Monday, April 25, 2016

I recently got to spend some time in New York City and sought to learn a bit about its history before I left. The original settlement, a Dutch colony by the name of New Amsterdam, was located on the southern tip of Manhattan Island. It thrived from 1624 until 1664, when it was handed over to the British. The small town grow over its almost 400 years, through wars, immigration, industrialization and more, to become the global powerhouse of a city it is today.

But can you still find evidence of its past hidden there between the skyscrapers and subway lines? NYC, in many ways, is not known for its history but rather for its progress.

This is exactly the question that was asked in the 1970s when the first archaeological mitigation project was undertaken. A small building in the oldest section of town was torn down to make way for a large modern skyscraper. Archaeologists were given a few months to survey the area, in hopes of locating undisturbed archaeological deposits under the basement of the old structure. In fact, the very first government building, the Dutch Stadt Huys should have been in the area.

Sure enough, the archaeologist found 17th century foundations, not for the Stadt Huys, but for the tavern next door as well as other deposits from throughout the city's 400 years. Archaeology has continued as a part of construction and preservation throughout the city since then. And there's some great interpretation at the site.

Yellow brick represents the estimated outline of the Stadt Huys.
Foundations of the tavern located next to the Stadt Huys.
Well from the early 18th century.
As a bonus, I also found some cool Florida artifacts in the Museum of the American Indian branch in NYC!
Santa Rosa Swift Creek potsherds from Crystal River Mound.
Weedon Island jar from Taylor County.

Text and images by Emily Jane Murray, FPAN staff

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