Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Towers timbers

Nope, not a fossil or a microscopic organism. This is the scan of an 18th c. ship discovered by construction workers in 2010 during rebuilding at the site of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. At a depth of 22' (6.7 m) below street level – along with animal bones, ceramic dishes, bottles, and dozens of shoes – lay the remains of a wooden ship measuring 32 (9.75 m) long. Its timbers were documented, excavated, and sent to the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, where they were soaked in water to keep the wood from cracking and warping. Some timbers were then returned to New York to be analyzed at the Tree Ring Laboratory at Columbia University. After drying fragments slowly in a cold room and cutting thick slices of the wood, the dendrochronologists were able to determine that the vessel was built c. 1773 in a small shipyard near Philadelphia. Chances are that the white oak used to build the ship was also used to build parts of historic Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed. While historians aren't sure whether the ship sank accidentally or was purposely added to the landfill used to bulk up the coastline, scientists are not surprised about its origin. Lead author of the new study published in Tree-Ring Research, Dario Martin-Benito, says, "Philadelphia was one of the most — if not the most — important shipbuilding cities in the U.S. at the time. And they had plenty of wood so it made lots of sense that the wood could come from there."

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