Plymouth Rock

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The Real Story of Plymouth Rock - Scientific American Blog Network

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Let's Chat. Thanks, we'll be in touch! Since then, it has been split cleanly in half, chiseled away by souvenir hunters and split again into many smaller pieces.

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  7. It has been raised up, carted off, moved and re-moved and cracked and vandalized. Like the disjointed, intergenerational indignities visited upon Plymouth Rock itself, the story of how this random boulder was anointed as the cornerstone of the country is a series of bizarre episodes that played out over several centuries.

    Barred Rock

    A local year-old named Thomas Faunce staged a peculiar protest: He was put in a chair, hoisted up by a team of men and carried down to the rock from town. Once there, Faunce claimed the Pilgrims told his father it was on this rock that they first disembarked, at which point he proceeded to weep.

    The people of Plymouth ultimately just built around the boulder, with Plymouth Rock poking through the wharf like an impacted molar. Decades later, the rock was accidentally broken into two, the halves then separated from each other and slowly chunked away for display in museums, churches, parlors and libraries.

    Plymouth Rock

    Eventually no one could justify that Plymouth Rock was actually Plymouth Rocks, and what remained of the now severely mismatching halves was reunited with a slathering of mortar. As I stood at the railing on a winter morning, looking down on what appeared to be a frosted gallstone, I felt, more than anything, a sense of commiseration. Plymouth Rock is the hapless subject of a national farce, an unworthy victim of mistaken identity. First it was roped into a role it had no business performing and no agency escaping, then it was incessantly excised and filleted and degraded down from its once formidable size, only to be ridiculed as small and ugly.

    And yet, that very puniness gives the rock even greater meaning. The entire point of national iconography is to inspire us toward an enlarged understanding of our common values, and Plymouth Rock does so in a singular way.