An Archaeological History of New York
Join us for a fascinating evening with Professor Emerita of Anthropology at Barnard, Nan Rothschild, as well as one of her co-authors, Jessica Striebel MacLean, as they discuss Buried Beneath the City: An Archaeological History of New York, winner of this year’s Popular Book Award of the Society for American Archaeology.
The book uses urban archaeology to retell the history of the city, from the deeper layers of the past to the topsoil of recent events. The book explores the ever-evolving city and the day-to-day world of its residents through artifacts, starting with the first traces of societies more than 10,000 years ago to the detritus of Dutch and English colonization and the burgeoning city’s transformation into a modern metropolis.
A historical archaeologist who works in two distinct regions (New York City and the American Southwest), Rothschild has done fieldwork on the Zuni Reservation (seventeenth to nineteenth century), in the Rio Grande Valley (eighteenth century), and in Manhattan, both in a seventeenth-century Dutch Colonial settlement and in a nineteenth-century African American and Irish village in what is now Central Park. She has also worked with museum collections. Most of her research concerns the expression of social realities in materiality, focusing on gender, ethnicity, race and social class. Her work has considered urban formations, footways as a particular dimension of material culture, the identification of urban subunits. As an historical archaeologist she combines archival materials, spatial organization and ethnoarchaeological approaches with traditional archaeological methods.
Jessica Striebel MacLean
Jessica Striebel MacLean, is an urban archaeologist at the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) and the NYC Archaeological Repository. The LPC is the largest municipal preservation agency in the United States. It is responsible for protecting New York City’s architecturally, historically, and culturally significant buildings and sites by granting them landmark or historic district status and regulating them after designation. Jessica received her MA in Museum Anthropology from Columbia.
Buried Beneath the City: An Archaeological History of New York
Columbia University Press
Bits and pieces of the lives led long before the age of skyscrapers are scattered throughout New York City, found in backyards, construction sites, street beds, and parks. Indigenous tools used thousands of years ago; wine jugs from a seventeenth-century tavern; a teapot from Seneca Village, the nineteenth-century Black settlement displaced by Central Park; raspberry seeds sown in backyard Brooklyn gardens—these everyday objects are windows into the city’s forgotten history.
Buried Beneath the City uses urban archaeology to retell the history of New York, from the deeper layers of the past to the topsoil of recent events. The book explores the ever-evolving city and the day-to-day world of its residents through artifacts, from the first traces of Indigenous societies more than ten thousand years ago to the detritus of Dutch and English colonization and through to the burgeoning city’s transformation into the modern metropolis. It demonstrates how the archaeological record often goes beyond written history by preserving mundane things—details of everyday life that are beneath the notice of the documentary record. These artifacts reveal the density, diversity, and creativity of a city perpetually tearing up its foundations to rebuild itself. Lavishly illustrated with images of objects excavated in the city, Buried Beneath the City is at once an archaeological history of New York City and an introduction to urban archaeology.