Update: Alec Mountain Stonehenge

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner

There are several thousand stone cairns, stone circles and stonehenges in the northwestern tip of South Carolina, throughout most of northern Georgia and the Choccoloco Mountain region of Alabama. Yes . . . stonehenges . . . the Alec Mountain Stone Oval would be classified as a stonehenge by European archaeologists . . . a very large stonehenge!

Originally described in 1956 as “The Alec Mountain Stone Circle” by Peabody Museum archaeologist Phillip E. Smith, this ancient structure is more correctly described as a “henge” or “stonehenge”. This, I learned from Scottish archaeologists recently. A stonehenge is defined by European archaeologists as a stone circle or oval, which was only used for ceremonial purposes and is aligned with natural features to function as an astronomical observatory. As such, very few, if any, artifacts are found within or near the structure. That was certainly the case at Alec Mountain.

The Alec Mountain Stonehenge aligns with the newer Arnold and Fritchey Mounds.

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The architectural style of the Alec Mountain Stonehenge was built in the coastal areas of Scotland and northwestern Ireland, plus southern Sweden, between around 2500 BC to 2000 BC. Most were much smaller and less precise than the one at Alec Mountain, however. This period corresponds to the Copper Age in Northwestern Europe, which represented a transition from all stone tools to copper weapons and tools then the use of prestigious bronze weapons by the elite. Stone tools can still be found at most town sites in Northwestern Europe until the Iron Age, because bronze was an expensive material to fabricate.

A crannog is a round artificial island in Ireland or Scotland that either began as stacked stones or timber piles. The word is written as crannoc in Scotland. The oldest known crannogs have been radiocarbon dated to between 3300 BC and 3680 BC. Although later crannogs were definitely platforms for the houses of village chiefs or regional kings, archaeologists have found evidence that many, such as the one in Loch Migdale, Scotland had the same ceremonial functions as henges.

The oldest know crannog in the Americas is the Bilbo Mound in Savannah, GA, which was radiocarbon dated to c. 3550 BC. Perhaps a ceremonial structure at first, over time it became a burial mound.

Earthhenges were created by excavating ditches and building up a bank. The interiors of the rings were often used for burials or cremations. They contain few or no stones and often used vertical timbers for sighting landmarks and heavily bodies. Later versions of the earthhenge had burial mounds in their center.

Earthhenges were a “trademark” feature of the Adena Culture between around 800 BC and 200 BC in the Ohio River Basin. However, the oldest known earthhenge in North America is Watson Brake, Louisiana, which dates from around 3450 BC.

Stone Circles are defined by European archaeologists as boulders or monoliths arrange in a circular pattern for astronomical purposes. The oldest known stone circles are in Alberta Province, Canada, Lapland, Finland and northwestern Russia. Probably, THE oldest, currently identified is in Alberta – 3,500 BC.

Smithsonian Institute archaeologist, Cyrus Thomas identified at least two dozen large stone circles in northern Georgia during 1886. The best preserved stone circles in the Southeastern United States now are in northwestern Habersham County, GA and at the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in Cobb County, GA.

Woodhenges are astronomical circles, created by large timbers. These appeared in Germany and Bohemia around 3500 BC or earlier. They were common in the British Isles between around 2500 BC and 1800 BC. There was one at Kolomoki Mounds in Southwest Georgia at least as early as 100 AD. The more famous woodhenge in Cahokia dates from around 1050 AD.

The term “stone enclosure” is used by European archaeologists for circular or asymmetrical walls that were used as paddocks for livestock or defenses for villages or houses. These structures typically contain many diverse artifacts.

Cairns are stacked stone monuments, generally cylindrical in form. They were used for cremations, burning incense, marking burials and as astronomical landmarks.

Alec Mountain is a real archaeological site, completely forgotten by archaeologists

The astonishing importance of this structure

Here is the big surprise though. The Alec Mountain Stonehenge is larger and more precisely constructed than virtually any fieldstone henge in Europe. If the structure was located in the British Isles or Scandinavia, it would be a national landmark and major tourist attraction. As “things stand,” though, the majority of people living in eyesight of Alec Mountain do not know it exists . . . and apparently, there is not a single living Gringo archaeologist, who has ever even seen it!

When Phillip Smith studied Alec Mountain in 1956, it was a popular tourist attraction, kept in immaculate condition by a local Boy Scout troop. Now, it has become almost completely forgotten. A dense bed of leaves conceals much of the wall. So many trees have sprouted within and near the ring, it is difficult to produce discernible photos or videos. Access and parking for the site was cut off when the country cut a new roadbed for Alec Mountain Road. Within a generation, the amazing structure was seldom visited.

It is obvious that the archaeologists in Scotland, Ireland and Sweden do not quite believe what I am telling them about the petroglyphs and stone ruins in North Georgia. They think, “How could there possibly be the same petroglyphs and stone structures on both side of the Atlantic at the same time? If these sites are for real, why are they not mentioned in ANY archaeological texts or national network documentaries, produced in the United States?

It’s a problem. You would think that Dixie archaeologists would be devoting their careers to such a remarkable legacy that we have here. Instead they devote their energies to concealing their presence . . . so the stone ruins won’t mess up their “models” of America’s past. For now, all I can do is go out into the mountain wilderness this winter to make more and better quality videos to post on Youtube. We shall see!

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