BATTERY PARK CITY — Second-graders at P.S. 276 watched with rapt attention as archaeologist Alyssa Loorya showed them some of the 5,000 historical artifacts that were found beneath Fulton Street last fall.
Loorya held up a 19th-century bone toothbrush that once had animal-hair bristles on Tuesday. Then she passed around a 220-year-old German stoneware mineral water bottle.
"It's like a giant puzzle," Loorya told the 7-year-olds at the Battery Park City elementary school. "We put it all together to learn about the people in the past. Not just the famous people — people like you and me."
The students flooded Loorya with questions: How long did it take to dig up the artifacts? Were they dirty? How did you glue them together?
Loorya explained that she works with the city's Department of Design and Construction to search for artifacts whenever workers dig up Lower Manhattan's centuries-old streets. She found this particular batch last October during the installation of a steam pipe at 40 Fulton St. and spent a day and a half carefully unearthing them.
The students laughed at the idea of using an animal bone to brush their teeth, but they were disturbed by the notion of a chamber pot.
As Loorya held up the cracked, curving pot and described how it was once used, one girl interrupted, "You had to go to the bathroom in that?"
When Loorya nodded, the students broke out into a chorus of "Ew!"
One boy asked Loorya if she ever got tired of digging old objects out of the ground.
"No," she told him. "It's always new and exciting. Every time you find something, it's like Christmas morning all over again."
Emily Schottland, the students' teacher, said she told the children about the discovery of the Fulton Street artifacts after reading about it in the newspaper. The students immediately asked if they could meet Loorya and see the objects in person.
"Now they're all interested," Schottland said. "History has become incredibly concrete for them."
Schottland's students gave the lesson rave reviews.
"It's amazing how they found these objects," said Jack Farber, 7, who lives in Battery Park City. "They didn't even know they were going to find it. It's just luck."
Alexandra Downes, 7, who lives in Battery Park City, said studying the past made her think about her future.
"It was cool to look back and see what they used and how they used to live," she said. "I think maybe I could be an archaeologist when I grow up."