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Niches

Introduction

Niches are small roofed structures. Four designs were found at America’s Stonehenge: boxed-in, low see-through, high wall-end see-through and tilted roof. The placement of the niches varied from built into chamber walls and built into stone walls to free-standing. They were found throughout the site.

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Boxed-in Niches in Stone Walls

West Side Perimeter Wall – Approximately midway along the west side perimeter wall there is a boxed-in niche built into the stone wall. The niche is 2’6” wide by 2’ feet deep by 1’3” high on the interior. Abutting the rear exterior of the niche is a pure quartz boulder with an L shape.

 

 

America's Stonehenge - Niche West Side Perimeter Wall
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America's Stonehenge - Niche-West Side Perimeter Wall - Quart Protrusion

North Stone Niche – The niche is in a stone wall enclosing the area at the North Stone. It was built using a flat topped elongated boulder with triangular shaped end. The niche’s interior size is 10” wide by 2’ deep by 7” high. A short section of the boulder was utilized for the small boxed-in niche. The triangular shaped end with a prominent oblong white quartz intrusion was left so that it jutted out in front on one side. A row of stones was placed beside the triangular section. A flat slab was used for the roof and then the stone wall was built up and over the flat topped boulder and roof of the niche totally integrating it into the stone wall.

America's Stonehenge - North Stone Niche

Boxed-in Niche – Free-Standing

Quartz Quarry – On the north side of the hilltop out in the woods there is a low outcrop of quartz that was quarried. Beside the outcrop is a niche. On the east side of the niche there is a large split boulder. The niche has a triangular shaped boulder with a flat bottom that was used for a roof stone. The triangular boulder was raised off the ground in front on both sides while its backside rests on the ground creating a tilted roof boxed-in niche. The interior of the niche is 1’ high by 1’5” wide.

America's Stonehenge - Quartz Quarry Niche

Boxed-in Niches in Chamber Walls

Collapsed Chamber – In the exterior wall beside the entrance into the chamber there is a niche. It was built into the wall at the base at ground level. The niche is 13” wide by 14” high by 20” deep.

On the opposite end of the exterior wall there is a vertical indented V with a lintel stone. It is a spirit portal that worked in conjunction with the niche.

America's Stonehenge - Collapsed Chamber Niche

Sunken Courtyard Chamber – Niche is in exterior wall one stone up from base of wall next to the entrance. No data was collected because area is off limits to the public. It is similar in size to the Collapsed Chamber’s niche.

Among the stones on the west end is a tall bar with an open-L shaped top. It has quarry holes indicating it was used to anchor guy wires. This suggests it is in situ. That places an open-L spirit portal feature in potential association with the niche.

Niche-Sunken-Unit-DRW

Oracle Chamber – The chamber has four niches built into its interior walls. All the niches are in the east wing of the chamber.

1. Large well built niche with off center opening midway up south wall. Opening is 16” wide 20” high. Interior size is 2’ 10” long by 2’3” wide 1’ 8” high.

2. Niche is located at base of north wall adjacent to the exposed recessed boulder. Above the exposed recessed boulder is the petroglyph. The niche has two openings one into the exposed recessed boulder and the second into the chamber’s interior. It is 1’ 7” wide by 1’ 8” high by 2’ 4” deep. The opening into the exposed boulder has a triangular shape and is 8” high by 4” wide.

3. Niche is located on east end above the space in front of the drain entrance. The drain entrance is recessed under the niche. The niche is 15” high by 23” wide by 18” deep. On the interior walls of the niche are a rust colored cracked quartz vein and two small black intrusions. These features were symbolic.

4. The south wall of niche #3 forms the north of niche #4. This niche has a narrow slot opening 8” wide by 14” high. Its interior is 22” wide by 22” deep by 20” high. the niche is hiiden from view.

Niche-Oracle-Chamber-1-SM
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Niche-Oracle-Chamber-2-SM
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Abandoned Chamber – A niche was built up against a short upright thick stone slab. Its side wall is against the stone slab. The niche’s front faces a tall upright stone slab which was a side wall in the Abandoned Chamber. At the bottom of the slab there is a confirmed /\ shape spirit portal. The niche’s interior size is 1’1” wide by 1’6” deep by 9” high.

On the opposite side of the short upright stone slab a pile of bricks was found. The bricks are thought to indicate where Jonathan Pattee built the chimney in his house. The niche is located at the western end of the Sunken Courtyard unit.

Niche-Abandoned-Chamber-SM

High See-Through Niches at End of Stone Wall
These niches are found at the extreme end of linear stone walls

Winter Solstice Sunset – A long (55’) free-standing curved stone wall built on the ground ends with a niche built into its south end. The stone wall is east of the Winter Solstice Sunset alignment stone. The niche has simple construction. A stone slab was placed on top of two boulders spread apart to leave an opening underneath to create the niche. The opening is 10” wide by 2’ long by 18” high.

Niche-Winter-Solstice-Sunset-Wall-SM

On Hilltop – The niche was built into the end of a short length of stone wall. It is located behind the Mensal Stone Chamber and across from the Low Walled Enclosure. The niche has a long flat stone slab for the roof and a shorter flat stone slab as a floor. A few small stones have been placed on top of the floor slab they appear to be modern and intrusive.  The interior height is 13” to 18” varying because of the thickness of the roof slab’s uneven underside. It is 2’11” wide. The roof slab’s length is 7’2” with a slightly shorter interior length.

Niche-Hilltop-SM

Low See-Through Niches – Free-Standing

Small Cave – A few feet down slope from the small cave there is a small niche. It was made by placing a small stone slab on top of support stones on either side. Its location directly in front of the small cave indicates the cave was used for ritual / ceremonial purposes. Exterior size is 1’ 10” wide by 4’ 9” long by 1’ 2” high.

Niche-Small-Cave-SM

Summer Solstice Sunrise – An oblong stone slab laid flat and raised up on low support stones is directly west of the Summer Solstice Sunrise alignment stone. It is on the exposed bedrock of the hilltop and directly north of the Ramp. The stone slab is 7’9” long by 2’ & 2’7” wide by 5” to 8” thick. The opening underneath is 8½” high. There are a couple of features associated with this niche. On its south end there an open L shaped corner. Underneath is triangular shaped support on the north end.

Niche-Summer-Solstice-Sunrise-SM

Low See-Through Niches in Stone Wall

Equinox Sunrise – the niche is attached to a large split boulder and integrated into a stone wall on its north side. The Equinox sunrise standing stone is in the stone wall a few feet south of the split boulder. The interior of the niche is 5” high by 1’8” long by 1’8” wide. The see-through aspect is oriented east to west which aligns with the split in the boulder.

Niche-Equinox-Sunrise-SM

Winter Solstice Sunset – At the Winter Solstice Sunset area there are two standing stones with abutting anchor stones laid in a flat position. The triangular sunset alignment stone has a triangular shaped anchor stone flat on the ground. A short distance further along the west side perimeter wall there is a rectangular standing stone with small open L shaped cutout in a top corner. Abutting this standing stone is a rectangular shaped stone slab laid flat but raised off the ground by support stones thus creating a low see-through niche. The rectangular anchor stone / niche roof stone is 4’ 2” long by 3’ 4” wide by 6” thick. The niche’s interior is 6” high.

Niche-Winter-Solstice-Sunset-Perimeter-Wall-SM

Summer Solstice Sunset – In the west side perimeter wall leading up to the sunset alignment stone a boulder was raised off the ground. The boulder is across from the low wide free-standing wall. The boulder has an open L shaped corner. It is 18” high by 25” long by 10” & 21” wide. The open space underneath creates an 8” high see-through niche. 

Niche-Summer-Solstice-Sunset-Perimeter-Wall-1-SM
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Cairn Field / Summer Solstice Sunset – In the east side stone wall enclosing the large cairn field there is a large upright rectangular stone slab with a low opening underneath it. The stone slab is 6’6” long by 1’10” high by 9” wide. The opening forming the niche is 2’ long by 8” high by 9” wide. On one end of the opening there is a small rectangular slab with a small triangular slab on top partially underneath the upright stone slab and partially jutting out of the opening. The rectangular and triangular shapes were symbolically used throughout the America’s Stonehenge site. Note many of the niches have a triangular shape integrated into them.

Niche-Cairn-Field-Wall-SM

Tilted Roof Niches – Free Standing

Small Site on West Side of the Hill – a tilted roof niche was erected in conjunction with a triangular standing stone and a stone slab laid flat on the ground with an open crack completely through it half ways up the middle of it. The three features are aligned north to south with a few feet in between each one. The niche roof slab is 2’10” wide by 3’9” long by 1’ thick. It was propped up on a triangular stone slab 1’4” high.

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Tilted Roof Niche on South side of Hill Top - It is located inside an enclosed area which also has a standing stone shaped like the North stone, and a fallen standing stone that has a vertical white vein with small white spot attached to it. The niche was built on top of a triangular shaped bedrock.

Niche-South-Side-Hilltop-SM

Summer Solstice Sunset – In the middle of the Upper Processional Way and adjacent to the Summer Solstice Sunset alignment stone area is a tilted roof niche. It is a simple structure built on the ground with a roof stone that ends in a triangular shaped tip and a single support stone underneath. The roof stone measures 4’ 8” long by 2’ wide by 1’ thick. The interior of niche is 4” high. 

Niche-Upper-Processional-Way-1-SM
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Cairn Field / Summer Solstice Sunset – A propped up stone slab was found outside the lower cairn field on its southwest corner. The propped slab is part of a slab that split into three sections of which two sections remain flat on the ground. The third was propped up with a prism shaped stone. The prism creates a triangular face on both ends. The raised slab is 10’ feet long by 10” high. The prism support stone is 16” wide by 13” long by 10” high. The raised slab creates a tilted roof niche. The natural open split between the two stone slabs laying flat on the ground is a spirit portal.

Niche-Cairn-Field-Free-Standing-SM

Tilted / Boxed-in Niche at end of Wall

True South Wall – At the end of the short east-west oriented section there is a large boulder. The boulder is raised on its west end where it attaches to the stone wall. The boulder measures 3’ 9” long by 2’ 10” high by 3’ 4” wide. The niche / spirit portal is 10” high at its tallest point by 18” wide by 23” deep. Originally I interpreted the feature as a spirit portal. However, upon isolating the niches in this article its design suggests it is a niche. The L shape of the True South Wall indicates a spirit portal. Potentially the feature is a combined niche and spirit portal.

Niche-True-South-Wall-SM

Analysis

Patterns

Open L shaped corners
Five niches have an L shape associated with them. The summer solstice sunrise see-through niche and the summer solstice sunset see-through niche each have an open L shaped corner. The True South Wall niche is integrated into an L shaped wall. The winter solstice sunset see-through niche has an L shaped corner. The west wall boxed-in niche has a quartz boulder formed into an L shape.

Triangular shapes
Eight niches have a triangular shaped stone integrated into the niche. The triangles show up as base stones, in roof stones, as a pair of rectangular and triangular features, and support stones. The triangular shaped base stone was found in the North Stone boxed-in niche and the Winter Water Ceremonial area tilted roof niche. The triangle shape in the roof stones showed up in the summer solstice sunset tilted roof niche and the quartz quarry boxed-in niche. Triangular support stones were found in the summer solstice sunrise see-through niche, cairn field tilted roof niche and the small site’s tilted roof niche. The combination of rectangle and triangle showed up in the cairn field’s see-through niche.

Split Stones
Three niches had associated split stones. The equinox niche was attached to a large split stone boulder. The quartz quarry niche was built next to a large split stone boulder. The small site niche had a stone slab with a split half ways up its middle next to it.

Two Niches per Sunset Alignment
Each of the three sunset alignment areas had two niches. The winter solstice sunset had a see-through niche at end of high wall and a low see-through niche. The summer solstice sunset on top of the hill had a tilted roof niche and a low see-through niche. The summer solstice sunset at the cairn field had a low see-through niche and a tilted roof niche.

One niche per Sunrise Alignment
The summer solstice sunrise and the equinox sunrise alignments each had a single low see-through niche.

Niches in Chambers
Niches were only found in walk-in height chambers. No niches were found in the low crawl-in height chambers.

Discussion

A total of twenty three niches were built on this site. When niches show up at stone structure sites, which is not often, there is usually just one. This is an extremely high number of niches. Niches were consistently found at all the small areas beyond the main hilltop with its unusual high density of chambers. They were also found built into four chambers. The high number of niches falls within the same context as the extraordinary number of thirty-seven drain and basin features. 
Several different designs were repeatedly used to create the niches. Several different features were repeatedly integrated into these small structures. Eight of the sixteen niches (not in chambers) have triangle symbolism built in. This is a high ratio. Of the seventeen (non-chamber) niches fourteen have a feature integrated or directly associated with them. The features serve no structural purpose. They were repeatedly used. This repetitiveness indicates symbolic usage. The designs and features repeatedly used shows intentionality.

On the west side with the sunset alignments there are two niches per sunset area. On the east side with the sunrise alignments there is only one niche per sunrise area. There is consistency in the number per sunset and per sunrise. This was intentional.

The builders had a preference for which style of chamber to place niches in. They were all walk-in height chambers. None of the low crawl-in chambers had a niche. The chambers have clearly defined styles. The styles show the site went through several different building periods. The repeated use of the various factors show the information used to create the niches was past down from one generation to the next generation.

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