Going to Gungywamp

What, where, or who is Gungywamp? To the ear, it is a funny name, half-Suessical and half-Germanic. The name is actually derived from the Pequot language, as the Pequot Indians lived here for a time. They were immigrants, of a sort, from upstate New York in the centuries just before European arrival.

On the map, Gungywamp is a dot in southeastern Connecticut—a location on private land, open to the public only by appointment.

To the eye, it seems at first a classic New England post-agricultural landscape—low rolling hills of young forest and tumbling stones, a place where the saw and the plow had their impact again and again for nearly four centuries. It is a place of good stone walls, tumbled-down walls, bare suggestions of walls. And while stone walls are almost as common as traffic lights in Connecticut, Gungywamp's walls are different. Some are easy to place in colonial times; but the others—dugouts, standing stones, cascading stone walls--are hard to place.

It is a place of well-defined forest layers--an understory of mountain laurel and an overstory of young and reaching maple, oak, beech, and hickory. Underfoot, mosses abound, lush and handsome. Dusty blue lichen etch glacial erratics.

How should we understand Gungywamp? Do we need to go back to the geologic days of Avalonia—when the Atlantic-rim continents were unified, when geologists say that southeastern Connecticut and northern Africa were joined? This place looks and feels different from other Connecticut woodlands--it is lower, its rocky surface more chaotic, its soil sandier. Or perhaps we need to go back to some human habitation that preceded the last age of glaciation to find the people who built the stone-lined dugouts--unlike the post-glacial Pequots, who built in wood. Even Europeans may have been here before the Europeans of the modern history books.

There are no answers to the questions about Gungywamp, though many have tried. Gungywamp—a place with colonial stonework, pre-Columbian dugouts, standing stones, and circular stones from other peoples. Who? And when? We may never know.

To join a private tour, contact the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center in Groton, CT.

Circular Stones at Gungywamp

 

Dugout entrance at Gungywamp

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