Loved this story in Time, about “mudlarks”, 51 of whom have been officially designated as London’s passionate amateur historians allowed to dig in the low-tide mud on the banks of the Thames:
“Brooker rubs a big blackened thumb over the clod of dirt in his hand, and a coin appears — minted, it turns out, sometime from 1625 to 1649. “That’s a Charles I rose farthing,” he explains, pointing to the vague outline of a royal crest. On the open market, it’s not worth much — maybe $60 — but “to a mudlark, your first Charles I should be priceless.” He tosses it into the bucket with the rest of our haul for the morning, which includes several Tudor hairpins, Victorian clay pipes and a 17th century ferry token.”
As someone crazy about history and ancient artifacts, I can’t imagine many things cooler than bending down and randomly touching something 400 years old. I recently attended a Manhattan antiques fair where I reverently and gratefully (and carefully!) held a 6,000-year-old amulet — $24,000 — and a small pottery dog, of the same vintage, selling for $42,000.
Free and muddy sound good to me.