The wooden skeleton
of a ship from an era gone by buried below 20 feet of blackened muck that makes up the foundation of Lower Manhattan.
Befuddling both archaeologists and history-junkies alike, questions swirled around the find:
Who built it?
Where did it come from?
Did this vessel play a contributing role in breaking America free from the British Crown?
Four years later, scientists from New York's prestigious Columbia University finally have some of the answers.
The 32-foot, white oak vessel likely originated from the 18th century shipbuilding hub of Philadelphia. Samples taken from the preserved wood matched those taken from historic Independence Hall which is how scientists determined the Keystone State origins.
By further utilizing tree-ring dating, researchers determined the bulk of the wood used in the construction came from old-growth oaks felled in the the year 1773, a full 36 months prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Shallow in draft and short in length, experts believe
the ship was most likely a Dutch sloop
, a basic merchant vessel commonly used to transport cargo over the shallow and rocky tributaries of pre-revolutionary America.
Though no one can definitively say how the old ship met her demise, the area of New York in which she was found had been in-filled by the end of the 1790's
indicating a term of service less than 30 years.
During that time, who knows where the sloop traveled.
Perhaps it remained confined to the south-easterly flow of the mighty Hudson, but the presence of a particular shipworm
—Lyrodus pedicellatus — suggests it may have ventured as far as the clear-blue waters of the Caribbean.