Thursday, March 17, 2005

Aviation and Archaeology SHA 2007

March 13-16 I think it's a great idea having grown up in the "Cradle of Aviation" Long Island, NY. I thought this subject has been in historical archaeology in Great Britain for quite a number of years also, so it would be like "catching up". Many of my high school classmates parents were involved in the Grumman "Lunar Excursion Module" (LEM) project, which incidentally was built all over Long Island in small shops so no one had the "big picture" I was told. Nearby Gyrodyne also flew coaxial helicopters, manned and unmanned, sometimes over the potato fields around former Flowerfield, NY, next to what, with some of the property donated, became Stony Brook University, now about to take the rest of Gyrodyne property for research. Today is Einstein's birthday. As part of a "hunter-gather" task I was hired short-term to collect all the CRM (cultural resource management) info available in the NY SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office) at Peebles Island in Waterford, NY (near Albany, glad they're re-routing around that old Norse site in Waterford, Ireland, I signed a petition) for the Upper Hudson River for the design of the PCB cleanup there by the EPA for the company formerly known as T.A.M.S. Some of the proposed PCB clean-up sites I worked on back in the 1980's and that has still not begun. My task to gather, so architectural historian(s) and an archaeologist(s) could look at the corridor for historic and prehistoric significance was only called for recently, I am given to understand, because of objections by GE to their being left out! As a part of that task I informed T.A.M.S. about the evaluation of aeronautical sites as for example one of the first flights in NY was from Governors Island by Wilbur Wright up and back on the Hudson River which may or may not have had a canoe attached to the bottom. The US's first flight school was from catapulted planes on Governors Island in NYC harbor, now thanks to the Clinton Administration back without undo cost to the City. (Congress wanted about $0.5 billion for it). I inquired into the the aeronautical history and a couple of museums of that ilk in the vicinity of the Hudson River, and they said sadly, that much of the history would have to be gleaned from local newspapers, reading through as very little is known although a few major collections of aircraft (and ongoing industry) exist not too far from the Hudson River, which was probably by VFR (visual flight rules) used quite a bit in navigation, and perhaps for earlier routes. I forwarded the info to them now Earthtech, (part of TYCO), down near "Ground Zero" an unfortunate term from the nuclear age, which ran without source throughout the media. To continue in the archaeology of aviation theme, I might present an example from historic preservation. I was reading the New Brunswick, Canada "Blacks Harbour Historical Society" on-line, a former "factory" town (canning fish) from where ferries leave for North Head on Grand Manan Island, N.B. Canada (the island a little over two hours away). My cousin there, Wilma Green (nee Parker), as a nurse assistant, used to accompany seaplane flights for medical emergencies transport. Anyway, not too far from Blacks Harbour, is the town of Pennfield, which served as a WWII airfield. In the course of its occupation, abandoned it appears mostly today, judging from the satellite views in World Wind 1.3 from NASA, some servicemen from around the Commonwealth passed on while there and were buried there. Those types of cemeteries should be looked after as relations, it was reported, come from around the world to visit the gravesides. I doubt many public airports (or private) would appear to have this "feature" but perhaps some have in former times. I have visited a few small grass field runways in New Hampshire that have a recent grave-plot next to them of former aviator or supporter. That has me perplexed also. Working in 1999, in New York City's City Hall Park, once a Commons and now associated with the "African Burial Ground" a block away as part of a larger Historic District, I was perplexed by the possibilities presented by the human remains in City Hall Park under the statue of Horace Greeley and next to the Joseph Pulitzer monument. Here then NYC was restoring the park to a ca. 1870 type (though the granite bollards would disappear and emerge by electricity not steam) and lining the surface with grey and black stone from Binghamton, NY. The dark stone, after a map study (Stone (?) pers. comm. 1997 while we worked in Chambers St.) was outlining the various buildings once nearby the "Tweed" Courthouse (Mayor Fernando Wood would be a more appropriate name dedicated and finished by him, instead of the "Boss" imprisoned across Chambers St. the once to be home of the Museum of New York City, the restored Courthouse is headquarters of the Dept. of Education today) and the McComb designed City Hall, (a famous lighthouse architect first) to allow the pedestrian to see where the "British Barracks" were, "The Prison" ("blacker than any black hole of Calcutta" when run by British Army Major Cunningham, where Ethan Allen was tortured, NY Times 1903) etc., that though skeletons were found two or more deep, without any worldly goods whatsoever with them, these were insistently called the remains from "The First Almshouse" an attribution deducted from read history, the "first" a decision by historians (or would be) to attribute significance perhaps, precluding other explanation in my opinion (redeposited remains from the nearby Kings College, now Columbia University, anatomy scandal, where students exhumed bodies to practice for their finals, or the remains of nearby prisoners, also come to mind.) I excavated one unit for the water fountain and found two persons, almost appearing conjoined, which, on one wrist was perhaps a small wooden amulet empty except appearing as if "imprinted" with a small stereotype of the two joined tablets of Moses' story of lawgiving. Would anyone know of such a "reliquary"? I still feel bad about kneeling into their skulls. At the time, 1999, the Iroquois Council had issued an edict that as a new general policy they felt no burials should be moved, one in particular in the new found salt source for New York roads, out near Letchworth State Park, the salt mines next to Lake Cayuga in Myers, NY collapsed after flooding. I suppose respect can take different forms, sort of a follow-up of "Construction and excavation of the world's first 'mock' mass grave.url"

1 comment:

  1. I was googling "Pennfield", as in the location of the former airbase near Blacks Harbour, and came across your blog here. Interesting read.

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