Part of the excitement of time capsules is that they can turn up in the strangest places. The latest unexpected find was at the site of a burned out 18th century tavern in Brunswick Town, North Carolina. Archaeologists were exploring the site of the bar, which had burned to the ground in the 1760s. They discovered that as the walls collapsed over the floorboards, they sealed off a Colonial time capsule of mementos stored in a crawl space.
Dr. Charles Ewen headed up the dig with the help of students from East Carolina University. In a recent interview, Ewen told the Charlotte Observer, “It’s something every archaeologist hopes to find. It’s a snapshot in time. Everything got trapped.” Ewen says items found under the floorboards were surprisingly intact, such as unused smoking pipes, iron tools that haven’t been identified yet, an Irish coin, a brass beer tap and crushed liquor bottles.
While the discovery of the items was unexpected, the building itself didn’t appear on any known maps of Brunswick Town, and may have even served as a brothel for the pre-American Revolution port town. According to records, the town was never rebuilt after it was leveled by British troops in 1776, so that could explain how the time capsule stayed hidden for so long.
According to officials, ECU students found the tavern using ground penetrating radar last year. The items were found about five feet under the rubble of the fire. Jim McKee, manager for the site says taverns served many purposes in Colonial towns and finding artifacts from that era has been exciting for Brunswick Town. McKee says, “It’s really kind of opened our eyes to the possibility of things waiting to be found." The partial excavation wrapped up earlier this month, but archaeologists plan to keep digging next summer.