A North End privy sealed for more than a century has yielded thousands of artifacts that are giving archeologists an unprecedented look at how the world’s oldest profession was practiced by improper Bostonians of the 19th century.
From toothbrushes to jewelry to cosmetics, and parts of 19 syringes used for hygiene, the treasure trove plucked from a now-buried site near Haymarket is evidence of a thriving, racy economy that the city’s prim Victorian image never acknowledges.
“It’s certainly not what historians and people in charge of the Duck Tours want to be part of what Boston was all about,’’ said Mary Beaudry, a Boston University archeology professor. “We haven’t had a good idea about what it was like to be involved in that trade.’’
But the 3,000 items found during a 1993 archeological survey linked to the Big Dig, behind long-vanished rowhouses on Endicott Street, show the trappings of a busy brothel aimed at middle-class customers.