Digging in the City of Brotherly Love Stories from Philadelphia Archaeology Rebecca Yamin

Publication date:
29 Aug 2008
Yale University Press
264 pages: 241 x 190 x 17mm
132 b-w illus.
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Beneath the modern city of Philadelphia lie countless clues to its history and the lives of residents long forgotten. This intriguing book explores eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Philadelphia through the findings of archaeological excavations, sharing with readers the excitement of digging into the past and reconstructing the lives of earlier inhabitants of the city.


Urban archaeologist Rebecca Yamin describes the major excavations that have been undertaken since 1992 as part of the redevelopment of Independence Mall and surrounding areas, explaining how archaeologists gather and use raw data to learn more about the ordinary people whose lives were never recorded in history books. Focusing primarily on these unknown citizens—an accountant in the first Treasury Department, a coachmaker whose clients were politicians doing business at the State House, an African American founder of St. Thomas’s African Episcopal Church, and others—Yamin presents a colorful portrait of old Philadelphia. She also discusses political aspects of archaeology today—who supports particular projects and why, and what has been lost to bulldozers and heedlessness. Digging in the City of Brotherly Love tells the exhilarating story of doing archaeology in the real world and using its findings to understand the past.


Rebecca Yamin is a historical archaeologist with John Milner Associates, Inc. She specializes in urban archaeology and has conducted extensive research in the Five Points neighborhood of New York City and in Philadelphia’s Independence National Historical Park. She lives in Philadelphia.

“Better than any previous study of urban archaeology, Rebecca Yamin’s Digging in the City of Brotherly Love shows how the buried detritus of a colonial city can yield new insights into the lives of eighteenth-century lives at every social level. Rarely have pot sherds, chicken bones, and broken bottles been made to speak to us so compellingly about their owners' values and position in the new nation.”—Gary Nash, University of California, Los Angeles

“Yamin gives us a delightful romp through the invisible world of Philadelphia. Hers is an important book and one which will be sought out by all devotees of urban archaeology and material culture.”—David Orr, Temple University

"Yamin examines all the principal excavations undertaken in Philadelphia since 1992 and selected earlier ones, transforming historical writings, images, trash, and landscape features into the people who wrote, made, and used them."—Lu Ann De Cunzo, University of Delaware

“Rebecca Yamin charts a course between historical scholarship and the storyteller’s craft with tales of the ordinary people who lived in the shadow of America’s iconic places. From the parlor artifacts of an 18th century civil servant to a prison escape tunnel, archaeologists take an ‘inside out’ view that’s full of unexpected insights into ‘we the people.’” —Adrian Praetzellis, author of Death by Theory: A Tale of Archaeological Mystery and Theory

“Yamin crafts fascinating glimpses of Philadelphia past and present, weaving archaeological and historical evidence into compelling, richly textured narratives introducing us to the city, its citizens, and its archaeologists.”—Mary C. Beaudry, author of Findings: The Material Culture of Needlework and Sewing

“A fascinating book! Yamin’s archaeological stories reveal Philadelphia’s past as more nuanced than the Liberty Bell alone.  Here are artisans, Irish immigrants, ‘fallen’ women, and even George Washington’s enslaved Africans.”—Diana diZerega Wall, co-author of Unearthing Gotham: The Archaeology of New York City