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Old ship hull unearthed at World Trade Center site in New York City

Workers at Ground Zero found the 32-foot-long boat Tuesday, and now archaeologists are excavating for clues into Manhattan's past.

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By Associated Press
Friday, July 16, 2010

NEW YORK -- Workers at the World Trade Center site are excavating a 32-foot-long ship hull apparently used in the 18th century as part of the fill that extended lower Manhattan into the Hudson River.

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It was hoped that the artifact could be retrieved by the end of the day Thursday, archaeologist Molly McDonald said. A boat specialist planned to look at it.

McDonald said she wanted to at least salvage some timbers; it was unclear whether any large portions could be lifted intact. "We're mostly clearing it by hand because it's kind of fragile," she said, but construction equipment could be used later in the process.

McDonald and archaeologist A. Michael Pappalardo were at the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks when the discovery was made Tuesday morning.

"We noticed curved timbers that a backhoe 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 archaeologists work for AKRF, a firm hired to document artifacts discovered at the site. They called the 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," McDonald said. Dendrochronology is the science that uses tree rings to determine dates and chronological order.

A 100-pound anchor was found a few yards from the ship hull Wednesday, but the archaeologists are not sure if it belongs to the ship. It is three to four feet across, McDonald said.

The archaeologists are racing to record and analyze the vessel before the delicate wood, now exposed to air, begins to deteriorate.

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


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