In New York City, it’s not surprising there are some renown vaults holding all sorts of precious things. These include the gold vault at the Federal Reserve, The New York Times “morgue,” and the Van Cortlandt Park vaults that hid the city’s records from the British during the Revolution. Earlier this year, a new vault opened–the New York City Archaeological Repository, full of objects uncovered through archeological excavations in New York City. Previously, the items were stored separately across 13 different locations, including several universities. Here are some of the unique finds stored in this Midtown Manhattan spot, two floors beneath the street on West 47th Street.
1. A 200-year-old douche
Image by Chrysalis Archaeological Consultants
This hollow, cylindrical object made of mammal bone was initially thought to be a spice grinder or needle case. It dates back to somewhere between 1803 to 1815, found in a garbage pile three feet underground on the north side of City Hall. Archaeologists believe all the items in this pile may come from one “celebratory event.” According to archaeologist Lisa Geiger, women across social classes gave them as wedding presents to each other, though the use and effects were somewhat misguided.
2. Glass Bottle Seal with Arms of Col. Benjamin Fletcher, NY Governor
Image via NYC Landmarks
Col. Governor Fletcher was governor of New York from 1692 to 1697 and was infamous because he was recalled to England under suspicion for colluding with the pirates who visited New York City. According to the New York City Landmarks Commission, seals were often used to identify the owner of bottles during this time period. The seal was found at the New South Ferry Station project.
3. Cooper Half Penny
In 2011 at the Fulton Street steam pipe installation, an old foundation yielded 5,000 new artifacts for the city’s collection, including a copper half penny, a bone toothbrush and lots of pottery.
4. Early Spectacles
In this New York Times article, there’s a photograph of an early spectacle seemingly of bent wire.
Image via Live Science
There used to be barracks on the site of city hall, and this bayonet was found in the excavation there.
6. English Smoking Pipe
An English smoking pipe from 1805 to 1840, decorated with an aboriginal figure and heraldic shield.
7. Buttons from the City Hall Almshouse
One of the industries taught at the almshouse once located at City Hall was button making, in the hopes to turn around those that could not care for themselves.
8. Ceramic with George Washington on Horseback
This piece of pearlware was manufactured between 1790 and 1840, depicting George Washington on horseback.
While the repository is not accessible to the public, The Museum of the City of New York will be cataloguing and photographing all the items for public viewing online. In the meantime, NYC Landmarks will be highlighting a new item monthly on their Tumblr, so stay tuned.