January, 26th 2007 Privy Dig

Well this dig started off with a permission dig that fell through so we decided to go check out a recently demolished house in an early part of town. We arrived on the site we had dug a privy on the back property line while this house was still standing a few years before. That pit was 1870-1900 and didn't have much in it. However we knew the house was much earlier as most in the area were built between 1790 and 1810. So after the house was demolished and the debris removed we started looking for privies that would have been closer to the back of the house that had been covered by later additions. I quickly found an interesting looking site with some concrete collapsing into it and after moving a huge chunk of it was able to probe a nice soft ashy fill typical of a privy. We started out by removing the rest of the concrete floor that once covered this pit. A quick probe showed 3 of the walls but the 4th was farther away then we thought. We started digging it down and reveled that we were digging a large 4'x8' rectangular brickliner. Once we finally got all 4 sides defined we started going down. About 3 feet down the rectangle turned into a large Oval shaped brickliner this is a pretty common occurrence to have a rectangular header on top of the oval. WE started digging the oval down and with in a couple feet loam and artifacts from the 1850s started showing up around the edge of the pit. Soon we had al the fill out and the whole trash layer exposed. There was a small layer of late 1840s early 1850s glass and artifacts with a few unlisted Baltimore pontiled medicines and several good pontiled sodas all broken of course. after this thin layer the pit took a drastic age turn into the 1830s. This is actually very typical of pits in the area. this earlier layer was very laden with artifacts mostly ceramics of every kind pearlware, mochaware, redware, and stoneware all with beautiful decoration.  As is common with this age of privy the bottles were few and far between. As we got deeper the age continued to drop back into the 1820s we got a few bottles from this layer including a blackglass cylinder and a pontiled London mustard. Then my digging partner uncovered the top of a blue decorated stoneware pitcher He stuck his hand inside of the mouth and said it felt whole. And any stoneware from this age is usually pretty nice. Soon he had the handle uncovered and it was also intact. Then as he was busy removing some bricks that were pinning the side of the pit he started to uncover the side of the pitcher. This reviled a bird and part of a flower of some type.  soon he had the whole piece uncovered and you could see that the front was completely decorated with scrafedo type decoration accented with cobalt blue oxide.  The decoration was of two birds perched on a large ornate flowering plant. Sadly the bottom of the pitcher was broken off. However we managed to find about half of it in the pit. We looked and looked for the missing piece and never found it. But luckily it was just an area of gray and we had all the decoration. We all knew the piece was a very good piece so the next day I contacted the experts on local stoneware and they confirmed what I had already knew that the piece was mad by Henry Remmey Sr about 1815-1820 in Baltimore. And that it was a masterwork with only a few other pieces of American stoneware that could compare. I was quoted a value even damaged and it was a bit out of my price range so Buying my digging partners out wasn't an option. So it was decided that we would have the piece repaired and send it off to auction at Crockerfarm a stoneware specialty auction. The pitcher is going to be auctioned off later this month and is expected to do very well. Thought the bottles were not that great this still turned out to be my best dig ever. I still wish I could have kept the pitcher. Its the best thing I've ever dug.

A few pics from the dig

A few pics of the pitcher after restoration


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