The thing I get from watching UK television programs is, all you have to do is stick a shovel in the ground and boom, you've got an archeological dig you never wanted. How do you get anything new built, UK persons? Under cover of darkness? Take out a building permit for location A and then sneak off and build something in location B? Because holy crap, between Time Team and every other historical documentary out there, that's got to be the case. And the documentary I'm watching now, there's six different unexpected layers of archeological interest in the location of an existing Tudor-era castle, because apparently that castle isn't historical enough. Just quit showing off. Stop it. Now. I mean it.
The earliest thing I've found on my property is a hide scraper, specifically one used on fish skin (really) and small animal skins, nicely chipped and shaped by the original Native inhabitants. Then the next thing you find here is scads of garbage - literal garbage - from the 1870s on until the 1930's. Since this used to be marshland, one of the ways they used to raise the building level was to heap up the trash and then smash it all out in big swathes and pile dirt on top. I have an old patent medicine bottle, a china dolly arm (a little creepy) and a metric shit-ton of hand-hammered nails and spikes.
And that's really it for this area. Before that, oh, you might dig down a good twenty feet and find some poor drowned early Mammoth Hunters and a Thule Person or two who overshot the mark by a few miles. This was a bog for millennia, so who knows? I am content to let them lie. I double dug and built up every single bed on this property to the depth of four feet and it was dogs work. I have a good foot of black, beautiful, ionic silt and then anaerobic blue clay, and getting air into that mixture and breaking it all up and making it productive took one determined little Muk, a sharp shovel, and access to the city compost heap, out of which I took truckload after truckload of plant material to layer in.
There is such an amount of good quality clay in the area that there were at least three different kilns in the area, and I have stamped bricks from all three, which is kind of cool. I could, given an interest in pottery, which I lack entirely, buy a kiln, condition what I dig up in my garden (which contains the occasional bit of bog iron and coal) and make myself some lovely pottery. I know lots of atavistic, useless skills like that. I could, say, make yarn out of dog hair combings and weave it into a shawl. I promise I won't.
Another thing I take away from these documentaries is that the UK is tit-deep in pottery sherds. Finding earthenware here is pretty rare, and is usually a broken pickling crock. Or, come to think of it, probably a fermentation crock, because Sumas was known to have more taverns than churches, and it has that reputation to this day, even though the situation has reversed. I rather like that I live in "Ooo, Sumas, wild and wooly, huh?" instead of "Ugh, Lynden, roll up the sidewalks at 6:00."
The wildest and wooliest thing that's happened here recently is that sometime last week someone took a giant dump right outside the foundation blocks of the apartment complex they built up against my garage. Now these foundation blocks, used to raise the land the buildings stand on, extend out into the alley allowance, and that's where the dirty deed took place; so it's not like someone crapped right outside my fence or anything - but that anyone grunted one out there at all (at least they wiped; they left the napkin they used) is icky. I have my suspicions, and they center on one particular little ruffian.
I still worry about getting a building permit in the UK though. Is there a cut-off date? If you dig down and find something from WWII, like Hitler waving up at you, can you still build your garage? What if you want a basement? Can you have a basement? If you go down far enough you're going to find a mass plague burial or King Richard or some shit like that. Do you just quietly slip your find into the neighbors trash bin and keep on digging? Because if you don't quit it, eventually the whole island is going to be run by the National Trust. You know that, right? Anyplace where you can make a living as a specialist in 13th century papermaking is headed in that direction.
If I had it to do over again now, I'd head straight for the UK and become either an archivist, a librarian, or an archeological forensics scientist, because I can stay in America and dig holes - I want a desk job if I'm going to start over in the UK. I could be in charge of Bog Bodies! I would be a fantastic Bog Body archeo-science-person! I could put them in the refrigerator, I could take then out of the refrigerator, I would give them names, like Chuck, and I would keep them dusted off. Or I could work at the Bodeleian. I could work like a motherfucker at the Bodeleian. I would live under my desk and eat cheese with the mice to work at the Bodeleian. ALL THOSE OLD BOOKS!!!!
You know the first thing I'd do? Pass out those white cotton archivists' gloves. Y'all people are so used to having written material from back when there wasn't even more than one number in the year that you wave it about like playing cards. I see original ancient manuscripts being passed around from bare hand to bare hand and I just cringe. They used to make us wear cotton gloves to use the huge old dictionary at the library! And you're over there just 'Oh look, a royal land grant that mentions the Loch Ness Monster and UFO's from the year 3 AD' and make a paper airplane out of it and fly it back and forth across the room.
My solution is for y'all make less of a big old thing about neolithic ditches and pay attention to taking proper care of the books and manuscripts. You are only allowed to stop a building project if there's actual human remains or a buttload of treasure. And everyone has to do two compulsory years LARP'ing in a 'Living History' settlement to develop a sense of perspective. Nice people get to work in the Edwardian places. If you're a dick you have to work at the 9th century monastery in the Orkneys manufacturing parchment. Yeah, let's see you flap around the ancient manuscripts bare-handed after two years of that shit.