Dead Horse Bay Beach: The Dirtiest in New York

Introduction

The issues of water and coastal pollution cause serious concern among ecologists today because the high anthropogenic activity and the expansion of industrial influence inevitably entail contamination. In some places, landfills and temporary waste are disposed of timely, but there are areas where garbage and sewage accumulate over the years, creating an unfavorable environmental background and an unsuitable habitat for living organisms. In relation to New York, despite the efforts of the local authorities to protect nature and the participation of various volunteer movements, the city also has places with such dumps. Moreover, one of them could be a popular vacation site if it were not for perennial accumulations of garbage. This is rightfully the dirtiest beach in the city, which was called Dead Horse Bay Beach for its dubious history. Findings in this place prove that it is unacceptable for recreation, despite its good location and proximity to the city. Archaeological work carried out on the territory of Dead Horse Bay Beach may help determine the cultural, social, and economic features of the past eras and draw conclusions regarding possible ways to excavate garbage artifacts.

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Dead Horse Bay Beach History

The history of New York’s dirtiest beach is long, which, in many respects, has influenced its popularity not only in the vicinity of the city but also beyond. According to Foer, Thuras, and Morton,1 Dead Horse Bay Beach received its name in the 1850s when dead horse bodies from numerous nearby farms were brought here and disposed of without any special conditions. For many decades, the beach was gradually filled with garbage, and, as the authors note, on its surface, one can find bottles dating from the 1950s, car debris, and the bones of preserved horses remain.2 Until the middle of the last century, the landfill had been closed, and local residents did not have free access to it. However, over the years, soil erosion, precipitation, and other natural phenomena led to the fact that past debris appeared on the surface, and today, they may be found easily. The beach has become an unusual site that attracts some tourists and those who want to explore antiques. Visitors are not repelled by its unpleasant smell and unaesthetic appearance. However, from an ecological point of view, this place is dangerous and harmful.

Archaeological excavations in this place prove that the corpses of horses were brought here often in the 19th century. At that time, the beach was far from the main settlements, and it was convenient for farmers to use it as a cemetery since, as McDonald states, in most agricultural territories, people kept many horses.3 The place itself was mentioned in the 1600s, and since then, people began to use it as a landfill, although a few centuries ago, different wastes were transported to this site.4 Today, Dead Horse Bay Beach is close to New York because the metropolis has grown significantly and expanded its borders compared with several centuries earlier. Nevertheless, the garbage that has been accumulating in the landfill for centuries began to appear under the ground surface, which turned the territory into an exclusion zone. Accumulations of litter do not allow spending time on the beach to rest, and the soil saturated with poisons of decomposition is unsuitable for sowing. As a result, the place is not used for its intended purpose, but its detrimental effect on the environment is the reason to take measures to clear it.

Substantial Background for Archaeological Excavations

One of the characteristic features of Dead Horse Bay Beach is the extremely high content of glass waste – bottles, cans, and other household items. Although they do not carry a chemical threat, such as heavy metals, their impact on the soil is negative. Firstly, the glass decomposition period reaches several hundred years or even more. When taking into account the fact that bottles appeared relatively recently, they will fill the beach for a long time if measures are not taken. Secondly, the inability of the microfauna to survive entails the absence of any life in this territory. Nevertheless, according to Foer,5 Despite pollution problems, this place is rich from the standpoint of archeology due to its remoteness from the city and a long history. Public attempts to excavate have taken place, but there have been no serious findings. However, work on the search for valuables and, consequently, the cleaning of the territory could be beneficial to the beach and its ecology. The proceeds from the sorting of garbage could go to the refinement of the site, but in case of inaction, no significant artifacts of the past will be discovered.

The problem of the glass contamination of the beach is particularly acute because this type of garbage is predominant. As Foer, Thuras, and Morton6 Note, the alternative name of this place is Bottle Beach, and the scale of the broken glass dump is colossal. In addition to soil contamination, bottles are washed away with water and enter the ocean, causing damage to nearby areas and exacerbating the ecological situation. Since many other types of garbage, such as biologically friendly waste, decomposed a long time ago, solid glass objects pose the greatest threat to the security of the local ecosystem. When evaluating the degree of pollution, one can note that bottles fill all the possible space of the beach. Simple excavations that do not require great archaeological skills prove that the vast majority of these wastes date back to the last few decades.7 This means that the beach was intentionally used as a landfill for glass and was polluted by residents of nearby areas. Thus, the problem of glass contamination in this territory is acute, and long work on cleaning the place is necessary to eliminate the consequences of rash human actions.

Despite the fact that glass is not an unusual type of garbage in its characteristics, its predominant amount on Dead Horse Bay Beach is a non-standard situation. According to Arnshav,8 As a rule, in public places, biodegradable wastes are common, such as paper. In this regard, the situation on the beach in question is unique and attracts the attention of both ecologists and ordinary citizens who want to see the glass dump. It will take much time to clean the entire territory since the bottle deposits are also in the soil but not just on the surface. Attracting public attention to this issue with a view to calling for help from volunteers may be an appropriate step to recycle glass waste and clear the area to make it fit for living organisms. However, at the moment, such attempts are not made, and the territory is still called Bottle Beach.

Another reason why archaeological excavations can be valuable to the history of the city is due to topographic changes. Since Dead Horse Bay Beach is an under-explored place, it is highly likely that topographic structures contain unique findings. As Pétursdóttir9 Argues, if one finds a certain principle of the distribution of garbage, for instance, along the coastline or in some pits and hollows, this may indicate a different composition of the soil. The history of the beach in question confirms that earlier, it was part of an island, but over time, its borders changed significantly.10 Until today, no cartographic evidence of the geographical features of this area has been preserved, but in the case of a detailed study, discoveries could be made. Moreover, a thorough topographic analysis could help determine at what time the highest activity was manifested, what changes occurred during the time of human interference, and how much garbage on this site initially was. All these discoveries, in turn, could be interpreted and utilized by archaeologists with benefits. Therefore, this place is a non-standard beach with a rich history and can be considered the territory with potentially numerous valuables.

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Possible Terms of Archaeological Excavations

In order to conduct effective archaeological excavations on Dead Horse Bay Beach, preliminary cleaning work is required. The territory is cluttered to such an extent that it is not known exactly what types of waste may be found. In addition to bottles that make up the bulk of the garbage, biological materials are also present. Pétursdóttir11 Notes that it is essential to pay attention to the color of the beach soil and its structure in order to excavate. In addition to the primitive green vegetation that can be found here, for instance, algae, the presence of other plants may indicate the degree of contamination of the territory and its potential danger. The remains of horses located in the land have a detrimental effect on the environment, including the local soil and water, and in order to avoid threats to health, any excavations should take place in conditions of increased protection. Soil toxicity may be critical, and a preliminary analysis is mandatory. In general, laboratory studies can help significantly in the detection of potentially valuable minerals or relics. Therefore, upon completion of the surface cleaning step, special tests should be conducted.

Another important step that should be followed when planning archaeological excavations at Dead Horse Bay Beach is the assessment of a natural impact on the site. According to Reeder-Myers,12 Climate changes are no less confusing than land use conditions, and in the case of coastal territories, these criteria can be fundamental. The author notes that archaeological sites may contain traces of past climate impacts on a specific area, and the task of researchers is to assess how critical these effects were.13 In relation to Dead Horse Bay Beach, the conditions that the beach survived, in particular, its separation from the island and exploitation as a dump and cemetery for horses, are significant criteria that to consider. Otherwise, the outcomes of even detailed excavations may be interpreted incorrectly since the structural features of the soil that has undergone changes due to climate exposure can be misleading, and erroneous conclusions are possible. Therefore, a comprehensive evaluation should include not only the analysis of the soil surface and its pollution degree but also the role of natural conditions in the formation of a unique landscape.

Finally, as a significant condition for successful excavations on the territory of Dead Horse Bay Beach, the involvement of various stakeholders may be performed. Mayfield and Simmons14 Point out that public participation in archaeological activities can contribute to a better understanding of the historical value of specific places and their role in people’s lives. Volunteer communities may be created to help researchers to perform work that does not require special training, for instance, the surface cleaning of the beach or waste removal from the site. Garbage collection from Bottle Beach will allow archaeologists to conduct all the necessary measurements and excavations as quickly and conveniently as possible and, at the same time, will have a positive impact on the environment. As Ingram and Gilpin15 Note, public volunteering in archeology is the force that accelerates scholars’ activities and also stimulates interest in specific research sites, which serves as a driver for the dissemination of information. Therefore, to create favorable conditions for excavations at Dead Horse Bay Beach, engaging people to help can be a competent measure in the context of working on such a complex and totally polluted territory.

Potential Limitations and Constraints

When considering the topographic features of Dead Horse Bay Beach and its increased level of pollution, excavation difficulties may occur regardless of these factors. Arnshav16 Notes the possible difficulties with archaeological interpretation because, despite the study of the area, the materials for analysis can be ambiguous. Biodegradable waste is mixed with the natural base of the beach, and since the site in question has always been considered a landfill, numerous waste deposits create barriers to quality work. Although Bottle Beach is a unique place from the perspective of exploring its historical secrets, the practical implementation of activities is unlikely in the current environment. Even attracting public assistance may be ineffective since only professional archaeologists can carry out the necessary procedures and find valuables ​​without spoiling them. Accordingly, in order to create conditions for normal operation, it is essential to spend much time preparing the site and use modern technical resources and special equipment to prevent damage to the artifacts found. Therefore, such serious activity can repel potential explorers of coastal areas and create difficulties in exploring these places, including Dead Horse Bay Beach.

Another possible obstacle that may occur during excavations on the beach in question is the disapproval of the authorities. Although Dead Horse Bay Beach is far from the main concentration of the population of New York, the officials can prohibit any archaeological activity in this place. As an argument, they may explain such a decision by a ban on working with hazardous waste and a potential threat to people. Since the beach was originally a horse cemetery, many toxic substances are still present in the soil, and from a sanitary point of view, any intervention is dangerous. Accordingly, in addition to the preliminary preparation of all the necessary resources and techniques, including personal safety equipment, consent from the authorities is to be obtained. According to Reeder-Myers,17 the value of archaeological work can be conveyed “by advocating with landowners, land managers, and those with political or economic interests in coastal areas.” As a result, compiling a detailed work program, along with preparing all the necessary justifications and analysis results, is crucial to obtain permission to excavate in potentially dangerous territory.

The Benefits of Archaeological Findings

Archaeological excavations at Dead Horse Bay Beach can be valuable not only from a historical perspective but also for other areas. For instance, Ingram and Gilpin.18 Note the importance of discoveries from a sociological point of view since those findings that may be obtained in this place will make it possible to evaluate the class features of the society in past eras. The waste accumulating under the layers of garbage reflects the lifestyle that people followed several centuries ago. Until now, no significant excavations have been carried out within the territory of the beach. Thus, archaeologists have a unique opportunity to restore knowledge gaps about such factors of the life of past years as the degree of local citizens’ wealth, their interests, as well as characteristic habits. According to Arnshav,19 Despite their location, the findings of numerous beaches are not always associated with marine items and are more often those that belonged to people. Therefore, through accurate analyses and excavations, unique data on the culture of life can be obtained through a detailed assessment of antiquities in the layers of garbage.

In addition to social bonuses, professional excavations at Dead Horse Bay Beach can help the city economically. As Ingram and Gilpin20 State, historical findings on beaches are a rich area in terms of culture, and in case of a competent approach to research work, corresponding artifacts ​​can be exhibited as museum exhibits. The authors give examples of such cost-effective solutions and note that the influx of tourists may be significant if archaeologists obtain the necessary permissions from the authorities and organize exhibition activities competently.21 Arnshav22 It also mentions museum installations as relevant cultural and educational directions and gives examples of cases when findings in garbage dumps became objects of art. The city budget can benefit significantly if archaeological work is planned in accordance with the aforementioned terms and principles. In case of the absence of objective reasons for abandoning excavations, specialists can structure all the findings and highlight those that are of the greatest value. Therefore, from an economic perspective, archaeological activities at Dead Horse Bay Beach are also relevant and essential to raise public interest and attract as many tourists as possible.

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Conclusion

Properly organized archaeological activities at Dead Horse Bay Beach can contribute to studying the artifacts of the past eras and researching the social, economic, and cultural aspects of people’s lives. Despite the fact that this site is heavily polluted, relevant analyses may be carried out to determine the possible ways of working in this area. The long history of the beach is the rationale for archaeological excavations, and unique topographic features serve as a compelling reason proving the relevance of such activities. Certain conditions are to be observed, in particular, the bacteriological assessment of the area, processing, and the professional extraction of artifacts. Although potential constraints may arise due to the lack of understanding with the authorities or an ambiguous interpretation of findings, the importance of research is high. Researchers can help to better understand the cultural and social features of people’s lives several centuries ago and, at the same time, replenish the city’s budget due to the influx of tourists. Therefore, archaeological activities at Bottle Beach are due to a number of significant factors and may be considered an important step in studying New York history.

Works Cited

Arnshav, Mirja. “The Freedom of the Seas: Untapping the Archaeological Potential of Marine Debris.” Journal of Maritime Archaeology 9.1 (2014): 1-25.

Foer, Joshua, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton. Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders. New York: Workman Publishing, 2016.

Ingram, Scott E., and Dennis Gilpin. “Southwestern Archaeology Beyond Archaeology: Past, Present, and Future.” Kiva: Journal of Southwestern Anthropology and History 81, no. 1-2 (2015): 120-147.

Mayfield, Tracie, and Scott E. Simmons. “Why the Present Matters: The Importance of Community Outreach and Public Engagement in Archaeology.” Anthropology Now 10, no. 1 (2018): 25-39.

McDonald, Jamie. No Access New York City: The City’s Hidden Treasures, Haunts, and Forgotten Places. Lanham: the Roman & Littlefield Publishing Group, 2018.

Pétursdóttir, Þóra. “Climate Change? Archaeology and Anthropocene.” Archaeological Dialogues 24, no. 2 (2017): 175-205.

Reeder-Myers, Leslie A. “Cultural Heritage at Risk in the Twenty-First Century: A Vulnerability Assessment of Coastal Archaeological Sites in the United States.” The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 10, no. 3 (2015): 436-445.

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Footnotes

  1. Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders (New York: Workman Publishing, 2016), 358.
  2. Foer, Thuras, and Morton, Atlas Obscura, 358.
  3. Jamie McDonald, No Access New York City: The City’s Hidden Treasures, Haunts, and Forgotten Places (Lanham: the Roman & Littlefield Publishing Group, 2018), 59.
  4. McDonald, No Access New York City, 59.
  5. Foer, Thuras, and Morton, Atlas Obscura, 358
  6. Foer, Thuras, and Morton, Atlas Obscura, 358.
  7. Foer, Thuras, and Morton, Atlas Obscura, 358.
  8. Mirja Arnshav, “The Freedom of the Seas: Untapping the Archaeological Potential of Marine Debris,” Journal of Maritime Archaeology 9.1 (2014): 16.
  9. Þóra Pétursdóttir, “Climate Change? Archaeology and Anthropocene,” Archaeological Dialogues 24, no. 2 (2017): 191.
  10. McDonald, No Access New York City, 59.
  11. Pétursdóttir, “Climate Change?,” 176.
  12. Leslie A. Reeder-Myers, “Cultural Heritage at Risk in the Twenty-First Century: A Vulnerability Assessment of Coastal Archaeological Sites in the United States,” The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 10, no. 3 (2015): 437.
  13. Reeder-Myers, “Cultural Heritage at Risk in the Twenty-First Century,” 437.
  14. Tracie Mayfield and Scott E. Simmons, “Why the Present Matters: The Importance of Community Outreach and Public Engagement in Archaeology,” Anthropology Now 10, no. 1 (2018): 25.
  15. Scott E. Ingram and Dennis Gilpin, “Southwestern Archaeology Beyond Archaeology: Past, Present, and Future,” Kiva: Journal of Southwestern Anthropology and History 81, no. 1-2 (2015): 134.
  16. Arnshav, “The Freedom of the Seas,” 21.
  17. Reeder-Myers, “Cultural Heritage at Risk in the Twenty-First Century,” 444.
  18. Ingram and Gilpin, “Southwestern Archaeology Beyond Archaeology,” 131.
  19. Arnshav, “The Freedom of the Seas,” 3.
  20. Ingram and Gilpin, “Southwestern Archaeology Beyond Archaeology,” 130.
  21. Ingram and Gilpin, “Southwestern Archaeology Beyond Archaeology,” 130.
  22. Arnshav, “The Freedom of the Seas,” 12.
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StudyCorgi. (2021, June 9). Dead Horse Bay Beach: The Dirtiest in New York. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/dead-horse-bay-beach-the-dirtiest-in-new-york/

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"Dead Horse Bay Beach: The Dirtiest in New York." StudyCorgi, 9 June 2021, studycorgi.com/dead-horse-bay-beach-the-dirtiest-in-new-york/.

1. StudyCorgi. "Dead Horse Bay Beach: The Dirtiest in New York." June 9, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/dead-horse-bay-beach-the-dirtiest-in-new-york/.


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StudyCorgi. "Dead Horse Bay Beach: The Dirtiest in New York." June 9, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/dead-horse-bay-beach-the-dirtiest-in-new-york/.

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