The construction workers who were excavating the site of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan found something unexpected in the south, where the Twin Towers once stood.
The excavators uncovered muddled skeleton of a 32-foot-long (9.75 m) wooden ship from 22 feet (6.7 meters) under the current street level.
The remains of the wooden ship were found deep inside in a pit that is planned to be developed in an underground security and parking complex.
According to the researchers, the tree rings of the wooden vessel suggest that it was likely built somewhere around 1773 in a small shipyard near Philadelphia.
The researchers believe it was most likely made from the same kind of white oak trees that were used to construct parts of Independence Hall, the place where the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution were signed.
The archaeologists quickly excavated the vessel as soon as possible to avoid any form of damage due to its exposure to air. The weak oak fragments were documented closely piece by piece by the researchers and taken out of the mud.
The archaeologists sent the timbers to the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory. These timbers would be soaked in water so that they could be prevented from cracking and warping further.
Few woods were also sent for further research work to New York to the Tree Ring Laboratory at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University in Palisades.
The fragments were dried slowly in a cold room and then cut down into thick slices in order to facilitate the study of the tree rings.
The researchers found that the woods of the ship were likely cut down around 1773.
The researchers then tried to find out from where the wood came from. For the process, they tried to develop a match between the ring pattern of the vessel’s timbers with that of the live trees.
Lead study author Dario Martin-Benito said, “What makes the tree-ring patterns in a certain region look very similar, in general, is climate.”
Martin-Benito and his colleagues at Columbia’s Tree Ring Lab found that the keel of the ship contained hickory that are only found in eastern North America and eastern Asia. They began their research on oaks in the region.
The researchers found a similarity between the rings of the vessel’s wood and those found in old living trees and historic wood samples from the Philadelphia area.
“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,” Martin-Benito said while adding, “Philadelphia was one of the most important shipbuilding cities in US at the time. And they had plenty of wood so it made lots of sense that the wood could come from there.”
Meanwhile, the archaeologists are still unclear about whether the ship sank accidently or it was purposely submerged.
The study was published in the journal Tree-Ring Research this month.