- Associated Press - Thursday, July 15, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) | Workers at the World Trade Center site are excavating a 32-foot-long ship hull that apparently was used in the 18th century as part of the fill that extended lower Manhattan into the Hudson River.

It was hoped that the artifact could be retrieved by the end of Thursday, said archaeologist Molly McDonald. A boat specialist planned to look at it.

Miss McDonald said she wanted to at least salvage some timbers; it was not clear whether any large portions could be lifted intact.

“We’re mostly clearing it by hand because it’s kind of fragile,” she said, but construction equipment could be used later in the process.

Miss McDonald and archaeologist A. Michael Pappalardo were at the site of the Sept. 11 attacks when the discovery was made Tuesday morning.

“We noticed curved timbers that a back hoe brought up,” Miss McDonald said Wednesday. “We quickly found the rib of a vessel and continued to clear it away and expose the hull over the last two days.”

The two archeologists work for AKRF, a firm hired to document artifacts discovered at the site. They called the find significant but said more study was needed to determine the age of the ship.

“We’re going to send timber samples to a laboratory to do dendrochronology that will help us to get a sense of when the boat was constructed,” said Miss McDonald.

Dendrochronology is the science that uses tree rings to determine dates and chronological order.

A 100-pound anchor was found a few yards from the ship hull on Wednesday, but they’re not sure whether it belongs to the ship. It’s 3 to 4 feet across, Miss McDonald said.

The archaeologists are racing to record and analyze the vessel before the delicate wood, now exposed to air, begins to deteriorate.

“I kept thinking of how closely it came to being destroyed,” Mr. Pappalardo said.

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