On July 2010, archaeologists monitoring excavation at the World Trade Center site (WTC) in Lower Manhattan found the remains of a portion of a ship's hull. Because the date of construction and origin of the timbers were unknown, samples from different parts of the ship were taken for dendrochronological dating and provenancing. After developing a 280-year long floating chronology from 19 samples of the white oak group (Quercus section Leucobalanus), we used 21 oak chronologies from the eastern United States to evaluate absolute dating and provenance. Our results showed the highest agreement between the WTC ship chronology and two chronologies from Philadelphia (r = 0.36; t = 6.4; p < 0.001; n = 280) and eastern Pennsylvania (r = 0.35; t = 6.3; p < 0.001; n = 280). The last ring dates of the seven best-preserved samples suggest trees for the ship were felled in 1773 CE or soon after. Our analyses suggest that all the oak timbers used to build the ship most likely originated from the same location within the Philadelphia region, which supports the hypothesis independently drawn from idiosyncratic aspects of the vessel's construction, that the ship was the product of a small shipyard. Few late-18th Century ships have been found and there is little historical documentation of how vessels of this period were constructed. Therefore, the ship's construction date of 1773 is important in confirming that the hull encountered at the World Trade Center represents a rare and valuable piece of American shipbuilding history.
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Vol. 70 • No. 2