Past Projects

Acton Stone Chamber, Acton

The Town of Acton Board of Selectmen, as overseen by the Acton Historical Commission, and in collaboration with the New England Antiquities Research Association (NEARA), were awarded a Community Preservation Act (CPA) grant for the restoration and stabilization of the Historic Stone Chamber on the Nashoba Brook Conservation Land in Acton, Massachusetts. The aim of the restoration project was to restore the stone chamber to a condition that both resolves the present safety hazards (danger of collapse), and to re-establish certain architectural principles applied during its period of original construction. The Acton chamber has been known about for many years, but it has been within the last 40 years that, due to both human and environmental factors, it has suffered its most severe deterioration. The deterioration has now reached the stage where it has been determine that, due to its location on public land with open access and the fact that it now possesses a serious danger of collapse with potential serious injury to whomever happens to be present, that it must either be rebuilt or demolished. Restoration consisted of the removal of the soils on the roof of the chamber and the walls of the passage leading into it. This was followed by the removal of the roof slabs, a reconstruction and stabilization of the walls, replacement of the roof slabs and the replacement of the overlying soils to replicate the original appearance.

Prior to any reconstruction work, archaeological Site Examination (950 CMR 70) testing was proposed for the soils located adjacent to the interior and exterior walls of the passage, the floor of the passage and the adjacent stone foundation. The purpose of the Site Examination was to gather sufficient information to determine whether the Stone Chamber was eligible for listing in the National and State Register of Historic Places. Site Examination testing prior to and during the reconstruction of the Acton Stone Chamber yielded significant information on the methods of construction of the walls, the original depth of the floor of the passage, the possible purpose of the foundation adjacent to the stone chamber, and the area between the stone chamber and the foundation. Materials recovered during the course of testing included one possible Middle Archaic Neville-like projectile point, recovered from a fill layer and thus lacking provenience integrity, as well as historic material spanning the late eighteenth to late twentieth centuries. Documentary research tied the chamber construction with Moses Wood, a Revolutionary War veteran and blacksmith. Documentary research also indicated that the chamber may have been used as an ice house and the adjacent foundation served as the blacksmith shop for Moses Wood and his son Aaron.

Site examination results indicated that, although the passage has been reconstructed, the site maintains significant integrity and is recommended for inclusion on the National Register based on Criteria B, C and D. It is associated with a person of local significance, is representative of a vanishing but once significant vernacular architectural style, and maintains the potential to add information important to the history of the Town, State and region.


The Village at Hanover, Hanover

One hundred and four 50 x 50 cm. test pits (88 systematically placed along eight transects and 16 in four array brackets) were excavated in high potential areas in close proximity to swamp land on the property of the proposed Village of Hanover (Figure 7). A total of 37 artifacts were recovered (29 prehistoric, 8 historic). Three prehistoric sites were identified with diagnostic prehistoric material being found at only one. Prehistoric artifacts recovered were limited to 19 pieces of chipping debris, two core fragments, five shatter fragments, one piece of fire-cracked rock and two Late Archaic (6000-3000 years BP) projectile points. Historic material was limited to redware, possible brick and one hand-wrought nail fragment. Unfortunately none of these materials are datable any more specifically that to possibly before 1820 for the nail and possibly before the late 19th century for the redware. Due to deep historic plowing and the low density of prehistoric cultural material recovered none of the sites identified during the Intensive Survey is considered to have the potential to make a significant contribution to a better understanding of the local or regional framework of prehistory or history. No further testing is recommended for any of the prehistoric sites identified in the Intensive (locational) Survey.

Lot Harding House, Truro

A Site Examination was conducted around the foundation of the Lot Harding House in Truro, Massachusetts prior to repair work on the foundation of the House. The Lot Harding House is listed on the MHC’s Inventory of the Historic and Archaeological Assets of the Commonwealth and is located at 81 North Pamet Road within the Pamet Historical area (TRU.1) and the Cape Cod National Seashore. The area around the house consists of grass, a crushed surf clam shell driveway, cedar and maple trees and ornamental plantings adjacent to the house sill. Site Examination testing included the excavation of three one meter long by 50 cm. wide and one one-and-one half meter long by 50 cm. wide hand-excavated trenches adjacent to the sills of the house. A total of 2852 artifacts were recovered. Three features, all dating to the twentieth century were also identified. Site Examination testing helped to bolster support for a mid to late eighteenth century construction date for the house and also identified evidence of building alteration in the eighteenth century. No original foundation was uncovered and no builder’s trench associated with the construction of the house was identified. The area immediately adjacent to the Lot Harding House was found to be rich in artifacts, but many portions have been previously impacted in the twentieth century by utility, bulkhead and sill shoring construction. The Site Examination determined that no builder’s trench was present. The lack of a builder’s trench and the extensive disturbance located adjacent to the house makes this area ineligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. The Site Examination did not negate the remainder of the property or the house for possible inclusion, merely the area that was tested during the Site Examination. It is recommended that the proposed sill shoring be allowed to proceed without further archaeological testing adjacent to the house.

Maple Grove Development, Wareham

Ninety-nine test pits (71 systematically placed along two transects and 28 in seven array brackets) were excavated in high potential areas on the west side of the proposed roadway (Figure 8). A total of 172 artifacts were recovered (18 prehistoric, 154 historic).Four prehistoric sites were identified with diagnostic prehistoric material and a feature being found at only one. Prehistoric artifacts recovered consisted of six pieces of chipping debris, one core fragments, ten shatter fragments and one possible Middle Archaic (6000-8000 years BP) projectile point midsection.

One historic site with one identified and one potential feature was identified. This site is a refuse disposal area and potential house site associated with the operation of the Kinney and Morse Stave mill in the late nineteenth century. Historic artifacts recovered consisted of glass (n=41 vessel and flat glass), ceramics (n=12 ironstone and whiteware), brick (n=9), tar (n=9), coal (n=7), animal bone (n=17), charcoal and unburned architectural wood (n=9), leather (n=7), oyster shell (n=2), wall plaster (n=3), machine-cut nails (n=24), unidentified iron fragments (n=6), one iron hinge fragment, one iron buckle, one brass .32 cal bullet shell, and one blue enamelware fragment. The historic artifacts recovered date the site to the late nineteenth century.

All four of the sites lie within the area to be developed and may be destroyed during subsequent development of the property. If both the developer and the Wareham Historical Commission are agreeable to further work being conducted at these four sites. Further testing of three of the prehistoric sites (Lot 9, 8 and 7 Sites) and the one historic site (Kinney House Site) is recommended at the Site Examination level.

Wicket’s Island, Onset

Wickets Island is an approximately five-acre island located in Onset Harbor in Wareham, Massachusetts. The island was created at the end of the last glacial period and is a deposit of glacial moraine composed of Carver coarse sand occurring on 8-15% slopes with approximately 20% rock composition (mainly small gravel sized pieces). Carver soils are very deep and excessively well-drained and suitable for scrub oak and pine with a limited potential for agriculture. When first created this island, as well as Onset Island to the southeast, was a hill of moraine soil located on a dry hummocky plain. This plain had two streams, which eventually became the East River and Sunset Cove, flowing across it. By approximately 3000 years ago the sea level had risen enough that the harbor was inundated and the island began to be surrounded by water. Wicket’s Island was likely once connected to the mainland by an isthmus of sand on its northeast edge. Over time this isthmus was eroded through, eventually creating the island as it is today. The remains of this connection are still visible on topographic maps of the harbor or at low tide as the area of sand flats extending from the island to the mainland. Wicket’s Island also does not appear to have had any easily available fresh water supply. As a result, habitation on the island may have been somewhat sporadic and not full time. People may have traveled to the island to plant, fish or collect shellfish, but it is unlikely that anyone lived there for extended periods of time. This is due to the amount of energy that would have to have been expended to go to the nearest freshwater source, possibly a spring along the shore of Onset harbors or in Muddy Cove. People would have had to have traveled from the island daily to get fresh water, and it would have been much simpler to just live on the shore near the fresh water and travel to the island to engage in subsistence activities or for burial ceremonies.