Westford Knight

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The Westford Knight, shown along Depot Street in Westford, Massachusetts
A detail of the rock, showing the "sword". The "shield" has been painted on, supposedly to indicate an underlying carving

"Westford Knight" is the name given to a pattern, variously interpreted as a carving or a natural feature, or a combination of both, located on a glacial boulder (also known as the Sinclair Rock) in Westford, Massachusetts in the United States.

It is notable for being the subject of popular or pseudohistorical speculation on Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact. The pattern was first described as a possible Native American carving in 1873. The identification as a "medieval knight" dates to 1954.

Early references[edit]

The rock and carving is first mentioned in print in an 1873 addition of the "Gazetteer of Massachusetts" and was described as "There upon its face a rude figure, supposed to have been cut by some Indian Artist."[1] In an 1883 town history, the carving is described as "A broad ledge which crops out near the house of William Kitteredge has upon its surface grooves made by glaciers. Rude outlines of the human face have been traced upon it, and the figure is said to be the work of Indians."[2] The carving was subsequently interpreted not as a human figure but as a broken Norse Sword by William Goodwin in his book on the America's Stonehenge site.[3]

Frank Glynn, president of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut, re-located the carving and following discussions with T. C. Lethbridge about Goodwin's theory, chalked in a full figure in 1954, resembling a medieval knight, with a sword and shield, and he is usually said to be the "discoverer of the Westford Knight."[4] It was Lethbridge who suggested to Glynn that the sword was not of Viking origin, but was "a hand-and-a-half wheel pommel sword" common in 14th century North Britain.[5]

Contemporary interpretations[edit]

Archaeologist Ken Feder has compared weathering on the stone with weathering on New England gravestones whose inscriptions have become indecipherable in the last twenty years, while "the Westford petroglyph, rather miraculously, appears to have improved through time, getting fresher every year with new elements appearing that previously had gone unnoticed. In truth, this simply isn’t possible. The new imagery on the Westford Knight stone either has been recently added or is entirely imaginary, and probably a bit of both." He argues that the Indian petroglph described in the 19th century probably existed as did the parallel glacial striations, and that later a metal row or awl was used to punch the partial shape of a sword into the rock, and that "The knight in all his regalia resides only in the imagination of Frank Glynn. Other images—for example, a boat, which I could not discern on my visits—may have been added later."[6]

Feder, Kenneth L.. Archaeological Oddities . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.


The current interpretation by those who advocate that the feature on the rock is a human figure is that it commemorates a fallen member of the party of Henry Sinclair, a Scottish Earl from Orkney, whom some believe to have made a voyage to the New World in 1398, traveling to Nova Scotia and New England.[7] According to Raymond Ramsey in 1972, the shield carried by the knight in the image was found to support this belief, when "English heraldic experts consulted by Lethbridge definitely identified arms on the shield as belonging to the Sinclairs of Scotland".[8] It has been suggested that the knight is Sir James Gunn, a member of Clan Gunn and a Knight Templar who reportedly traveled with Sinclair.[9] The monument next to the "knight" commemorates this interpretation, stating as fact that Sinclair and his party traveled to present-day Massachusetts. The claim was mentioned in an Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology in 2010.[10]

The local town historian of Westford[who?][year needed] has stated that there is evidence that the T-shaped inscription was made in the late 19th century.

There are some historians[who?] who believe that the area around the rock has undergone erosion since the clearing of trees in the 18th century, and that during the time of the alleged voyage by Sinclair, the rock may have been in a hardwood forest covered by 3 or 4 ft (0.91 or 1.22 m) of earth.[better source needed]

There are some historians[who?] who claim that the timing is inconsistent with documented history, as at the time of the alleged voyage (1398), the Order of the Knights Templar was not in existence, having been publicly disbanded ninety years earlier.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Gazetteer of Massachusetts, 1873 page 542
  2. ^ Reverend Edwin R. Hodgman, History of the Town of Westford, Mass 1659–1883 (Lowell, Mass.: Westford Town History Association, 1883).
  3. ^ William B. Goodwin, The Ruins of Great Ireland in New England (Boston: Meador Publishing Company, 1946).
  4. ^ For example, in Richard White, These Stones Bear Witness, page 93 (Anchor House, 2010). ISBN 978-1-4520-1718-1
  5. ^ Richard White, pages 87-88.
  6. ^ Feder, Kenneth L. (2019). Archaeological Oddities: A Field Guide to Forty Claims of Lost Civilizations, Ancient Visitors, and Other Strange Sites in North America. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 42-48. ISBN 978-1-5381-0597-9. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  7. ^ Tim Wallace-Murphy, Marilyn Hopkins Templars in America: From the Crusades to the New World (Weiser Books, 2004)
  8. ^ Raymond H. Ramsey, No Longer on the Map: Discovering Places That Never Were, pages 65-66 (New York: The Viking Press, 1972). ISBN 0-6705-1433-0
  9. ^ Steven Sora, The Lost Colony of The Templars: Verrazano's Secret Mission To America, page 161 (Destiny Books, 2004). ISBN 978-1-59477-870-4
  10. ^ Kenneth L. Feder, Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology: From Atlantis To The Walam Olum, pages 270-271 (Greenwood, 2010). ISBN 978-0-313-37919-2

Books[edit]

External links[edit]