Archaeology At Home (Part 2)

“Discover how to visit the past and bring yesterday’s stories into our lives today.” ~ Gillian Hovell, ‘Visiting the Past’

Photo by Mathias Reding on

Granted, anything found in the ash dump of my fireplace will not be as fantastical as the finds of Egyptian tombs, but it is fascinating nonetheless. At least to me.

As promised a couple of weeks back, I have cleaned and washed the items found in our excavation of the fireplace ash dump here which are pictured below. For those who haven’t read the first post, you can catch up here. Should you choose not to click that handy link there — an ash dump is an area behind the fireplace where the used ashes are swept or “dumped.” There is an opening, either in the basement or in our case, on the exterior of the fireplace where the dump can be cleaned out.

We only touched a small part of the ashes and right off the bat found a couple of marbles. Someone on my IG account suggested that marbles were the “glitter of the past” in that they went everywhere.

As you can imagine, besides the marbles, there was a lot of . . . well . . . . ash. And rocks, and mummifed bits of burnt wood, and odds and ends of burnt paper, probably used as kindling to start the fires. But we did find some interesting items. The complete dead bird carcass is not pictured below, but it was there . . . trust me. In all it’s fine feathered foliage.

Pictured below, we have the rest of our finds from our second day of sifting. Moving from left to right across the top, down the right side and then back to the left across the bottom and up the left side, some you will easily recognize.

First we have a wire coated piece of metal, shaped into a hook.

A chicken bone.

A small piece of red chalk above a broken light bulb.

Peanut and walnut shells.

Bones probably belonging to a bird.

The rim and a piece of a Coca cola can.

The newest item — a UPC symbol (not pictured) on a tag for a 3/4″ nut (probably from when the gas insert was placed into the downstairs fireplace.)

A business card or advertisement for sound equipment.

And in the middle, pieces of a book of matches.

Should the subject of archaeology at home interest you, you should listen to Melissa and Matt Dunphy’s story at The Bloghouse Podcast. Fireplaces dumps aren’t the only place you can find artifacts. The Dunphy’s had purchased a former magic theatre in Philadelphia (which is another entire story in itself). During construction to shore up the building, the contractors had dug pits to install footers and in doing so exposed what had been a “public privy.” Not only were public privys used as restrooms, they were also used as trash dumps — people discarded their unwanted bottles, cups, broken plates, etc down the privy. One thing led to another, Melissa ended up in the 6′ deep hole pulling out pieces of pottery and then cleaning them in their kitchen, only to find out that some of their find were of national significance. Go take a listen —

The next opportunity to excavate more of the ashes here in Piedmont won’t happen until September, so keep an eye open for further episodes of “Archaeology At Home.”

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