One doesn't have to go to Egypt or South America, after all.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP)
The big dig for San Francisco's multibillion dollar transportation terminal has unearthed some artifacts from the city's heady Gold Rush days, including opium pipes from a Chinese laundry and a chipped chamber pot found in a backyard outhouse.
The 70 artifacts have city archaeologists eager for more and local residents pondering the ground beneath their feet.
"It's not often that you get a chance to stop for a moment and have a window into what used to be," said James M. Allan, an archaeologist with William Self Associates, the firm ensuring the items are unearthed and preserved. "It gives you pause."
The $4 billion Transbay Transit Center under construction in the South of Market financial district is billed as the "Grand Central Station of the West." The 1 million-square-foot bus and train station will serve as the northern end of California's planned high-speed rail between San Francisco and Los Angeles; the West Coast's tallest skyscraper is slated to rise above the center.
It's all sleek and modern and on the same blocks once inhabited by working-class Irish immigrants and Chinese laborers who lived back to back on the sand dunes of the busy Gold Rush port known as Yerba Buena Cove.
They were the Donahues and the Dollivers, the Wings and the Lings, and the now-seemingly quaint accoutrements of their lives are being unearthed: clay opium pipes and ceramic tea pots from China; French perfume bottles; dainty English serving dishes, apothecary jars and the heads of hand-painted porcelain dolls; as well as animal bone toothbrushes and abandoned chamber pots.
They all date back to the mid-to-late 1880s, when the cove was reclaimed and clapboard houses went up on Mission, Natoma and Minna streets, between First and Beale. They were filled with Irish, Swedish, German and Italian immigrants, as well as the Chinese who had come during the Gold Rush and then stayed on to help build the railroads and bridges.
"It's the equivalent of today's plastic water bottle in that they were used, and used, and then thrown away," Allan said.
He also likes a porcelain chamber pot found at the bottom of an outhouse. It might have been part of a toiletry set sold by Sears back then for $2.25.
Ellen Joslin Johnck, an archaeologist who ducked in to see the exhibit, said the items should give San Franciscans "pride and ownership" of their city.
"To me, this lends more understanding and a greater appreciation for what it took to build this great city," she said.
Nothing was said about a black bird.