Of the many New World out of place artifacts, few can truly rule out being hoaxes. The Dighton Rock is one of these. The rock itself is a boulder which had been on the edge of the Taunton River in Berkley, MA. It was submerged at high tide but visible at low tide. The entire face of the rock is covered with petroglyphs and some sort of writing. It was described as early as 1680 by Rev. John Danforth, an English Colonist. Since then, the rock has been the source of widespread speculation. Was it made by Vikings, Native Americans, Phoenicians or Aliens?
None other than Cotton Mather described the rock, shortly after Danforth made his drawing, in 1690. According to Mather:
Among the other Curiosities of New-England, one is that of a mighty Rock, on a perpendicular side whereof by a River, which at High Tide covers part of it, there are very deeply Engraved, no man alive knows How or When about half a score Lines, near Ten Foot Long, and a foot and half broad, filled with strange Characters: which would suggest as odd Thoughts about them that were here before us, as there are odd Shapes in that Elaborate Monument.
One particularly interesting theory, which some scholars have discredited but seems to have made a resurgence lately, is that the rock was made by the Norse in their now well documented voyages to the new world. Curiously, the first person to ever propose the theory of Vikings visiting the New World was Carl Christian Rafn, who proposed such an idea using the Dighton Rock as evidence in 1837. Rafn proposed that the New World was actually the Vinland of the Norse sagas, which turns out to have been true.
A cursory glance at the rock would seem to support this idea as the writing does appear very much like early Norse runes. Compare this 1830 sketch of the rock:
to the Gummarp Runestone:
Others have proposed that the stone was carved by Phoenicians. This theory is far more outlandish, considering there is nothing in the way of good archaeological evidence that the Phoenicians ever made the journey across the Atlantic. Still others believe that the rock is the work of Indigenous peoples due to similarities with nearby petroglyphs. Some have even proposed that the rock was carved by the Chinese in 1421, which has become the source of a popular book.
There have been many attempts to decipher the meaning of the writings but no theory has won the day as of yet. The rock has since been moved to a museum which has become a state park, known as the Dighton Rock State Park. Some day, the riddle may finally be solved. Until then, it’s just as mysterious as it was when it was found by early colonists.