A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
The artifacts from City Hall Park come from various contexts, some in association with architectural or burial features, some from trash deposits.
Trash deposits are discrete, closed-context refuse pits, often referred to as middens. Twenty-six such deposits of varying size were found throughout City Hall Park. They date to the mid to late eighteenth century and reflect the heaviest period of occupation of the site and the intensification of its connection with the growing city. It was during this period that the Commons housed the Almshouse, Bridewell, Gaol, and British Barracks. During the Revolutionary War, American prisoners-of-war added to the already over-crowded conditions of civilian residents of the Commons. Also, from mid-century on, the population density around the Commons increased as residential neighborhoods developed to the east and west.
During excavation and in the early stages of analysis it was theorized that the various trash deposits could be directly associated with historic period structures. However, further analysis demonstrated an amazing degree of uniformity among the trash deposits with regard to artifact numbers (percentage of the whole) and type.
More than half the collection consists of artifacts related to food consumption and preparation. There is a wide variety of ceramic ware types including Chinese import porcelain, tin-glazed wares, creamware, Staffordshire-style slipware and locally made stonewares and redwares. Also in the collection are several examples of bone-handled utensils and a cast-iron cooking pot. Several thousand wine or liquor bottles were also recovered. The artifact collection also displays evidence of activities unrelated to food, including smoking pipes, horseshoes, coins, buttons (made of bone or metal), a carved bone chess piece, clay marbles, medicinal vials, chamber pots, and several other types of metal, bone, and wood artifacts.
Given that the largest population group occupying the area from 1755 to 1783 was British soldiers, it is somewhat surprising that there were exceptionally few military or arms related artifacts, except for a few lead musket balls and gunflints. Overall the composition of the site is suggestive of a domestic assemblage, though we know without doubt that the Commons housed several institutions. Further, it appears that trash/refuse disposal in the Commons was communal. Among the trash deposit features, one, Feature 88, is far larger than any of the others, both in size (area) and content. It is hypothesized that the inhabitants of the Commons, and possibly their neighbors, shared one or two large dumps during the second half of the eighteenth century. As such it would be misleading to assign specific artifacts, or artifact clusters, to the residents of any one particular structure.