Wensday May 24th - Friday May 26th 2006 Privy Dig
About a month ago while driving around fells point I noticed that they were in the process of rehabbing three buildings on the corner of Thames and Ann streets. Those of you familiar with Baltimore know that Thames is the street right on the water front in Fells point and Ann is one block off Broadway. This was part of the original area laid out on 1763 by Edward Fell. I love digging in this area because the pits are generally trashy and shallow and early. Pits loaded with torpedoes and pontiled sodas have been hit less then a block from this site. Our only problem was that the site was not accessible it was always locked up pretty tightly. Good thing my digging partner is a professional archeologist. He was able to gain permission to do some salvage archeology in the courtyard behind the three buildings. the building on the corner of Thames and Ann was built next to the Robert Long House this house was built in 1765 and is the oldest surviving urban house in Baltimore. The property we would be digging on was originally purchased by Robert Long (a prominent merchant) from Edward Fell in 1763. He sold the corner lot in 1767 the deed states that a house is to be erected on the site within three years. this was a common stipulation on deeds of the time. So we know there had to be a building on this site by 1770.
Well so permission Gained and some research done its time to dig. we started on a Wednesday morning it was sunny and a bit warm but nice weather to dig in. We walked into the back courtyard and the contractor that was doing the renovations on the buildings had dug out the top foot of fill in the court yard and also had been storing a huge pile of bricks and a huge mound of debris back there. this wasn't going to be easy. There was also a cinderblock wall that was being propped up by a few large boards it was right in the area we wanted to dig in.
We decided that it looks to be stable enough to dig so I started probing the first feature we found was a large square brick feature it was about 6 feet square. being this was Archeology and not standard privy digging we had to take the hole down in layers and photograph and measure each layer. we took the brick square down about 6 inches and it was clearly visible that there was a wooden round circular feature in the middle of the brick square. This turned out to be a barrel lined privy. we started digging it down it was only about 3 feet deep and only dated to the 1880s
End of day one. The next morning we got started on the square brick feature. This turned out to be some kind of foundation to what we believe was an early unattached kitchen that mite possible have gone to the Robert Long house next door.
We spent most of the day excavating this small hearth and kitchen and then filled everything in and started to move the large pile of bricks that were being stored in the back corner of the lot. And by large I mean several thousand bricks. The next morning we arrived early and started moving the last thousand or so bricks to get to the ground. After about and hour we were finished. we quickly located a square woodliner with the probe and marked it off. then started taking it down in layers.
At about 2 1/2 feet the first artifacts started appearing mostly very early redware and some pearlware shards. It was looking like this hole was filled in by the 1780-1790 era.
The artifact layer was about 3 feet thick and at the bottom contained artifacts from the mid 1760s.
Here are some pictures of a few early pieces after reconstruction.
We didn't find anything intact and most of the finds
early broken ceramics and a few pipes but it was a fun experience and
cool to dig a 1760s privy.
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