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North End archaeological dig turns up artifacts from early 1600s

Rare, unexpected find

The exterior of the 17th-century Paul Revere House. Roman Babakin/Shutterstock

An archaeological dig around the Paul Revere House in the North End has turned up some of the oldest European-produced artifacts ever found in Boston and maybe the United States.

These include ceramic crafted in the Pisa area of what’s now northern Italy just before 1650.

Such windows into the city’s early history—Boston dates officially from 1630—came as a bit of a surprise. The city-run dig was a precursor to construction around the Paul Revere House, and it was expected to turn up relics from the 19th century.

Then archaeologists came upon “a dark, undisturbed soil with plenty of charcoal, possibly used as fill after a fire in 1676 destroyed many surrounding homes,” per the Globe’s Brian MacQuarrie.

Beneath that were the 17th-century gems—which, though rare to us now, were probably common among Boston’s more affluent residents: Then as now, the port city was booming.