Friday, October 30, 2009

Ralph touched everything in these pictures. I told him I would write that. Coincidentally, Ralph lived in Stargard, Poland, a small town of 71,000 people which I visited in 1998 while traveling to see the tiny town nearby where my ancestors came from in 1862.

So today was our last day of digging at my current project and Steve was stripping alongside an enigmatic stone foundation and found the corner of an adobe brick house, one that appears on the 1883 fire insurance map. I was wondering if I would find this house, we had already found the nearby adobe brick warehouse/ore sampling works that appears on the maps. The 1883 map also has a small building labeled "W.C." for Waste or Water Closet. This was an outhouse, privy, or latrine (people call them different things). Basically, before indoor plumbing, people went outside and sat on a seat over a pit and pooped.

The map doesn't have a scale, but a nearby street was labeled as being 80 feet wide and coincidentally the width of the street matched the distance from the corner of the house to the outhouse. So I measured it off and had Steve strip over the area with the backhoe and like a miracle, up popped a bottle and a bunch of ash. So we had found the outhouse pit on the map. Actually, as it turned out, we found two outhouse pits, an earlier one and another cutting into the earlier one.

Jim and Steve completing the excavation of the outhouses.

Archaeologists like to find outhouse pits because they tend to have two things. At the bottom will be a layer of poop and you can take a sample of it and throw it in water and seeds float to the top, which can then be identified. You can find out what people were eating from this, as well as any animal bones tossed in or food or beverage bottles.

T. A. Slocum bottle, for consumption or lung disease.

Above the poop layer (which is often very green), will usually be a layer of trash thrown out after the pit was no longer in use. You typically find a lot of stuff that can often be linked to a particular household or family, in this case the people who lived at the house next to the warehouse/ore sampling works.

Botica de la Providencia, Pedro Guerroro, Acambaro, CTO (sorry it is blurry, Botica is "Pharmacy").

The items discarded can tell you a lot about the lives of residents. In the upper outhouse we found medicine for tuberculosis (consumption). We also found medicine bottles with Spanish writing on them in both outhouses, probably suggesting that a Mexican family lived in the house.

Chamber pot lid.

Lots of interesting stuff including dishes (mostly undecorated), lamp chimneys, two human teeth, many small tooth paste bottles, and clothing buttons.

Brass pocket watch.

In the weeks ahead I will be analyzing the artifacts to identifying when the outhouses were filled, what ethnicity the people were, and what their socio-economic status was. Science!

Large porcelain doll head.

The presence of doll heads and a marble indicate that a girl and possibly a boy formed part of the family.

Tiny Frozen Charlotte baby.

Brent asked what happens to the site after we are done. In this case it is the location planned for a new parking structure. So the remaining ruins will be destroyed during construction. Luckily, we will have documented most of the site with out maps, notes, and photographs and collected a fair amount of artifacts, which will go to the museum for storage after my report is prepared.

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