Ship Found 20 Feet Below World Trade Center Site

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    NEWSLETTERS

    An astonishing discovery made by workers excavating the World Trade Center site. They've spent the last two days digging out a series of ribbed wood timbers...that were recognized today as belonging to a 30 foot ship. The vessel seems to date back to the 1700s. (Published Thursday, Jul 15, 2010)

    While building the future of the city, excavators have found part of the past.

     A 30-foot wood-hulled vessel was discovered about 20 to 30 feet below street level at the World Trade Center site, according to the New York Times.

    The area, between Liberty and Cedar Streets, had not been dug out for the original trade center in the 1960’s. The vessel found seemed to have been undisturbed for more than 200 years, the Times reported.

    Construction of the original site required the digging of more than 1.2 million cubic yards, which was used to create 23.5 acres of land along the Hudson River.

    The vessel probably was used along with other debris to fill in land to extend lower Manhattan into the Hudson River, archeologists said.

    Archeologists Molly McDonald and A. Michael Pappalardo were at the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on Tuesday morning when workers uncovered the artifacts.

    "We noticed curved timbers that a back hoe brought up,'' McDonald said Wednesday. "We quickly found the rib of a vessel and continued to clear it away and expose the hull over the last two days.''

    The two archeologists work for AKRF, a firm hired to document artifacts discovered at the site. They called Tuesday's find significant but said more study was needed to determine the age of the ship.

    "We're going to send timber samples to a laboratory to do dendrochronology that will help us to get a sense of when the boat was constructed,'' said McDonald, who added that a boat specialist was going to the site Thursday to take a look at the ship. Dendrochronology is the science that uses tree rings to determine dates and chronological order.

    The workers and archeologists also found a 100-pound anchor in the same area on Wednesday, but they're not sure if it belongs to the ship.

    Because construction work could not be interrupted and because the timber began deteriorating as soon as it was exposed to air, Doug Mackey, the chief regional archaeologist for the NYS Historic Preservation Office, told the NY Times. “We’re trying to record it as quickly as possible and do the analysis later," Mackey told the paper.

    "I kept thinking of how closely it came to being destroyed," Pappalardo added.

    This finding is the first of its magnitude since 1982, when an 18th-century cargo ship was discovered at 175 Water Street. A 1797 map shows that the excavation site is close to Lindsey’s Wharf, which was on the Hudson River at the foot of Liberty Street, and Lake’s Wharf, on the Hudson River at the foot of Cedar Street, once projected into the Hudson.

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