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Northeast Historical Archaeology

Abstract

In 2008 the City of Amsterdam Office for Monuments & Archaeology (BMA) excavated a remarkable find from a late 18th-century privy in Amsterdam’s city centre that can be directly linked to the American Revolutionary War, a 1779 Rhode Island Ship Token. Approximately twenty-five examples of this token are known worldwide, but none of them come from an archaeological context. From this Amsterdam find one can examine these tokens from an entirely new aspect, namely the socio-economic context of the owner as well as the period in which the token was used. The Rhode Island Ship Token was a British propaganda piece ridiculing the weakness of the Americans in 1778 and distributed in the Netherlands to create negative views of the American revolutionaries to discourage the Dutch from intervening in the Anglo-American conflict. Whether the artifact from the privy expressed its owner’s political preferences or was simply a curiosity will remain unknown. What we do know is that with the outbreak of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War in 1780, the tokens had become worthless and that this particular piece ended in a cesspit after a final use as a clothing ornament, a counter for card games, or possibly even as a child’s toy.

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