19th C. African American-Irish Village Under NYC’s Central Park

Just a few months ago, anthropologists and historians finally received permission from the city of New York to begin digging in an area of Central Park (near 85th Street and Central Park West): a critical step in a decades-long quest to reveal the history of an African-American community destroyed in the 1850s by the creation of Central Park .From a New York Times article (published a couple weeks ago):

While the borings of the past produced just a few artifacts, the dig [ which ended on July 29, 2011—XJ ], generated 250 bags of material that should keep the scholars busy for months, if not years. The work on Wednesday alone yielded a toothbrush handle fashioned of bone and the lid of a stoneware jar.

About two-thirds of the residents of Seneca Village were African-American, while the rest were of European descent, mostly Irish. The community was settled in the 1820s, a few years before slavery was abolished in New York. Despite old news reports that the village was a squatter camp, it was, in fact, made up of working- and middle-class property owners.

More in the NYT, and here is the website for the Seneca Village Project. They have more images and panoramas from the excavation.

From a statement by project co-directors Nan Rothschild (Barnard College, Columbia University) and Diana Wall (City College of New York, CUNY), about the more than 250 bags of artifacts that will now be washed and analyzed in labs:

Continue reading 

Via Boing Boing

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~ by The 1955 Hudson on August 15, 2011.

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