The Place of Stone

The Place of Stone: Dighton Rock and the Erasure of America’s Indigenous Past | University of North Carolina Press, 2017

HunterPlaceC2First noticed by colonists in 1680, Dighton Rock in Massachusetts by the nineteenth century was one of the most famous and contested artifacts of American antiquity. This forty-ton boulder covered in petroglyphs has been the subject of endless speculation that defy its Native American origins. Interpretations have included Vikings, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Lost Tribes of Israel, visitors from Atlantis, ancient Freemasons, and (today) the lost Portuguese explorer, Miguel Corte-Real. Author Douglas Hunter dissects almost four centuries of Dighton Rock’s misinterpretation, to reveal its larger role in colonization and the conceptualization of Indigenous peoples. This sprawling study brings a fresh perspective to scientific racism, the rise of American archaeology and anthropology, the intellectual weaponry of colonialism, and the construction of migration theories for the peopling of the Americas. By disenfranchising Indigenous peoples from their own past in interpretations of Dighton Rock and related archaeological puzzles such as the Mound Builders, colonizers have sought to answer to their own advantage two fundamental questions: to whom does America belong, and who belongs in America?

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“A fascinating study that intertwines Indigenous history with colonial narcissism, told in an accomplished and engaging voice. A rich and deep story with lessons that still resonate.”  —James Carson, head of school, school of humanities, languages, and social science, Griffith University, author of The Columbian Covenant: Race and the Writing of American History

“A model of research and style, The Place of Stone is required reading for anyone interested in American history, anthropology, or archaeology.” —Kenneth Feder, professor of archaeology, Central Connecticut State University, author of Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology

“Hunter’s deeply researched, heavily detailed study raises fascinating questions about white Americans’ understanding of Native American culture as well as their own sense of identity and nation.” Publisher’s Weekly, starred review

“recommended” —Choice 

“A timely and important contribution, which sheds light on larger conversations about who really belongs in American society and who does not, and whose history gets to be told and whose is ignored or erased. Furthermore, Hunter’s detailed historical account demonstrates how narratives of power often overwhelm the ability of the public to discern what evidence is credible and what evidence is not.” David M. Krueger, author of Myths of the Rune Stone, in Public Historian. Read full review.

“richly textured and thoroughly researched…Hunter’s book is relevant, both as a detailed reference and a resourceful guide, for scholars whose work seeks to understand and critique settler-colonial discourse through archaeology, anthropology, and historiography. Moreover, in The Place of Stone, Hunter demonstrates how the eccentricities of biography inform the broader discourse of historiography—or how the settler story of antiquity interpreted in Dighton Rock is inseparable from the personal and political motivations of its settler storytellers…As a lucid and detailed account of settler imagination, Hunter’s The Place of Stone makes for a compelling read, archiving the many ‘places’ Dighton Rock holds in settler-colonial interpretations of antiquity, and the many ‘pasts’ into which it has been assigned.” —Transmotion. Read full review.