Archaeologists digging up artifacts under I-10, before new bridge breaks ground

Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 9:26 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Before the I-10 Mobile River Bridge project breaks ground, archaeologists are turning over a lot of dirt and finding artifacts.

This project falls under the National Historic Preservation Act, which requires an archeological dig to preserve artifacts from thousands of years ago before construction.

The study is conducted by the University of South Alabama, and archaeologists said this is a huge opportunity for USA. It’s one of the biggest digs they’ve ever seen.

“Archaeologists study the human past through things people left behind,” said Rachel Hines, archaeologist at USA. “We are studying the human culture, and we are looking at artifacts, which are portable objects that people made or modified. That could be glass, ceramics, or animal bones from what people are eating.”

The site under I-10 is one of 15 sites across Mobile and Baldwin counties, and they’re uncovering what could be called a time capsule.

“We’ve found fun things that are related to Mobile’s history, like a Mardi Gras badge from 1896 and a little token from the Mobile railway from 1916, so it’s fun to see those local items coming through,” said Hines.

Once findings were shoveled into wheelbarrows on site, they were hosed down and sifted through, then sent off to the lab back on campus at USA.

They were sorted with a fine-tooth comb and washed.

Sarah Coffey has worked on this dig from the beginning, and being a Mobile native made it that much more special for her.

“I’m finding a love for my hometown and finally being able to see the history I was reading about,” said Coffey, archeologist at USA.

At the lab, over 20,000 artifacts were stored in boxes, some dating back 2,500 years ago, and it reveals more than what any book could about Mobile’s history.

“A lot of times in the history books, people might not have contributed based on their gender, class, race or ethnicity, so with archaeology, we get to add all the perspectives in history,” said Hines. “We get to look at people that might not have been included originally.”

After the dig is finished in the spring, archaeologists said analyzing artifacts in the lab could take two years.

Once that’s done, they planned to preserve the items and showcase them in exhibits.

As for the bridge, construction can begin once the dig is completed.


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