Excavations at Paddy's Alley site, Central Artery Project, Boston, Mass. (Photo: JMA).

Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel
Boston, Massachusetts
Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the Massachusetts Highway Department, and the Federal Highway Administration

This project is the largest transportation undertaking in Boston’s history. The project was designed to enlarge the existing artery and depress it beneath the surface of downtown Boston. JMA conducted data recovery excavations at several sites in the city’s busy waterfront area to be affected by the project.

The Paddy’s Alley Site consisted of the rear yards of several properties that once fronted along Ann Street. Originally belonging to a large estate, the site area was divided as lots and sold by 1650. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the properties were occupied by merchants and artisans, including John Carnes, a pewterer. Excavations at the site recovered bottle seals with Carnes’s name as well as the foundation of his storage and workshop building. A single coral bead was also recovered from the same deposits, perhaps signifying Carnes’s historically documented involvement in the Caribbean slave trade.

At the nearby Cross Street Backlot Site, more evidence of the African-Caribbean presence in Boston was recovered from a late feature, i.e., an earthenware vessel was found in a privy dating to about 1810. The vessel is similar to pieces from Haiti, and an influx of French-Haitian people to Boston is documented in the wake of the 1804 revolt that freed the enslaved Africans of that island nation.

An earlier feature was a large brick-lined privy pit cut deep into the water-saturated clay subsoil. Late-seventeenth-century artifacts included organic items such as bones, wooden artifacts, shoe fragments, seeds, twigs, leaves, and insects. The materials from this feature have provided the best picture to date of diet and environment in early Boston.

Excavations at the Mill Pond Site, located in the North End of Colonial Boston, exposed a wharf dated ca. 1790, which may have served as a landing for fodder or other goods. Pollen analysis, historic records, and artifacts (horseshoes and spurs) established the existence of a stable on the made land from 1710 into the late 1800s.

Data recovery investigations were also undertaken at a prehistoric shell midden site on Spectacle Island in Boston Harbor. A Middle-Late Woodland occupation was radiocarbon-dated to between AD 535-1590. The principal activities at the site were harvesting and processing of soft-shell clams and cod fishing during the fall and early winter. Artifacts included projectile points, ceramic sherds, and harpoon points. The Spectacle Island site is interpreted as a special-function campsite, and appears to be culturally related to Woodland communities located in the Neponset River estuary on the mainland.

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