Finding Treasures Beneath the Soil

Finding Treasures Beneath the Soil

Artifacts, artifacts, artifacts!

Confined to the southeast corner of the site by construction activities, last week we put all of our efforts into excavating the two privies that had first been uncovered during the second week of the project. The largest of the privies—almost eight feet in diameter—contained at least two layers of fill. A railroad token was found in the upper layer and the thick lower layer was full of domestic artifacts, many of them dating to the late 1830s. These include many different ceramic vessels decorated with transfer-printed designs showing landscapes with castles and mansions and even a lighthouse. A set of glass tumblers was also found.

The other privy—about six feet in diameter—had been filled in the 18th century. Even more artifacts were recovered from its fill, including elegant glassware, locally made redware, beautifully hand-painted English ceramics, and a bowl decorated with a sailing ship flying the flag of Great Britain. Anna Coxe Toogood’s map reconstruction of the block in 1787 shows “Benjamin Humphreys, Gentleman” as the owner of the lot. By 1800, Widow Humphries was the occupant. The Humphreys surely set an elegant table. From the many food remains recovered we will be able to figure out what they ate as well as what they ate it on. 

Pictured above is a collection of items found in the 8’ privy (top), as well as items found in the 6’ privy (bottom).  Image Credit: John Milner Associates, Inc. 

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