NEARA RESEARCH

RESEARCH-JAY4NEARA is committed to supporting interdisciplinary research related to lithic features. In order to promote this, the NEARA research and Special Projects Committee solicits and recommends projects, sets guidelines and standards, and is responsible for the review and updating of site reports. It is NEARA’s goal to maintain an accurate and comprehensive registry of sites in the northeast and ultimately to gain acceptance of that site registry as a reliable source of information for professional and avocational researches alike.

NEARA Research

NEARA was founded in 1964 to explore the origins and functions of these structures and sites, to document them, and to encourage their protection and preservation. Volunteers have spent countless hours investigating and researching these sites, drawing on both traditional disciplines of archaeology and geology, as well as newer fields such as archaeoastronomy, epigraphy and earth energies.

We are committed to supporting interdisciplinary research related to lithic features. In order to promote research, the NEARA Research and Special Projects Committee solicits and recommends projects, sets guidelines and standards, and is responsible for the review and updating of site reports and through our research endowment, give small grants to assist in designated projects.

Download a editable Word document site report form

INVESTIGATING THE STONE CIRCLE AT VERA CRUZ
– Walter van Roggen

Vera Cruz is a village in Pennsylvania, just south of Allentown, best known for its jasper quarries.  See the 1893 article from Popular Science Monthly found at Wikisource entitled Prehistoric Jasper Mines in the Lehigh Hills. Read about Jasper Park in the Explore PA History article Indian Jasper Quarries Historical Marker.

Recently a landowner discovered a stone circle on his property near Jasper Park.  It is about 18 meters in diameter and includes some smaller circular features inside it.  Larry Mulligan, our Pennsylvania coordinator, proposed an investigation.  The Research Committee reviewed the available documentation and did our own background research.  We decided to proceed with funding and participating in the project.

An experienced local archaeologist performed a Phase I investigation, doing background research and digging 12 shovel test pits (STPs) inside and around the stone circle. NEARA volunteers also participated in the investigation by digging 11 more STPs around the circle and helping map the circle. The archaeologist analyzed all of the recovered artifacts and examined the soil stratigraphy.

The historical research discovered that there were no recorded constructions in the immediate area of the stone circle.  The owners of this plot of land had been farmers in the 1800s, but there are many rocks on the surface of the land around the circle and the stratigraphy shows that the soil at the circle has not been plowed.  The site is adjacent to a stream on two sides.

The circle consists of a ring of stones mostly of a size less than one half meter in diameter. The stones do not appear contiguously or uniformly around the whole circle. The most substantially built constructions that were exposed involved courses of dry laid stones to a depth of about half a meter.  Other sections of the circle had fewer stones and even gaps between them.

The enclosure also includes a “hearth”-like feature in the middle.  The shovel test pit did find a very small amount of charcoal there; no other STPs had any charcoal.  Furthermore a very small ring of individual stones, less than one meter in diameter, is located on the southwestern side inside the circle.  Its purpose is unknown.

There is a large oak tree, perhaps 140 years old, interrupting the circle on the southern side.  The stones of the circle do not appear disturbed by the tree.

The 360 recovered prehistoric artifacts include: 355 pieces of debitage, 2 cores, 1 scraper, and 2 early stage bifaces.  Almost all were made of jasper.  So the site was clearly a lithic workshop for producing stone tools.  However none of the artifacts were diagnostic, so we were unable to determine their approximate age or the identity of their manufacturers.  Furthermore this Phase I investigation was unable to directly associate the construction of the stone circle with the lithic artifacts found all about it.

Two STPs within the circle uncovered potential post holes.  It would be good to search for more of them and to determine whether they are real.

The NEARA volunteers had a great time meeting new people, discovering artifacts, and discussing theories about the site.  We hope to continue research at this site and others in the future.  This was the Research Committee’s third field event in three years.

The NEARA Research Committee promotes research by soliciting and recommending and funding projects, setting guidelines and standards, and maintaining site information.  For more information, contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

BIG DIG IN BINGHAM
WHY CONDUCT A PROFESSIONAL INVESTI
GATION?

When we realized that we had a well-preserved group of stone mounds, a supportive owner, and a site that was readily accessible, NEARA, through Ros Strong, approached Deborah Wilson, an open minded Maine archaeologist, to see if she would be interested in supervising an investigation of the site. She was, and suggested that her colleague Mark Hedden, a specialist in Maine rock art, be included in the team along with NEARA volunteers.  

Bingham dig for web.pdf

LAND AND PROBATE RECORDS
ESTABLISHING A TITLE CHAIN FOR HISTORIC SITES

JUNE MILLER

NEARA RESEARCH AND SPECIAL PROJECTS, SPRING 1994

What Is A Title Chain?
A title chain is a chronological list of property owners, which gives us not only the span of each occupation but often chronicles changes in boundaries. Topographical features, buildings and boundary markers are sometimes cited. A title chain is one of the primary ways to investi­gate a site's history from a search of land and probate records.

How does a title chain develop?
Each "link" in the chain will usually be a deed, but when an owner dies still owning the property, the de­ceased's probate record becomes the next link in the chain.

What can a probate record tell me?
Early probate records reveal important and interesting information about the family's social and economic status. A listing of heirs gives us names and ages of spouses and children. Inventories, if included, catalog material possessions, and give us a much more detailed picture of day-to-day life.

How do I start a title chain?
The process of chaining a title starts with locating the deed into the present owner (or probate record, if inher­ited) and then finding the preceding owner, going back as far as the records allow.

What do I need to begin?
You must have the current owner's name, and you must be reasonably familiar with the property description, so that if several parcels are owned, you will chain the cor­rect parcel. (You may find that an assessor's map of the area is helpful in making that determination.)

What terms should I know?
The two most important words in using land records are grantor and grantee. The grantor is the seller or owner right up until the time of sale: the grantee is the new owner.

Then what do I do?
Once you have found the current deed, by using the grantee index, abstract any information you think may be useful. You may want to photocopy each document in the chain, especially if the legal description (metes and bounds) is lengthy. If a plan in cited, obtain a copy. Look for a "being clause" after the legal description; it will give you a prior deed reference, allowing you to proceed immediately to the next record book. Otherwise, you will have to grantee the previous owner back, until you find the preceding deed.

How are land records arranged?

Land record indices are alphabetized by last name for an individual or by the first word for a business or trust. Probate files are assigned docket numbers and are found in probate indices which are also alphabetical and chronological. You will be looking up your deceased's last name during the period in which he died or some­time thereafter.

Is the chaining process as easy as it sounds?
The chaining process is a simple one in theory, but in practice, snags will occur which often require patience and some ingenuity to circumvent. The title chain is really an historical skeletal framework. Upon the "bare bones" of names and dates, you can add the "flesh" of genealogical information, details of early maps and at­lases, quotations from personal diaries and account books, newspaper articles, and information from secon­dary sources such as town and regional histories and gazetteers.

 

From NEARA JOURNAL VOL. XXVIII, 3 & 4, Page  70

 

 

chamber02 NASHOBA BROOK CHAMBER

Located on the Nashoba Brook Conservation area, the structure is an L-shaped, man-made room constructed of stones similar to those prevalent throughout New England’s forest landscapes.  The chamber, 11’ x 6’ x 6’ (at its highest point), is built into the bottom of a small hillside, mounded over with earth and entered via a 17’ tunnel.  A stone pillar supports the roof of the L-shaped room.  Five 1-ton (or greater) stone slabs averaging 3” thick overlap to comprise the roof.

Why was it Built?

The archaeological excavation that is part of the proposed project may provide answers to the questions of its age and purpose.  The land (especially the area conservation parcels) around the chamber is fertile with mysterious stone structures of other types recognized by researchers also to be man-made.Nashoba Brook Stone Chamber.pdf