NEARA 2017 Fall Meeting
NEARA's next meeting will be held in Warwick, Rhode Island November 10 through 12, 2017. Watch this spot for further details.
Vera Cruz Research
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.
NEARA Website Updated
NEW ENGLAND ANTIQUITIES RESEARCH ASSOCIATION (NEARA) Our 50th year!
Over the past two hundred years or more, as they roamed America’s northeastern woods, sharp-eyed observers have been finding enigmatic stone structures. These include elegantly constructed chambers, crude stone piles, unusual stone walls and circles, propped boulders, petroglyphs and earthen or stone mounds. Attempts at explanation have been almost as numerous as the finders. Some attribute the features to colonial field clearing, farm food storage (root cellars), animal pens or hunting shelters. Others see similarities to European or Mediterranean structures from pre-Columbian times. Some features seem to be American Indian, used perhaps for ceremonial, astronomical or calendar purposes.
NEARA was founded in 1964 to promote disciplined research exploring the origins and functions of these structures and sites, to document them and to encourage their protection and preservation. Volunteers participate in the search for new sites and enjoy the challenge of better understanding them through the traditional lenses of history, archaeology, anthropology and geology, as well as less established fields such as archaeoastronomy, deed research, and epigraphy.
Evidence has been accumulating but in many cases the mysteries remain unsolved.
NEARA is dedicated to ongoing, multi-disciplined research using the broad spectrum of the talents and abilities of its members and other researchers.
We invite you to share in this unfolding adventure of discovery by joining NEARA today.
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