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Transit project unearths artifacts

Transit project unearths artifacts

Posted: Thursday, December 18, 2008 9:46 pm
By: AP

 KNOXVILLE (AP) — A hint of day-to-day life in Knoxville more than a century ago is emerging from the construction site of a new bus terminal. Foundations dating to the 1870s and hundreds of personal and household artifacts have been uncovered while razing the former American Accessories building to make way for Knoxville’s $27 million transit station on Church Avenue. University of Tennessee archaeologists have gotten a glimpse and are eager to conduct a more thorough investigation, pending approval from state and federal officials. In addition to the building footprints, researchers have unearthed chimney bases and a cobblestone alley, along with a wide variety of medicine bottles, dinnerware, flower pots and children’s marbles. Based on archived fire insurance maps, the area encompassed two former city blocks. “This is very interesting because there hasn’t been much downtown archaeological work,” said UT archaeologist Elizabeth Cellar DeCorse, the project’s principal investigator. “We don’t often have the opportunity to understand how a neighborhood changes, how it grows. It connects people with their history.” Archives suggest the dig area was a predominantly white, middle-class neighborhood of row houses and alleyways during the Civil War. With the turn of the century, it developed a greater mix of races, socio-economic levels and land use between downtown’s commercial core to the west and the city’s black community to the east and north. “And then this whole area was demolished in the 1960s” under federal urban renewal, DeCorse said. She estimated up to 11 feet of rock, dirt and rubble were dumped on the site from the construction of the nearby Knoxville Civic Coliseum, a centerpiece of the renewal effort. Dating the objects and verifying what was handmade or store-bought, locally produced or regionally imported, eventually could provide valuable insights into how the community changed over time. “We’re not looking for just things,” DeCorse said. “We’re looking for things that can tell us about the lives of people in Knoxville’s past. The past belongs to all of us. We have a responsibility to protect, preserve and understand that past.” Officials overseeing the transit center project say some artifacts might be displayed at the station when it opens in May 2010. Information from: The Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com Published in The Messenger 12.18.08

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