Weird History
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Archaeologists Dug Up Paul Revere's Outhouse, And Here's What They Found

Updated August 1, 2019 12.7k views10 items

In September 2017, archaeologists began excavation on an outhouse, or a privy, found behind the Pierce-Hichborn house, which sits next door to Paul Revere's family home in Boston. Revere, most known for warning the colonists that the British were coming during the Revolutionary War, is an important historical figure in American history — and apparently a lot can be learned from his bathroom habits.

It took a long time for archaeologists to begin digging through ancient toilets, but once they did, they discovered that these sites held a plethora of information about the people who lived in those areas at certain times. Historians are hoping the dig at the Pierce-Hichborn house will give way to a whole host of new information about Revolutionary-era America.

  • The Outhouse Was Found Behind The Pierce-Hichborn House, Next To Paul Revere's Home

    The Pierce-Hichborn house is situated next to the Revere family home, but just because Paul Revere didn't live there doesn't mean he wasn't connected to the house — and it's bathroom. Back in the day, the Pierce-Hichborn house was occupied by Revere's cousin, Nathaniel Hichborn, and historians speculate that Revere and his family would have spent a great deal of time at the house. This is the first time the house has been excavated. 

  • Archeologists Had To Get Over A Centuries-Long Aversion To Exploring Historical... Waste... To Make The Finding

    The idea of digging through a hole in the ground that was once a dumping area for human waste doesn't seem super appealing, or at all useful. Archaeologists once felt this way too, for good reason. No one wants to go digging around in toilets, after all. 

    However, once archaeologists managed to get past the natural aversion to excavating sites like privies, they found a wealth of artifacts and history lying just beneath their feet. Only within the last couple of years, archaeologists have discovered that an immense amount of knowledge can be gained from examining historical 'waste,' from what people ate to the types of the diseases they contracted.

  • Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY

    They Went In Hoping The Findings Would Reveal The Diets Of Revere's Contemporaries

    It's not surprising that going through something like a privy would give insight into what people ate. The idea isn't super appealing, but the historical consequences are pretty worth it. By discovering what historical figures like Paul Revere ate (by finding seeds from the food), historians can then examine what sort of diseases or parasites they may have been infected with. This information would open a whole new chapter into history that was previously undiscovered.

    Remarkably, knowing someone's diet could also tell you how rich they were. Boston archaeologist Joe Bagley told the Washington Post: "We’ll learn what they were eating, how much money they had, [and] whether they bought good or cheap cuts of meat."

  • Archaeologists Believe The Structure Is An Outhouse Because Of Its Dimensions

    Archaeologists are not entirely certain if the structure they found behind the Pierce-Hichborn house is a privy, but they are fairly confident, in part due to the dimensions of the structure. There's no concrete proof the structure was an outhouse, since no actual human excrement has been found at the site. However, historically, the bones of the structure fit those of an 18th-century privy.

    The structure measures 4 by 6 feet, and is made of brick. Archaeologists were surprised that so far it only measures 3 feet deep, as ordinances from the 17th century required privies to go to a depth of 6". The archaeologists plan to break through a concrete floor, which they believe was added in the mid 1800s, to see how deep it actually runs.