Friday, February 11, 2011

Archaeology in New York City

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has made their library of archaeology reports accessible online. The reports (almost 1,200), available online as .pdfs, are searchable by keyword and borough. It looks like the keyword search hits author, title, and abstract.

It is exciting to have ready access to this otherwise grey literature (research that is done, but not published) -- not just regarding specific archaeological projects in NYC, but also to the incredible and detailed micro-histories of parts of the city that are included in the historic contexts sections. I've done some work in NYC, and the histories of individual properties can be fascinating.

For a really fascinating take on changes in the NYC landscape when the street grid was dropped on it in the early nineteenth century, have a look at geographer Reuben Rose-Redwood's 2002 MA thesis, Rationalizing the Landscape: Superimposing the Grid upon the Island of Manhattan. Manhattan used to be rolling hills; they flattened it for the grid, and didn't pay *any* attention to former property lines or buildings. Amazing.

For some really great archaeological work in NYC, check out the series of reports titled Tales of Five Points: Working Class Life in Nineteenth Century New York. Six volumes of really great stuff, now available for free online thanks to the NYC Landmarks Commission:

Volume 1: A Narrative History and Archeology of Block 160, by Rebecca Yamin (2000).
Volume 2: An Interpretive Approach to Understanding Working-Class Life, by Rebecca Yamin et al. (2002)
Volume 3: Documentary Data, by Rebecca Yamin et al. (2002)
Volume 4 (2 parts): Basic Artifact Inventory Part I, and Part II, by Rebecca Yamin et al. (2002)
Volume 5: Conservation of Materials, by Rebecca Yamin et al. (2000)
Volume 6: The Long and Short, Being a Compendium of 18th and 19th C. Clay Tobacco Pipes from the 5 Points Site, by Rebecca Yamin et al. (2002).

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