A 32-foot piece of the vessel was discovered in soil 20 feet under street level, amid noisy bulldozers excavating a parking garage for the future World Trade Center. Near the site of so many grim finds — Sept. 11 victims’ remains, twisted steel

The ship harbors many mysteries still to be solved: “Where was it built? How was it used? Why was it sunk?”

McDonald and archaeologist A. Michael Pappalardo made the discovery on Tuesday at about 6:15 a.m., just as they started their shift observing construction in a pit at the southern edge of ground zero. The two work for AKRF, a New York environmental consulting firm hired to document artifacts discovered at the trade center site.

“We noticed two curved timbers that a backhoe had dislocated,” McDonald said. Joined by two more archaeologists, they started digging with shovels, “and we quickly found the rib of a vessel and continued to clear it away and expose the hull over the last two days.”

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