Centuries-Old Ship Unearthed At World Trade Center Site : The Two-Way The remnants of what appears to have been an eighteenth-century ship have been unearthed by workers excavating ground zero in New York.
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Workers At World Trade Center Site Unearth Remains Of An Old Ship

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Workers At World Trade Center Site Unearth Remains Of An Old Ship

Workers At World Trade Center Site Unearth Remains Of An Old Ship

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

The remnants of what appear to have been an 18th-century ship have been unearthed in New York by workers excavating near Ground Zero. The firm AKRF has been documenting historical material found during construction of the site. And an archaeologist with the firm, Michael Pappalardo, was at the scene.

Mr. MICHAEL PAPPALARDO (Archaeologist, AKRF): We were - had arrived at the construction site at about 6:00 in the morning to document landfilling devices that were constructed during the 19th century as they filled in this part of Manhattan, and a lot of it had been removed.

But in the back dirt, we saw some curved wooden timbers, roughly 4 inches by 6 inches in dimension, about 4 feet long. We had some more soil cleared from that area and indeed there were a series of these poking out of the very dark gray muddy soil. And so we quickly came to the realization this is something more than a landfill (unintelligible) initially.

NORRIS: So it's in this, as you say, the dark gray soil. It's been described almost as a kind of ooze. Did that help preserve the wood? What kind of condition is it in?

Mr. PAPPALARDO: Most of this wood is in very, very good condition. The mud itself probably is the reason for its preservation. In an anaerobic environment like this, deep under the ground about 20 feet down, there's no oxygen. So the - perhaps the activities that break wood down are not occurring.

NORRIS: What do we know about this ship? What kind of ship was it? And how do you think it might have been used?

Mr. PAPPALARDO: We are learning more and more about it as we go. Today we had -some people suggested this was a ship designed to cross the ocean, because it's a double-hulled ship, an outer hull, very sturdy timbers, and then an inner hull.

Beyond that, I really don't know anything about it. I know that the landfill that it is found within was probably put there during the very early 1800s, around the turn of the century, so the ship would have predated that. And it probably would have been in service for some number of years or decades or more before the early 1800s, so that puts it into the 1700s.

NORRIS: So, as an archeologist, what kinds of things will you be looking for so that ship can tell you its story?

Mr. PAPPALARDO: As an archeologist, I've been focusing more on its context and where it came from and its relationship to the surrounding fills and these large structures that it's sort of built into.

Other experts and conservators and wood experts perhaps would be able to tell us the age of it, the species of the trees that were used to construct it, how it was constructed, where it was constructed and then maybe even when it was constructed.

We found a wooden cleat or what might be a portion of a wooden cleat. And I'm sure that will be very informative. We found a portion of a barrel, maybe that will be informative. We also are collecting the hardware used to assemble it, the spikes and nails, and they might be informative.

NORRIS: And what's eventually going to happen to those elements that you take out?

Mr. PAPPALARDO: Well, I don't know. They're the Port Authority's and I know that they're very interested in - they're as interested as everybody else is in this find. So maybe there'll be opportunities for them to display the matter or maybe there'll be a local or a state repository that would be interested. That's something we haven't talked about yet.

NORRIS: Well, given your line of work, that sounds like quite a find.

Mr. PAPPALARDO: Yes, it was really exciting. Been a very, very interesting week for us.

NORRIS: Well, Mr. Pappalardo, thank you very much for your time. All the best to you.

Mr. PAPPALARDO: Thank you. It was very - a great pleasure talking to you as well.

NORRIS: Michael Pappalardo is an archeologist at the construction site of the World Trade Center. He's with the firm AKRF.

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