The new book Buried Beneath the City: An Archaeological History of New York (Columbia University Press, 2022) by Nan A. Rothschild, Amanda Sutphin, H. Arthur Bankoff, and Jessica Striebel MacLean uses urban archaeology to retell the history of New York, from the deeper layers of the past to the topsoil of recent events.
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.
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.
Nan A. Rothschild is an urban social archaeologist who was Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Anthropology at Barnard College and is adjunct professor at Columbia University.
Amanda Sutphin is the director of archaeology at the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and manages the NYC Archaeological Repository: The Nan A. Rothschild Research Center.
H. Arthur Bankoff is the advisor to the chair for archaeology at the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and is a professor emeritus in the Department of Anthropology at Brooklyn College, City University of New York.
Jessica Striebel MacLean is an urban archaeologist at the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and the NYC Archaeological Repository.
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