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Construction Project By South Street Seaport Turns Up Colonial-Era Artifacts

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As part of an underground infrastructure project in Lower Manhattan, some archaeologists found evidence of the South Street Seaport's early history. Borough reporter Jon Weinstein has the story.

The South Street Seaport may be a modern-day haven for tourists, but this area of Lower Manhattan is also steeped in history.

"This was a very lively commercial area in the 18th century," says Alyssa Loorya of Chrysalis Archaeology.

Newly found artifacts are proof of that. As part of a $40 million plan to replace utilities under Fulton Street, contractors working for the city's Department of Design and Construction started digging, and archaeologists hired by the city to monitor the project identified a host of 18th century artifacts.

Besides broken bottles, Loorya says they found, "A gun flint, we have a piece of furniture like a drawer pull, we have a fork. A whole range of items, smoking pipes, there's also a lot of pottery we've found as well."

There are also buttons believed to be worn by British soldiers during the Battle of Brooklyn in August 1776, the first battle after the Declaration of Independence.

"It's our job to document it and recover that history before it's lost," says Loorya.

The Haas family, visiting from North Carolina, says this kind of historical background gives them a greater appreciation for the seaport's history.

"Any time you can actually see things lying in the ground or just coming out of the ground, that are in its natural state and are period artifacts, it's just a wonderful experience," says William Haas.

All of the artifacts pulled out of the ground are owned by the city and then the city puts them to good use by taking them into classrooms as teaching tools.

"We're teaching New York City school children about past, present and future of New York City development," says Loorya.

Bringing the project full-circle, they also found wooden water mains that are hundreds of years old.

"We see the effort that people took even 200 years ago to ensure that they had a reliable source of water," says DDC Assistant Commissioner Tom Foley.

The archaeologists say it is very likely they will find more as they continue to dig.

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