Outhouse reavels 130-year-old mystery | VailDaily.com

Outhouse reavels 130-year-old mystery

Rob Varela, AP/Ventura County StarArcheologists Val Kirstine, front, and Marisa Solorzano dig Monday, in an area that was the women's privy at the site of the first courthouse in the city of Ventura, Calif.

VENTURA, Calif. ” A spot where a pair of outhouses stood 130 years ago is proving to be a treasure trove for archaeologists who braved the lingering smell in the dirt to uncover some 19th century artifacts ” and a mystery.

The one-time site of privies for men and women has been built upon repeatedly.

Recently, crews demolished a former school bus barn on the 3 1/2-acre downtown site in order to build a condominium complex and a parking garage.

But first, archaeologists were called in. Beginning in late May, they started digging into the ground in a discovery effort that could last several more weeks.

They uncovered a pistol, a bowie knife, whiskey flasks, a set of false teeth, two dog skulls and a blade from a set of sheep shears.

“It might be an early crime scene,” project archaeologist John Foster said. “It looks like the two dogs were decapitated. Then whoever did it dumped the skulls and the blade, thinking the women probably wouldn’t be looking too hard into the bottom of the privy.”

The work has its drawbacks.

“The further you go down, the stronger the smell,” archaeologist Marisa Solorzano said. “But it’s not that bad. These privies are archaeological gold mines.”

The site was known to be used historically by American Indians, Spanish missionaries, Mexican soldiers and American settlers. Once, there were brothels nearby. The area, the size of two football fields, housed Ventura’s first courthouse, jail and hospital during the late 1800s.

Artifacts found at the site along with photographs and other documentation, eventually will go to the Museum of Ventura County.

County museum: http://www.venturamuseum.org/

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