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This article describes how you can get involved in archaeology from your own back garden. It gives tips on where to look, how to go about it and where to take your interest further.

Archaeology in Your Own Back Garden Are you interested in archaeology and want some hands-on experience? If you live in a city or built-up area, or just have limited access to good crop fields to walk in, you can still do some hands-on artefact hunting. You may find a coin, small brooch pin, pot shards, or evidence of a dwelling that existed many years before your own. Your house needn’t be very old for this, though it obviously helps; pre-1930 isa good bet. Here’s how to get started practising archaeology in your own garden.

Stand at the back door of your house, with a small yet weighted object you don’t much care about. Casually toss it into the garden. Don’t throw it and don’t aim away from the shed – if something really immovable is in the way, do a quick guess of where you think it would land. Throw it as naturally as you can, without thinking. Where it lands is the first place you ought to start looking. Pre-19 30°s was the last heyday of servants in the home, and wartime brought radical changes to how we managed households. When a plate got chipped, a pipe broken, a spoon bent, et cetera, Victorian and Edwardian servants would just chuck it out in the garden, and there it usually remained. Densely inhabited town and city gardens are best for this – the more occupants the house has had, the more
chance of history’s rubbish being left for you to find.

The most common item you will likely come across is said broken china. Be careful; after years in the soil this can still be sharp! You might find ones with an infinite variety of pattern and color. A nice idea is to collect these in a mosaic, made by you, with the finds from your own back garden. You could also find coins, maybe rusted items such as nails (watch out), and hinges and window fittings are common. But something you must beware of is glass. Not only is this even sharper than the china, but you could find treasures that the Victorians treated as disposable – ink bottles and lemonade bottles, all glass, most with makers’ names embossed on their sides. It’s a delightful surprise when you find one that’s not broken!

Follow these tips and it won’t be long before you find something truly worth keeping. If you find your interest growing and wish to talk about or better identify your finds then join a dub with like-minded individuals. Chances are you’ll have an archaeology society in your area which organises fieldwalks, trips to sites, or even volunteer on excavations. It all starts in your own back garden!

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