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Ancient trash on display from I-95 project

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has been reconstructing the I-95 interchange at Girard Avenue. Whenever it digs to build new on-ramps, it invariably finds trash. But some of that trash is hundreds, even thousands of years old. The public is invited to look at the garbage of yesteryear.

Between Vine Street and Anne Street, where PennDOT is engaged in a nine year reconstruction project, the land had been inhabited ten thousand years ago by Native Americans, five hundred years ago by Dutch colonialists, and 150 years ago by industrial workers. They all left something behind.

By law, an archeologist has to be on hand at these projects to see if anything of interest pops up. In this case, that guy is Douglas Mooney, who says he can see into the daily habits of a typical middle class family in the 1800’s by looking at their trash.

“The dishes and plates. The silverware they would have used. Glasses they drank from. Bottles they stored things in. There are personal items. Buttons, buckles, eyeglass lenses. There’s evidence of food, animal bones. A little bit of everything people used on a daily basis for about 150 years.”

The objects – owned by the state – will be shipped to a museum in Harrisburg. A riverfront civic organization wants them to remain in Philadelphia. Wednesday night the public is invited to view the objects at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church on Cumberland Street.

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