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Missouri archaeologists uncover artifacts during bridge replacement project

modot artifacts
Posted at 4:13 PM, Sep 24, 2021

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Whenever the Missouri Department of Transportation begins construction on land that is considered a site of early settlements, archaeologists must be on site. This allows them to ensure cultural resources are not impacted.

When construction began along 5th Street and Washington Street as part of the Buck O'Neil Bridge Replacement Project, cultural resource specialists at Burns & McDonnell made a few discoveries.

When the team made a surprising discovery, Andrew Gottsfield, a senior cultural resource specialist at Burns & McDonnell, was there.

"When we dug a hole right there, we realized that it was native soil, and then we dug a hole right in the basement here, and we found a bunch of brick, so we just connected the dots and found the foundation and came around," Gottsfield said.

That foundation, the team thinks, is from an old hotel from the 1800s.

With the discovery of the foundation, Gottsfield said, came the discovery of other kinds of essential artifacts.

"We found what we think are numerous privies, which are outhouses, and outhouses to archaeologists and urban archaeology are important because people would put their trash in the privy," Gottsfield said.

There were bottles, jars, soap holders, combs, eyeglasses, and more. The group found some items dating back hundreds of years.

Through their discovery, they concluded that the hotel was most likely for working-class people.

"This is important because we can document the lives of people that aren't documented in history. Most of history is documented by the people that are the rich merchants and whatever. So this will give us an indication of the day-to-day behavior of the people that were working that built Kansas City," Gottsfield said.

The artifacts will now go back to the cultural resource specialists' lab to be cleaned and documented. Some of the pieces could go into a museum or be put on display for MoDOT.

Officials will send some to a facility for other people to use when they find similar sites to do comparative work with the artifacts.

Daisha Jones at KSHB first reported this story.