James Deetz is considered a father of historical archaeology in North America, and his widely-read In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life emphasized the importance of common objects in interpreting the past. Grand structures and fabulous trinkets may seem most interesting at face value, and they certainly provide important information about our history. However, the objects used in everyday contexts allow insight to the uncelebrated lives of the vast majority of former populations. There are relatively few contemporaneous written accounts that illuminate the lives of the marginalized, like the poor, women, and ethnic groups. This is where objects can help us understand how common people really lived, day-to-day.
We’re unsure of the precise year our house was built; when we moved in, I did some research at the Registry of Deeds and could only determine that the house existed in the 1890s. Before that record, the trail went cold (although that doesn’t mean much!) We’ve been finding clues through archival material from Memorial University’s Digital Archive Initiative, like the map delineating the area affected by the fire of 1846. Narratives of the Great Fire of 1892 don’t make it clear if our street was affected, but a newspaper notes thta a shopkeeper left shopless relocated his store to our street immediately following the disaster. We can therefore conclude that our street was spared in both fires. There’s so much left to learn, but it’s always exciting to flesh out a little bit more of the story!
Below are photos of some of our favourite artifacts we’ve found throughout the house and backyard (surface finds only!) Each piece adds to the way we understand our house, neighbourhood, and city.
When the laminate flooring is pulled up throughout the rest of the house, it’s likely we’ll have to replace a couple boards; who knows what we could find beneath, since coins often slipped through cracks between boards. We’ve also uncovered a 4’x4’x6′ space somewhere in our house, but we have to keep a few secrets!
We’ll share more of our collection of found oddities in a Halloween post about our creepy basement.
We’d love to hear about the weird and wonderful objects you’ve uncovered around your house and property! Here’s a great article about uncovering treasures that help to tell the story of a house.