wonder if you might dig up something a little more interesting than
the usual bulbs or worms in your garden? Just keep your eyes open!
fall for the last four years, Gil Morris has turned the ground over
in the back yard garden of his house on Windermere and Catarqui.
And every spring the soil has revealed its secrets.
leave the soil in big clumps when I get it ready for winter," explains
Gil, "and by spring, the snow and rain have unearthed some pretty
trained archaeologist, Gil recognized that this "stuff" is actually
some rather interesting artifacts. His first find was a glass stopper
from an old whiskey bottle. Then he discovered little pottery chips
and square headed iron nails.
figures that part of his backyard is a "historic midden" or garbage
pit used by the early occupants of his house. But he suspects the
midden is even older.
house was built in 1917 but I've found some things that are much
older so I'm pretty sure that this pit was used by the owners of
an earlier property, most likely a farm."
four years, Gil's findings have filled seven small plastic bags,
each containing a certain category of object. According to Morris,
a clay pipe is the oldest piece in his collection.
pipe dates from the 1860's. Originally, it would have been ten inches
long - if a guest wanted a smoke, the owner would break a piece
off the end so he would have a clean mouthpiece."
bags contained clay marbles, fragments of turn-of-the-century pottery
and china, shell buttons, coins and even a 1931 Walkerville dog
were a luxury item in the 30's so they were taxable," smiles Gil.
"The marbles pre-date the glass variety and the buttons were probably
made locally at the factory on Giles and Janette. You can still
find the clam shells in the CN railyard field."
may not know the names or ages of the previous owners of his collection,
but one thing he's fairly certain of they were very good recyclers.
garbage collection and disposal is a relatively new thing," says
Gil. "It used to be very expensive to have your garbage hauled away
so most people either burned it or buried it."
over one of the larger pieces of pottery, he adds, "Household goods
tended to be costly or hard to come by so everything was used and
reused as long as possible before it was finally thrown away. They
also had to deal with a hundred times less garbage than we do and
it was all virtually non-toxic so it didn't matter how it was disposed."
is employed at the Ford Motor Co. but generally spends his summer
holidays working on digs all over the world. Returning to his home
in Walkerville, Gil can keep his archaeological skills sharp in
his own backyard. His advice to people hoping to find buried treasures
in their own yards: "Call (the gas company) before you dig!"
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