The last thing you would expect to uncover while digging a hole for a fence post is an odd egg made of stone; however, in 1872, a group of workers did exactly that. Discovered near the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in the U.S. state of New Hampshire, the artifact was found inside a lump of clay six feet below the surface.
The alleged out-of-place artifact (OOPArt) is now called the “Mystery Stone,” and is one of New Hampshire‘s more curious and lesser known relics. While clearly not a work of nature, the egg’s age, purpose, or even origin has been under speculation from archaeologists for well over 100 years.
The stone egg
The Mystery Stone is smooth and approximately 4 inches (10.2 cm) long, 2 1/2 inches (6.4 cm) thick, weighs 18 ounces (510.3 grams), and has a dark hue to it. The egg is as hard as granite and about the size and shape of a goose egg.
The stone is made from a type of quartzite derived from sandstone or mylonite, which is a fine-grained rock that forms from the transference of rock layers along fault lines. This rock type is not found in the New Hampshire area.
The Mystery Stone is also carved with bizarre symbols ranging from astronomical signs to a human face. One side has what appears to be inverted arrows, a moon with some dots, and a spiral. Another side has what seems to be an ear of corn with 17 kernels in the row, and a circle with three figures — one looks like a deer’s leg, while the second has some kind of animal with large ears.
The third has what seem to be a tepee with four poles and a circle with nothing on the inside. The last side has a human face that is sunken with a nose that does not rise past the surface of the egg, and lips that gives the image a kind of purposeful expression.
The last thing, which may be the strangest thing of all about the egg, is it has been perfectly drilled through from end to end with two different sized tools.
The history behind the Lake Winnipesaukee stone egg
A Meredith, New Hampshire businessman named Seneca A. Ladd hired the workers who found the fascinating artifact— he was also given credit for its discovery. After it was unveiled to the world, the American Naturalist journal described it as a “a remarkable Indian relic.”
After Ladd’s death in 1892, the egg was passed onto one of his daughters, Frances Ladd Coe of Center Harbor, who donated the stone to the New Hampshire Historical Society in the state capital of Concord in 1927.
So what is it for?
There have been many attempts over the years to explain its purpose by historians.
In November 1872, The American Naturalist made an initial interpretation suggesting the Mystery Stone “commemorates a treaty between two tribes.” However, this was quickly discarded, and it was soon theorized that the egg was some kind of ancient tool.
A letter written to the New Hampshire Historical Society in 1931 suggested it was a “thunderstone,” also known as “thunderbolts” or “thunder axes,” which is a worked stone object, similar to an axe blade, and alleged to have fallen from the sky.
Thunderstones are usually associated with a thunder god. There are cultures all over the world that have stories of thunderstones. The writer of the letter also wrote that such objects:
“…always present the appearance of having been machine- or hand-worked: frequently they come from deep in the earth, embedded in lumps of clay, or even surrounded by solid rock or coral .”
Are the holes too perfect?
The holes bored in both ends of the stone were with two different size bits, with each being straight and not tapered. A borescope analysis of the stone’s holes was performed in 1994, which indicated that scratches in the lower bore suggested that it had been placed on a metal shaft and had been removed several times.
In a 2006 article by the Associated Press, state archaeologist Richard Boisvert suggested the holes had been drilled by power tools from the 19th or 20th century. In his report, he wrote:
“I’ve seen a number of holes bored in stone with technology that you would associate with prehistoric North America. There’s a certain amount of unevenness and this hole was extremely regular throughout.
“What we did not see was variations that would be consistent with something that was several hundred years old.”
This has led some to believe that the Winnipesaukee’s stone mystery was an elaborate hoax. The only thing that is agreed upon is that that it was created using some type of machine. Today, the stone is on display at the Museum of New Hampshire History, as it has been for the past 85 years.