Planet Earth

Trade Center Construction Workers Stumble on a 1700s Sailing Ship

DiscoblogBy Joseph CalamiaJul 15, 2010 2:53 PM

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World Trade Center construction workers dug up something unexpected this week: an 18th century sailing ship. Plans for the new Trade Center require workers to unearth parts of lower Manhattan left undisturbed during construction of the original buildings. During part of this dig, in an area between Liberty and Cedar Streets, beams of wood rose from the mud. Yesterday, archaeologists confirmed that 20 to 30 feet below street level, a 30-foot ship chunk has rested for more than 200 years. It's not unusual for such artifacts to hide under large coastal cities. As a young city's population grows, inhabitants look for any way possible to extend the city's borders, transforming dirt and trash poured into the water into prime real estate. As The New York Timesreports, this isn't the first ship uncovered in Manhattan. In 1982, New Yorkers discovered a 1700s sailing vessel that had been hiding under 175 Water Street. A. Michael Pappalardo, an archaeologist working with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, toldTheNew York Times that he believes that the entire ship may have originally been around 2 to 3 times larger than the uncovered piece and, because the section looks deliberately sawed off, it's likely that the ship was purposely chopped up and used for landfill material. Now uncovered, the ship is vulnerable to degradation, so archaeologists must work quickly to document and move the find as construction continues around it. Archaeologist Doug Mackey told the The New York Times that because of the ship's vulnerability, he is particularly happy to have this week's rainy weather:

“If the sun had been out,” he said, “the wood would already have started to fall apart.”

Pictures of the dig are available at The New York Times website. Related content: Discoblog: 160-Year-Old Soup Can Shows Arctic Explorers Were Slurping Lead Discoblog: Particle Physics Experiment Will Use Ancient Lead From a Roman Shipwreck Discoblog: Using Nuclear Tests on “Aged” Whiskey Could Save You $30,000 Discoblog: Archaeological Surprise: Grave Site Full of Phallic Figurines 80beats: Take a Virtual Tour of Pompeii on Google Street View

Image: New York Historical Society

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