SCIENCE

Teams Excavating Toilets Flush Out Thousands Of 18th Century Artifacts

The remarkable collection spans nearly 300 years of people at the site near Independence Hall.

03/07/2016 4:51 AM AEST | Updated 06/07/2016 1:55 AM AEST
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When it comes to excavating toilets, it doesn't get much better than this.

Archaeologists found 82,000 artifacts buried inside vaults once used for outhouses in historic Philadelphia. Many date to the American Revolution and include an astounding amount of glassware. (Scroll down to see nine of the best finds.)

Most of the hidden treasures discovered in a dozen brick-lined outhouse vaults called privies were also used as garbage receptacles, archaeologists with the Commonwealth Heritage Group announced in a report that The Huffington Post obtained.

Commonwealth Heritage Group
Two of the 12 brick-lined privies that were uncovered are seen. These vaults were used as outhouses and garbage receptacles.

The archaeologists began uncovering the historic pieces in 2014 while working to excavate the land for its current transformation into The Museum of the American Revolutionwhich will open next spring. The site is just two blocks from the Delaware River waterfront and Independence Hall -- where both the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution were debated and adopted.

The majority of the artifacts are said to come from a mid-18th century tavern that was located on Chestnut Street. That recovered collection includes red earthenware made from identifiable local potters.

Commonwealth Heritage Group
Archaeologists are seen excavating one of the privies uncovered at the site that will be transformed into the Museum of the American Revolution.

Another particularly impressive piece that the team found and reassembled is an English delftware punch bowl. It's believed to have come from an illegal tavern on Carter's Alley. The piece features a picture of the brigantine ship, Tryphena, which was used to carry the colonists' petition against the Stamp Act from Philadelphia to Liverpool in 1765.

Other artifacts the archaeologists found came from largely private households. An assortment of seashells has been linked to a button shop and 750 pieces of printers' type to the city's growing press industry.

There was, of course, your typical collection of garbage found.

Commonwealth Heritage Group
Excavation work is seen underway ahead of the construction of the Museum of the American Revolution. The First Bank is seen on the other side of Third Street.

Over 1,400 fruit pits, mostly from cherries, were found in one vault, suggesting that someone who lived there was baking -- though no pie dishes were found. In another vault two whole raccoons, 66 birds, fish, and other animal bones, likely from human meals, were found. Another vault, believed to have been used by a household, recovered a curiously large number of alcoholic bottles.

The vaults were eventually sealed up beneath several eras of buildings that were built on the site into today.

Some of the collection is expected to go on display inside of the upcoming historic museum which will open its doors to the public on April 19, 2017.

Take a look at nine standouts from the collection below:

  • 1
    Commonwealth Heritage Group
    A punch bowl reading "Success to the Tryphena" features a ship that the colonists used in the 1700s.
  • 2
    Commonwealth Heritage Group
    This finely detailed German tankard is in remarkably good condition, despite being buried for centuries.
  • 3
    Commonwealth Heritage Group
    These tankards and wine bottles are believed to have come from a home on Carter's Alley.
  • 4
    Commonwealth Heritage Group
    This gemstone displays the British Royal Coat of Arms.
  • 5
    Commonwealth Heritage Group
    The archaeological team reassembled this red earthenware charger plate back together after they found it in pieces.
  • 6
    Commonwealth Heritage Group
    Most of the artifacts found, like these plates, were in 12 brick-lined privies which served as outhouses and trash receptacles.
  • 7
    Commonwealth Heritage Group
    These wig curlers, fan parts and beads are believed to have come from households on Chestnut Street.
  • 8
    Commonwealth Heritage Group
    The vaults that held these discarded treasures were sealed up beneath a new era of buildings.
  • 9
    Commonwealth Heritage Group
    Archaeologists reported finding 82,000 artifacts during their dig which started in 2014.

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