Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 2:15 PM
Geoarchaeology on the Edge: Submerged, near-Shore and off-Shore Landscapes of New York Harbor and Early Manhattan Island
Recent subsurface and subaqueous investigations in the New York City area demonstrate the crucial role of geoarchaeology for inter-disciplinary cultural resource investigations. Paleolandscape paradigms are developed on both large and small scales, depending on Scopes of Work and the missions of planning agencies. In the former case, a recent multi-year study modeled the archaeological potential of complex submerged landscapes in New York Harbor and its near shore. The model serves as a planning document for mitigating adverse impacts of channel maintenance on buried sites. The theme for the project was the integration of new and existing archaeological, geomorphological and paleoenvironmental data sets under a GIS umbrella. The result was a probability based landscape construct for site preservation. A small scale project for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority addressed impacts to the sub-surface of a proposed Subway Line in mid-town Manhattan. We drew upon known historic maps and written accounts that documented the historic contours of the pre-Euroamerican estuary that was relandscaped and infilled in the 19th century because of urban expansion and industrialization. Methodological constraints and streamlined project impacts challenged geoarchaeologists to extract meaningful landscape data from a variably disturbed subsurface context. It was possible to develop a baseline sequence for Middle Holocene estuarine evolution accounting for a significant portion of Manhattan Island. This was done despite constrained working conditions and limited stratigraphic windows imposed by accessibility and regulatory concerns. Such studies allow planners to structure cultural resource studies systematically and scientifically, based on human ecological sequences preserved within and beneath the disturbed substrate. This work can proceed within and beyond the confines of urban settings and historically impacted metropolitan embayments. Finally, the systematics of modeling afford opportunities to test and refine geomorphic, paleo-climatic, and paleo-environmental hypotheses once generated in pristine and unimpacted landscapes.