Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Garden Archaeology

I've been musing a bit on the things we've found while digging for vegetable beds in the garden. Or, more precisely, what we haven't found.

My homeplace is on the side of a hill in north Co. Wexford. There's been a house there since before there are any real records, I think, so there's plenty of stuff in the ground. Digging anywhere on the property brings up bits of metal, glass, crockery, and so on. Indeed, when lowering a floor on the ground level of the house, a cow's skull and some large vertabrae came up - best guess is that they're the remnants of a stolen cow, possibly even during the Famine.

But the same is true there, to a greater or lesser degree, of any field you care to dig in. Sure, you don't find vast numbers of objects, but you find some.

Our back garden seems to be rather different. Thus far, I've found two harrow spikes, a garden hose of fairly recent origin, and, while digging the asparagus bed, something that looked like a metal standpipe, but which went down too far to excavate without making a complete mess. And that's it. Stoney, way up in Aberdeenshire, finds more than that in his fields.

I know that the last few metres of the property were a field until quite recently - that's where we found the harrow spikes, in the area that would have been hedgerow or headland. The hose was in the original corner of the property, and I suspect it got buried when the old hedge was done away with. But the house has been around since the late 1970s, and I can't imagine that there was never any other use of the property, so the lack of oddments and remnants is really rather mystifying. On the one hand, it leaves good clear soil - not even that stony, from my hillside-brought-up point of view, but on the other, it's nice to dig up interesting things.

1 comment:

sshi said...

That is odd - our house is rather newer and I spent a lot of time last year digging up things like small toys, nails, glass bottle ends and odd bits of plastic, in addition to enough stones to do a Connemara farmer proud. I suspect this is more to do with ten years of heavy use by a DIY enthusiast and some small children, though.