Shovels at downtown construction project turn up more than dirt - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Shovels at downtown construction project turn up more than dirt

Shovels at a downtown construction project turned up more than dirt this week.

Drew Buchner led a team of archaeologists required to check for artifacts before Westin Hotels could build on Beale. 

"In the early days of Memphis people didn't have garbage systems like they do now, so a lot of this stuff enters the record and gets found later," he said.

The team found treasures like a boar's head, ceramics dating back before the Civil War, and old Coke bottles. 

"Probably manufactured when Coca Cola really contained coca.  You know, cocaine," archaeologist Eric Albertson explained.

They also found toy tea kettles and china dolls.  City records show ladies of the night worked in brothels on the land at the corner of Beale and Lieutenant George Lee Avenue. 

"People working in the brothels did have children," Albertson said. "Those are some of their toys."

Local chemists would mix concoctions to cure ills in some of the excavated bottles.  One bottle still held vanilla extract from the turn of the century, but another jug held something else.

"It would have contained some sort of intoxicating beverage," Albertson said.

It could take the team of archaeologists up to four months to clean and catalogue each item.  It is unknown where the artifacts will end up.  Still, they said it was the best Christmas gift any archaeologist could ask for.

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