Excavation at the SUNY Construction
Fund Parking Garage site showing
remains of 18th and 19th century
waterfront structures. The Hudson
River is in the background. The 17th
century river shoreline was located
along the street in the lower right.
WEST HALL — Beneath the city’s streets, sidewalks, backyards, and buildings are layers of soil that contain objects made, used, and discarded by former residents. Each item reveals information about the people who created and used it. The study of each fragment in its context and its relationship to other places and things is necessary to discover the people who left them behind, how they interacted with others, and how they constructed the world around them.
Albany is a defining artifact of New York society. It is one of the oldest European cities in North America: a permanent settlement was established in 1614 on Castle Island and continuous settlement began in 1624 with the establishment of Fort Orange. The town of Beverwyck, just to the north of Fort Orange, became Albany after the English peacefully took over the Dutch colony in 1664. Albany developed as a Dutch settlement among Native Americans, then it was a Dutch settlement under English rule. This helped to produce a distinctive American city.
Research in Albany demonstrates how archaeology can provide us with a unique way of learning about our past. Some of these discoveries and their meaning in the history of the city and New York State are presented here. They can be seen through the exploration of an early seventeenth century Dutch settlement, an eighteenth century rum distillery, the expansion of the city from the initial settlement, and the daily life of residents in the past.
The archaeological collections at the New York State Museum are a result of development and expansion of the city. Federal and state laws require archaeological explorations prior to public-funded construction. These laws serve to protect and preserve important information about the history of the city.