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Monday, February 9, 2009

Prehistoric Ceremonial Site or Random Natural Arrangement?

circle of underwater stones in Grand Traverse Bay
Underwater archeologist Mark Holley investigates a circle of stones on the Grand Traverse Bay floor (photo by Chris Doyal)
" based on a news article of the Chicago Tribune, "Underwater stones puzzle archeologists," by James Janega, Feb 8, 2009

"This is going to invite so much controversy that this is where we're going to be for the next 20 years," bemoaned diver and underwater archeologist Mark Holley. He is referring to a strange circle of stones located underwater in Grand Traverse Bay. He located the stones in 2007, but recently a blogger discovered the report and it has become an overnight sensation.

The stones could simply be an ancient shoreline or glacial debris. But their apparent geometric arrangement could indicate that humans placed them. 6000- 9000 years ago the lake floor here was exposed tundra, and roamed by hunter-gatherers. One suggestion for the arrangement is that of a fishing weir in a long disappeared river.

Native Americans are expressing concerns that it may be a sacred site. Archeologists are skeptical, but plan for a laser scan this summer from which a computer model can be built.

There is one claim that a large stone has an etching of a mastadon scratched in it. "It would be a really spectacular find— if it turns out to be true," said Charles Cleland, retired curator of Great Lakes archeology and ethnology at Michigan State University. "It would be the only visual representation of such in the whole hemisphere."

Holley found the site by accident while doing lake floor survey work in summer 2007 for the Grand Traverse Bay Underwater Preserve. After several passes, a row of stones became clear. When divers visited the site to take photographs, they were left vaguely unnerved. "It was really spooky when we saw it in the water," Holley said. "The whole site is spooky, in a way. When you're swimming through a long line of stones and the rest of the lake bed is featureless, it's just spooky."

Hank Bailey of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians said that the rocks appear to be arranged with some purpose. The exact location is being kept secret to avoid disturbance.

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2 comments:

John | English Wilderness said...

I'm fascinated by this kind of ancient site. I hope we get an update from the laser scan.

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

Hi John- This is quite a find! I saw some similar things in North Dakota, but not underwater, and they are so different from the surrounding area that they just stick out. It will indeed be interesting to see what more study determines.

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