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Unearthing Gotham

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About the Author

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.


Rutgers's Cantwell and City College's Wall, anthropologists both, track the evolving practice of urban archeology, and document much of what it has uncovered (and is still uncovering) in the Big Apple. From the oldest remnants of Native Manhattanites to 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century detritus, Cantwell and Wall explore how archeologists painstakingly expose and determine the past as well as the objects they find. Continually surprising objects of great import the intricate nature and use of "wampum beads"; a full crate of wine bottles from a Wall Street store lost in the great 1835 fire; children's toys and mugs from mid-19th century middle-class homes balance the book's academic underpinnings with its obvious intention to entertain and to illuminate the past. Whether dealing with the discovery of glass urinals found behind a brothel in the notorious Five Points section of the city, or an extraordinarily moving account of the preservation of a colonial African-American burial ground uncovered during excavation for a new high-rise in lower Manhattan, the authors are always mindful of the endless battle between embracing new growth and respecting and safeguarding the past. (Oct.) Forecast: New York's many Gotham-centered museums and store shelves should be a source of steady, if slow, sales to curious browsers, and introductory urban archeology courses should pick this up as a central text. The multicultural evidence provided by many of the discoveries could make this a stockable title in other urban centers with analogous histories. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

"A terrific book." Adam Gopnik, New Yorker "A thoroughly enjoyable narrative, seductively packaged... A treasure." Gerard Koeppel, New York Observer "Trailblazing." Herbert Mitgang, New York Daily News "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

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