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A Tour Of North Salem's Rocks Of Ages

Archeological researcher David Johnson (left) conducted a tour of North Salem's stone chambers and cairns.
Archeological researcher David Johnson (left) conducted a tour of North Salem's stone chambers and cairns. Photo Credit: Katherine Pacchiana

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – Most local residents seldom give a second thought to the stone chambers and cairns (stone piles) they pass day in and day out. Members of the New England Antiquities Research Association (NEARA), however, have been studying these enigmatic structures for half a century and have come up with a few theories.

“I’ve studied the hieroglyphic Nazca lines in Peru and the Hopi Indian structures in the Southwest, and I see many notable similarities,” said David Johnson, as he conducted a tour around North Salem’s chambers and mounds. Johnson is an archeological researcher and prolific writer on the subject.

Johnson believes that both the hieroglyphics in Peru’s Nazca Desert, and the ancient North American Hopi structures, relate to concentrations of underground water.

The Hopis believed that ground water was a passage to their ancestors, Johnson said. So the ancient cairns, most of them in the obvious shapes of animals and reptiles, represented a means of communicating with their ancestors.

Animals and reptiles can also be detected in the cairns of North Salem, if you look closely. Johnson pointed out one that resembled a serpent and another one that resembled a turtle in North Salem. In each case, he used a dowsing rod to demonstrate the presence of significant ground water.

When it comes to North Salem’s stone chambers, Johnson is less sure. Some think the stone chambers are root cellars built by colonial farmers, but others believe they are ancient structures. Over recent years, many chambers and cairns in the area have been destroyed by development, limiting the field of research. Fortunately, he says, people are becoming more aware of their historic importance and are preserving them.

As for North Salem’s famous Balanced Rock, Johnson said, “A lot of people think it’s glacial, and that’s possible. But I feel there’s a human factor involved because, once again, there’s concentrated ground water there. There’s not enough evidence to go either way. So it’s still a wild card – still a mystery.”

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