What you leave behind

What you leave behind

As historical archaeologists we use various resources and tools to recover the past. Urban archaeologists often have access to a wide range of materials to help us understand the landscape. Among them are maps, lithographs, and a personal favorite – photographs. The urban landscape, like history, is dynamic.  If we look closely we can see remnants of the past throughout the cityscape. Professional, avocational and amateur photographers have unknowingly created a document of NYC’s landscape history; of the expansion and development of the cityscape. This is now even more widespread with the advent of social media. Despite a plethora of images, each photograph is unique. The perspective of every photograph is unique to the photographer. Being an archaeologist has influenced my photography as I find myself taking photos of architectural remnants in the midst of development. Or, sometimes documenting the construction of a skyscraper throughout the course of a single project. Brooklyn is my hometown and I’ve watched Downtown Brooklyn undergo dramatic changes in recent years. Today the Brooklyn waterfront is a destination for both residents and tourists as Brooklyn Bridge Park has re-shaped the landscape. I became familiar with Brooklyn Bridge Park when I began archaeological testing on the project in 2008.…

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Death and Mourning in the 19th century

Death and Mourning in the 19th century

Every year around Halloween someone always asks if we’ve ever worked in a cemetery. The answer is yes and doing so has led us to consider how death was viewed and handled in the past, how people were mourned, and how we deal with it in the archaeological record. In 2008 basement and back yard renovations of a private home in Manhattan exposed 19th century burial vaults. Vaults that had supposedly been emptied, the remains said to have been re-interred elsewhere long ago. At least according to Church and Deed records. However, this was not the case as one of the vaults still contained eight burials: five adults and three children. The burials dated back between 1840 and1860, when the site was part of the yard belonging to the Church next door. Through documentary research we were able to identify the last name of the family buried within the vault. We carefully disinterred the remains fully documenting the burials and the burial vault. Afterward the property owner had the remains re-interred. Death and Mourning in the 19th century The late 18th and 19th centuries saw a movement now referred to as the beautification of death. Through the production of material objects that commemorated the…

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Peace Forms

Peace Forms

“What is your favorite artifact?” The infamous question that archaeologists always get asked. We all have favorite artifacts; sometimes our favorite artifact changes with each project and some stay with us for a long time.  This is the first in an ongoing series of our (many) favorite artifacts. Our first entry istitled “Peace Forms” by Diane George.  Window glass found at New York City’s South Street Seaport in 2012. History is made of moments. A collection of moments creates a day, a month, a year, a lifetime. Archaeologists don’t usually get to see moments, to connect to the experience of someone long dead, even when we have the advantage of using documents as we do in historical archaeology. We look at the bigger picture: what did the people in this household, or tenement, or community eat? What types of dishes or medicines did they buy? What can these things tell us about them? But an artifact that shows us a moment… that is a special artifact. The first time I experienced this was when, as a student working in the archaeology lab at Brooklyn College, I found a thumbprint preserved in a piece of stoneware found during excavations at New York’s…

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Chrysalis Archaeologist Eileen Kao to Speak on “Hot Button Topic”

Chrysalis Archaeologist Eileen Kao to Speak on “Hot Button Topic”

Sharing highlights from what’s likely to be her master’s thesis, Chrysalis archaeologist and field director Eileen Kao has developed her first CNEHA presentation entitled “Hot Button Topic.” Eileen performed additional research on the Revolutionary War era British regimental buttons we found at the Seaport last year and began exploring the idea that uniforms create a sense of belonging, affecting the behavior of those who wear them. Theories abound as to how clothing creates and enforces a sense of identity, and our unearthed button treasures most certainly played a part in defining the roles of the British, who are often depicted as ruthless and unyielding during the British occupation of NYC. About the Buttons Our excavation recovered a total of six buttons from three different regiments. Because there were many different ranks and types of regiments, button styles varied. Regimental soldiers wore plain buttons with simple raised numerals and a rope border. Rarely, a button would have the regimental number only. An officer’s button was more elaborate; it often featured a domed button cover in gold or silver over a button made from bone or other material. Based on their proximity to marked specimens, plain, unmarked metal buttons likely belonged to…

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Grand Central NYC: Alyssa Loorya to Present at TEDx Conference

Grand Central NYC: Alyssa Loorya to Present at TEDx Conference

Chrysalis owner and archaeologist Alyssa Loorya has been invited to present at the November 1st TEDxNY conference. The annual, independently organized TEDx events bring New York’s greatest thinkers, teachers and innovators together with an audience to showcase their projects, visions and passions, and inspire listeners to create a greater impact on the world with their own ideas. TEDx presenters wrap their genius into a concise and powerful presentation that’s 18 minutes or less in length. Alyssa’s Presentation: Grand Central NYC The theme of Alyssa’s presentation touches on New York City as a global capital. It’s a community where real people have lived and made an impact on the world for generations from their own neighborhoods. History in Pictures A biography of the city can be pieced together using archaeological finds, past and current photographs and threads of information. Alyssa’s experience in archaeology has shaped her photography and vice versa. Old photos and lithographs help her document changing landscapes, priorities and approaches to social issues such as capital punishment and treatment of the poor. Re-invention of City Hall Park Alyssa will discuss the relevance of historical timelines such as the transformation of City Hall Park, which was once a place for…

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