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Photos: Treasure Trove of Artifacts Hauled from Philly's Old Toilets

Ancient privies

(Image credit: Sarah Jane Ruch/Museum of the American Revolution)

Archaeologists surveying the site of the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia uncovered a surprising find: several ancient privies, or vault toilets, that had about 82,000 different artifacts tossed into them over three centuries. Here, two of the privies being uncovered.

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Ancient poo

(Image credit: Sarah Jane Ruch/Museum of the American Revolution)

The historic site, which is just a short walk away from Independence Hall, has artifacts from the earliest settlements in Philadelphia. Here, excavations continue at the site.

Excavating historic site

(Image credit: Sarah Jane Ruch/Museum of the American Revolution)

During the early period of American history, there was no public garbage collection. So people tossed their refuse down the toilet.

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Success to the Tryphena

(Image credit: Sarah Jane Ruch/Museum of the American Revolution)

One of the most stunning finds was a punchbowl with an image of a sailing ship and the words "Success to the Tryphena" emblazoned on it. The Tryphena was a merchant vessel that sailed from the colonies to Liverpool, and during the pre-revolutionary period, carried a protest petition from American merchants hoping to repeal the Stamp Act.

Etched in glass

(Image credit: Sarah Jane Ruch/Museum of the American Revolution)

Another stunning find was a secret message etched in glass.

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Back-alley tavern

(Image credit: Sarah Jane Ruch/Museum of the American Revolution)

The historic site was once home to an illegal back-alley tavern. Myriad cups and broken glassware were tossed into the loo, and reveal the handiwork of local Philadelphia potters.

Historic accessories

(Image credit: Sarah Jane Ruch/Museum of the American Revolution)

Here, wig curlers, fan parts and beads were from the loo of either a wealthy 18th-century tanner named Samuel Garriges or John Smith.

[Read full story on Philly's toilet treasures]

Shells into buttons

(Image credit: Sarah Jane Ruch/Museum of the American Revolution)

The privy at Samuel Garriges house also contained marbles and shells. Garriges had 10 children, which perhaps could explain the marbles.

Lead weights

(Image credit: Sarah Jane Ruch/Museum of the American Revolution)

Here, lead weights which were tossed down the toilet at the household of Samuel Garriges.

Historic seals

(Image credit: Sarah Jane Ruch/Museum of the American Revolution)

Here, seals uncovered from the excavation at the site.

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Sifting through the treasure

(Image credit: Sarah Jane Ruch/Museum of the American Revolution)

An archaeologist sifts through the treasures uncovered at the historic Philadelphia excavation site.

Live Science Staff
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