Fort Atkinson's Archaeological Legacy Includes the Latrine

Sep 20, 2017

Fort Atkinson in Northeast Iowa was built and operated in the 1840s.  After it was no longer used by the military, it deteriorated over many years.  In this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe is joined by Bill Whittaker, Research Director in the Office of the State Archeologist of Iowa.  

Whittaker says that his office did research at the site and was aided through a common archeological exploration of the bathroom.

"Privies, latrines, are wonderful for archeologists.  It sounds disgusting, but think about it, using the bathroom, not only are you depositing your 'leftovers,' trash is falling out of your pockets, you're throwing trash into it. It's being buried very rapidly as it goes over time.  It contains lots of seeds so you can tell about the diet of the people who are using it," Whittaker says. 

He says there is a timeline of sorts that assists in telling the story of the area.  

"A privy really is a gold mine to an archeologist," Whittaker says.

Also joining the program is Jay Schwamman, from the friends of Ft. Atkinson to talk about this year's Ft. Atkinson Rendezvous.