UNO students dig for pieces of the past at French Quarter site

When a building collapsed on Royal Street last fall, a part of French Quarter history disappeared.

But something even older was uncovered.

Students with the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Orleans are digging at the site between Dumaine and St. Ann.

A building stood there for more than 200 years before crumbling last October and the property owners invited UNO students to excavate the grounds before any future development happens.

"We have people coming by asking us what we've found, if we've found anything good as if that's an objective thing," says student Andrew Smith. "For me personally, touching dirt that hasn't been touched in 200 years, that's awesome. That's really cool for me."

Maps dating back to 1722 show buildings on the lot and students here are uncovering signs of past lives.

"So far we've been looking at the locations of outbuildings that were behind the 1801 building and we're finding features associated with those old buildings, brick surfaces and brick shafts that are probably privy shafts [toilet]," says Dr. Ryan Gray, Assistant Professor at UNO. "The backs of lots are always where lots of interesting things happen from an archeological perspective. we're eventually going to get below those to the colonial era levels but the fact that they're there tells us those earlier levels are intact."

Everything collected at the site will be taken back to the lab at UNO to be studied and recorded.

"We'll wash it, we'll analyze it and it's really in the context of everything that's found together, that's what really tells the complete story of the site," says Gray.

The students expect to be excavating at 810 Royal Street for the next three weeks and hope to uncover even more of New Orleans' past.

You can follow along with the project


Copyright 2015 WVUE. All rights reserved.