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Native American Symbolism
Shapes, Colors, Numbers, & Quartz

By Mary Gage



At Native American ceremonial sites certain shapes, colors, nunbers, and quartz were used symbolically. This symbolism is an important aspects of these sacred places and provides clues as to the ceremonial activities which took place. The five chapters listed below discuss specific examples of this symbolism along with potential interpretations. This is a work in progress and will be periodical updated as new materials and examples expand our understanding of these subjects.

Chapter 1 - Shapes

Chapter 2 - Colors

Chapter 3 - Numbers

Chapter 4 - Quartz

Chapter 5 - Red Ochre

Chapter 6 - Combinations


Chapter 1 - Shapes used by Native Americans


The term shape refers to a specific recognizable form like triangle, rectangle, circle, pyramid, etc. A shape can be either solid or outline, two dimensional or three dimensional, naturally occuring or human-made. It can be created by the walls of a chamber or an enclosure forming a space with a particular shape, it can occur as a standing stone or boulder with a specific shape, and it can be a shape formed by stone walls. Basically, shapes come in numerous variations. With patience and experience one can learn to recognize these various shapes in their many manifestations.

For the Native Americans, shapes were more than simple geometric designs, they had symbolic meaning. They intentionally incorporated these shapes into certain stone structures  because of their symbolic value in their ceremonies. The use symbolic shapes by Native Americans in their stonework was a wide spread practice throughout the northeastern U.S.  This article discusses eleven shapes which are found repeatly at prehistoric stone structure sites.

Description: A shape with three points

I. Stone Slab Forms
  1) Plain sided
  2) Two shoulders on Top of Triangle
  3) Triangular top (double slanted top) with
       rectangular bottom
  4) Triangular top (single slanted top) with
     rectangular bottom
  5) Flat-topped triangle
II. Three Dimensional Forms
  6) Prism (3 sided)
  7) Pyramid (3 or 4 sided)
III. Combinations
 8) Three boulders (Gloucester, MA)
 9) Three Standing Stones (Connecticut)
 10) Stone walls laid out in shape of a triangle
erica’s Stonehenge)
Sizes: Range from three inch handheld to five feet tall standing stones
Types of Stone: Flat slab, boulder (prism and pyramid shapes only)
Positions: Vertical and horizontal
Colors: Gray stone, all white, gray with white bands
Material: Granite or other natural gray stone material; quartz
Usage: Protective symbolism; triangles with two shoulders used as spirit portals


Description: A double-ended triangle. Only three examples so far have been found. One is white quartz stone at Gungywamp, second is a tall slab at America’s Stonehenge and third is a purple shadow on a standing stone in Salisbury, MA.
Usage: Protective symbolism; possibly other


Description: A shape with two long parallel sides and two short parallel sides. Square a shape with four equal length sides. Square is rare and was interchangeable with rectangle.


1) Flat slab
2) Elongated boulder
3) Chunky block-like piece of stone
4) Any stone approximating a rectangular or square shape was acceptable

Positions: Horizontal and vertical
Size: Range from 10” H x 10” L up to 3’ H x 5’ L
Additional Feature: Small v notch on top, these are spirit portals
Colors: Shades of gray, solid white, gray with white band(s)
Stone Material: Gray granite and other stone material; clear and colored quartz
Usage: Protective symbolism


Description: A flat round shape


1) Flat stone slab with grooved circle (America’s Stonehenge)
2) Double circle of stones (Gungywamp)
3) Ring of stone around base of stone (Mavor & Dix, 1989: p. 57)
4) Stone wall in shape of circle (generally small 3 to 4 feet diameter enclosure)
5) Pendants with circle and half circles (See illustration in Lenik, 20002:  p. 200)

Position: Horizontal
Usage: Representation of Sun; full moon in association with crescents; other (?) containment and/or protective with circular enclosures


Description: A shape approximating a half-circle with a single    curved wall or letter U with a circular end and straight sides.

Found As:

1) Stone wall or several short lengths of stone wall enclosing an area (small to large) (with or without a wall across end) these are enclosures (Lochmere, NH)
2) Base stone of a cairn (America’s Stonehenge, No. Salem, NH)
3) Solid stone placed on top of a staff (pole) (
Willoughby 1973: 63, 65, 69)

Usage: On top of staff represents the moon; at America’s Stonehenge an enclosure for people or spirit of people.


Description: A curved shape thick in middle and thin on ends

Found As:

1) Curved row of standing stones with short stones on ends and high stones in middle found at Gungywamp in Connecticut
2) Curved lines on pendants (Proctor Collection, Franklin Falls, NH)
3) Crescent shaped stone on top of a specialty cairn in Newbury, MA

Positions: Vertical and horizontal
Usage: Representation of moon


Description: Zigzag has angled lines that alternate back and forth to create the pattern; serpentine has alternating S curves to create a pattern similar to movement of a snake.
Found As:
(1) Zigzag ditch drain attached to top edge of wetlands pool at America’s Stonehenge.
(2) Stone walls
(3) White wavy intrusions in flat faced stones integrated into chamber walls at America’s stonehenge

Usage: Represents streams (flowing water)


Description: It has the shape of the letter L, some open L’s have a long side and a short side, others have equal length sides (as of present only found at America’s Stonehenge, No. Salem, NH)

Found As:

1) Open corner of stone slab in vertical and horizontal positions
2) Cutouts in bedrock
3) Two stone walls in L shape enclosing a space
4) Grooved drains
5) Chamber Unit (Sunken Ceremonial Unit, America’s Stonehenge [Not illustrated])

Usage: Spirit portal; to contain spirit within enclosure or specific area


Description: V has an open front which distinguishes it from the triangle.

Found As:

1) A horizontal V shaped opening in exterior (1A) and interior (1B) chamber walls at America’s Stonehenge, No. Salem, NH
2) A horizontal V opening in bedrock at Gungywamp Site, Groton, CT (Not illustrated)
3) Small v opening in top of rectangular standing stones
4) V or U shaped indentation in stone wall called an embrasure (Mavor & Dix, 1989: p. 61)

Positions: Vertical and horizontal
Size: Small to large
Usage: spirit portal, enclosure


Description: A line of colored material different from base stone color. Bands are veins of intrusive material that show up on exposed surface of stone.

Width: Narrow, thin, thick, wide
Length: Short to long
Shape: Straight, serpentine, wavy
Position: Vertical, horizontal, diagonal
Colors: White, rust, black, dark gray; color can be bordered by second color
Stone Material: Intrusive materials of unknown type; quartz
Usage: Protective symbolism; representation of specific spirits


Description: A shape with a neck and torso minus any appendixes

Size: A few inches up to two feet tall
Position: Vertical
Usage: Spirit stone


Shapes were a means to communicate. At Native American’s ceremonial complexes communication was between people and spirits. Spirits are beings. At ceremonial complexes specific spirits were invited to participate. For a spirit to participate it needed free movement, in some cases it needed to be directed where to go, at other times the spirit(s) needed to be contained and in a few cases, the spirit needed to represented. Spirits with free movement have the ability to wander at will. This occurs with invited spirits, uninvited benevolent spirits, and disruptive spirits. To maintain order people developed symbolic means of communication with the spirits. People used shape for several different purposes 1) protective/blocking symbolism 2) representation of various natural features like sun, moon, river, crystal 3) spirit portals and 4) to contain a spirit(s).

The most widely and universally used protective/blocking symbolism in the northeast region is the triangle shape. It was adaptable in many ways and forms. Some times it had dual usage of containing the invited spirit while at the same time blocking out uninvited spirits. Dual usage also extends to the triangle with two shoulders. The shoulders are a spirit portal and triangle is a blocking symbol. Most often the triangle was used strictly to block out uninvited spirits. The rectangle at America’s Stonehenge was used in unison with the triangle to protect. Outside this site rectangles were used as one of four basic shapes for low-walled enclosures. The consistency of its use suggests an importance was placed on the rectangle shape. Enclosures separate people and people/spirits from the world around them. By their nature they contain and at the same block out. The circle, open V, and U shape are the other basic shapes used to build low-walled enclosures. In reference to enclosures the four shapes appear to have some protective/blocking symbolism.

Representation of natural features was done for two purposes 1) to call forth a spirit to a man-made recreation of its natural feature as part of a ceremony, and 2) to recreate the natural feature to have the spirit present. Each representation is specific to the spirit invited to a ceremony. Each ceremonial complex appears to have developed its own form of representation with one exception, the Manitou “Spirit” Stone. Manitou stones universally have the same basic shape although they vary in size.

For a spirit to move from one world to another world or from one location on a ceremonial complex to another location it needs a spirit portal. Spirit portals take on many forms some of which have specific shapes. Shape was an important part of spirit portals at America’s Stonehenge. 

Native Americans utilized and used shape to work with the spirits. It was one of many ways in which contact could be made with spirits. Spirits for some unknown reason abide by the people’s rules and purposes set forth within the symbolic shapes. Some Native American groups incorporated shape to a high degree while others used it sparingly or not at all. The triangle has widespread use throughout the northeast region. To a lesser degree the rectangle and circle in reference to enclosures has widespread usage. Otherwise, shape was very individualistic from group to group.


Shape was used for symbolic protection, to represent a spirit, and to have continuity with a particular type of feature such as spirit portals. Any form of a particular shape was acceptable. This allowed any given shape to be adapted to different uses and situations. An example is the triangle when used as a support stone, a prism shape was placed in the exit of a drain and when used as standing stone in a processional way, a tall, flat slab was erected.  Each one exhibited the triangular symbol and each one blocked out uninvited spirits. Each one is the same basic shape but in different forms. The same basic shape can sometimes take on different purposes. Circles that show up in low-walled enclosures exhibit protective and containment symbolism. Circles in other features such as the grooved circle sundial at America’s Stonehenge and double ring of stones (stone circle) at Gungywamp are associated with the Sun Spirit. Pendants with a full grooved circle with repeated half circles inside it are associated with the moon. In the case, of circles each one must be evaluated individually. Some shapes retain their same form and purpose at all times. The small v notch in top of rectangular stones has been found at several sites in the same form. It does not appear to change in form. Usage is the same, a spirit portal wherever it appears. It is generally found in a stone within a stone wall. How it functions depends on how it is set up in a wall. In an across-wall position it allows the spirit to travel either up or down the length of wall. In an in-line wall position it allows the spirit to cross over the wall into another area of the site. Native Americans were practical in their use of symbolism at stone structure sites. The symbolism was used in a practical and logical manner. Understanding the logic behind the symbolism is the key to reading the various shapes integrated into the stone structures. At a site that has had successive building eras similar symbolism is generally used repeatedly with each new set of structures albeit in modified forms. When usage can be determined for a particular shape, then other local sites can be evaluated with similar symbolism for possible similar usage.

Triangle Shape

A fallen standing stone at America’s Stonehenge site. Note the three quartz veins in the stone.

Prism Shape

A standing stone with a prism shaped cross-section. A variation on the triangle concept.
(America’s Stonehenge)

Pyramid Shape
(3 Sided)

A standing stone with three flat sides coming to a point. Again, a variation on the triangle concept. Scale is in inches. (America’s Stonehenge)

Pyramid Shape
(4 Sided)

Artifact recovered from the drain exiting the Oracle Chamber at America’ Stonehenge. Again, a variation on the triangle concept. (Whittall, 1977: 21)


Roughly rectangular stone over the entrance to drain inside the sunken courtyard at America’s Stonehenge. (Symbolism can be found integrated into structures.)

Crescent Shape

Crescent shaped stone carefully placed on this stone cairn. (Newbury, MA)

Chapter 2 - Colors used by Native Americans


Native Americans used three  colors of rock, either whole or pulverized, in a symbolic manner (1) Red / Rust (2) White (3) Black. The best known of these three colors is red / rust derrived from red ochre. Red ochre is well documented as being used in graves and some non-burial ceremonial sites like Caddy Park. However, the meaning of the red ochre symbolism is poorly understood. This article puts forth a new interpretation of red ochre along with discussion and interpretations of the colors white and black.


The natural world produces few pure colors in ordinary stones. Gray is the dominant color in New England. White is an uncommon pure color that shows up as a solid, band, patch or spot. White’s uncommonness made it special. Black is rare and so far has only been found at America’s Stonehenge. Rust is generally formed by iron oxide staining in stones. Its usage so far has been only at America’s Stonehenge. Red was a product of crushed ochre. Red also shows up in Jasper after it is heated. Jasper was used to make projectile points. Other colors show up in rare instances. Green is one such color found in a stone buried in a grave. It also was found in a green felsite blade in the Caddy Park feature.

The color red dates back to the Archaic Period and burials. The color white appears in the Early Woodland Period at America’s Stonehenge, a ceremonial site. Black which was interchangeable with white at America’s Stonehenge makes its appearance in the Middle Woodland Period.


NOTE: Color refers to naturally colored stones


Solid, bands, lines, spots, patches


Solid, bands, spots

RUST (Iron Oxide)

Stains of iron oxide - rarely solid, patches, bands


Powder ochre & ochre chunks



America’s Stonehenge was the largest resource of obtaining information regarding the use of color. At the site color was used to block out spirits and to represent spirits. The colors white, black and rust were utilized. White was the most prolific. White and black were interchangeable in blocking out spirits. These two colors show up as bands, spots, patches (large irregular shaped spots), lines and solid colors. White occasionally was paired up with rust. When white was used in the pair it represented Rain Water Spirit. Rust at all times represents Crystal Spirit. The reason is crystals mined at America’s Stonehenge came out of ground covered with a rust powder from iron oxide. (Gage, 2006) Red is a very rare color at stone structure sites but was used extensively in burials.

The use of white at America’s Stonehenge shows it blocked out uninvited spirits while at same time it permitted the invited spirit to pass through. This dual concept is an important find. It may explain the use of red ochre in burials. The use of color to block out spirits, the rare two examples of red ochre in stone structures, bags of red ochre in a non-burial buried feature, and use of red ochre in burials are explored through the following examples.

Example #1 – Winter Water Ceremonial Area (America’s Stonehenge, North Salem, NH)

White band and spots – blocks and allows passage at same time.

The Winter Water Ceremonial Area is enclosed by stone walls. The north wall has a standing stone with an open L spirit portal and a tall slab with a white band from top to bottom with white spots attached to the band. The band and spots face northward

toward the path of Sun Spirit who travels past the enclosure on its way out to the Winter Solstice Sunset Ceremonial Area. At the Winter Water Ceremonial Enclosure, North Spirit from the north end of the hill top site was invited inside. North Spirit traveled directly south towards the tall slab with the white band and spots because its spirit portal was on west corner of north wall of enclosure. The blocking mechanism did not interfere with North Spirit who was invited inside the enclosure by a perishable offering placed in a niche on interior. Tall slab with white band and spots on exterior of enclosure’s perimeter wall did stop Sun Spirit, who passed by the enclosure from entering it an incorrect place for that spirit.

Example #2 – Oracle Chamner
America’s Stonehenge, North Salem, NH

Niche inside Oracle Chamber with Crystal and Rain Water Spirit along with black spots and black ceiling to contain spirits and block out uninvited spirits.

On the interior east wall of Oracle Chamber there is a special niche. Niche’s north wall has a slab with a vein of mixed clear and rust stained crackled quartz in middle in a horizontal position. Below quartz vein are narrow undulating white lines highlighted by a dark brown color. Quartz crystals form in veins of quartz, hence the use of a clear crackled quartz vein to represent crystals and Crystal Spirit. Fast moving river water often times has white foam. Rivers naturally take the course of least resistance and therefore often curve in and out forming undulating lines along their courses. Each of these factors was combined in the white undulating lines to represent river water (rain water) and Rain Water Spirit. An image in Native American culture contains the actual spirit, so the two spirits were present inside the niche. The niche was built into an interior wall with a second niche attached to it. Above the niche led to the surface of the chamber and Middleworld. To prevent uninvited spirits from entering from above the ceiling stone had a natural black surface inside the niche. To prevent the spirit held in the attached niche from entering the niche with Crystal Spirit and Rain Water Spirit a stone with two black spots was placed between the two niches.

Example #3 – Free standing small chamber or niche/cairn, Washington, MA

A purplish red hematite stone was placed above its entrance to block out and/or contain a spirit(s).

In Washington, Massachusetts there is a free standing cairn/niche or small chamber. “It was no more than three feet high and too small for a person.” Photograph shows it has a thin lintel stone with approximately three feet of stone above the lintel. “On top of the lintel stone of the Washington example, in the very center, was a large piece of hematite, purplish red in color and very heavy. Hematite was a source of red ochre.” (Rock Piles blog, article by Norman Muller, 2/1/06) The purplish red hematite was placed on top of lintel over the open front of niche or small chamber.

At America’s Stonehenge small chambers were larger than niches on average, niches are generally under two feet in length and height, and smaller than walk-in chambers with a height of over five feet. These small chambers were named storage chambers as all were large enough for a person to either crawl or stoop inside to retrieve ceremonial objects. The Washington, MA chamber’s size is in between the storage chamber size and niche size at America’s Stonehenge. At America’s Stonehenge most free standing niches and all storage chambers had some form of blocking symbolism built into the feature. Free standing niches were used to place an offering inside to call forth a spirit. Storage chambers were used to store ceremonial objects, and spirits in ethereal and in physical forms inside. The storage chamber brought the spirits from Upperworld and Underworld together inside the Underworld. It is not known what world the free standing niche was considered to be in. The spirits whether in a pottery vessel of water, a crystal, or invisible such as Underworld Spirit and Sun Spirit were vulnerable and needed protection. Plus, only invited spirits were allowed to be present inside such structures. That meant even a benevolent spirit such as Sun Spirit if it was not invited could not enter the structure. In addition there were disruptive spirits who also needed to be blocked from entering the structure. To do so, blocking symbolism in the form of colored stone and/or triangular shapes were used. At America’s Stonehenge the color white and later black were used to block out uninvited spirits. At the Washington, MA small chamber or niche purplish red hematite was used to block out uninvited spirits. What the structure is a small storage chamber or niche is unclear as author has no other data on the site for evaluation. No matter what the structure’s intended usage it appears the structure held a spirit(s).

Example #4 – Stone Cairn Excavation, Freetown, MA

Cairn with offering of raw red ochre to a Manitou spirit buried in the Underworld. Cairn also contains two deposits of charcoal. (Also, see Monolith A under Numbers for a second example of red ochre and fire/charcoal combined usage in a single feature.)

In Freetown, MA a cairn built on the ground was singled out from a much larger group of cairns to be excavated. It looked the same on the surface as many of the other on ground cairns. That is a neat pile of stone. Most cairns to date when excavated have yielded all stone. Cairns in general do not contain artifacts. The reason being the stones were the artifact. In this case, the stone in the cairn was more than a mere artifact it was used to bury other artifacts in the Underworld. A complete write-up on the excavation was done in Manitou (Mavor & Dix, 1989: 69-73). At the base of cairn two and a half feet below the surface was a standing stone twenty inches high worked into the shape of a lopsided diamond. The main excavators James Mavor and Bryon Dix felt the standing stone was a Manitou Stone, author agrees with them. A few inches higher within level of Manitou Stone and next to it was a cluster of pieces of red ochre. 120 pieces amounting to ten pounds were eventually collected a few pieces being scattered in the cairn. Within this cairn were different layers of small stones. Between a layer of small stones and a layer of large stone at a level between 8 and 12 inches below the surface two deposits of charcoal were found. Charcoal deposits were located on opposite sides of cairn and each was twelve inches diameter by four inches thick. “Carbon dates of 875 +/- 160 years ago and 790 +/- 150 years ago were determined from these charcoal deposits.” (pp. 72) ( Lab GX-9783 & GX-9784 [pp. 350]) The excavation report by Mavor and Dix states the soil profile was the same from 2½ feet depth up to 4 inches below top of surface. It matched a sample soil profile twenty-five feet away. The excavators felt the soil built up around the cairn over a very long period and that the cairn possibly pre-dates the earliest carbon date.

The two C14 dates show the two deposits of charcoal were placed in the cairn eighty-five to one hundred years apart. They are separate in depth and location from the red ochre deposit. In turn, red ochre deposit is next to but separate from the Manitou Stone. The charcoal and red ochre deposits suggest these items were used like artifacts and placed in the cairn at intervals.

The cairn’s location is on outer edge of cairn grouping. The Manitou Stone, a spirit stone embodied with a spirit marks outer edge of cairn. The red ochre deposit’s placement near to the Manitou Stone appears to be an offering to the spirit or the cairn and what it represents. Since it is higher up than base of Manitou Stone it was probably an offering made after the cairn had been established. Still higher up are the two charcoal deposits. There was no mention of burnt stone in the cairn which means the charcoal was produced from a fire elsewhere and brought to the cairn. At America’s Stonehenge fire with Fire Spirit was used to assist Sun Spirit in traveling from the ceremonial lodge in Middleworld up to the sun sphere low in the sky. It was also used to send a message to Upperworld’s North Spirit. Charcoal in the cairn was the remains of a fire and was some kind of offering. Charcoal is the most efficient substance to start a new fire. It like the red ochre may have been an offering to the spirit within the cairn.

The Manitou Stone is twenty inches high. Did it once stand sentinel within the cairn exposed to the surface? Was it buried under the cairn from the start? Irregardless, in time the Manitou Stone and its spirit were buried underneath and within the cairn, placing the unknown spirit in the Underworld. The spirit within the cairn places a spirit in residence at this cairn field ceremonial area. The two charcoal deposits suggest an offering was made at one hundred year intervals. (For a more in-depth write-up on one hundred year ceremonies see Numbers.) The offerings represented may have been the red ochre deposit, two charcoal deposits and various layers of stone. Different stone sizes were found in layers throughout the cairn as well as an elongated curved section. At America’s Stonehenge stone was a common offering substance used from around the start up circa 3000 years ago (BP – before present) and continued up to its closing in the historic period circa 1700 A.D.

Example #5 – Buried Ceremonial Feature, Caddy Park, Quincy, MA

Caddy Park was a buried feature with spirits, bags of red ochre and a red ochre powdered covering below and above the artifacts. It was excavated by T. Mahlstedt and M.M. Davis, and written up in Massachusetts Archaeological Society Bulletin V63 (1,2) 2002. Their conclusions were one of three possibilities: Burial; Cache for retrieval; Offering. In their offering conclusion they point out “we will never know to whom or for what this offering was made.” They go on to explore the possibly of the offering being made to Maushop a spirit who is thought to have made the southern coast of New England. Their conclusion as to the use of red ochre is “In this case, the red ochre-symbolizing the blood of a butchered whale-would be appropriate.” (p21-22)

The Caddy Park feature was a meticulously laid out selection of tools associated with fishing – plummets laid out as in a net surrounding a whale effigy carved on a gouge; hunting – small stemmed points; blades – for cutting meat or blubber; adzes – for wood working in making boats. In addition, there was a complete whale tail atlatl weight and a (broken) red slate half whale tail pendent.  The meticulousness of the feature extended to including polishing tools, large tool blanks, small tool preforms and even a few flakes. The only type of tool missing was a tool to flake a blade or projectile point. The artifacts depict a complete set of tools for every aspect of whaling. There is a gouge for carving out a dugout canoe, to plummets to set out a net to capture a whale, knives to butcher a whale, a polishing stone to create a new pendant or atlatl, and performs and tool blanks to make new tools. This feature had a specific purpose and conveyed a story.

Four caches of tools were found, two appear to have been placed in bags with a large amount of powdered red ochre inside, and two appear to have been placed in a heavy concentration (bag) of red ochre (1) the gouges and adzes and (2) the green knife and edge tool/performs. Most tools throughout the feature had red ochre on their bottom side and top side suggesting red ochre was sprinkled on the ground before any tool or artifact was placed in the ground and again after the tools were placed in the feature before it was buried. Two colors were used green for one of the blades, and red for the broken slate pendent, and in the red ochre in bags and covering.

The image of a whale is the Whale Spirit. This placed the Whale Spirit in the feature. The whale image on the gouge has a line-grooved mouth and knob on top where the blowhole is located. It is missing a tail. The missing tail is represented by the whole whale tail atlatl which is dark with light marbling. Whales are dark with white marks on their tails. The broken whale tail symbol represented by the pendant is red which appears to represent blood. Broken objects are also known to have released the spirit of the animal or spirit within an object. Duality is common among Native Americans therefore the red blood and broken pendent could easily have worked together to represent a killed whale whose spirit was released. A whale’s tail is its most powerful body part it propels the whale in its travels through the ocean. The Whale Spirit within this feature was presented with two options. One was the whole whaletail (atlatl) to give the whale the power to escape capture. This allowed the whale to live and come back another year. The second was the broken whaletail (red pendant) to allow the whale to be captured so its body would feed the people.

This feature utilized the color red in the red ochre in two different ways:

I. There were several heavy concentrations of red ochre associated with caches of tools. The red ochre with the tool caches may have been offerings to the Whale Spirit within the feature.

II. The whole feature was (1) enclosed in red ochre and (2) buried under the ground. Placing the feature under the ground placed the whale (gouge) embodied with Whale Spirit and accompanying objects in the Underworld. The Underworld has many spirits wandering around. The various Underworld spirits needed to be kept out or blocked out of the feature to prevent interference. Red ochre was sprinkled below and over the feature totally enclosing the feature including the Whale Spirit. It blocked out uninvited spirits. At the same time the red ochre did not interfere with the Whale Spirit’s travels to and from the feature to the ocean to guide the whales. (Another example of an invited spirit being able to pass through a color used to block out uninvited spirits is seen in example #1.)

Example #6 – Common burials during Archaic and Early Woodland periods frequently used red ochre.

Burials place the body and spirit of a person under the ground in the Underworld.The Underworld has many spirits wandering around. Those spirits need to be blocked out of the burial and kept from interfering with the person’s spirit. To do so, the person’s body or bones, or simply the person’s spirit is buried in the Underworld enclosed in red ochre which blocks out uninvited spirits but allows the person’s spirit to move on when it is ready.


The color category was expanded beyond stone structure sites to be able explore its usage in other features and burials. Color had several purposes. It was used to represent a spirit, as an offering, and as a protective/blocking out symbol. It also had dual usage. In example #1 white was used to block out uninvited spirits. In example #2 white represented rain water and Rain Water Spirit. The white in each of these examples was used on the same site, America’s Stonehenge. In another structure on this site, the Lower East Side Storage Chamber, the color white was used in both capacities. (Gage 2006) The dual usage within a single chamber is similar to the triple usage within the Caddy Park feature where the broken red slate pendant represented the blood of a killed whale, and red ochre was used as an offering and as a protective symbol to block out uninvited spirits.

Color at stone structure sites is generally rare with the exception of America’s Stonehenge. Occasionally color is combined with shape and quartz.

Chapter 3 - Numbers Used by Native Americans

The term “number” refers to a specific set of digits. Some number’s originate come from natural cycles such as the days in the month of the moons’ monthly cycle or the months in the moon’s yearly cycle. Other numbers like two and three were diversified in their origins. One group derived the number three from the three points on a triangle, while another group used the number three to acknowledge three spirits.

How each number was incorporated depended upon the time period, the group using the number and for what purpose. In some cases, the actual number is represented in other cases it is obscure as it was built into the complexity of the site.


(1) Two Identical Features

A. Two spots of same color and size (America’s Stonehenge, No. Salem, NH)
B. Two basins on top of a boulder (Gungywamp, Groton, CT)
C. Two enclosures side by side (St. Martin Site, E. Kingston, NH)

(2) Pairs of Two

A. Triangle and Rectangle (America’s Stonehenge)
B. Two boulders of unequal size (Rhode Island)
C. Two chambers one for preparation and second for main ceremony (Connecticut)
D. Two enclosures one without a spirit and second with a spirit (I. America’s Stonehenge via the presence or lack of a spirit portal) (II. Newbury, MA cairn site via the presence or lack of a Manitou Stone)
E. Two main ceremonies – America’s Stonehenge on summer solstice Rain Water & Crystal verses Spring Water; Gungywamp Moon Returns to Upperworld verses
F. Sun Enters Underworld
G. Winter Solstice verses Summer Solstice
H. Sunrise verses Sunset
I. Shaman & Ordinary People
J. Sun Spirit of Upperworld verses Underworld Spirit of Underworld (two spirits at same site)

The concept of two was to create balance. To the Native American balance was formed by having two parts. The parts could be identical or different. The number did not exist as a separate entity it was always integrated into the ceremonial features/structures and spirits/ceremonies. This is seen at numerous stone structure ceremonial sites throughout the northeast. It comes in the form of two different areas within a site, pairs of chambers, etc. (see above). At stone structure sites spirits were called to participate in ceremonies. Some sites show evidence of two spirits or pairs of spirits. The use of the number two in regards to balance is fully explained in America’s Stonehenge Deciphered (2006) and in the web page article on Gungywamp.

At America’s Stonehenge in addition to balance the number two was used for protection. Two types of examples were incorporated: the pair of triangle and rectangle, and two spots. The triangle and rectangle combination had dual usage as balance and protection when used as a pair. The two shapes were not always used as pairs at the site but were always associated with protection. Two spots in each case were associated with the protection of two specific spirits.

In the field, look for the listed examples. Some cairn sites exhibit two sections one with specialized cairns and second a general section with numerous cairns often times with an extra large cairn. The specialized section is shaman while the general section is ordinary people. To have balance there was a need for pairs of spirits. This is not so easy to identify but on occasion can be done. Split boulders with and without fill place the Underworld Spirit at the site. Alignments with the sun place the Sun Spirit at the site. Generally either a sunrise or sunset was used not both. Manitou stones place an unknown spirit at the site. Images whether pictograph or petroglyph when decipherable can assist in figuring out other types of spirits present. Fire hearths at stone structure sites indicate Fire Spirit was present. An example of two spirits is seen at Sandown, NH where the Underworld Spirit is represented by a split boulder next to a large cairn in the general ordinary people’s section and Sun Spirit is represent by a sunset alignment in the shaman’s section.


(3) Three Features - “In a Row”

A. Three triangular standing stones in-line at end of stone wall and above a split stone spirit portal (America’s Stonehenge)
B. Three short triangular standing stones spaced apart but in a row across top of an elongated cairn (Gungywamp)
C. Three triangular standing stones graduated in height embedded in interior wall of a chamber in Thompson, CT


(4) Three Features - “In a Triangular Pattern”

A. Three standing stones arranged in a triangular pattern on top of the French Chamber in CT
B. Three niches on the ground laid out in a triangular pattern (Miner Farm, Hopkinton, RI)

The number three is often times integrated with triangles. Triangles naturally have three corners or points. The number three was used in the same manner as the triangle to block out uninvited spirits. At America’s Stonehenge the three triangles were used to block out three specific spirits. In the Connecticut examples the three was used as a general blocking mechanism to block out all uninvited spirits. Miner Farm (Hopkinton, RI) has three niches arranged in a triangular pattern.  The triangle suggests the layout was used to block out uninvited spirits while the niches suggest three spirits were invited to the ceremony. Invited spirits are not blocked by the any blocking symbolism. This particular site is under study.

(5) Two Sets of Three - “One Set Inside Another Set”

A. A standing stone and bridge cairn set in each of the three corners of a triangle enclosed the main ceremonial area of a stone structure site. Within the greater area is a second set of three standing stones that enclosed one of the two main ceremonies held at the South Complex at Gungywamp in CT

B. In the North Complex of the Gunywamp site is an elongated triangle formed by a pair of standing stones on one end and single standing stone on the other end encloses the width of the site and an elongated stone cairn with a set of three triangular standing stones on top

C. In Dogtown at Gloucester, MA a triangular shaped enclosure was created by two perched boulders and a pedestal boulder. Pedestal boulder is raised on three support stones laid out in the shape of a triangle.

(6) Two Sets of Three -  “Two Sets Beside Each Other”

A. In South Royalton, Vermont at monolith “A” site there are two triangular shaped enclosures. Monolith Site A is a quarter mile from the Calendar 1 complex and six hundred feet from V.H.S. chamber no. 9 (Whittall, 1984: pp 34-35). Each triangle is made up of three standing stones and is similar in size. The triangles are separate from each other. The closest stone of each one places the bottom of the two triangles four and half feet apart. One is associated with a cairn and is oriented north. Cairn is at tip on north end outside the triangle enclosure. Second triangular enclosure is associated with a fire and patch of red ochre, and is oriented west and slightly north. Fire pit (eighteen inches diameter) and red ochre deposit (eighteen inches diameter) are on bedrock abutting each other and adjacent to splits in the bedrock approximately three feet away from monolith A in bottom part of triangle enclosure on south corner. Monolith was placed in a quarried niche in the bedrock. Charcoal from fire pit dated to 435 +/- 145 B.P. (GX-10519). According to Whittall’s report an excavation at Calendar 1 complex produced a C-14 date of 470+/_ 150 B.P. (GX-9782) placing it with in the same time period of usage. Here two separate triangular enclosures were used for different purposes and different ceremonies. Only one monolith “A” was excavated. It is unknown if other buried features are associated with either triangular enclosure. Chamber no. 9 is six hundred feet distant close enough to be possibly associated with the triangular enclosures. Monolith A was placed in a quarried out hole in the bedrock. Nearby are natural splits in the bedrock. Splits in bedrock and chambers are indications of the Underworld. Balance is indicated by the two triangles. Balance also shows up in the fire pit and red ochre deposit as two features that are of equal size and same semi-rectangular shape.

B. America’s Stonehenge spirit passage cairn has three spirit passages made up of two stones apiece and arranged atop a large flat-topped boulder with three tiny quartz protrusions. (The three quartz protrusions were used as protection to block out uninvited spirits and the three pairs (2) of stones were used for spirits to have a formal entry into the site, a passage.)

The use of a triangle within a triangle at Gungywamp creates a double set of triangles. Both sets of triangles were used to block out uninvited spirits. The second set may represent a form of balance as in two chambers per ceremony. The Vermont site may have also used two triangles for the sake of balance possibly splitting up one ceremony into two parts or holding two ceremonies on the same day. In each case, three standing stones set up in the shape of triangle were used. This incorporated two elements the number three and the triangle shape both associated with blocking out uninvited spirits.

(7) Two & One (equal to three)

A. Pair (two) standing stones placed together, third standing stone placed on other side of site with stone structure features in the middle, technically a slim triangle at Gungywamp in CT
B. Two vertical lines, an empty space and one vertical line 11 1. Arrangement of carved lines was done on anchor boulder at entrance to Hunt Brook Chamber in Montville, CT
C. Two perched boulders and one pedestal boulder together make up three boulders arranged in a triangle pattern (Dogtown in Gloucester, MA)
D. In Freetown, MA there is a cairn with two charcoal deposits and one red ochre deposit. (Mavor & Dix, 1989: 66)This one is inconclusive but fits the pattern. It creates a situation whereby three separate, special offerings were made. The three offerings were made at intervals not at the same time, therefore the two n’ one combination that it fits may not apply.

The two & one combination creates a number three and was used to block out uninvited spirits in Connecticut and Gloucester, MA. Some times it incorporates a triangle and other times, it does not.  The Freetown, MA cairn was analyzed under Color. Its two & one pattern appears to be associated with offerings to a Manitou Spirit within the cairn.

(8) 1900’s Interpretation of Number Three

A. In the The Last Algonquin a Long Island Indian had to be asked three times before he told his story. The biographer was not able to learn the meaning behind the three times. It is simply brought out as a fact that took place.

B. In current times the Northeastern Native American culture refers to the number three as representing three worlds Underworld (below) – Middleworld (earth’s surface) – Upperworld (sky)

C. In current times the number three is also applied to the three sisters - beans, corn and squash. How far back this association with the number goes is unknown. Agriculture gets its start in New England in the Late Woodland Period.

D. In Medicine Trail a book about Gladys Tantagquidgeon’s life and documentation of Mohegan culture past and present the number three is mentioned in relation to the Little People. Granny Squannit leader of the Little People had two diamond eyes and a central spirit eye. (p 84) This information dates to the 1920’s.

The 1900’s interpretations show modern thinking with links to the past. Three worlds – Upperworld, Underworld and Middleworld are recognized and acknowledged at America’s Stonehenge and Gungywamp sites. At America’s Stonehenge early on Upperworld and Underworld are utilized as two parts within the concept of balance. When Middleworld is introduced it was used with one other world to have two parts to maintain balance. In neither site is there any evidence that the number three was used to represent the three worlds.

There is a broad and diversified range of uses. The Last Algonquin needed to be asked three times before he would tell his story. Gladys Tantagquidgeon’s brings us Granny Squannit who has three eyes, the third being a spirit eye. This is a two & one combination creating three eyes. It suggests a link with the past within the geographical area. Current generalized interpretations refer to the three worlds and/or three sisters of agriculture. These last two appear to be very late ideas adapted to common knowledge.


This number although in use currently with Native Americans in the northeast in reference to the four cardinal directions has not shown up at stone structure sites.


This number has only two examples. They are two pedestal boulders with five support stones in New York State. Nothing more is known about the number. (See Pedestal Boulders)


Number twenty-nine was used at Gungywamp in rows of standing stones. It represents the moon and its month long cycle. Two separate rows of standing stones varying in height each appear to have twenty nine stones. One row replaced the other row when the older row no longer fulfilled the needs of the ceremony. Additional features were made to the new row which created the need for the second row. This is the only site that utilized a number to represent the moon. (See Gungywamp article)

One Hundred Years

Several sites exhibit evidence of a number close to a one hundred year interval. They indicate the number had significance and warranted a special ceremony to acknowledge an event. The sites are America’s Stonehenge in North Salem, NH, Gungywamp in Groton, CT and a cairn site in Freetown, MA.

1) Freetown, MA cairn is earliest known example occurring in the early part of Late Woodland. Within the cairn are two charcoal deposits. They have C-14 dates of 790 B.P. and 875 B.P. The dates are eighty five years apart given the plus and minus values the dates suggest a one hundred year span. (Mavor & Dix, 1989: 66)

2) America’s Stonehenge in North Salem, NH has three features set up approximately one hundred years apart. The first is a specialized split boulder cairn. The split was left open without stone fill and on the opposite end are three stones that make up the cairn. It has not been dated by C-14 method but fits into a scenario that dates it to circa 1800. The cairn is located in the same area as two other hundred year features. The second is a set of three objects that can carry water from circa 1900. The objects are spread out around western perimeter of site and are a metal pail, an enameled cooking pot and a ceramic jug. The enameled cooking pot was dated via its pattern in an old Sears catalog. The third are a set of three bent tree saplings. These are young trees ten years and less that were found bent in 2005 and all are in an east – west line up in area of ceramic jug and split boulder cairn. (Gage, 2006)

3) Gungywamp Site in Groton, CT has two dated features that indicate a one hundred year ceremony was observed. The first is a crude hearth inside entrance of an open-roofed enclosure in the North Complex. The charcoal from hearth was dated to 130 +/- 75 B.P. [1820 A.D.]. The second is a dated 1916 trolley token found near the open front (entrance) of a Native American Indian lodge. Each dated feature was at the entrance of a structure. This site continues to be visited by unknown visitors periodically as noted by the Gungywamp Society who are the caretakers. The same scenario has been observed at America’s Stonehenge site that also has unknown [Native American] visitors periodically on its perimeter (observed by the author). Findings indicate Native American ceremonialism.


There is no indication of the significance of the One Hundred Year Ceremony. It dates back at least nine hundred years to the early part of the Late Woodland period. It continues to be celebrated as of the twenty-first century circa 2000. The concept of one hundred was derived from the Freetown, MA cairn with its C14 dates, and at America’s Stonehenge and Gungywamp sites with their modern dated objects.

The lunar standstill occurs every nineteen years. Five lunar standstills add up to ninety-five years. The only features with number five are the two pedestal boulders in New York of which no interpretation for the number of support stones is known. This number five does not appear to be relative to the hundred year ceremony.

The most current evidence at America’s Stonehenge suggests the current Native Americans observe the event near the turn of the century. In Connecticut at Gungywamp the 1916 trolley token suggests a specific year.

Chapter 4 - Quartz

Quartz is a type of stone used for utilitarian and ceremonial purposes. Frequently one to several pieces of quartz are found on top of cairns as specialty stones. It has also been used in stone walls and chambers. Quartz comes in several color variations.

Pink (shades light to dark)


At Gungywamp it was used as a closing stone and at America’s Stonehenge it was used in rectangular shaped stone to block out uninvited spirits and also was representative of crystal. One to a few pieces of quartz are frequently found on top of cairns. Its presence on top surface of cairn suggests it was used to block out uninvited spirits or to contain spirits within the cairn. Quartz functions like other blocking mechanisms it blocks out uninvited spirits and at same time allows invited spirits to enter. Representation of crystals was highly specialized and so far has only been found at America’s Stonehenge.

Example #1 - Quartz Quarry at America’s Stonehenge

At America’s Stonehenge quartz was a stone material with special qualities. It does not appear to be sacred but was placed in a realm/context equal to sacred. This is indicated by the presence of a niche built with a triangular shaped top next to an Underworld spirit portal at the quartz quarry. The Underworld Spirit was called forth to be present when quartz was being quarried for special stones to be added to the site. Quartz was like all stone, a product of the Underworld.

Man-Made Offering Niche

Split bedrock behind the niche used as an Underworld Spirit Portal

Pieces of quartz stone mined at this quarry site which were never utilized for construction purposes.

Example #2 – Gungywamp site in Groton, Connecticut a large quartz slab was quarried and moved to entrance of a stone chamber where it was used to block the entrance.  (Barron & Mason, 1994: 11)

Example #3 – America’s Stonehenge site in No. Salem, New Hampshire a rectangular block of quartz was quarried at the quartz quarry on site and placed in a stone wall with a sunset alignment/portal in the cairn field. The quartz feature enhanced the blocking power of the rectangular block to keep uninvited spirits from entering the stone wall and sunset portal. (Gage, 2006: 232)

Example #4 – America’s Stonehenge site has a retaining wall of quartz stone slabs in the Winter Water Ceremonial Area. Stone slabs served as a utilitarian retaining wall and at same time a barrier that blocked North Spirit from entering the drain area for Spring Water Spirit. Below the slab wall is a ceremonial “L” shaped ditched drain. (Gage, 2006: 60)

Example #5 – America’s Stonehenge site at the Large Niche in perimeter wall on west side. A pure rectangular block of quartz was used to form an open-L spirit portal for the Underworld Spirit. The rectangle shape and quartz enhanced each other as a blocking mechanism. This feature overall served as a blocking mechanism and as a spirit portal at same time. (Gage, 2006: 95)

Example #6 – America’s Stonehenge site, inside the Oracle Chamber a vein of clear crackled quartz with rust staining was used to represent a vein in which quartz crystals are found. The symbolism was placed on the inside wall of a niche. (Gage, 2006: 180)

Example #7 – Stone cairn with one to a few pieces of quartz on top surface, common in cairns throughout the northeast. Thought to be a blocking mechanism.

On Ground Cairn - Murray Lane
Harvard, MA

Example #8 - At Sandown, NH is a site with a niche shown in the photo to the right. As one approaches the niche, a pure white piece of quartz can be seen in far back wall of the niche. The quartz was used as a protective or blocking mechanism to exclude disruptive or uninvited spirits from using the niche.

(Below) Close-Up Photos Inside Niche

On Ground Cairn - Gungywamp Site

On Boulder Cairn - Murrary Lane
Harvard, MA


Quartz is semi-common yet not abundant like granite, the most common stone material in New England. The limited quantities of quartz and its general crystal-like appearance made this stone material special.

Its usage at America’s Stonehenge is the broadest found so far. When placed in a stone wall it was used to block out uninvited spirits. Its use in a spirit portal shows the invited spirit could pass through while the uninvited spirit(s) could not pass through. A stone with crackled clear and rust colored quartz was used to represent the Crystal Spirit. This indicates the Native Americans were aware of the association of quartz and quartz crystals. At the quartz quarry the people found an Underworld spirit portal. They in turn built a niche out of quartz with a triangular topped roof stone. Each time they quarried the quartz they called the Underworld Spirit to be present during their activity. The quartz was first of all coming out of the Underworld (underground per se). Second it was to be used for symbolic protection on site. Regular granite stones with specific shapes were also used for symbolic protection on site and quarried on site yet no other quarrying area has a spirit portal and niche set up. This sets the quartz off from other stone materials. Quartz was special and treated with reverence.

In southern New England at Gungywamp in Connecticut a large slab of quartz was quarried approximately a quarter mile away and dragged over to a chamber where it was used to permanently close the entrance.  Here the people made an extra effort to get a specialized type of stone. It is similar to what occurred at America’s Stonehenge in New Hampshire.

Throughout New England pieces of quartz of all colors are found as one to a few pieces of specialized stone on top of cairns. It is a widespread practice.
Quartz was a common local stone material used to make common small projectile points. The properties of quartz permitted it to be flaked and worked into projectile points. In that capacity quartz does not appear to be a special stone or was it? Stone pestles and gouges have been found with images. An image imparts the actual spirit. Pottery was given a mark that placed a spirit within the vessel. (Kazimiroff, 1982) Pottery vessels with holes have been found in burials to release the spirit within the vessel. To the Native American many, possibly all, objects contained a spirit. If that is the case, then the common small quartz projectile point contained a spirit. The spirit could have been the spirit of the hunt, the spirit of the hunter, or the spirit of stone which could be directed. A projectile point with a spirit is not simply a utilitarian object. It has specialized qualities and a spirit who can be directed to kill to provide food for the people. It falls into a similar category as the quarried quartz stone used for symbolic protection.

Quartz was a versatile type of stone material useful for utilitarian and ceremonial objects. It was a local semi-common stone that stood out from the abundant granite. Because it stood out and was semi-common, verses being abundant quartz became a specialized stone material. It also produced quartz crystals which were revered and sacred.

Chapter 5 - Red Ochre

Native Americans have used red ochre for thousands of years. It is sprinkled over burials, used as special paint for ceremonies, and has been found as offerings in caches of tools (See Caddy Park) and even as offerings with a stone cairn (Mavor & Dix, 1989: ) most archaeological texts interpret red ochre to be symbolic of life essense (i.e. blood). Professor Frederick Wiseman (Abenaki) offers a deeper level of understanding of red ochre’s meaning within Native American culture. Wiseman writes “The red paint can be visualized as a `containment system’ for the spiritual force resident in the burials. As we live, we accumulate power, as do our possessions. Burial reprocesses this power into the earth, the origin of all things. the red ochre seals this power in , thus protecting the living.” (Wiseman, 2005: 92-93)

Chapter 6 - Combinations of Color & Shape

Ocassionally. color and shape are combined in a single object. It is uncommon but has been found in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Connecticut has two examples. #1 A pure milk white quartz triangle was found at a chamber site in Moodus, CT. #2 A white quartz diamond was found at the Gungywamp site in Groton, CT. (Cahill, 1993, 46 & 47)

New Hampshire has two examples at America’s Stonehenge. #1 A milk white triangle in the interior wall of the Lower Eastside Storage Chamber (a.k.a. Watch House Chamber). (Gage, 2006, 136) #2 A pure milk white, small three to four inch, handheld triangular stone. Location of where it was found on site in unknown. (Goudsward, 2003, 103)

Massachusetts has two examples. #1 A purple colored diamond reflection on a standing stone at an Archaic mound site in Salisbury, MA. (Cahill, 1993, 47)  #2 A broken red slate whale tail pendant found in a buried feature at Caddy Park in Quincy, MA. (MAS 63-1&2, 2002, Mahlstedt & Davis p15)


White was paired and combined with the triangle and diamond as a protective symbol. Red was paired with a broken whale tail image. It was used to symbolically represent a killed whale (see Colors – Example #5).


Triangular topped standing stone with quartz vein, supported by a rectangular shaped stone behind. An example of how multiple types of symbolism can be integrated into a single feature.


A cairn like feature composed of various triangular shaped stones all pointing upward.


Cahill, Robert

1993 New England’s Ancient Mysteries. Salem, MA: Old Saltbox Publishing Inc.

Fawcett, Melissa J.

2000 Medicine Trail: The Life and Lessons of Gladys Tantaquidgeon. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.

Barron, David P. & Sharon Mason

1994 “The Greater Gungywamp” North Groton, CT: A Guidebook. (Revised Edition)

Gage, Mary

2006 America’s Stonehenge Deciphered. Amesbury, MA : Powwow River Books.

Goudsward, David with Robert Stone

2003 America’s Stonehenge: The Mystery Hill Story. Boston, MA: Branden Books.

Kazimiroff, Theodore L.

1982 The Last Algonquin. New York, NY: Dell Publishing Co.

Lenik, Edward

2002 Picture Rocks: American Indian Rock Art in the Northeast Woodlands. Hanover, NH: University of New England.

Mavor, James & Byron Dix

1989 Manitou: The Sacred Landscape of New England’s Native Civilization. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.

Whittall, James  II

1977 “Excavation Report: Oracle Chamber Drain.” Early Sites Research Society Bulletin vol. 5 no. 1 pp. 18-21 (February 1977).

1984 “Excavation - `Monolith A’ Site South Royalton, Vermont” Early Sites Society Research Bulletin vol. 11 no. 1 pp. 34-36.

Willoughby, Charles

1973 Antiquities of the New England Indians with Notes on the Ancient Cultures of the Adjacent Territory. New York, NY: AMS Press, Inc

Wiseman, Frederick

2005 Reclaiming the Ancestors: Decolonizing a Taken Prehistory of the Far Northeast. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England


Copyright (c) 2005-2008, James E. Gage & Mary E. Gage. All Rights Reserved.