Tree Rings Solve Mystery of Old World Trade Center Ship
Study shows it got built in Philadelphia about 1773
By Shelley Hazen, Newser User
Posted Jul 29, 2014 5:50 PM CDT
Archeologists begin dismantling the remains of an 18th-century ship at the World Trade Center construction site in 2010 in New York.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

(Newser) – A mystery ship unearthed during construction of the new World Trade Center site isn't so much of a mystery anymore. A new study based on analysis of tree rings in its wood reveals that the ship likely got built in 1773 in Philadelphia—and with the same white oak used to build parts of Independence Hall, Live Science reports. After the skeleton of the ship was discovered in 2010, researchers excavated it and began the task of unraveling its origins. Scientists matched the ring patterns to those found in both living trees in Philadelphia and to wood samples dating back to the days when the city had a thriving shipbuilding industry. The rings patterns, shaped by climate, constitute a sort of tree "birth certificate," explains the Maritime Executive.

But the keel of the ship was really the key to narrowing the search—it was made of hickory, which grows only in the eastern US and eastern Asia, and researchers say the latter wasn't much of a possibility. So how did the 32-foot hull end up where it did? One theory is that it was a merchant ship that sailed for years along the Atlantic and in the Caribbean and eventually got buried by 1797 in a landfill being used to extend the shoreline of Manhattan, reports DNA Info. To see some pictures of the ship, click here. (Archaeologists also recently uncovered the Santa Maria.)

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Showing 3 of 13 comments
chrishamilton
Jul 31, 2014 12:15 PM CDT
how much trash could one really have in 1797 ?
FarmerM
Jul 30, 2014 12:28 AM CDT
Tree rings go back for thousands of years on the West Coast, as we have trees that are 3,500 years old and still living, so matching up the found rings with established known age rings gives a lot of dating help. And tells us a lot about former droughts, for example. Or times of extra rain. Much of the climate change real evidence comes from simple ring study. (Just in case there are still climate doubters out there...)
Ezekiel 25:17
Jul 29, 2014 9:01 PM CDT
Does it date back to Indians owning Manhattan? Maybe they sunk it after they realized they got hosed on that barter.