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Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Spanish N

Over Thanksgiving when I was exploring in the Camden Hills with my brother and his son Davis we found a Spanish N chiseled into a cliff. My brother had taken us to look at a cave that had been elaborately renovated with stone walls and a stone dais (table and/or raised hearth?). He had believed it to be very old and had wanted my opinion on what it represented. He did not know about the 'N'. I must admit I was a little skeptical about what we'd find. He was convinced that it was a Revolutionary War lookout camp; I thought we'd find a 1960's era 'hippy hideout'.

So the three of us climbed up through the woods and boulders to pretty darn near the top of a mountain with a spectacular view out over both Muskongus and Penobscot Bays. It would have been a good place for a lookout - we could see as far as Monhegan Island. And tucked up under an enormous cliff was Dicky's 'camp'. I had to admit I was impressed by the well-built the walls and 'stone table' - all together too well built for a temporary camp or hippy hangout. And everything was obviously very old. Rockclimbers had recently reused the cave for a camp and had moved a few of the rocks and you could tell by the bare patches under them that the lichens had been growing for a long time after the construction of the wall.

It was the climbers who clued us in about the spanish N. They had left their climbing journal in the rockshelter and in it they had described an N chiseled into a boulder in front of the camp. And lo and behold there it was high up on the face of a boulder. I was immediately impressed by how well it had been chiseled into the rock and that it had a sideways S on top. It took a lot of work to carve that N into the rock, and it was done by a professional.

So the question remains who carved the spanish N into the rock and why? Does it mark the boundary of someone's land? Could it have been carved by a lost Basque or Spanish explorer? Perhaps it marks pirate treasure? A basque cod fisherman's grave? I have to admit it has me stumped, but I did notify the Maine State Archaeologist about what we'd found. Perhaps he'll have some ideas. I'll keep you posted. Patrick

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