Mysterious Michigan: Michigan’s Two Stone Circles

Stone circles are as fascinating as they are spooky. What secret rites were so convincing thousands of years ago that people thought using their ropes and sticks to haul large stones into a circle was the way to go? Nobody has been able to solve the riddle of the world’s stone circles, but whatever the argument, it must have been convincing to create such determination.

Stonehenge gets all the attention, but there is a veritable quarry of other stone circles in the British Isles – Arbor Low, the Rollright Stones, the Maughanby Stone Circle, the ring of Brodgar, and the Callanish Stones to name just a few.

Outside Great Britain, the oldest known megalithic circle in the world is the Gobekli Tepe located in Turkey. It’s been dated back to around 9,000 BCE. There are even excavations are showing stone circles beneath stone circles. There are the Atlit Yam and Gilgal Refaim stone circles in Israel. Poland has the Odry Stone Circle. Egypt has a stone circle at Nabta dating back to 4,500 BCE. The interesting thing here is that at Nabta the stones were arranged smack dab on the Tropic of Cancer. On the summer solstice, with the sun directly overhead, the stones have no shadows for a few minutes.

Here in Michigan, unknown to most of the world, and probably many Michiganders too, are two ancient stone circles. Beaver Island has a stone circle that is connected to the Peshawbestown tribe of Native Americans. Tribal elders in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ontario recall old stories of a gathering place on the west side of Beaver Island which contained a stone calendar in the medicine wheel circle of life. You can still see some of the etchings including a bison.

More recently, in 2007, archaeologists from Northwestern Michigan University were hired to use sonar to survey Lake Michigan’s floor near Traverse City. They found boat wrecks, cars, and a pier from the Civil War period. But nothing prepared them for the startling discovery of a stone circle forty feet under the water. One of the stones has a carving of a mastodon, an animal that went extinct 10,000 years ago. Research has been slow because few petroglyph experts dive.

Nobody can agree on specifically what stone circles were for except it had something to do with the stars, sun, and moon. Skeletons have been found at sites suggesting ritual human sacrifice. Whatever they were for, they held great significance for people without machinery to leave their fields and strain their backs without Tylenol to move large rocks in order to model their cosmological ideas about things.

Just what these stone circles are is intriguing in itself, but the bigger conundrum is how civilizations separated by oceans, land masses, time, and more notably a lack of awareness of there even being a world beyond themselves, would all come up with the idea of moving impossibly big rocks into a circle to plumb the mysteries of life. How could people completely detached from each other, independently come up with the same improbable idea? Answer that.

What we call stars, sun, and moon today, they called gods back then. What we call human sacrifice today they called obedience. And it was at the peak of stone circle use, somewhere around 2,500 BCE, when disconnected people all over the world were paying homage to their gods, some with human sacrifice, a story began circulating in the ancient roots of Judaism, Islam and Christianity about father Abraham being asked by his god to build an altar … of stone … and sacrifice his promised son.

Is it coincidence, or maybe a connection? Maybe coincidences are just connections by a Bigger Picture that we haven’t figured out yet. It is the very nature of Mystery that begs us to pursue. And the Mystery only deepens, as all good Mysteries do.

And on another note …

… simple technology is amazing. A Michigan man has solved the riddle of how stone blocks weighing more than 20 tons can be moved and lifted by one person.


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