Nov 1, 2013
Bones Pushed Up by Storm Sandy on New Haven Green Date to 1790s
Peter Casolino/New Haven Register
Nicholas F. Bellantoni of the Connectictut Archeology Center, Connecticut State Museum of Natural History, speaks during a panel discussion discussing the remains of the nearly half dozen people that were unearthed during Storm Sandy on the New Haven Green. The talk was at the New Haven Museum.
NEW HAVEN--Cue the ghoulish music, folks. The secret of the Lincoln Oak bones was revealed — on Halloween, no less.
As evening shadows deepened outside, historians and archaeologists convened at the New Haven Museum to announce that the bones belonged to seven individuals from the 1790s, including two adults and a child buried with a toy marble. Their remains, in some instances consisting only of bone fragments, had become entangled in the roots of the Lincoln Oak, which toppled on the Green last year and exposed human bones.
It was the first time those bodies had been moved in centuries, said Gary P. Aronsen, a research associate in the anthropology department at Yale University. Investigators only removed the remains that had been disturbed by the uprooted oak.
“We knew, the more we would dig, the more we would find,” Aronsen said.
Thousands of bodies ‑ perhaps 10,000 by some estimates ‑ are buried under the Green. It was the site of the town’s burial ground from 1638 until the late 1790s, when burials moved to Grove Street Cemetery.
Last October, Superstorm Sandy toppled the Lincoln Oak, which was planted in 1909 to commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s 100th birthday.
Entwined in the tree’s roots was a human skull, as well as other bones and bone fragments.
In the months since the discovery, a team of investigators, including Aronsen, state archaeologist Nicholas Bellantoni, and researchers from Quinnipiac University and the University of Connecticut, have painstakingly examined the remains.
“This was not just a Green story. This was a story about New Haven,” said Drew Days III, chairman of the Proprietors of the Common and Undivided Lands, also known as the Green. He said pastors from the three churches on the Green have agreed to help re-bury the remains at a future date, possibly in the spring.
This also was a story involving multiple eras of local history.
After the bones were discovered, investigators also turned up a pair of time capsules encased in cement from the time the Lincoln Oak was planted.