This Sunday, visitors and residents of New Orleans will be taking to the streets to celebrate the Easter holiday and the unofficial start of spring with their long-standing tradition of parades, dancing and music along Bourbon Street. But, it's what lies beneath the cobbled lanes of the French Quarter that has history lovers excited about time capsules springing up all over the city. Keith Spera of TheAdvocate.com reports that the new Historic New Orleans Collection's exhibit, "New Orleans, the Founding Era," displays centuries'-old finds from four dig sites around the city. He says residents have been finding items that tell the history of the city through all its' highs and lows since it was founded in 1718. The free display, which runs through May 27, is a collection of a wide range of discoveries by historic property owners and archeologists who have found coins, wine bottles, ancient glass bottles, clay pipes, dishes, Native American pottery, animal bones, even a privy, or toilet. Organizers say the incredible finds were collected from either planned excavations of sites or by sheer luck.
Ryan Gray, an assistant professor of Anthropology at the University of New Orleans says, "Telling the story of New Orleans, from its underside, mostly depends on the good graces of interested property owners." Gray says one of their dig sites is on the grounds of what used to be a 200-year old building that suddenly collapsed in 2014. The ground was mostly undisturbed since the colonial era and he says thankfully, the property owner granted Gray access to the site in the interest of uncovering and preserving New Orleans' rich history.
And there's no shortage of graves in New Orleans either. Gray says he was hired in 2010 to research an area where a pool was to be installed, and went on to find 15 coffins and skeletons from the 1700's. They were removed for study and later reburied. Gray says, "Many more remain. As many as 12,000 bodies may be buried there. White, Black, Native American or sometimes all three." The Historic Collection, along with Earth Search, Inc., is using redeveloped property for their new exhibition space and will reopen later this year. The displays will span the 300 years of the city's existence from the early colonial era, to the various cultures that have been woven into the fabric of today's New Orleans.