had built and/or utilized the tan bark area and the accompanying nearby sites were agricultural workers, it is not surprising that they would build a chamber with an equinox feature.
What is important to state is that the original construction of the "Calendar" chamber is unknown. Was it originally constructed with a vent, and if so, was the vent altered at any point in time to become an equinox feature? What is known is that the chamber was repaired in the late 1970's by Gungywamp founder David Barron and volunteers, and the vent area has been dug away and altered up to the present by numerous individuals visiting the Gungywamp area.
Top of the sod-covered "Calendar" chamber featuring the back vent. Photo by Charles Clough.
Diagram of Chamber 1 Site ("Calendar" chamber).
Diagram of vent in Chamber 1 ("Calendar" chamber).
Diagram of equinox light beam in Chamber 1 ("Calendar" chamber).The Small ("Ice House"?) Chamber
Photo by Charles Clough.
"Ice House" chamber (referred to as "Tomb" chamber by Barron and Mason), entrance-facing south-southeast. (Image: Bill Dopirak)
This site was uncovered after a hurricane in the mid-1950s blew down a tree. The fallen tree's root system unearthed the opening to this chamber. It is located roughly 50 feet to the west from the "Calendar" chamber.
A large light colored quartzite stone slab formed the "door" of this chamber, and that would make sense if this chamber were used as a ice house, since the lighter colored stone would not absorb heat from the sun as a darker colored stone would It was not at all uncommon for farmers and others to construct ice house chambers on their property. Latham's Pond and other water sources are not that far away from this chamber.
There is an Internet myth that the segment of the light colored quartzite stone slab found on the ground in front of this chamber has a Celtic cross carved on it. In reality, there is no Celtic cross carving, or any other carving, found on this stone (although no one at this point would be surprised if someone wanted to "authenticate" their myth by defacing this artifact). The record stands that researchers and other witnesses can vouch for the fact that there has never been a Celtic cross or any other carving made on the light colored stone slab found on the ground in front of this chamber.
For more information on this site see the Stonewatch 2007 article, "Stone Chambers as Private Ice Houses."
Diagram of Chamber 2 Site. The stone "ice house" chamber" is the last of the sites found in the Gungywamp complex. The easiest way to get back to the YMCA trail entrance is to proceed to the right of the "ice house" chamber and join up with the trail that winds along the top of the high ledge to the left. This trail leads down into the valley past the highest sections of the ledge that forms the valley (where also is found Echo Rock). Once the tour guest descends into the valley, the trail forms a T with the loop trail. The tour guest will need to turn left onto the loop trail. The tour guest will pass the ledge on the left, and Echo Rock will also be on the left. The trail for the YMCA area will be on the right, with the pond/marsh area on the left. That trail will then lead back over the dam and into the YMCA parking area, where the tour began.