An Archaeological History of New York
Nan A. Rothschild
Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Anthropology, Barnard College
Adj Professor, Dept. of Anthropology, Columbia University
Jessica Striebel MacLean
MA Columbia University; PhD Boston University
New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
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. Please join us for a fascinating evening with Professor Emerita of Anthropology at Barnard, Nan Rothschild, and Urban Archeologist Jessica Striebel MacLean as they discuss their recent book Buried Beneath the City: An Archaeological History of New York, winner of this year’s Popular Book Award of the Society for American Archaeology.
Rothschild and MacLean use urban archaeology to retell the history of New York, from the deeper layers of the past to the topsoil of recent events. They explore 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. They demonstrate 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. Through these artifacts, Rothschild and MacLean reveal the density, diversity, and creativity of a city perpetually tearing up its foundations to rebuild itself.
Time will be allocated for Q&A.
This program is run by CUCNY.
"What a fascinating and inspiring book! Exploring thousands of years of New York City’s ecological, material, and social history, Buried Beneath the City shows us not only what we can learn from the material leavings of the past but also how archaeologists work to make sense of this evidence." Elizabeth Blackmar, coauthor of The Park and the People: A History of Central Park
Nan A. Rothschild is a historical archaeologist who works in two distinct regions (New York City and the American Southwest), and has done fieldwork on the Zuni Reservation (seventeenth to nineteenth century), in the Rio Grande Valley (eighteenth century), and in Manhattan, both in a seventeenth-century Dutch Colonial settlement and in a nineteenth-century African American and Irish village in what is now Central Park. She has also worked with museum collections. Most of her research concerns the expression of social realities in materiality, focusing on gender, ethnicity, race and social class. Her work has considered urban formations, and footways as a particular dimension of material culture, the identification of urban subunits. As an historical archaeologist, she combines archival materials, spatial organization and ethnoarchaeological approaches with traditional archaeological methods.
Jessica Striebel MacLean is an urban archaeologist at the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) and the NYC Archaeological Repository. The LPC is the largest municipal preservation agency in the United States. It is responsible for protecting New York City’s architecturally, historically, and culturally significant buildings and sites by granting them landmark or historic district status and regulating them after designation. Jessica received her MA in Museum Anthropology from Columbia.