Over centuries, trash to treasure

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...Such small victories are occurring nearly every day on the grounds of the Fairbanks House, the oldest wood-frame home in North America, where the day-to-day life of one of the country’s original families is being illuminated with every artifact plucked from the soil off East Street.

The work is dirty and tiring. But the efforts of Boston University archeology students and their volunteer crew are paying off with thousands of artifacts tossed aside by eight generations of a family who lived in the house since 1641.

The dig, which is in its third and final week, has yielded a trove of jagged pieces of tableware, bits of clothing, a broken chamber pot, a bone-handle knife, dozens of buttons, and even a thick glass bottle for “Cocoaine,’’ a form of coconut-based hair oil.

The Fairbanks House, with its sturdy beams raised by English carpenters in the East Anglian style, has long been celebrated for its age. But what makes this dig so significant, Beaudry and Parno said, is the sheer volume of common household items being discovered....

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