The Dighton Rock State Park offers the perfect setting for picnics. You’ll find soft, grassy areas covered by shade trees by the Taunton River. You can also fish or canoe, or just take a walk through the 85-acre park. Interested in local history? Visit the museum to learn about the mysterious carvings in Dighton Rock.
So though many pieces of the story still remains a mystery, we do know of some things. Sometime before 1680, someone left a 40-ton note in what is now Berkley. Who it was remains a mystery, as does whatever message they wanted to convey — and pretty much everything else about the enigmatic Dighton Rock.
Full of history and close by to another great and popular attraction known as Freetown-Fall River State Forest, The first verifiable reference to the carvings on Dighton Rock dates back to 1680, when Harvard graduate John Danforth spotted the rock in what was then the town of Dighton and made a drawing of its carvings.
That drawing shows only the uppermost section because the rest was obscured by water at the time of Danforth’s visit. In the years that followed, many descriptions and drawings documented the “Dighton Writing Rock,” which even cropped up in writings of such New England luminaries as Puritan minister Cotton Mather and poet James Russell Lowell.
As for who created the carvings and what they mean, there have been like three dozen theories put forward over the years. Danforth fully suggested and believed that the stone was the work of Native Americans. To his eye, it seemed to tell of an encounter and subsequent battle with visitors who arrived by ship.
But despite the logic of Danforth’s theory, many others have widely insisted that there must be a more creative story behind Dighton Rock. The 18th-century educator and theologian Ezra Stiles saw the stone as proof of a visit from ancient Phoenicians, while an alternative theory put forward attributed the carvings to long-ago visitors from Carthage.