Excavations may shed light on Mark Twain's Virginia City

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Washington, July 27 (ANI): A team of archaeologists is currently continuing excavations that they hope will shed light on life in Virginia City during the time when Mark Twain lived there.

According to a report in Nevada Appeal, a summer field school operated by the Anthropology Department of the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) has begun excavating the original site of Thomas Maguire's Opera House on D Street.

A second excavation is also under way in an area known as the Barbary Coast, a place of vice and crime during the 1860s and 1870s.

Both sites were tested last summer, and results indicated there were sufficient deposits to return this summer.

"Maguire opened one of the West's most important theaters in July 1863," said state historic preservation officer Ron James.

"Mark Twain rushed back from San Francisco to Virginia City so he could attend the premier act, which featured the best actors of the day including a brother of the future presidential assassin, John Wilkes Booth," he said.

Maguire operated his theater for several years before John Piper, a local businessman and politician, purchased it in 1867.

Piper turned the institution into an important cultural venue. Twain lectured twice on the stage during 1866 and 1868 visits to his former home.

Many other internationally-known acts appeared at the Maguire-Piper Theater before it burned during the great fire of 1875. At that point, Piper relocated the institution to the corner of B and Union streets.

The facility that still operates there dates to 1885.

"Because the Maguire site is in the center of town, we hope it will yield information not only on the opera house that stood there, but also on still earlier development," said James.

"This was the dynamic time when Virginia City was taking shape, and Samuel Clemens arrived in town, eventually taking the name, Mark Twain, while working as a reporter," he added.

The second excavation will investigate a South C Street neighborhood that earned the name "Barbary Coast" because it was a dangerous place offering what respectable residents regarded as sinful activities.

"Excavating the Barbary Coast gives us an excellent opportunity to understand the underbelly of Virginia City," said project director, Don Hardesty, a professor at UNR.

"Vice and prostitution were rampant in this area, and yet these subjects are not well understood, particularly in their earliest development," he added.

The excavation project is scheduled for completion by August 13th. (ANI)

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