Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Write … Edit … Publish … Bloghop/IWSG hop: Antique Vase



A parcel had been delivered from the archaeology site near London Bridge for us to investigate its contents …




… we knew that it was Ancient … that meant being over 100 years old … and excitedly we were asked to let them know about the object.



Archaeology definitely has its moments … we move from old tiles, to beads, early jewellery, pins, leather straps, clay pipes … numerous items needing to be identified and dated.


This well-wrapped item appeared … and as we unwound some of the packing … there were lots of protective layers and bubble wrap … then …




The chamber pot - so called vase by the archaeologists -
as a joke - NB no truth in this tale!


P h w o a h … the stench was appalling … what did they call it … bad eggs – oh too much … I wanted to retch as I made to move away from the pot …






… but had to go back to analyse the contents … the orange-yellowy encrusted ring, still apparent inside the pot, from which scrapings could be taken for investigation – though I knew it could only be a chamber pot – that stench was just appalling …


Demolition of  Old London Bridge 1832
The site archaeologists must have been laughing as they wrapped up the ‘Ancient Vase’ (as they called it) – knowing that we would not be expecting such a delightful object d’art to examine.


Who would think that an Antique pot could still stink after all these years … the men in the 1840s would have been anxious to back-fill and re-cover these ‘artefacts’ … hence the contents and stench remained for us to analyse.



The very smelly Father Thames 1855


Stink, Stench, Pong … that was just terrible having to spend the day confirming, no doubt to the archaeologists’ delight, that it was a chamber pot they’d found in the medieval cesspit.





I guess now our next job would be to clean the Antique Pot … in order for it to form part of a museum collection on this excavation.


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

72 comments:

Denise Covey said...

Hilary, written with tongue in cheek. Never thought of this side to archaeology. Not the nice side. Love you contribution to ANTIQUE VASE. I've added your name to the list which goes live in about 4 hours!l
Thank you!
Hope you're doing well amidst the chaos.

Chatty Crone said...

We have a show here called Chopped - where they have to use certain ingredients. Last time they had to use a hundred year old egg. Not sure how they knew it - but nonetheless - it was DISGUSTING to taste and smell the group said.

Botanist said...

Very funny, Hilary. A decidedly aromatic story :)

Elephant's Child said...

Huge smiles.
Thank you Hilary - I have just read Denise's post and my eyes were a tad leaky. And now I have read yours and my smile is splitting my face. Many thanks for that - and I suspect that quite a lot of archaeology is decidedly unglamorous - and indeed smelly.

Yolanda Renée said...

LOL, truly laughing as I share with my husband. Brings back memories of my grandmother's bedroom. She had a lovely chamber pot with blue and white flowers, the same shape as your sample. She kept it under the bed so she didn't have to use the outhouse at night. My first home in Alaska had an outhouse. I could have used a chamber pot to avoid those cold mornings. Instead, I moved to an efficiency with heat and running water. :) Roughing it in the summer was fun, not so much in the winter!
I loved your entry for Antique Vase! Great job!

Hels said...

I love protected and preserved objects d’art, read the historical articles and hover around auction houses. But I never think of the poor archaeologists who have to do the hard work in the first place. Well done.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
A smile on my face this early in the morning? Well done you!!! YAM xx

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Denise – thanks for adding my name to the list … and yes all well during the ‘chaos’. Seeing the chamber pot in a recent post, checking how old ‘antique’ is … and realising analysing the contents of a cess-pit/chamber pot – would have all the ‘scents’ still intact – if the earth had fully covered it … then a story easily unfolded.

@ Sandie – yes some things have been checked up re taste etc … the Antarctic voyages for instance; We don’t have ‘Chopped’ here … but I imagine interesting ideas might come out of it .

@ Ian – thanks … yes a foul take on the poor vase …

@ EC – thanks … it was fun to write and we need a bit of levity at the moment. Yes I thought Denise’s take was so empathetic … and so true – I could see it all. I’ve never fancied scraping the earth looking for things – but so many do … be they archaeologists, historians or metal dectorists …

@ Renee – thank you … yes we had chamber pots – but china ones, not pottery … and I don’t blame you for not wanting to go outside. If I’d lived in Alaska I’d have wanted to be comfortable … as you say roughing it in the summer was great fun.

@ Hels – thank you … sometimes it must be ‘monstrous’ to investigate an old item. I’ve only become more interested in these sorts of things since I started blogging and realised I could learn at the same time.

@ Yam – great … thank you – always delighted to bring smiles to people’s faces.

Thanks everyone – so glad you were able to have a gentle laugh at this stinky artefact … take care - Hilary

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Good morning Hilary: Now that we all have en suite bathrooms, and some even have heated toilet seats, it is easy to forget what an essential item the chamber pot was. Has anyone else heard it referred to as a "guzzunder," so named because it goes under the bed? I noticed at a couple of recent auctions that old chamber pots and spittoons were highly prized items, so perhaps we have a penchant for the less delicate aspects of human activity!

Joanne said...

fun little tale

Pat Garcia said...

Hi Hilary,
I'm laughing at the humor you have put into your story and also because I've often wondered how people in ancient times dispose of their waste. I never considered that some people would bury these pots in their tombs. I enjoyed the historical aspects and how you wove them into a story.
Shalom aleichem,
Pat G

retirementreflections said...

What a fun morning read. Thank you!!

DMS said...

I can almost smell this- though I am trying not to! I can imagine a chamber pot smelling years and years later. Thanks for the morning chuckle. :)
~Jess

Jo said...

What a stinky story Hilary. I guess they have found such objects in excavations before now.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ David – we so easily forget how ‘awful’ it was not that long ago – my mother’s first husband’s parents had a long drop in their garden in the Lake District – I guess they were normal in some places in the 1950s. No – I hadn’t come across ‘guzzunder’ … what a great name for a chamber pot … I looked it up and saw a couple of limericks about them too.

I think a lot of people today use old ceramic chamber pots for flowers and potted plants, as too spittoons – though may not be that good for fresh flowers. Once bleached/disinfected … I’m sure they’d be fine – in fact I know of a few …

@ Joanne – thank you …

@ Pat – this was only 150 years ago … and we’re still finding cess-pits … even in Pompeii. So here they were rubbish … but kept their shape despite being left in the ground. So glad the post entertained and educated a little … thank you …

@ Donna – thanks … probably not the right thing to think about too much first thing in the morning …

@ Jess – I can smell it too! Pongy! Just happy you had a healthy chuckle …

@ Jo - yes a stinky story ... but lots of interesting finds in the cess-pits of yore ... I wouldn't be surprised if many well-used chamber pots weren't just reburied - as 160 years ago they'd probably not have any value of any sort ...

Thanks everyone – seems to have amused you all – take care - Hilary

Jemi Fraser said...

Love it! Glad the smell is staying over there!! :)

Sanhita Mukherjee said...

Ha ha...
Your approach to antiquity is piercing, unique and stunning.
Sanhita.

Keith's Ramblings said...

What a potty story! Next time I get a parcel from Amazon I'll open it at arm's length just in case!

Karuna said...

Ha! A humorous read that reminds me of some fun antics I have seen between coworkers in the past. Thanks for the fun read.

Lisa said...

Ha ha ha! That was a FUN read! Clever one you are!

Jacqui Murray said...

What a story! If asked, I would have said it was impossible to smell that long. Interesting!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Jemi - thank you ... yes the smell can stay here ... I'm sure there's plenty more around!

@ Sanhita - thanks for coming over and commenting - it was easy with the photos I found to support the story line ...

@ Keith - yes ... certainly a potty story. Oh dear - poor you checking up on Amazon ... for each parcel that gets sent to you ...

@ Karuna - well that's great you can relate to the story line ... made me laugh as I wrote it up ... glad you enjoyed it ...

@ Lisa - thank you - am happy you enjoyed it ...

@ Jacqui - I gather if the pots and other artefacts are covered 'immediately' with earth, which will block everything in ... and the pot was only 160 years old ...

Still it's provided amusement - thank you so much everyone for coming by ... all the best - Hilary

Olga Godim said...

Ha-ha. Delightful!
Although I have to express my doubts. I thought anything organic would be long decomposed after so many year, so no stink would remain. Now I must google it: how fast is the rate of decomposition? The topics you raise...

Liz A. said...

Now, how did they get back at the group that sent that to them? Because such a prank can't go unanswered.

Lynda Dietz said...

That's hilarious! We don't think of the downsides to archeology, do we? Nicely done, Hilary!

Friko said...

It’s not April 1st?

I am glad you can still laugh in these sad times. Keep up the good work.

Mason Canyon said...

Loved the story, Hilary. Had me smiling all the way through.

Toi Thomas said...

What an original and hilarious take on this prompt. I guess most people, myself included, don't think about the less glamorous objects to be discovered at an archeological dig. Well done.

D.G. Kaye said...

Omg, I almost wretched along with you Hilary, lol. A very cleverly delivered stinking story. LOL :) xx

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

Great bit of humour! I do have to note... the archaeologists nearly retched. No "w". Aside from that... perfect!

When I was a kid we had a metal chamber pot (not sure about the provenance, but since it was enamel steel, I think a modern appliance) we used when camping, pre-porta-potty days. We called it the "Thundermug" for reasons you can figure out when you think about it being metal...

Vallypee said...

Ah, during my years of partcipating in archaeological digs and doing archive work, I don’t remember any smelly bits, but maybe I was just lucky...haha. Great piece, Hilary!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Olga – thank you … I hope I’m right … but perhaps I’m not!! I don’t know – but can almost smell the urine in the pot … I guess ‘mind expectation’ over smell … If you read this let me know should you find out – thank you.

@ Liz – I don’t think archaeologists do this … but it brought ‘the antique vase’ to light in a way others participating in the WEP wouldn’t …

@ Lynda – I’m sure there must be some smelly residue that comes to the fore … but it provided me with a different take on the prompt – glad you enjoyed it …

@ Friko – no … and I just hoped this was a light tale with a bit of a different take on the WEP prompt …

@ Mason – thank you … something off the usual route …

@ Toi – thank you … I like the ‘original’ aspect of your comment. I’ve seen the odd programme on excavations … the one I remember is the chutney factory buried in the 1850s under a relatively central part of London – it reeked of pickles I gather – hence ‘my translation’ into this post …

@ Debby – Rebecca reliably tells me ‘wretch’ is misspelt – so I’ve corrected the poor boy to retching at the stink!! (Poor wretch has to be a boy!!) Just glad you enjoyed it …

@ Rebecca – oh dear – I’ve changed my error!! Thank you for telling me … of course I did have to check – might have been an American spelling!!

You’re right I’d forgotten about my camping forays in the bush in Africa – we did used to take a pot … probably plastic in the more modern era … love the “Thundermug” description … like David’s “guzzunder” – both just adding to the tale …

@ Val – you’re probably right … I think it was the Crosse and Blackwell’s pickle factory found under the east end of Oxford Street as the Crossrail excavations took place in the early 2000s …

Thanks everyone – so glad you all enjoyed the different take on an archaeological excavation … look after yourselves - Hilary

Pradeep Nair said...

Interesting, Hilary! The other side of archaeology! Enjoyed reading this.

The Ornery Old Lady said...

Well, that would be quite a rude trick! No doubt the victims are now plotting their revenge.

Deniz Bevan said...

That's a great piece, Hilary! I could almost smell the stench... I guess we can ;earn from everything, even those kinds of remains? Ha ha! Maybe we could learn about old diseases, actually...

Anabel Marsh said...

That was fun!

diedre Knight said...

Oh, this was amusing! My grandma had another name for pranksters, she called them "Stinkers" ;-)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Pradeep - yes I'm sure there's lots of foul parts pf archaeology ... so glad you enjoyed reading it ...

@ The OOL - I hope I made it light-hearted enough to tell the story ... and I guess there'd be some repartee at times ...

@ Deniz - thank you ... I can smell it now - even though it's only a story. It seems they're always finding ways of analysing the contents long since buried ... and I think we can find out about old diseases - at least get a better understanding of them - I find this sort of thing just amazingly interesting.

@ Anabel - lovely ... thank you ...

@ Diedre - great - glad you enjoyed it ... and I love the snippet about your grandma - pranksters being called Stinkers! What a great memory of her ...

Thanks everyone - so pleased you all enjoyed the light read - take care and be well - Hilary

vesseys said...

nose plugs need to come with the other "essential" gear.

Delightful Hilary.

~Moonie

Inger said...

I love the comment up above that called this "An aromatic story," as much as I love the story itself. That's what is so much fun about the blogs, you meet so many fun and nice people. I will not go and check out that blog.

L.G. Keltner said...

This was a fun and delightful entry! Archaeology is a fascinating field of study, and I'm glad to see the less glamorous side of it explored here. Well done!

J Lenni Dorner said...

Really brings the expression "sh*t or get off the pot" to light here, doesn't it?
You just know there are actual archeologists excited about finding such objects. Really fun use of the prompt!

Sally said...

Lovely this humorous piece, well done.

Elsie Amata said...

Never in a million years would I have thought about discovering a chamber pot. Well done and very well told. Thank you!

Stay healthy and safe,
Elsie

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Moonie - thanks for this ... yes probably nose-plugs would be needed ...

@ Inger - thanks - Ian is ex English - (Channel Island) Jersey I think ... and I managed to meet him when I was out on Vancouver Island. One does meet wonderful people on the blog - I love it ... and glad you like the aromatic story!

@ Laura - thank you ... the archaeologists have to deal with everything ... and often the rubbish pits offer the best finds.

@ J Lenni - yes reminds us of our past ... but we find out so much from 'treasures' such as chamber pots - and the professionals do get really excited about such finds.

@ Sally - thank you ... just fun to write up ...

Thanks everyone - it's a fun WEP post to have up ... take care in these difficult times - all the best - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Elsie - well you snuck in as I was thanking the others ...

... so good to see you - and glad you enjoyed the piece - to find a pottery one actually intact must have been a bit of a surprise - but it's in a museum and on show. I'm just happy everyone enjoyed the fun take ...

You too stay healthy and safe ... all the best Hilary

Sue Bursztynski said...

Very amusing piece, Hilary! And of course, archaeology really ISN’T all about ancient treasures, is it?

Victoria Marie Lees said...

Seriously, Hilary! No matter how stinky the find, this is truly an interesting post. You are very brave, my dear. And have the most interesting life, for sure. Always enjoy your posts. Be well!

Donna Hanton said...

Hilary, this made me think about archeology in a whole new light--I never thought about the smells. My cousin's partner is a mudlarker on the Thames, so I do know that a lot of organic material can remain, preserved in its 'treasures'!

Christopher Scott Author said...

A hilarious and amusing story about the more humorous side of archaeology. Well done, Hilary.

Deborah Weber said...

That's hilariously appalling Hilary - good job!

Shannon Lawrence said...

Such a funny take on the theme! I'd also rebury the "antique pot."

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sue - thank you ... and, no, archaeology is a painstaking journey through many sciences ... some of it 'foul' ...

@ Victoria - I'm glad it amused ... I do hope it was stinky ... as Olga questions it ... still it was fun to write as if the chamber pot still stank. I'm sure the residue would have confirmed the stench - even if only 'in the mind'. The tale was spawned by the chamber pot and antiquity ...

@ Donna - good to see you; perhaps you can confirm - via your cousin's partner - if this might be true ... I know the pickle factory in Holborn discovered in the Cross Rail excavations in the area exuded pickling aromas. I'm sure that mud-larking must give up some 'wonderful' treasures and scents! A fun hobby - but not for me!

@ Christopher - thank you ... glad you enjoyed the take on an archaeologist's life ...

@ Deborah - yes could be appalling too - but I'm sure archaeologists uncover some foul artefacts ... so they must be used to finding them ...

@ Shannon - I think the "antique pot" was too intact to be reburied ... though I'm sure much was back-filled; these plots are too large, and the project too important, to hold up the work for too long ... in the search for 'treasures' ...

Thanks so much everyone - delighted you enjoyed the take on the theme ... all the best to you all - Hilary

Anstice Brown said...

I enjoyed this, Hilary. I was on my edge of the seat with the tension at first, then that dissolved into amusement at the discovery of the chamberpot. A really funny take on the prompt. I love it.

Haddock said...

That 1855 illustration is too good.

Sandra Cox said...

Ha! Good job, Hilary.

bookworm said...

Some professions are thought of as glamorous - as a cultural anthropology major I learned enough about archeology to never, ever, want to engage in it. But I never thought of something like this, lol. Alana ramblinwitham.blogspot.com

Sherry Ellis said...

That's funny - in a twisted way. I would not want the job of cleaning the Antique Pot!

Susan B said...

Lovely and fun Hilary. What a pied de nez to the prompt. Very original. It reminds me of Edward Rutherford’s novel London following different families from before Roman times to the present. And how the bombing of London during the Blitz uncovered all sorts of things. Peter Ackroyd speaks about this too in his biography of London. Have you read either of these ? Or both ? Have a splendid spring. Keep safe.

Roland Clarke said...

This is a humourous take on the theme. Hilary - and I sense there's few historical facts buried in there too. I know that archaeologists find some of their best pieces in middens etc., so this is an amusing take. That Faraday/Father Times cartoon is familiar and well-chosen.

cleemckenzie said...

Those sneaky field archeologists! Very funny, Hilary, and definitely a great take on this prompt.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Anstice – thank you … a different take to amuse …

@ Haddock – yes Father Thames in his gory glory of the 1850s …

@ Sandra – thank you …

@ Alana – I’ve never fancied scraping away earth to find odds and ends – yet I do enjoy seeing what they find. Cultural anthropology I came across on Vancouver Island … an interesting subject … but for both one needs to be passionate … you must have loved your subject …

@ Sherry – yes … in a twisted way – a kid’s take on life … hilarious laughter emanating as the story was told …

@Susan – thanks … I hope the pot would still stink … Olga’s comment slightly daunts me – but so be it. Love the pied de nez thought … I thought it was ‘pinching of the nose’ – but I see it’s a snub – so not quite my intention!

Edward Rutherford’s books … I’ve read Sarum, but must get his London one and also Russia – so thanks for reminding me of him … once the library re-opens; then Peter Ackroyd’s book and others I see … I haven’t read either … so will look them up when we’re unlocked …

@ Roland – it’s definitely not full of historical detail … more a fun take – on the chamberpot shown … but yes middens are an enormous source of useful information to archaeologists and other scientists. Thanks – the Faraday/Father Thames cartoon is just so accurate and as you say appropriate here …

@ Lee – thank you … provided something light with all the things we’re going through …

Thanks everyone – just happy you enjoyed my take on the theme … take care - Hilary

Christine Rains said...

Loved this! You had me giggling to myself. Though an ancient chamber pot, stinky as it might be, would be a fascinating find. :) Have a lovely weekend, Hilary.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Thanks Christine ... it was fun to write ... good to see you - Hilary

Elephant's Child said...

Congratulations on your WEP award.

Jemima Pett said...

Ridiculously late to get to commenting this month, but I'm so glad I got to yours! Th earthy part of archaeology - love it!

Roland Clarke said...

Congratulations Hilary, on your Encouragement Award for this 'fun take on the chamberpot'. It might not overflow with historical detail, but you give the info-brigade a nod.

Stay safe, sensible, and inspired.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ EC - many thanks for being so supportive ... the award was a surprise, but much appreciated ...

@ Jemima - good to see you - it was fun to dream up the story ... so am glad you appreciated it.

Take care both of you - Hilary

Toi Thomas said...

Congratulations! I loved the creativity of this entry.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Roland - many thanks ... it was a bit of a cheeky take ... but I felt light relief was needed - and when was I ever going to write something like that again?! Not too much detail in the WEP entries ... lots in my other posts!

Thanks I'll definitely try and stay safe, be sensible and will stay inspired ...

@ Toi - thanks so much ... it was amusing to write up - delighted you enjoyed it.

Thanks to you both - all the best - Hilary

Nilanjana Bose said...

This was a brilliant take on the prompt, loved the humour, Hilary. Well deserved award. Congratulations!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Thanks Nila - it was fun to write up ... and just so glad you enjoyed the humorous uptake on it ... makes me laugh when I think about it ... lovely to see you here ... cheers Hilary