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Are you ready for some ar-che-ology?

These days, the Thames is one of the cleanest urban rivers in the world. Once upon a time, though — and for hundreds and hundreds of years — it was London’s toilet, wastebasket and repository of unwanted dead hookers rolled into one. If you have the stomach to go looking, some of the junk thrown or lost down there is incredibly cool.

“Mudlarks” are people who traditionally combed through the shit on either side of the river looking for stuff worth having. Historically, it was neither nice nor lucrative. These days, mudlarks are armed with metal detectors, and it’s…well, actually, it’s still not nice and not often lucrative, but they find some unbelievable stuff.

To metal detect along the Thames, you need a license from the Port of London Authority. And to get that, you need the approval of the Museum of London. Which is excellent, because the museum does analysis on their finds and buys the very best specimens for display. There are only about fifty people with a license at the moment.

Okay, hang on to your retinas, I’m about to send you to the Mudlarks’ official site, or as I call it: The Worst Site on the Internet. I mean it. Not because it’s ungrammatical, scatological, politically incorrect, half missing and keeps pointing you to the awesome new site that doesn’t seem to exist. No, because MY EEEEEEEEEYESSSSSSSSS!

But it’s totally worth the risk of nausea, shortness of breath, incontinence and temporary color blindness, just to browse through what’s left of the pictures of all the cool things they’ve dug up.

Would I lie?

Update: oh, their new website is MUCH easier on the eyes! Thanks for the tip, Carl!


Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: January 7, 2013, 11:53 pm

That site was, um, taxing.

The City Museum, in St. Louis (which is a really-truly amazing place to visit) has an exhibit of stuff that was dug out of the privies of the City. It has all been cleaned up, of course, and it’s fascinating to see what people threw away.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: January 7, 2013, 11:56 pm

One of my first trips to London, we went to a small museum, upstairs in a public library, that had a whole wall of things dug up from the Thames.

My favorite was the gold tip of a wizards staff, with all sorts of mystical thingummies traced in it (it was probably the oldest thing in the collection, too). Also, I remember there was a hat covered in extracted molars that a Medieval dentist wore around as advertisement.

This place is just so damn old, their garbage is mind-blowing.

Comment from Nina
Time: January 8, 2013, 12:37 am

I’ve excavated a 19th century privy in Old Sacramento, fascinating if it’s been long enough for nature to do its thing on the waste.

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: January 8, 2013, 12:38 am

Hey, I think I saw that place in an episode of Sherlock! 🙂

Neat site…a bit hard on my Android tablet though.

Comment from Redd
Time: January 8, 2013, 12:47 am

I’ve often wondered how ancient people discovered that certain “things” have uses. And by “things” I mostly mean dung, shit, and urine: To clean clothes, to degrease wool, to tan hides, to use for waddle (?), to make iron oxide, to make saltpeter, etc. Since they had no scientific understanding of chemicals and chemical processes, how did they know unless they were just playing with it and eureka!??

Comment from Redd
Time: January 8, 2013, 12:49 am

Don’t you have a metal detector, stoaty? I think I would have dug up my entire backyard if I lived in the UK.

Comment from Gromulin
Time: January 8, 2013, 12:54 am

Redd: An infinite number of monkeys with an infinite amount of poop are bound to find new uses…and what else did they have to do with their time in the winter? “Oi, hold me ale and watch this!”

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: January 8, 2013, 1:00 am

I do, Redd. I have been over the back yard several times, and have, so far, found a bunch of twisted pieces of rusty metal. The thing is, the garden here has been dug up many times in the 20th C alone.

Tell you what, though…I find awesome little chips of pottery out there.

Comment from Redd
Time: January 8, 2013, 1:10 am

Have you been able to identify the pottery you’ve found?

Are there any old Roman roads near you? I would think being in the south of England, you would be ground zero for everything. When you think about it, it’s more than sad, that the country was always getting invaded.

Comment from Redd
Time: January 8, 2013, 1:14 am

what else did they have to do with their time in the winter?

I don’t know about you, Gromulin, but I could find better things to do than play with poop.

Comment from thefritz
Time: January 8, 2013, 2:20 am

a minute in and i was looking for an insulin shot.

Comment from Joan of Argghh!
Time: January 8, 2013, 2:49 am

I sprained my eyes. Great. Now I have eye-sprain and can’t work tomorrow.

Comment from Oceania
Time: January 8, 2013, 5:59 am

A lie?! Sweasle wouldn’t lie?!

Behold A FinkelStein!


Comment from Oceania
Time: January 8, 2013, 6:02 am

Nice site!
I could get my gold dredge in there are blow a cubic meter of material every 3 minutes … that sort of pack is easy to move.
Get yourselves Minelab detectors … although there is still a wait for the GPX5000’s ….


Comment from p2
Time: January 8, 2013, 6:29 am

I used to find all sorts of things in the back garden and around the house in Orford. My ex father-in-law was always finding roman coins and metal bits in his garden in Ipswich as well…. it was fun!

Comment from Paula Douglas
Time: January 8, 2013, 8:21 am

That site looks like they found the clearance bin for apostrophes.

Comment from Oceania
Time: January 8, 2013, 8:59 am

Hey Scube!
Is your reactor online?

We think we have got it bad here in NZ! These figures just came in today. One detection 50.86 microSv/h or 196x background!

Some readings in the last 6 hours in Longmont, Colorado USA:
4890 cpm, 5460 cpm 630 cpm 4272 cpm, 0.9744 microSv/hr, 1.023 microSv/h, 1.0231 microSv/h, 0.877 microSv/h
averages (last 6 hours) .8 microSv/h, 50.86 microSv/h, 18 microSv/h, 8 microSv/h.
Times background radiation: 196x, 60x, 154x.


Comment from Gibby Haynes
Time: January 8, 2013, 8:59 am

Unwanted dead hookers? Is there any other kind of dead hooker?

Comment from Oceania
Time: January 8, 2013, 9:28 am


Just hit 1.3 picoCuries per litre on the ionisation chamber here – and rising! … meeeeow!

Daughter product detector probably 0.1 picoCuries per litre of Rn daughters … so the rest – is Fukushima!
Houston – we have a problem …

Sweasle, you probably have about another 12 hours to get your Hens Inside.

Remember, I’m at the Arsehole end of the Earth.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: January 8, 2013, 3:29 pm

It would seem that the creator of that site has at least one quirk besides a Freudian interest in playing around in uhm, (how does one say?)’muck’…

I’m insanely jealous of those of you who live in places with history. I’d love to have a metal detector and wander about finding ancient Roman coins and Mud Gods®. Unfortunately the oldest thing to be found with a metal detector in this part of Dallas are old Skoal lids.

Comment from jwpaine
Time: January 8, 2013, 3:49 pm

Experimenting with feces and urine? Don’t discount the usefulness of slavery.

On the other hand, playing with your own excrement, as Gromulin hypothesizes, might be the real answer.

Slavery and playing with excrement. Two institutions that will never die.

Comment from Carl
Time: January 8, 2013, 4:00 pm

Some great finds there Wease. Your link is to their old website which is a bit of a mess. The new site at http://www.thamesandfield.com is easier on the eyes.

Also, they seem to have got rid of the greengrocer’s apostrophes.

Look in the Finds sections.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: January 8, 2013, 4:42 pm

I seem to remember a story from my Botany Professor about some Russian(?) Monks and psycho,em,psycha,em magic mushrooms. It seems that eating the mushrooms gave a mild high, but that that human kidneys did a remarkable job of filtering out impurities and concentrating the active ingredients… so that drinking the urine of someone who had eaten the mushrooms gave a much better trip… The professor smiled at the end of his storyand said he wondered how the monks had discovered this… but all of us sophomores in the class knew instantly. Anybody who has ever participated in a fraternity hazing understood that this was discovered during an initiation ritual for the new monks… The real question is how many times did it take before the ‘upperclassman’ monks stopped eating the mushrooms and making the new boys drink the piss, and reversed the ritual to save the better high for themselves?

Note: don’t try this at home 🙂

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: January 8, 2013, 4:42 pm

Oh, thank you, Carl! I’ll update accordingly.

Stupid they didn’t link the old site to the new…

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: January 8, 2013, 4:46 pm

Oh, and this:

There should be no monotony in studying your Botany.
It helps to train and spur your brain
Unless you haven’t got any

Comment from Tibby
Time: January 8, 2013, 8:57 pm

Cool site. Thanks!

Comment from Oceania
Time: January 8, 2013, 10:11 pm

… then a lobotomy?

Comment from Redd
Time: January 8, 2013, 10:24 pm

I found this on,of all places, AoShq:


There are more “hoards” out there waiting to be discovered, stoaty!

Comment from Oceania
Time: January 9, 2013, 12:51 am

Oh God!


I told you to Lock up your chickens!


Pingback from Allah To My Ace « doubleplusundead
Time: January 12, 2013, 1:39 pm

[…] however, how unfree they are. Quoth Stoaty To metal detect along the Thames, you need a license from the Port of London […]

Comment from David Gillies
Time: January 14, 2013, 12:07 am

Gadzooks, that first site was horrific. There is a certain class of leather elbow-patched enthusiast that must never, ever be allowed to write HTML. This is something I have noticed before. The degree of hideousness of the website is directly proportional to how recondite is the subject matter.

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