March 29th 2008 Privy Dig


This dig actually starts off a few days earlier and picks up after the last dig. I gave Tom a few days to go talk to the contractor about getting permission to dig the big hotel privy we had got run out on last Saturday. He hadn't been able to get permission so I decided to get my friend Alan to go try to get permission with me. We spent Wednesday trying to get permissions around Baltimore and we got the contact information for someone at the site While at the site we could see that The privy had been completely filled back in by the excavating equipment on the site. We also secured permission for a residential house in fells point. And lined that dig up for Monday. Over the next couple days Alan made phone calls and permission was secured for the weekend to Dig on the construction site. Alan Asked me to put a team together for the weekend. I knew the Large hotel Privy was going to be an undertaking So I wanted at least 5 guys on this dig. I called Tom and Phil because they had been on the start of the pit. Both of them had work obligations and would not be able to dig. So I then Called Matt and George From Philly. I also invited Doug as usual. Counting Alan that would give us 5 guys to dig Alan also wanted to Invite Russ So I said that's cool with me he's a good guy. It was decided that we would get started about 7:00 on Saturday morning however Alan would not be able to get there until about 9:00 and Russ would be late also arriving around noon. So Doug, Matt, George, and Myself arrive on time at 7:00 Sadly they were working near the hotel privy so we would have to wait until they were finished before we could start digging it. So I ran home and grabbed my laptop with the various maps of the site. The one area of the site that was safe to dig on had several feet of overburden that you couldn't probe through so our only option was to dig test holes. I wanted the maps to see how the site was laid out to maximize our chances of finding a pit. I returned around 8:30 with laptop in hand and quickly picked out a spot on the map that would have been a property corner that should have a pit. Then I walked over to where I thought this spot should be on the site and said I think we should dig a test hole right here. Now this is a flat construction site with no land marks to go by so I was just using the proportions of the lot to judge about where the property lines should have been. George started opening up the test hole and then Alan arrived and went and talked to the workers on the site who said they should be laying off about 11:00. George and I took turns digging our test hole when George said this looks like an edge. I jumped in and quickly verified that our test hole had come right down on the edge of a brick liner. Then everyone grabbed shovels and started opening up the pit. This pit was full of busted up concrete and brick debris for the first 6 feet. It was very hard going. It took us a couple hours to finally get this pit open and through all the debris. By this time the workers had laid off for the weekend and we had the site to ourselves. The brickliner we had been working on was about 6 and a half feet across George, Alan, and Myself continued working on this pit we set up the tripod and started bucketing out the heavy clay fill that was under the debris. By this time Russ Had arrived and Doug, Matt, and Russ started on the large hotel privy. The fill in the hotel privy was mostly ash so it was going quickly. They got the entire privy defined before dark and started going down this pit was an amazing 9 feet wide. The smaller pit we were working on we finally hit a trash layer but it was sadly 1890s and only about 2 feet thick. it was then decided that we would hold off on this pit until the morning and concentrate our efforts on the large hotel pit since I already knew its trash layer was very large almost 4 feet thick and early pre 1820s. So we moved the tripod over the larger pit and started bucketing out ash, soon we had most of the layer exposed and things slowed way down. The 1820s layer quickly gave way to a 1760s-1790s layer with some awesome ceramics in it we were sifting this pit and saving all the shards to reconstruct later. I've dug many privies loaded with embossed pontiled bottles but my favorite pits to dig are the colonial ones I just love the early ceramics these produce and really enjoy reconstructing them. By this time it was near midnight and we all were beat. since everyone except myself had a long drive home everyone decided to just sleep in their trucks and get an early start in the morning. I however left and went home and had a shower and slept in my bed it was nice lol. I arrive about 7:00 the next morning to find that everyone was digging the smaller of the two pits again they wanted to get it finished. it was producing many blob beers some were fairly scarce but most common. This pit produced about 30 blob beers and a local embossed strap sided whiskey flask. It finished up at about 14 feet deep and 6.5 feet across It was a big pit by Baltimore standards. But was dwarfed by the large hotel privy we were still working on. We quickly moved our efforts back to the hotel pit and continued bucketing out use layer and sifting it. We soon had many tubs and buckets filled with shards and several nice early black glass bottles and early pontiled phials There was a black redware chamber pot from the 1760s that was found intact with some minor rim chips then finally we were digging the bottom 6 inches and this layer took another age change and got into the 1740s-50s with quite a bit of English slipware and several broken Dutch onions. This was one extremely early context for a Baltimore privy and this hotel had to have been one of the first buildings in the Jonestown part of Baltimore. I plan to research this property further and will update this with anything I find out. We finally finished up about 9:00 Sunday night and lucky for us we didn't have to fill in the holes the crew offered to fill them in with the machine in the morning. We split up the bottles and intact artifacts and then headed our ways. Matt took home all the shards to reconstruct and we would split up the glue backs at a later date.

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