Update: Less than 24 hours after this post went on-line, Jennifer Hoppa, Administrator Northern Manhattan Parks, sent the following email:
“The Capital Contractor was directed to stop work as soon as the Capital Division was informed earlier today of possible artifacts being uncovered.
NYC Parks director of Historic Preservation John Krawchuk is closely coordinating with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to ensure that whatever is uncovered is assessed and conserved and then to advise on construction going forward.”
Thanks to all who made this possible.
An ongoing improvement project in a city park has uncovered signs of Native American settlement on the northern tip of Manhattan.
Workers digging a trench for the installation of water fountains in Isham Park have unearthed a curious concentration of shells.
Could the shells be part of a larger shell midden? Could other artifacts remain buried nearby?
The notion that important Native American artifacts lie below the carefully manicured lawn isn’t that much of a stretch. In fact, Isham Park may be one of the few remaining sites on Manhattan where an archeological dig would still be possible.
The original owner of the park, William B. Isham, a wealthy leather merchant whose family later donated the land to the city for use as a park, was well aware of the rich Native history that lay beneath his feet.
Poking and prodding through the soil of upper Manhattan Isham would occasionally uncover relics left by those who came before him, including arrowheads that were later donated by the family to the Museum of the American Indian.
Early archeologists exploring the region always kept an eye out for rich concentrations of shells, which sometimes meant other signs of Native American activity, could be found close by.
In 1911 construction workers cutting 211th Street, across from today’s park, unearthed a complete human skeleton on the Isham property. The bones were at first believed to be those of a Revolutionary War era soldier. They were later determined to be the remains of a Native American.
What might today’s archeologists find if they sifted through the soil left behind by the earthmovers?
Paging Indiana Jones.