Before work begins in St. Louis to build the western headquarters for the National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency, archaeologists are seeing what they can find at the site.

They’re digging up about 5-percent of the 90-acre NGA site in North St. Louis. Joe Harl with the St. Louis Archaeological Research Center says the digs are going down 10 to 12 feet, and back as far as the late 1800s to around 1900.

“That’s the beginning of the industrial consumer age, and that’s the time period we’re in today, so a lot of the things we do today are a reflection of that past,” said Harl.

One compelling find has been a pit filled of bottle glass near where an early moving picture show and meeting hall had been. Many of the beer bottles were broken before they were opened.

“I’m kind of suspecting that it was something that it was something that occurred during prohibition, when prohibition started. They may have broken all of these liquor bottles in this pit, or it may have been they had a speakeasy in that place and it got raided,” said Harl.
Many bottles have been found so far, and not just those for liquor or beer.

“What I’m kind of excited about is a lot of these bottles have labels on them, so we’re going to be able to tell exactly what products were sold in it, who sold it, was a national-wide or was it a St. Louis company, what kind of medicines people had taken, what kind of food they preferred,” said Harl. “Even the plates – a lot of the plates, we have manufacturers marks on the back of them, and it’s kind of an archaeologist’s dream.”

Using archived maps and records the team was able to select 25 places to focus on including the homes of middle-class business owners and working-class families, and three schools.

Harl and his team will continue working on the site through September 1.