Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Pachaug Hoax

The above image was sent to me several months ago by NEARA's Rhode Island State Coordinator Jim Egan. The photo was taken in the Pachaug State Forest in Voluntown, CT -- a well-known place to local folks with an interest in ancient stonework. Pachaug makes up a chain of contiguous conservation lands, as well as a relatively unbroken series of cairn sites reaching into the Arcadia and Rockville Management Areas -- two Rhode Island sites discussed extensively on this blog.

Back in 1998, a hunter stumbled upon a rock shelter site in the Pachaug State Forest. It was excavated by a team headed up by CT State Archaeologist Nicholas Bellantoni. Not much more than a few projectile points and potsherds were found. Bellantoni moved on and left any further excavations to a small team of volunteers who were trained by him.

The following Summer, the team of volunteers made remarkable discoveries. They uncovered copper beads and pieces of a clay pipe. Bellantoni ordered tests of the artifacts. A UCONN physics professor named Cynthia Peterson conducted light and heat radiation tests, determining the artifacts to be 1,000 years old.

In August of 2000, Bellantoni along with the Pequot Museum Research Director Kevin McBride returned to the site for further excavations. About 40 feet from their original excavation site they uncovered a series of amazing artifacts. But the two became increasingly suspicious. There were some problems.

Loose dirt was detected where the soil should have been compact. A tree root was unnaturally severed. A fully intact oak leaf was found at the bottom of a test pit. A snake intricately carved from copper had not properly corroded. A stone pipe appeared to have a machine-made borehole exactly 3/16 of an inch in diameter through the entire shaft. Even stranger, X-rays showed that the borehole never made it through to the bowl of the pipe, yet the bowl had tobacco residue as if it had been smoked.

After completing their investigation, Bellantoni and McBride declared the site to be a hoax. Although Bellantoni never said who he thought were the perpetrators, he did say that such hoaxes are common among people looking to either make a profit, or to support some theory.

The site sits nearby an extensive cairn field. An unsubstantiated rumor was circulated implicating, "cairn enthusiasts," as the culprits of the hoax.

[Click Here] to read the article from UCONN's Advance archives.

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