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Boston Archaeology Program Announces Completion of NEH-Funded Digital Archaeology Project

19 Jul 2022 4:56 PM | Anonymous

In March 2019, the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded the City of Boston Archaeology Program a $350,000 Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grant to re-process, re-catalog, digitally photograph and place online in a database the complete archaeological assemblages excavated from five important Boston historical sites. Most of these collections were excavated by archaeologists in the 1970s and 1980s and were not fully cataloged, making them difficult to study.  With this project, the collections are fully documented and anyone from anywhere in the world can see these collections online or study them in person at the City Archaeology Program.

The team hired by grant funds as well as volunteers have worked for years to individually identify and catalog each artifact for the first time, and then create a digital online artifact image database using new digitization tools including 3D imagery and automation software. Each collection now has a dedicated website on the Archaeology Program’s page, which includes links to their full catalogs, online images, and 3D scans.  

In 1983, archaeologists surveyed the yard of the ca. 1680 Paul Revere House. In 2010 and 2011, they surveyed 5 and 6 Lathrop Place, two 1835 row houses on what was once the backyard of the Revere house property. The Revere House collection contained 13,765 artifacts, mostly from the house’s 19th century privy when the house was used as a saloon, boarding house, and private home for the Wilkie family. Excavations under 5 and 6 Lathrop Place, directly behind the Revere House, documented 11,785 artifacts from the 17th-19th century use of the rear of the Revere property.

In the early 1990s, archaeologists excavating ahead of the Central Artery Project (Big Dig) uncovered the privy of a mid-19th century brothel containing 7,977 artifacts. The brothel was located at 27-29 Endicott Street in the North End. It was not known for decades that this privy was associated with a brothel until research and analysis by Dr. Jade Luiz revealed the true nature of the collection, including numerous artifacts associated with Victorian-era sex work.  

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