Forty feet below the surface of Lake Michigan in Grand Traverse Bay, a mysterious pattern of stones can be seen rising from an otherwise sandy half-mile of lake floor.
Mark Holley found the site in 2007 during a survey of the lake bottom. The stones could signal an ancient shoreline or a glacial formation, but their striking geometric alignment raises the possibility of human involvement.
Holley found the site by accident while doing lake floor survey work in summer 2007 for the Grand Traverse Bay Underwater Preserve. After several passes, a row of stones became clear. When divers visited the site to take photographs, they were left vaguely unnerved. "It was really spooky when we saw it in the water," Holley said. "The whole site is spooky, in a way. When you're swimming through a long line of stones and the rest of the lake bed is featureless, it's just spooky."
The submerged site was tundra when humans of the hunter-gatherer era roamed it 6,000 to 9,000 years ago. Could the stones have come from a massive fishing weir laid across a long-gone river? Could they mark a ceremonial site?
Adding to the intrigue, one dishwasher-size rock seems to bear an etching of a mastodon. Mastodons were facing extinction when early humans were on the scene, and the few that still existed in North America lived much farther south, evidence shows.
Hank Bailey of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians said, "There's a lot that we haven't learned." Moreover, to American Indian eyes, the rocks seem to be arranged with some purpose, he said.
"It could easily be a ceremonial site," said Bailey, who gave underwater photographs of the stones to religious leaders. "The same kind of thing that I see there is the same kind of things we use, so why couldn't it have been connected to our people further back than modern archeologists know?"
Cleland said petroglyphs are rare in the Upper Midwest and stone circles are more common among primitive farmers than among the hunter-gatherers who traveled through Michigan.
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