African Burial Ground Artifacts Recovered

wtcAmong the losses suffered in the terrorist attacks on September 11 were many cultural objects, both at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. However, some important artifacts have been recovered from 6 World Trade Center, which sustained heavy structural damage. Approximately 100 boxes of African Burial Ground artifacts and other data were recovered, as well as photographic files and computers that archeologists used in their analysis and conservation of artifacts.

Removal of the material was very precarious. The U.S. General Services Administration was assisted in this endeavor by the New York City Department of Design and Construction, the New York Port Authority, FEMA, and the Corps of Engineers.

The African Burial Ground was discovered in lower Manhattan in 1991. Over 400 skeletal remains and thousands of artifacts were excavated for educational and scientific purposes. The skeletal remains are at Howard University’s Cobb Lab. Other artifacts relating to the Burial Ground are safely stored.

“We have worked diligently for ten years on the African Burial Ground project,” said Steve Ruggiero, Acting Regional Administrator for GSA. “These artifacts represent a huge historical and educational benefit for the world. We are very thankful for the recovery.”

Foley Square, a two-block area of Lower Manhattan, contained the eighteenth-century African Burial Ground and remains of the infamous Five Points neighborhood. John Milner Associates, Inc., has been providing services to the General Services Administration on these two aspects of the Foley Square project since 1992. Donna Seifert of John Milner Associates said, “In the first few days after the attack the National Task Force on Emergency Response was critical in getting the word to FEMA about the existence of the artifacts. The recovery was a cooperative effort.”

Stored in an adjacent room at 6 World Trade Center were about 1,600 boxes of artifacts from the 290 Broadway and Five Points excavations. Those who recovered the African Burial Ground artifacts reported that this room was demolished by debris from the collapse of the north tower. It is unlikely those artifacts will be recovered. Copies of excavation notes, artifact inventories, and analysis records, however, were stored off-site. A few Five Points artifacts were on loan to the archdiocese of New York and were in the possession of the South Street Seaport Museum, where they are currently stored.

To see previous Preservation Spotlights, click here.

Photo: Partially collapsed U.S. Customs House, World Trade Center 6, on October 4, 2001. Photo by Andrea Booher/FEMA News Photo.

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