Westford Knight

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The Westford Knight, shown along Depot Street in Westford, Massachusetts
A detail of the rock, showing the "sword". The "shield" has been painted on, supposedly to indicate an underlying carving

The Westford Knight, also known as the Sinclair Rock,[1] is perceived as either a carving or a natural feature, or a combination of both, located on a glacial boulder in Westford, Massachusetts in the United States. It is notable for being the subject of controversial speculation that it is evidence of exploration of North America by Europeans prior to Christopher Columbus. This interpretation is not accepted by professional archaeologists or historians.[2]

The rock is located along Depot Street in the town of Westford, just north of the town center. It is inconspicuous, situated along the side of the road and surrounded by a small chain fence. Next to the rock is a small monument commemorating the "inscription".


The rock and carving is first mentioned in print in an 1883 town history, identified as an Indian carving: "A broad ledge which crops out near the house of William Kitteredge has upon its surface grooves made by glaciers. Rude outlines of the human face have been traced upon it, and the figure is said to be the work of Indians." [3] The carving was subsequently identified as a broken Norse Sword by William Goodwin in his book on the America's Stonehenge site.[4] Frank Glynn, president of the Connecticut Archaeological Society, re-located the carving and following discussions with Thomas Charles Lethbridge over Goodwin's theory, chalked in a full figure in 1954, resembling a Medieval knight, with a sword and shield, and he is usually said to be the "discoverer of the Westford Knight." [5] It was Lethbridge who suggested to Glynn that the sword was not of Viking origin, but was "a hand-and-a-half wheel pommel sword" common in 14th century North Britain.[6]

The current interpretation by those who advocate that the feature on the rock is a human figure is that it commemorates a fallen member of the party of Henry Sinclair, a Scottish Earl whom some believe to have made a voyage to the New World in 1398, traveling to Nova Scotia and New England.[7] The existence of such a voyage is not accepted by mainstream archaeologists and historians. Usually it is claimed that the knight is Sir James Gunn, a member of Clan Gunn and a Knight Templar who reportedly traveled with Sinclair.[8] The monument next to the "knight" commemorates this interpretation, stating as fact that Sinclair and his party traveled to present-day Massachusetts. Believers in this theory often cite the Newport Tower in Newport, Rhode Island as further evidence to support their claim.[9]

Such claims are rejected as pseudoarchaeology by mainstream historians and archaeologists, who believe the knight is the product of Frank Glynn's imagination.[10] A recent investigation of the rock by David K. Schafer, Curatorial Assistant for Archaeology at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, [1] concluded that except for the "sword handle", which is definitely a punch carving, the entire feature consists of naturally-formed scratches caused by glaciation. The local town historian of Westford has stated that there is evidence that the T-shaped inscription was made in the late 19th century. Furthermore, historians believe that the area around the rock has undergone erosion since the clearing of trees in the 18th century, and that during the time of the alleged voyage by Sinclair, the rock was probably in a hardwood forest covered by 3 or 4 ft (1 or 1.3 m) of earth. Moreover, the area of Westford is inland and not easily accessible by water, making it highly improbable that any nautical voyage would venture there. There is no evidence that Sinclair or Gunn ever actually traveled to the Americas.

Historians point out that the timing is inconsistent with documented history, as at the time of the alleged voyage (1398), the Order of the Knights Templar was not in existence, having been publicly disbanded ninety years earlier.


  1. ^ "Was Columbus the true discoverer of America?". The world's strangest mysteries. New York: Gallery Books. 1987. p. 120. ISBN 0-8317-9678-2. 
  2. ^ R. Celeste Ray (Editor) Transatlantic Scots, University of Alabama Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-8173-1473-6
  3. ^ Reverend Edwin R. Hodgman, History of the Town of Westford, Mass 1659-1883 (Lowell, Mass.: Westford Town History Association, 1883).
  4. ^ William B. Goodwin, The Ruins of Great Ireland in New England (Boston: Meador Publishing Company, 1946).
  5. ^ For example, in Richard White, These Stones Bear Witness, page 93 (Anchor House, 2010). ISBN 978-1-4520-1718-1
  6. ^ Richard White, pages 87-88.
  7. ^ Tim Wallace-Murphy, Marilyn Hopkins Templars in America: From the Crusades to the New World (Weiser Books, 2004)
  8. ^ Steven Sora, The Lost Colony of The Templars: Verrazano's Secret Mission To America, page 161 (Destiny Books, 2004). ISBN 978-1-59477-870-4
  9. ^ Christopher Knight, Robert Lomas, The Hiram Key: Pharaohs, Freemasons and The Discovery of The Secret Scrolls of Jesus (London: Century, 1996). ISBN 0-7126-8579-0
  10. ^ Kenneth L. Feder, Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology: From Atlantis To The Walam Olum, pages 270-271 (Greenwood, 2010). ISBN 978-0-313-37919-2

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