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World Trade Center Workers Unearth Part of an 18th Century Ship

By Della Hasselle | July 15, 2010 8:45am | Updated on July 15, 2010 11:17am

By Della Hasselle and Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

LOWER MANHATTAN — Workers at the World Trade Center site on Tuesday accidentally unearthed part of an 18th-century ship that had been undisturbed for more than 200 years.

A 30-foot length portion of a wooden hull was discovered by workers still intact, 20 to 30 feet below street level, in the morning.

"This is the kind of thing archaeologists are always hoping to find," said Elizabeth Meade, 27, an archaeologist with AKRF, as she took a break from documenting the boat Thursday morning. "It's definitely exciting."

The ship was found between Liberty and Cedar Streets, an area that was not previously excavated when the first World Trade Center was built.

A 200-year old ship was unearthed at the WTC site.
A 200-year old ship was unearthed at the WTC site.
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Meade said the ship was likely sunk into the Hudson River on purpose, as part of the landfill that extended the shoreline westward in the early 1800s. The AKRF team has unearthed a plethora of other discarded material, including shoes, broken bottles, shards of dishes and animal bones.

The team also found an anchor near the ship, but Meade said the team doesn't know enough to say whether it once belonged to the same boat.

Molly McDonald, another archaeologist with AKRF, was doing routine monitoring of the site early Tuesday morning when she noticed two curved timbers sticking out of the thick black mud while workers were excavating. She called the rest of the team down to the site and they began digging out the boat by hand.

Helped along by the rain, the archaeologists worked quickly on Tuesday  to make sure the hull did not deteriorate from exposure to sea air.

“If the sun had been out, the wood would have already started to fall apart,” Doug Mackey, the chief regional archaeologist for the New York State Historic Preservation Office, told the New York Times.

The experts were intrigued by discovery of rounded metal collar on the vessel, thought to be an oven of sorts, the Times reported.

On Thursday morning, the AKRF team was still documenting the boat, uncertain whether they would be able to preserve it.

“We just want to get as much information as we can now,” Meade said.

Construction workers and NYPD officers walking around the muddy construction pit took pictures of the boat with their cell phones, and tourists outside the site said they wished they could see it.

“I think it’s incredible,” said Ann Young, 60, who was visiting from Colorado with her family.

This was the second archaeological find to excite officials during the World Trade Center excavation in the past month. In late June, workers exposed parts of Manhattan’s first granite seawall, DNAinfo reported.

The last historic vessel found at the waterfront was an 18th century cargo ship, found at 175 Water Street in 1982.

Workers at the WTC site unearthed a ship from the 18th century while digging near Liberty and Cedar Streets.
Workers at the WTC site unearthed a ship from the 18th century while digging near Liberty and Cedar Streets.
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