at Saratoga Apple
Route 29 west, Schuylerville, NY
May 1, 2010
An unusual area of interest is the land at and around Saratoga Apple, a 200-acre apple & vegetable farm on NY Route 29, west of Schuylerville on the Hudson River 40 miles north of Troy. Several features of this site beg for careful, intelligent attention and investigation.
Clearly, most certainly, these southeast-facing hillsides and terraces are ideal for settlement and food production, able to grow lots of quality food. The site has several large water columns lifting deep water near the surface, distributed in large, complex flow systems. A tremendous number of springs sprout up under the site, some less than 10 feet deep and over 20 gallons per minute. It seems clear that this site would have been occupied in earlier centuries, and likely for a few thousand years.
This area is on the principal east-west travel corridor linking Saratoga Springs on the west with the Green Mountain foothills in the east. This trackway goes east from Saratoga Springs to pass north above Saratoga Lake. An island in the Hudson River below this site offers an easy way cross the Hudson River where Fish Creek from Saratoga Lake and the Battenkill from the Green Mountains enter the river at opposite angles.
Currently, the site's most fascinating features are on the summit at the west end of the orchards. This hilltop is southeast of the "T" where Route 338 from the south intersects NY 29 traveling east-west. A tractor path that crosses the summit north-to-south, bisecting the apple groves on the crown of the hill. On the east, the land drops steeply downward into the Hudson Valley. This descent is interupted by several level terraces, like a series of steps. The Saratoga Apple warerhouse and store is located at the widest of these terraces.
My first visit to this hilltop summit was two years ago in 2008 with Saratoga Apple owner Nate Darrow, for whom apple farming is a family tradition stretching back seven generations. Nate's grandfather founded Green Mountain Orchards in Putney, VT, and two of his brothers still operate this family business. Nate and his wife Christine bought Saratoga Apple in 1993. Nate was inspired to buy the orchard by the majestic views from the southeast corner of the summit. The peaks of the Berkshires and Green Mountains are visible, some perhaps 75 miles distant. To the west of north, the Adirondack high peaks can be seen. And east of south, the skyline is pierced by the 90-foot stone obelisk of the Saratoga Battlefield Monument, marking the headquarters of British General Burgoyne, whose surrender at that site was the turning point of the American Revolution.
On my first visit, I quickly recognized this is a strategic hilltop that has several features that are extra-ordinary⎯even mysterious. Five ley lines (pink) cross the hill's summit, closely together, but not quite like spokes of a wheel. Not far from this crossing, a very large water column is lifting about 4000 gallons per minute to within 200 feet of the land surface, and distributing this water outward in a 27-vein flow system (lite blue). And the view from the summit's southeast end make this an ideal promontory to make astronomical observations and monitor the movements of sun, moon and planets on the distant east horizon.
One of the site's most intriguing features were several large stones, just slightly exposed at the ground surface. Most are only visible 6 to 12 inches across⎯smooth, often whitish, most flush with the turf, and most remarkbly smooth textured, seeming almost polished.
These buried rocks seem located in a straight line on a tractor path that crosses the hilltop summit. I noted these stones align with a slightly raised crease that is the highest elevation over the crown of the hill, as if they are part of a hard ledge that has resisted erosion. All are aligned on the north-south axis transited by a ley line.
My impression was these stones are actually large boulders, buried the ground, with just tip of their tops exposed to view. Without searching or doing a thorough survey, I saw a dozen of these odd hilltop outcroppings, and suspected there were more I didn't have time to find.
That first day on the summit, I thought it odd to find these stones on land that hardly has any hardness, or even many loose surface rocks at all. Saratoga Apple's soils are all soft, with the gently rounded contours of glacial till and clay ledges. So these large rocks forming this hard ridge seemed a significant geological anomaly. They definitely were not bedrock outcroppings, but more likely imported boulders embedded in the ground. Their alignment with north-south ley line suggested these embedded stones aren't geological at all, not a random glacial deposit, but were put in place by humans. But they didn't seem typical of the usual colonial stone fence. And why were they buried in the ground? And the striking blue-white color of many of them was another anomaly of uncertain geology.
I left the summmit that day more than a little mystified by these buried boulders.
Friday, April 23, 2010, Adam Witt—the local firebread baker, who lives near the Saratoga Battlefield Monument—joined me to peel the turf off a few of these stones. With shovel and mattock, we exposed seven of these stones at the north end of the summit. We peeled back the dense mats of roots and soil until we saw the edge of each stone curve and turn down sharply.
As I had suspected two years earlier, each is 4 to 5 feet in diameter. The largest may be 6 feet across (at left).
Each stone is hard, dense, transluscent crystal—mostly quartz, although a few are a fine textured granite. Several are a very lusterous blue-white. Most fascinating of all, their surfaces seem polished—worn smooth, as if by water, with a silky feel to tough. Also, the soil around them is rich in cinders and powdered coal ash.
We couldn't dig down very deep, because we couldn't disturb either apple tree roots or the tractor path, but Adam and I both dowsed that these buried boulders are several feet deep, and somewhat egg-shaped. They are perhaps twice as tall as wide, and rounded.
Clearly, these embedded stones are not bedrock outcroppings, or naturally placed rocks. Rather, these very large stones were carefully, intelligently placed there by human intention and intelligent design, and with considerable effort.
And this was not the work of a colonial farmer clearing his or building a stone fence. These stones seemed to have been placed a long time before European settlers ever arrived on the scene.
But why would anyone drag huge 10 to 30 ton quartz boulders to the top of the highgest hill? Where did they get these huge chunks of quartz crystal? Why are their surfaces so smooth? And why bury them so deep in the ground?
We seem to have exposed a profound archaeology mystery.
Thursday, April 22, an anthropologist who taught "Anthropology & Religion" at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs toured the hilltop site with me. He quickly recognized the embedded boulders may be human installed, not of natural glacial origin. In a short time, he noticed the stones seem uniformly spaced, and run the entire length of the crown. While he is a professional skeptic, he was nonetheless captivated that this is an ancient settlement site, and of definite archaeological interest.
But he saw enough to cause him to at least consider an even more radical idea—that this strategic hilltop, with its site to observe astronomical events, and its regional landscape alignments, may be an ancient temple—a place where ancient inhabitants gathered for sacred ceremonies. So much so, he volunteered to show up with shovel, camera and notebook to document our exploration and discovery. I'm grateful for the early involvement of a professional to guide and advise any effort to examine these embedded enigmas more closely, thoroughly, deeply.
But a more complex, functional idea was forming in my own mind. These carefully selected and placed giant crystals have certain special electronic properties.
Quartz is piezoelectric. An orderly crystalline lattice of atoms—when compressed by mechanical pressure—vibrates at radio-frequencies, and emits electromagnetic waves at specific radio frequencies. This electronic property of crystals was used in the earliest primitive radios, which were called "crystal sets" because each had a quartz crystal to tune the radio to a specific frequency. Today, our understanding of crystals and trace elements is far more evolved from those early days of "crystal" sets "vacuum" tubes. Most of our semiconductors—from diodes and transistors on to modern micro-chips—are crystals, often of silicon—which is quartz—or germanium.
These crystal stones sit along a major thread of long-wave magnetic flux that is aligned north-south with the Earth's magnetic field, and is sited within a complex grid of subtle energy in the local and regional landscape. The crystal boulders may be emitters, generating a radio frequency electrical field around the hilltop. My initial concept is that these crystalline stones act like lightning rods on the roof of a house or barn, which emit a cloud of negative ions (electrons) to deflect the "leader" that forms a path for lightning. A lightning rod emits an ion cloud to deflect lightning away from the building. I suspect this emplacement of these crystalline boulders may be a device—an electronic construction to generate and transform subtle energy on landscape scale.
This is not a random imagination, but an insight that grows out of observations made at other obviously man-made sites—most of them earthworks lumped under the archaeologial category of "Indian mounds."
But we have a lot of field work ahead.
Thursday, April 29, Adam and I returned to the summit on a sunny, but cold and very windy day—so windy, some gusts nearly knocked me down numerous times. A bit of rain in three days had washed dust and some soil off the stones, making their fine detail easier to see and study. We began at NY 29, and walked the length of the crown north to south. I took photos of all the stones I could see exposed at the ground surface, while Adam dowsed for stones and kept his own count of the total.
This careful, methodical inspection identified quite a few stones I had not spotted before. Some were barely noticeable, as only two or three inches showed through the grass turf. I scuffed roots and dirt away with my shoe to expose more of each stone. If I had an iron bar instead of a crutch, I might have peeled back more of the turf, and poked holes in the sod to locate more boulders that are completely covered by grass and soil.
Counting my photos, I believe I located 44 of these embedded stone outcroppings—quite a few more than I had imagined. But Adam's dowsing detected far more stones than I could see. Altogether, Adam dowsed 116 stones on the alignment, and he believed these buried boulders are uniformly spaced along most of the path we walked. Their spacing was such that there is a gap of a few feet between adjacent stones, futher weakening the notion they were a stone fence assembled by an early colonial farmer.
We agreed to return and excavate one of the seven boulders we had peeled the turf off of to explore its full dimensions and depth.
I noticed two of the seven we exposed a week before weren't blue-white quartz, but a type of multi-crystal, fine-grained granite. However, it seemed most blue-white quartz stones were along the summit of the hill, as if they were carefully selected and placed there for some special function. I was again deeply impressed by the alabaster color of the five quartz stones, and their remarkably smooth, silky texture. While their very top was scratched, scarred and discolored by being run over by metal farm equipment, the lower surfaces felt water polished, rather than ground smooth by a glacier.
In two areas, we both felt the stones weren't in a line, but in an irregular wider pattern—perhaps a circle. One is at the northernmost end, right beside route 29. Several stones embedded in this area are not on the north-south alignment, but scattered across a wider 30-foot area. Perhaps construction of the roadway and a stream culvert had disturbed the land profile, or even repositioned the stones, but we couldn't sort out the extent or edges of this disturbed area along the roadway. A drivway entrance onto Saratoga Apple property had taken advantage of the firm surface provided by these embadded stones. Nonetheless, the irregular shape suggested this was the north end of the line of stones.
The other non-linear area was near the apex of the summit, near the 27-vein deep water column—the largest, most complex of many water columns sprouting under the hill. In the area 50 feet west of this water column, the stones seemed to break their linear alignment, and were perhaps in a 100-foot wide circle, or some other sort of enclosure.
In the feisty, cold wind, with a fatigued body, and queasy gut, I had no energy to do more than focus on my photography. So I made no extra physical or mental effort to examine these two irregular areas, or even confirm Adam's belief they are circular.
Not far beyond the south edge of the apple trees, soil is softer, the grasses taller, sod thicker and softer. I detected no hint of a buried boulder as I walked the border between two plowed vegetable fields. My personal sense was this embedded stone alignment terminates not far beyond the apple trees.
Adam and I wanted to excavate two of the blue-white quartz stones on the crown of the hill, but Nate Darrow was concerned our dig would disturb tree roots and obstruct his mowing operations. So, I negotiated to excavate the northernmost of the seven whose top we had exposed—the one farthest from the summit. A week later, Adam and I commenced our dig. Adam was very enthusiastic, and excavation proceeded rapidly.
The first 18 inches were mostly small gray grains of cinders—most likely coal ash from an industrial furnace in Schyulerville a century earlier. We noticed similar cinders around the top of boulders we exposed on the crown of the hill. So it's likely at least the tops of these stones were exposed when the commercial orchard was started, and the farmer tried to cover them with furnace slag.
Before we reached the area where the curve of the stone turned inward and under, these cinders were replaced by a thin layer of topsoil. This quickly gave way to a lighter brown subsoil. So this stone was buried deep into the subsoil—more evidence to suggest they weren't placed by a colonial farmer.
Soon after, our dig reached the inward and under curve of the stone. We continued, and soon discovered an odd fragment of stone at the southwest corner of the boulder. This fragment was a rounded crystalline rock similar to the boulder, but it had been fractured to expose a flat, slightly concave surface. The stone shard was positioned with its flat, fractured face flush against the boulder, and its rounded surface outward into the soil. Its position against the boulder face seemed not coincidence, but deliberate human placement—much like a foot to prop the round boulder into precise position. I carefully set this shard aside for future study.
We kept digging until we were satisfied the undercurve of the stone gave an accurate view of its shape and size. We decided not to excavate all around the stone, but assume it is evenly rounded all around. Our first excavated stone was a slightly flattened ovoid, perhaps four feet across and three feet thick. While we were disappointed it wasn't taller than wide, we were now convinced these stones were gathered and placed at least a few centuries before Europeans arrived. We were excited to uncover what seems the first piece of an archaeological mystery.
Staring at our half-exposed stone, we decided it was an effigy of the head of a serpent, or perhaps a turtle.
We looked around for another place to dig. I remembered a spot futher north where three stones are close together in a non-linear arrangement.
This triad is near the northwest corner of the east block of apple trees, but squarely in the tractor path, and an unlikely candidate to excavate. We poked and scraped around to size up these three stones and their positions. I peeled the turf off what seemed the largest of the three to reveal a hollow basin in its broad, flat top. This hollow cavity is a long triangle, perhaps six inches deep and three feet on its long axis. While this was intriguing, we could deduce no particular purpose for this indentation.
I devoted the rest of my year to make biochar and conduct seedling trials in Saratoga Apple's greenhouse, and Adam was fully occupied with baking bread and his two sons. We did no further digging in 2010.
Below is an aerial photo of Nate Darrow's Saratoga Apple farm: