A Massachusetts X-File.

From the tales of Stephen King to the horrors of H.P. Lovecraft, New England has long been a natural setting for tales of the supernatural and of the unexplained. One of the epicenters of stories of the paranormal and accounts that cannot be easily defined by science is a 200-square mile area known as the Bridgewater Triangle. Extending from Abington in the north to Rehoboth in the west and Freetown in the east, the Bridgewater Triangle has long been home to lore of ghost sightings, UFOs, cult activity, mythical thunderbirds, and other such phenomena. In the midst of this, there is a boulder with ancient carvings beside a river. To this day, it is not known who created these carvings in the rock, or why. With a beautiful spring day unfolding before me, I set off to explore this mysterious site in Massachusetts.

Dighton Rock is a forty-ton boulder located in Berkeley, Massachusetts. Originally situated in the riverbed of the Taunton River, the five-foot tall sandstone boulder is covered with petroglyphs- carved shapes and figures in rock face. While it is accepted that the carvings are ancient, pre-dating European colonization of North America, what is not known is who created the petroglyphs. There are several theories as to who made the carvings: Native Americans, Portuguese, Vikings, Phoenicians, or Chinese. Equally lost to time is the meaning of the inscriptions. In the early 1960s, the rock was removed from the river and placed on display in a museum on the riverbank. Channeling my inner-Agent Mulder, I headed to Dighton Rock State Park to see if the truth is out there.

Map of Southeastern Massachusetts, with a red pin in Dighton Rock.
The location for today’s journey: Dighton Rock, in Berkeley, MA.
View of entrance to Dighton Rock State Park, from behind a car's dashboard.
The entrance to Dighton Rock State Park.
2012 Honda Accord coupe, parked in a parking lot.
Parked, and ready to set off on a new adventure! Side note: my Accord failed Massachusetts state vehicle inspection- my parking brake was only semi-functioning, as the cable that activates the parking brake had separated from the right rear brake caliper, so the parking brake was only partially engaging (left wheel only). One trip to the local Honda dealer and everything was fixed. Still, I had to drive around with a giant red “R” (for “Rejected”) on my windshield for the last 24 hours, like a modern day Scarlet Letter, until I could get it reinspected today (it passed).
Dighton Rock Museum. The Taunton River is in the background.
This small museum houses Dighton Rock. Call ahead if you are interested, as the museum can be visited by appointment only. The Taunton River is in the background, which leads to Fall River and out to the Atlantic Ocean.
An octagonal room holding a model ship and wall displays.
The small museum has wall displays which enumerate the differing theories of the origin of the rock carvings.
Wall placard display on theory of American Indian origin.
The most plausible theory involves the local Native Americans. Similar petroglyphs can be found in New England, as well as in the Southwestern United States.
Wall display on Phoenician origin of the carvings.
That doesn’t mean that there are not other theories. The Phoenicians were ancient seafaring Greeks whose empire existed from 2500 BC – 539 BC. Could they have ended up in New England? Was it Vikings who carved it? Portuguese explorers? Chinese adventurers from ancient times?
Dighton Rock.
Dighton Rock. If you look closely, you can see the carvings.
Dighton Rock.
Another view, with a better angle to show the carvings.
Lithocollage showing Native Americans in New England.
This Lithocollage, located behind the rock, was made in 1976 by gluing together many different rocks to create this art. According to the placard, this is the only piece of art like this in the world.
2012 Honda Accord in front of sign for Profile Rock.
The guide at Dighton Rock State Park recommended that I also check out Profile Rock. My curiosity piqued, I drove over to Freetown State Forest.
Rock formation at Freetown State Forest.
After a brief hike through the woods, I came across this rock formation. At first, I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, so I began to climb up the rocks… which was a bit of an unexpected challenge. Freetown State Forest has also been the scene of grisly murders, reported cult activity, and animal sacrifices (via Wikipedia). A ghost is said to inhabit these rocks, although yesterday my only companions were a few fellow explorers and some birds.
Profile Rock.
And then it became apparent to me- Profile Rock forms the profile of a man’s head. Local Wampanoag believe this rock formation is the face of Massassoit, the leader of the Wampanoag who lived from 1581-1661, and befriended the early European settlers.

If you’re interested in exploring more of this fascinating section of New England, you can set your GPS for Dighton Rock State Park. Call ahead for a tour of the museum, however, because while it is free to visit, you must schedule an appointment (the museum remains locked otherwise). You can explore Profile Rock at Freetown-Fall River State Forest, which is open year round from sunrise to sunset. For a more detailed exploration of the Bridgewater Triangle, I’d highly recommend this article from the Roadtrippers website. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the unsolved mystery of Dighton Rock in this quiet section of Massachusetts. Thank you for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!

‘Til next time.

4 thoughts on “A Massachusetts X-File.

  1. Two great rocks, and another excellent day trip exploring the hidden gems of Mass! Rock carvings are a way of life out here in the Southwest. Many ancient remains are preserved in a similar fashion but without conclusive findings about who exactly created them, what they were intended to communicate, and how long ago the ruins were abandoned. Glad to hear the Accord made it past the follow-up inspection. Out here they really don’t put that much time or effort into those types of annual inspections. A smog test and a renewal fee, and you get the sticker!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw petroglyphs when my Mom and I visited Albuquerque several years ago- it was very cool. Have you taken the Legend out to explore the ones in Arizona?

      I was accustomed to the inspections in NJ, which are like the ones you have out west. In MA, they go over EVERYTHING about your car.


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