An Unexpected Underground Discovery

Before Martha Zierden and the team from the Charleston Museum started the archaeological dig here, a previous owner told me that privy diggers had been on the property.  The owner from whom she purchased the property in the late 1970s told her that the privy had been “dug” at some point.  I later met the daughter of those earlier owners who remembered her brother bringing somebody to the house to do some digging in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

So, it was not a surprise when we found a disturbed area early in the dig.  The dark soil and mix of artifacts from various time periods were clear indications of a previous digging episode.  Martha and her team worked to define this area and then moved on to other areas that had not been disturbed since analyzing those intact areas was a better use of their archaeological skills.

As many of you know, Martha gave me the go-ahead to live out my amateur archaeologist fantasies and dig in this disturbed area since the archaeological context had already been destroyed.  While any items of value were long gone – intact bottles or ceramics, coins and other whole artifacts – there were still interesting pieces to recover.  I came to expect a mix of things from early 19th century ceramic fragments to mid-20th century items and even some late 20th century items such as a Lego and half a plastic Easter egg near the surface.

Finding a Dasani water bottle, however, was a surprise.  An internet search revealed that Dasani was introduced in the United States in February 2002, so what was it doing several feet underground?  As I continued to dig, I came across ketchup packets and honey mustard sauce from Hardee’s along with drink lids and red plastic straws.  It could only mean one thing – the area had been dug not once, but twice.

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I suspect that the second group of diggers did not have much experience since they did a good deal of digging apparently without realizing that the area had already been dug up.  Martha had been intrigued by the fact that most of the ceramic sherds that I had found were small – there were very few large pieces – but now it made sense given the double dig.  It will be interesting to see if I find some larger fragments below the second digging episode.

In the meantime, if anyone needs ketchup, just let me know….

In case you are wondering about the pipe in the top photo, it is a broken piece of early 20th century sewer pipe.

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