Unearthing Gotham

The Archaeology of New York City

Anne-Marie Cantwell and Diana diZerega Wall

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October 11, 2003
384 pages, 7 1/2 x 9 1/2
152 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300097993
Paper

Also Available in:
Cloth

Under the teeming metropolis that is present-day New York City lie the buried remains of long-lost worlds. The remnants of nineteenth-century New York reveal much about its inhabitants and neighborhoods, from fashionable Washington Square to the notorious Five Points. Underneath there are traces of the Dutch and English colonists who arrived in the area in the seventeenth century, as well as of the Africans they enslaved. And beneath all these layers is the land that Native Americans occupied for hundreds of generations from their first arrival eleven thousand years ago. Now two distinguished archaeologists draw on the results of more than a century of excavations to relate the interconnected stories of these different peoples who shared and shaped the land that makes up the modern city.

In treating New York’s five boroughs as one enormous archaeological site, Anne-Marie Cantwell and Diana diZerega Wall weave Native American, colonial, and post-colonial history into an absorbing, panoramic narrative. They also describe the work of the archaeologists who uncovered this evidence—nineteenth-century pioneers, concerned citizens, and today’s professionals. In the process, Cantwell and Wall raise provocative questions about the nature of cities, urbanization, the colonial experience, Indian life, the family, and the use of space. Engagingly written and abundantly illustrated, Unearthing Gotham offers a fresh perspective on the richness of the American legacy.

Anne-Marie Cantwell is professor of anthropology at Rutgers University, Newark. Diana diZerega Wall is professor of anthropology at the City College of the City University of New York.


“A tour de force. Cantwell and Wall offer the reader just the right combination of the mystery of archaeological discovery, insightful cultural explanations, and a holistic view of the past. Anyone with an interest in archaeology, history, anthropology, or a truly unique view of the development of the greatest city in North America will want to own this book.”—Robert L. Schuyler, University of Pennsylvania

“[A] superb book synthesizing the archaeology of New York City. . . . Both scholarly and accessible, this work provides an ideal model for the presentation of archaeological interpretation. Highly recommended for all levels and collections.”—Choice

“Cantwell and Wall’s book is at once a cautionary tale and a manifesto. Layering example upon example, it reminds us of our all too tenuous relationship to the past and exhorts us to do better. In its insistence that archaeology is no ‘academic exercise’ but a vital social project, this important book encourages us to be mindful of our patrimony before it literally turns to dust.”—Jenna Weissman Joselit, New Republic

“A trailblazing scholarly work. . . . Cantwell and diZerega Wall remind us that New York is the oldest inhabited city in the United States.”—Herbert Mitgang, New York Daily News

Unearthing Gotham is a scholarly book for general readers, a thoroughly enjoyable narrative with comprehensive notes, sources and index. It’s also seductively packaged. . . . The book gives the physical sensation of an object to be opened up, explored, dug into. All books are texts; this one is treasure.”—Gerard Koeppel, New York Observer

“[A] terrific book.”—Adam Gopnik, New Yorker

“An absorbing, panoramic narrative. . . . Cantwell and Wall raise provocative questions about the nature of cities, urbanization, colonial experience, Indian life, family, and use of space. Engagingly written and abundantly illustrated, Unearthing Gotham offers a fresh perspective on the richness of the American legacy.”—Science News

“From the city’s earliest Native American inhabitants to its 20th-century cosmopolites, the many different people who have lived on this piece of land tell the story of urbanism in America. This archaeological account extends beyond recorded history to describe the social, economic, and religious lives of even the first inhabitants of New York.”—Science News

"[Cantwell and Wall] have written a book with new information about New York City, and have built a model for how other archaeologists can do the same.  Unearthing Gotham: The Archaeology of New York City is successful as a synthesis as well as a model of how to do one. . . . Many scholars will use this book to prove that all the archaeology of a single place can be made intelligible in a single intellectual effort. . . . This book took a great deal of work to produce, and it works."—Mark Leone, The Public Historian

“Cantwell and Wall give an absorbing account of the processes and perils of digging up Gotham.”—Norman Hammond, Times Literary Supplement


“This quintessential American city will be seen differently by any who contemplate the changing social and physical landscape documented in this book.”—Virginia Quarterly Review

Winner of the 2002 New York Society Library's  Book Award for History

Co-winner of the 2002 Society for American Archaeology Book Award
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