Hearth Ash Preserves Bones
During their investigations, archaeologists noted that the soils in the cellar area contained concentrations of ash, likely from cleaning-out the house's fireplaces. The presence of the ash lowered the acidity of the cellar soil, and this helped preserve artifacts made from bone.
Investigators recovered a very large collection of bone artifacts: buttons, along with bone handles from toothbrushes, knives and forks, embroidery hooks, and bone stays from corsets. These items are not usually recovered at rural residential sites in Kentucky due to poor preservation conditions (high soil acidity).
Enhanced bone preservation due to the ashy cellar soils extended to food remains, too: more than 10,000 animal bones were recovered from the cellar area. The bone assemblage revealed that the Pepper Family relied heavily on pig, supplemented primarily with cow, chicken, and turkey. Other domestic animals consumed at the site were goose, sheep, duck, rock pigeon, and goat.
The major wild animals the residents consumed were rabbits, followed by squirrel, snapping turtle, and opossum. The presence of snapping turtle and fish bones suggested that the Pepper Family seasonally supplemented their diet with nearby aquatic resources. A relatively high wild-to-domesticated-animal ratio suggests that the Pepper Family enjoyed the addition of wild species to their diet.