Fascinating finds (HLD 418)

28 June 2021

I watched a “Grand Designs” show on television last night, about a (lunatic) man in London who had bought an old caretakers house in a cemetery, and proceeded to build a ridiculously large mansion out of it. He was constantly questioned about why he would want to live in a cemetery – there were almost more questions about this than why he would spend over 4 million pounds on the project. I had very large issues with the amount of money he was spending on the project, and the final over-the-top product, but had no issues with him being happy to live in a cemetery. It was in London, so having a large park area (albeit one dotted with headstones) at your disposal, quite frankly seemed like a brilliant idea. I don’t find cemeteries spooky – in fact I find them very peaceful places to visit, so having one surrounding my home wouldn’t be an issue for me. 

I was interested in the building process, especially when they were digging around the caretakers house. They dug very deep, you see – to factor in his massive underground build that included a massive swimming pool, wine cellar and a few extra bedrooms. But I was wondering whether they would dig up anything else interesting in the process. Not grave sites, but anything else. The cemetery had been there for centuries, so surely they would find something interesting????

There have been a few archeology finds that I’ve read about recently. A chariot in Pompei, a necropolis in Hvar, and so forth. Let’s be honest here, a necropolis is, to all intents and purposes – a cemetery. While a lot of people may get upset about the prospect of digging up a more modern cemetery, digging up an ancient one is a source of excitement for all! What will we find? What can we learn from this person who died centuries ago??

Ancient people were much more forward thinking than we are. When they buried their loved ones, they gave serious consideration to those in the future who would be digging all this up again. They put stuff in the graves as well as a body!!! Whether they put in oil lamps, glass bottles, pottery, ceramics, coins – a chariot or a boat – they realised that there was more that their loved ones could contribute to humankind after death. Where would we be without this incredible foresight? (Looking at a pile of out of work archeologists, for a start….)

And what do we do nowadays? Mostly, we burn our deceased. Nothing for future archeologists to look at there. And the ones we do bury? They get buried in their best going out clothes, a wooden box, and not much else.

Archeologists in the future are going to be bored. They won’t be able to find treasure troves of everyday items that might give them a hint about how we all lived our lives. They have all been reused, recycled or repurposed. And the stuff that didn’t get R,R or R’d, was probably burnt at a landfill site. And I sincerely doubt that anyone – whether from now or in the future, wants to trawl through the contents of one of our modern rubbish tips.

They won’t need to dig up graves to find out how we lived our lives, of course. They will just have to work out some forensic method of reading the internet. It’s all there. Every pet we ever owned, every car we bought, every holiday we took, every home renovation undertaken. All there. They won’t need to spend weeks and months knee deep in dirt, sifting through fragments of stuff to identify things. 

But – just in case, I think we should start a plan to bury a treasure chest with every deceased loved one we inter from now on. Something that will give future archeologists (or someone repurposing a cemetery for a modern day mansion) something to think about. I think we should include: a handful of advertising brochures, an iPhone charging cable, an Ikea instruction manual for a chest of drawers (complete with an allen key, of course!), a coffee pod, a face mask with a funny picture on it, a set of Pokemon cards, a random remote control, and a packet of hair extensions.

What else do you think we should add? 

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