Thursday, December 4, 2014
by Bill Whittaker, University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist
Hubbard Park excavations concluded this week and, following the universal law of archaeology, some of the most interesting features were found in the final days. We excavated a privy latrine in the southeast part of the park. Artifacts in it dated to the 1880s, a medicine bottle recovered from the privy was labeled “Dr. A.E. Rockey” and dates to ca. 1879-1890, when Dr. Rockey had a practice in Iowa City. Other objects of interest include a porcelain doll, a tin can full of shotgun shells, and several large ceramic sherds, including a chamber pot. Also found were several glass lamp chimneys, perhaps disposed after electric lighting became available in Iowa City in 1886. This privy was probably used by the family that lived at 104 W. Iowa Avenue. It appears the house was used primarily as a rental property in the 1880s, and records are not complete enough to determine who, exactly, lived in the house. Around 1893, the house was converted into the Rinella grocery store, and perhaps the privy was decommissioned at that time.
To the north, excavations occurred at a substantial (10-foot deep) basement along the lot line between what was once 17 N. Madison St. and 100 W. Iowa Avenue. Large amounts of limestone rubble were found 2¬-3 feet below the modern surface, and we placed an excavation unit over the edge of this rubble. Due to safety constraints, test unit excavations halted five feet below the modern surface, but augering revealed the basement’s full depth. This feature contains predominantly 1840s artifacts, including hundreds of ceramic fragments representing more than a dozen different ceramic styles. Numerous animal bones found here will be used with soil seed flotation to determine the diet of early occupants, and the other artifacts can tell us about their everyday activities and relative wealth. We hope to be able to revisit and explore this feature more in the future.
Alan Hawkins shows the Dr. Rockey medicine bottle from the privy, Anson Kritsch in background
Dan Horgen examines one of the shotgun shells recovered from the privy
Edge of the deep foundation feature
Anson Kritsch holding a white ceramic girl doll found in the privy