When I moved a few years ago the house was in a very bad condition. Most of the heavy work was clearing a path to the house, because it was sodden, broken up and in a pretty poor state. Having moved 4 tons of soil by hand (Ok wheelbarrow) we can actually get in now and the place is drier. But there’s a long way to go. We found layers and layers of broken stuff chucked by the decades of tenants before us. We saved these bits to clean and use for decoration or because we just liked them. In the wood behind the house there’s whole heap of broken toys but as we’ve enclosed the back yard this is not as accessible right now. Still, we also tidied up the wood as well as our patch.
In olden times people threw fewer things away but also these things were more biodegradable. But bones, glass, pottery and clay, some metal and even fabrics survive for several hundred years depending on the soil, even for thousands of years. Most homes would have had what in Scotland we called the “midden” where broken things were thrown. I don’t think the word is exclusive to Scotland but the midden survived in both use and language until the 1970s.
Bottles and what might possibly be a parasol handle in the foreground
All the best bits
Pelvic bone from an animal
Old Spice bottle
What is a pickle jar from Peckham doing miles from London?
See what you can find outside
Take care though when sifting through anything.
Ideally a pair of washing up or gardening gloves are always good to have to hand (pun intended) and a couple of little bags.
Wash everything very carefully, ideally outside, before you handle them. You never know what has been in those containers and bottles and things need a good scrub and a soak. Normally we wouldn’t give museum objects a dunk in detergent but in this case we should make some exceptions!
Animal bones should not be directly handled and do no suffer cleaning very well. Best to look and leave them.