A Bit Of History Turns Up After Tree Falls At New Haven Green

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Some of the mysteries of the New Haven Green were unraveled Thursday night. Scientists and historians who examined bone fragments uncovered by Hurricane Sandy explained some of their findings to a crowd at the New Haven Museum.

The bones were found last October after Sandy toppled a historic tree called the Lincoln Oak in the Green. Tangled in the roots of the tree, passers-by discovered a skull and bone fragments from the 17th or 18th century. Scientists claim the bones belong to six, possibly seven people. They believe the skeletal remains belong to two adults and three children under the age of 10. The other bone fragments were too scattered to identify.

The bones were laid in a traditional Christian burial pattern fitting with the history of the Green, scientists said. Between roughly 1638 and 1797, the Green was a colonial burial ground.

“What ended up happening as the tree flipped over, the root mat had taken up the bones and flipped them up,” Nicholas Bellantoni of the Connecticut Archaeology Center said.

Scientists carefully examined the remains, discovering grooves in the teeth which could indicate periods of malnutrition or disease.

“The late 1790s saw these waves of epidemic that had hit New Haven, and the New Haven Green wound up becoming completely saturated,” Yale University anthropologist Gary Aronsen said.

Researchers also found two time capsules containing newspapers, a Civil War bullet, and other trinkets. They say the capsules were buried when the Lincoln Oak was planted in 1909 in honor of President Abraham Lincoln’s 100th birthday.

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