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Coordinates: 41°23′N 72°04′W / 41.39°N 72.06°W / 41.39; -72.06

Gungywamp stone circle

Gungywamp /ˈɡʌniwɒmp/ is an archaeological site in Groton, Connecticut, United States, consisting of artifacts dating from 2000-770 BC, a stone circle, and the remains of both Native American and colonial structures.[1] Among multiple structural remains, of note is a stone chamber featuring an astronomical alignment during the equinoxes. Besides containing beehive chambers and petroglyphs, the Gungywamp site has a double circle of stones near its center, just north of two stone chambers. Two concentric circles of large quarried stones - 21 large slabs laid end to end are at the center of the site.


The 100-acre (40 ha) site consists of multiple elements covering a broad range of time. There are remains of houses and potential cloth and iron processing sites. There are multiple stone chambers currently believed to be root cellars, two of which are completely intact. Says Connecticut State Archaeologist Nicholas Bellantoni, "The thing that's unique at Gungywamp is that there are so many of them."[2]

One of these "root cellars", also known as the "calendar chamber", has an astronomical feature where an inner alcove is illuminated during the equinoxes by the alignment of a hole in the west wall, through which the sun shines upon a lighter stone on the opposite side, radiating illumination within the smaller, beehive shaped chamber.[1]

Somewhat removed from the structures, there is a stone circle, actually consisting of two circles of stones, one within the other, over ten feet in diameter. The outermost ring is made up of twelve stones worked to be curved. Archaeologists who have studied it consider it to have been a mill.[2][3] The archaeologist Ken Feder notes that unlike European stone circles the stones are recumbent and not upright and identifies it as a bark mill used to extract tannin for leather making. Walking in a circle animals would pull the mill wheel between the double circle of stones."[4] Other researchers have hypothesized it is a Native American built structure.[5]

Even farther away there is a row of low standing stones, lined up in a north-south facing, one of which features an etched image of a bird with outstretched wings.[1]


The origin and meaning of the name is uncertain. According to The Hartford Courant, researchers have "associated the name, 'Gungywamp' with ancient Gaelic, Mohegan, Pequot, and Algonquin" and could mean anything from "church of the people", "place of ledges", "swampy place"; or "all powerful" and "white," respectively.[6]


Native American artifacts include arrowheads, stone flakes and pottery fragments. Colonial artifacts include pottery, china, buttons, coins, bottle and window glass, utensils, tobacco pipes, bricks and animal bones. There have been no artifacts found associated with the stone chambers to give any indication of their purpose.[1]

Stone chambers[edit]

The specific function and temporal origin of the stone chambers have yet to be definitively established. Colonial era root cellars constructed by Euro-Americans is currently considered to be the strongest possibility. Other possibilities include construction by slaves in colonial times, or by Native Americans such as the Pequot or Mohegan tribes.[1] It has been suggested that the site could be one of the ceremonial stone landscapes described by USET, United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc., in their resolution on sacred ceremonial stone landscapes. However, the site is most known among the general public due to the suggestion, originally made in the 1960s, that the stone chambers share similarities with structures from Medieval Ireland. This has been taken by some to indicate that Irish monks, or Culdees, were involved, and that therefore the site contains evidence of pre-Columbian European settlement of the Americas.[2]

North complex[edit]

This area lacks stone chambers but it contains some interesting structures. One is a low earthen berm with a rectangular shape. When James Whittall, Jr. excavated the berm, he found stumps of posts on three sides indicating a Native American lodge built of saplings. Associated with the lodge were two hearths. Nearby is an elongated cairn in the shape of a boat (narrow at the tips and wide in the middle). On top of this cairn were three short standing stones. In the same general area there is a group of nineteen cairns built on the ground. More cairns were built on top of boulders scattered about the area. There were also three standing stones in the area.[7]

Virtual tour[edit]

An online virtual tour can be viewed at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center web site.[8]

Secrets of the Underground[edit]

The television show Secrets of the Underground explores the Irish connection with biologist Rob Nelson. He uses Polynomial texture mapping to look at the rock carvings.

Recent events[edit]

In 2018 the deed to 270 acres of the original 400-acre parcel was transferred to the State of Connecticut. Discussions are in progress on how to allow legal access to the property while preserving the archaeological sites.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e Gungywamp Society (retrieved July 25, 2006)
  2. ^ a b c Hartford Advocate, The Stones of Groton, by John Adamian, March 27, 2003 (retrieved July 25, 2006)
  3. ^ Lithic Sites of New England (retrieved July 25, 2006) Archived November 5, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Feder, Kenneth L. (2011). Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology: From Atlantis to the Walam Olum. ABC-CLIO/Greenwood. pp. 131–132. ISBN 978-0-313-37918-5.
  5. ^ Gungywamp Theories (retrieved June 1, 2011
  6. ^ What in the world is a Gungywamp?(2008)
  7. ^ Barron. David P. & Sharon Mason,“The Greater Gungywamp”,North Groton, CT, A Guidebook (1994 revised edition)
  8. ^ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center (retrieved August 27, 2016)
  9. ^ State ponders future of Gungywamp (retrieved August 6, 2018)