The Mystery Stone of Lake Winnipesaukee sure lives up to its name. This egg-shaped wonder has been confusing experts since its muddy discovery in the late 19th century. Even today no-one quite knows what it is. But they certainly have some ideas!
Measuring 4 ins high and with a width of 2.5 ins, it’s smooth, small and perfectly formed. Which only adds to speculation over where it came from.
Fashioned from dark-colored quartzite – quartz sandstone that’s been subjected to extreme heat and pressure – it doesn’t appear to be local. The clear and almost random carvings on its surface hold clues to the egg’s origin and makers.
So before the beginnings of this remarkable object are explored, where exactly was it found? The year was 1872, and businessman Seneca A. Ladd had employed a work crew in the town of Meredith, New Hampshire. Laboring by Winnipesaukee, the men were preparing to put up a fence when they stumbled upon a lump of clay.
Inside was the Mystery Stone, beautifully-decorated despite the muck and comparable in size to a goose egg.
The carvings on its different sides depict recognizable symbols, like the moon and arrows. Ancient Origins describes how the “‘third’ side shows a tepee with four poles, an oval, and a human face
. The face is sunken with a nose that does not rise above the surface of the egg and lips that seem to give the image some kind of purposeful expression.”
A tepee, together with ears of corn and crossed arrows, suggests a Native American influence. Some believe this combination symbolizes a peace treaty.
This theory also refers to the holes which were made in the stone, “bored in both ends” according to atlasobscura.com and “drilled through from end to end with different sized tools”.
New England Today notes the holes may “let it rest on a stake in the ground to mark a line between territories.” Other ideas include a tool or weapon of some kind, or a permanent tribal record.
Seneca A. Ladd figured the stone was Native American. Yet the level of workmanship that went into these holes is a bit of a head scratcher.
New England Today writes they “vary in size and are not tapered. They are very smooth, suggesting that someone with modern tools drilled them”.
“What can be said for certain is an unknown craftsman, likely in the mid to late 1800s, carved this strange egg shaped object,” says Atlas Obscura “and that it has been a source of fascination since.” There’s one small problem with that assertion… it might be from way back in Celtic history!
Is it possible the strange object is a “thunderstone”? The Guardian newspaper mentions a letter sent to the New Hampshire Historical Society in 1931.
It put forward the notion the stone “could be Celtic or Inuit in origin”. The letter suggested that Winnipesaukee played host to a thunderstone… “Also known as ‘thunderbolts’ or ‘thunder axes,’ a thunderstone is a worked stone object, often wedge-shaped like an axe blade, that is alleged to have fallen from the sky.”
Apparently these rise up from the earth, which would explain the cake of clay that acted as a natural wrapper! They were called thunderbolts as people thought they’d landed from above. “Hundreds of years ago, oddly shaped ‘stones’ often turned up in fields” writes New England Today. “Farmers and peasants thought that thunderbolts fell from the sky and were buried in the earth.” The Mystery Stone isn’t alone but is definitely unique to America thus far.
There is another possibility, that the whole deal was a hoax. Eventually the Ladd family donated it to the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord, where it can be studied by the public.
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Must be a rare example of being able to look an egg in the face! Will anyone decipher its markings, and find out the mystery behind one of the ancient world’s true oddities…?