J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Digging in the North End

Yesterday’s Boston Globe offered a progress report on a little dig in Boston’s North End. As part of a renovation project, the Old North Church’s, they invited the city’s archeology department to excavate the back yard of the Ebenezer Clough house, built around 1715.

The result:
During two weeks of digging, Bagley and a crew of volunteers collected tens of thousands of items from the 1700s. The haul included long-ago leftovers of everyday life: animal bones, doll parts, and uncounted chips and fragments of dishes and cups that archeologists hope will reveal more about how Bostonians lived as a bustling city sprang up around them.

“They literally would have just thrown these out the window,” Bagley said of a time when the backyard served as a personal landfill. “This will tell a lot about what people were eating, what toys they were using, and what else was going in the backyard.”

The dig also will give archeologists the rare chance to study a North End site untouched by development. From its beginnings as a pasture, this tiny plot of earth at 21 Unity St. has never been built upon, Bagley said. . . .

The finds include porcelain from China, children’s marbles, a cow or pig tooth, German stoneware, pipe stems, and a ceramic fragment decorated with a painted thistle, possibly from Scotland. Archeologists even found a rat’s skeleton.
In the early 1800s the building became an apartment house, or tenement, owned by upholsterer Moses Grant (1744-1817), one of the guys involved in the pre-Revolutionary events I focus on.

The Globe also offered a slide show of the dig. The overhead image above comes from that collection by staff photographer Pat Greenhouse.

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