Ship Found Under the World Trade Center Is More Than 200 Years Old

| by Lisa Fogarty

The mystery surrounding the remains of an ancient sailing ship that was discovered buried beneath the former World Trade Center in 2010 is slowly unraveling, thanks to a group of scientists from Columbia University.

While examining the excavation site of the WTC, the skeleton of a 30-foot ship was discovered buried 20 feet below the ground. For years, historians provided their best guesses on how it ended up there, but no one could say for sure. But this month, scientists of the Tree Ring Laboratory at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have determined that the white oak used to build the ship was cut in 1773 and that the same wood was used to create Philadelphia’s Independence Hall – where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed, reports TheBlaze.

Their findings indicate that the ship was likely a Hudson River Sloop and that it was built in Philadelphia and used to carry Dutch passengers and cargo in shallow, rocky waters.

The vessel didn’t last long, however. Scientists say that the Manhattan shoreline pushed west, burying the boat. They believe that, by 1918, it had vanished completely until it was discovered after the September 11th attacks. It’s still unclear whether the vessel sank by accident or if it was submerged on purpose in order to bulk up Manhattan’s coastline.

Archaeologists took great care to preserve the ship’s skeleton when it was unearthed by documenting each oak fragment and sending them to the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, where they were soaked in water to prevent them from changing form, reports Huffington Post.

But it was the few timbers that were sent to Columbia University’s Tree Ring Laboratory that really helped clear up the mystery of the vessel's origins. By drying the tree fragments and cutting them into thick slices, scientists were able to observe its rings and make a connection between the boat and similar wood found in Philadelphia.

“We could see that at that time in Philadelphia, there were still a lot of old-growth forests, and [they were] being logged for shipbuilding and building Independence Hall,” said Dario Martin-Benito, a fellow at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. “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.”

Sources: The Blaze, Huffington Post, BioOne: Tree Ring Research

Photo Credit: Lower Manhattan Development Corp.