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Tavern artifacts unearthed

HALIFAX (CP) — More than 25,000 artifacts from the earliest days of Halifax have been unearthed during construction of a downtown hotel.

“Antiques Roadshow would come in here and have a ball,” said Stephen Davis, lead archeologist in the project.

Although there is no way to assign monetary value to the thousands of pieces of china, metal and glass, the finds are rich in their explanation of city life in the late 1700s.

The booty unearthed from the downtown construction site outlines the huge importance that shipping imports played to the new British outpost. The items include whole plates in the English “Willow” pattern, an 1862 marmalade jar, a plate from a Spanish steamer and seltzer bottles (circa 1820) from Herzogthum Nassau, Prussia.

Since discovering the items during the summer of 2005, Davis and his team have meticulously mended and catalogued 3,500 of them.

Recently, Davis brought a few hundred of the better ones, including a lice comb, from the dig to spread out in the new archeology lab at Saint Mary’s University. Metal pieces, such as the belt buckles and jewelry, are now stabilized from their centuries in the ground and can’t be touched, he said.

“If you pick them up with your fingers, your body oils would start to corrode them,” he said.

The oldest artifacts found under the hotel’s site were beer tankards from 1750 to 1760, found in a well behind an old tavern that was located just outside the city’s original barricades.

“We know (the tavern) was there from historic documents,” Davis said. “The tavern itself is still intact. It goes underneath Water Street and underneath the sidewalk.”

The Double Eagle Tavern is just one of 34 features — such as an outhouse, a cellar and a stable — found at the site.

Even though the stable was likely used in the 1800s, Davis was surprised to find that its horse manure was still recognizable.

“It was old, but it also smelled,” he said, laughing.

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