Thursday, April 18, 2013

Rare Colonial Coin, Pottery, Bones Unearthed on Centre Square

By Christina Georgiou

The New Jersey copper found on Easton's Centre Square
early Wednesday afternoon.
Photo courtesy of the Crayola Experience.
 A coin dating to 1788, two shards of colonial pottery, and as many as 13 to 14 bones and a number of oyster shells were unearthed on Wednesday below the sidewalk on Easton's Centre Square by workmen digging to place foundations for new crayon sculptures as part of the Crayola Experiences expansion and museum update.

The discoveries halted work for the day, said marketing manager Kristen Luise, and Crayola called local police when the bones were found.

"The city asked that we stop digging," Luise said, adding that authorities called the Northampton County coroner to the scene.

The bones are not thought to be human, but likely come from a large animal, such as a cow or a horse, she said.

The coin, which features a shield, the date "1788" and the motto "E. Pluribus Unum", appears to be a "New Jersey copper", also sometimes called a "New Jersey nickel". States minted their own currency before money was issued by the federal government.

New Jersey coppers are rare, and their usual value varies from a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars, though an extremely rare variety of the coin commanded more than $100,000 on eBay a couple of years ago.

The shards of pottery seem to date to a similar period, she added.

The future site of one of the Crayola Experience's crayon
sculptures, where artifacts of Easton's history were unearthed
Wednesday. Work has been halted for now.
Some have speculated the bones are an artifact of the Centre Square's long history, known to date back to the city's founding in 1752 if not earlier, of being used as a marketplace. The area is still home to the Easton Farmers' Market in season, which is set to begin again next month.

Oyster shells were sometimes used to pave sidewalks and as roadbed material in days of old, as oysters were a popular staple food in the local area at one time, and it put the literal tons of leftover shells to good use. The oysters themselves may have come from the Delaware River near Philadelphia, where they were abundant until overharvesting and pollution decimated the supply.

Luise said it's not certain what Crayola will do with the finds, though selling the pieces is not likely an option. They may end up being displayed at the museum, she said.

"Right now we're just working with the city to make sure it's all preserved," Luise said. "We definitely want to respect the city's history."

A rendering of the southwest corner of Easton's
Centre Square will look like when the Crayola Experience's
work is complete.

It's uncertain when work will begin again to place the sculptures, but their delay in placement won't affect the Crayola Experience's planned reopening celebration, set for Friday, May 24.

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