We walked through two glass doors, unlocked by a gentle, soft-spoken man with a trimmed white beard.
Leave your coffee behind, Wes Balla, the director of exhibitions at the New Hampshire Historical Society, told me. No use taking chances. No use risking coffee stains on the Mystery Stone, an artifact of unknown origin, discovered in 1872, that is now on display at the society’s Park Street location in Concord.
We moved through a back room in the old gray building in Eagle Square, the society’s former home, now used for offices and storage. We passed items and scenes from another era, passed filing cabinets and black-and-white photos and dusty hardcover books.
Balla placed a cylindrical canister on a table. The kind of container that might hold those coily, ready-to-pop-out fake snakes that pranksters use to scare people.
Then he put on a pair of white cotton gloves, uncovered the rusted cylinder and pulled out a dark, egg-shaped item that had been resting comfortably in its own nest of faded white cotton.
Balla cupped it in both hands, this smooth piece of history with carvings — a face, an ear of corn, a teepee, inverted arrows and more — on each side. It looked heavy, solid. It looked artsy, symbolic. It looked old. It looked like it had a story to tell, if only the face on it could talk.
“The interpretation of what it is has changed over the years,” said Balla, who’s worked at the society for 14 years. “We have unsolicited letters and comments. We have sponsored a scientific study. It means different things to different people at different times.”
The Mystery Stone allows your mind to run wild. No, a baby dinosaur would not crawl free if you broke it open. It’s certainly not that old. And no, an advanced civilization from another planet is not part of the formula here. At least I don’t think so.
Here’s what we know: A group of workers, hired by a man named Seneca Ladd, found the stone in 1872 while digging a fence-post hole near Lake Winnipesaukee in Meredith.
Ladd, who was given credit for the find, displayed the stone in a glass case, part of a mini museum he had created in the lobby of the bank in which he worked.
Different writings have posted different dimensions, adding to the weirdness of this thing. Can’t anyone get it right? For our purposes, it’s about 4 inches long, 2.5 inches wide and weighs 1.2 pounds.
It’s made of quartzite. It has eight carvings on four sides, including an oval face that looks like a TV alien; an ear of corn and a circle with what looks like a deer’s leg and hoof, a crown-shaped figure and what might be a bee inside the circle; intersecting arrows, a crescent shape (moon?), dots and a spiral, and a teepee above a perfectly rounded circle.
The details, crisp and clear, are amazing.
The stone was bored from each end, made with what is consistent with different sized metal drill bits. You can look straight through, like looking through a straw.
Researchers have concluded that the Mystery…