Dilettante: History sleuths to gather in South Portland

Posted Wednesday, April 20, 2011 in Culture

Dilettante: History sleuths to gather in South Portland

by Jan Brennan

SOUTH PORTLAND — There's some weird stuff hidden in the forests of New England.

And no, we don't mean Bigfoot, or some backwoods entrepreneur's marijuana field.

We mean things — ancient things — made of stone: cairns, underground chambers, walls that go nowhere, pictographs, stone circles with astronomical alignments, and other constructions whose origins and purposes are unknown. Some bear striking similarities to Stone Age tombs and temples found across Europe, leading to the tantalizing speculation that North America may have been settled by Europeans many centuries before Columbus "discovered" the continent.

Some of New England's stone relics are most likely Native American — the prayer seats and giant turtle effigies, for example — and some, such as root cellars, are vestiges of Colonial farms. But it's the other stuff, the unexplained things, that intrigue members of NEARA.

NEARA, the New England Antiquities Research Association, is a group of avocational archaeologists whose mission is to study and preserve New England's stone sites. The group was formed in 1964 and now has state chapters that range from Canada to New Jersey.

Twice a year the organization holds three-day conferences, at different locations in New England, that feature lectures and field trips to lithic sites. This spring, from April 29 to May 1, the meeting will be held at the Best Western Merry Manor Inn in South Portland. Interested non-members are welcome to attend, at a cost of $35 for the full weekend, with prorated fees for individual lectures.

Lecture topics range from the scientific to the esoteric. Among the subjects to be discussed in South Portland are: megaliths as prehistoric time-telling devices; the origins of Arctic peoples; hieroglyphs of the earliest Egyptians; New England's shell middens and stone piles; and "Decoding A M," an ancient monogram used by groups ranging from the Knights Templar to Sulpician monks (shades of the Da Vinci code?).

Greer's Chamber

NEARA welcomes new members. Mainers can join by contacting state coordinator Roslyn Strong in Edgecomb at 882-9425. Her e-mail address is krosspt@lincoln.midcoast.com. More information can be found on the NEARA Web site,  www.neara.org, which has information about the group and details of the April conference, plus fascinating articles on the many mysterious constructions hiding in plain sight in the woods of New England.

blog comments powered by Disqus