Colonial-era ship timbers buried in the mud, stopped construction at the World Trade Center site on the morning of July 13, 2010. Photo courtesy Lamont-Doherty.
Do you remember when the timbers of an ancient ship were found beneath the World Trade Center site, near where the Twin Towers once stood?
Archeologists whisked away the mud-encrusted wood, and after 4 years of intensive study have determined the ships origin. [Lamont-Doherty]
A team of archeologists with New York-based AKRF cataloged each timber and artifact before hauling the pieces off site. Photo courtesy Lamont-Doherty.
Tree ring analysis of the white oak frame timbers show the vessel was built in or around 1773 in a Philadelphia shipyard.
Detail of north elevation of Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall), from 1752 map of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Image: Library of Congress via wikipedia
What’s more, the white oak used in the mystery ships timbers came from the same old growth forest in the Philadelphia area as wood used to build Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, built between 1732 -1753, where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed.
The Hickory ships keel told scientists the ship was probably built in the northeastern United States. Photo courtesy of Lamont-Doherty.
The ship’s keel, made of hickory, was the first breakthrough. Hickory had disappeared from Europe thousands of years before the Colonial-era which indicated that the ship had most likely been built in the northeastern United States.
The entire ship was scanned before its removal to create a precise record of where each of its pieces were originally found. Image: Corinthian Data Capture LLC via Lamont-Doherty.
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory | Columbia University: In a study now out in the journal Tree Ring Research, the scientists say that an old growth forest in the Philadelphia area supplied the white oak used in the ship’s frame, and that the trees were probably cut in 1773 or so—a few years before the bloody war that established America’s independence from Britain.
Well-defined growth rings in the white oak in the ship’s frame. In dry years trees form tighter rings, in wet years, wider rings, creating a record of the climate in which the trees lived. Photo courtesy Lamont-Doherty
As trees grow, they record the climate in which they lived, putting on tighter rings in dry years and wider rings in wet years. In the process, a record of the region’s climate is created, allowing scientists to see how Philadelphia’s climate differed hundreds of years ago from say, New York’s Hudson Valley. The climate fingerprint also serves as a kind of birth certificate, telling scientists where pieces of wood originated.
Archeologists identified the ship a Hudson River Sloop much like Pete Seeger’s Clearwater. Photo by Anthony Pepitone via Lamont-Doherty
The ship itself has been tentatively identified as a Hudson River Sloop, designed by the Dutch to carry passengers and cargo over shallow, rocky water. It was likely built in Philadelphia, a center for ship-building in Colonial times.
Read more of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory | Columbia University report here…
by Mai Armstrong for the Working Harbor Committee.