Diving For Bottles Again

The people who owned my mom’s summer house in the 60s and 70s threw household waste into the sea from the main dock. And they methodically filled their empty wine bottles with water and sank them there. (If you toss an empty bottle into the sea it floats away.) The water’s only about 2.5 m deep at the dock, so when we took over in ’82 we could see the junk covering the sea floor clearly. Hundreds of bottles. For a few years in the mid-80s me, my brother and our friends did a lot of diving and took most of the stuff ashore. But a few empties have still been visible in favourable lighting, farther out than we used to dive. Today I picked them up, using a hand net for the first time on my dives, which made the whole operation way more effective. I’ve been retouching the archaeological record.

Comments

  1. #1 Michael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    August 6, 2013

    Dude, some 37th Century archaeologist is going to come back to Sweden in a wormhole and hunt you down. You’re messing around with the past!

  2. #2 Ken
    August 6, 2013

    Ah yes. The signs of occupation activity from settlements of the 60s and 70s. That was the age of Aquarius, as I recall.

    I mean the period of Aquarius…

  3. #3 Martin R
    August 6, 2013

    Mike, I helped build the current houses out there, surely that must count for something!?

    Ken, haha!

  4. #4 Lassi Hippeläinen
    August 6, 2013

    I don’t know about Sweden, but here in Finland some people are ready to pay real money for old bottles and pottery. They are used to decorate homes, as a kind of modern curio cabinet.

  5. #5 Birger Johansson
    August 7, 2013

    In Sweden the strata dominated by Vinho Tinto* came to an end with the reform of alcohol pricing.
    *the cheapest sort provided by the alcohol-selling monopoly
    (BTW If you use beer instead of wine, you ar less likely to be malnourished.)
    OT: “If hunger doesn’t kill you, it doesn’t make you stronger” http://www.nature.com/news/if-hunger-doesn-t-kill-you-it-doesn-t-make-you-stronger-1.13503
    Low crop yields in preindustrial Finland led to decreased fertility and survival during nineteenth-century famine.

  6. #6 Birger Johansson
    August 7, 2013

    (OT) This might have wiped out the Clovis people
    “New evidence that cosmic impact caused Younger Dryas extinctions” http://phys.org/news/2013-08-evidence-cosmic-impact-younger-dryas.html#ajTabs

  7. #7 Martin R
    August 7, 2013

    Is there reason to believe that the bearers of the Clovis culture were wiped out? Didn’t they just quit making Clovis points?

  8. #8 John Massey
    August 7, 2013

    Birger, that “If it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger is one of the biggest lies ever told.” In reality, if it doesn’t kill you, it weakens you for the next time around. Even stress – the effects of prolonged exposure to excessive stress are found to be cumulative.

    I always assumed they stopped making Clovis points because they ran out of megafauna to stick them into.

    I wonder who had the bottle of CocaCola.

  9. #9 Martin R
    August 7, 2013

    I believe the Coke was had by the 5th century Frankish king Clovis.

  10. #10 F
    August 8, 2013

    Coca Clovis?

  11. #11 Sean M
    August 8, 2013

    Just make sure to break the teapot and put it under the next building you build. That should be enough penance for your stratigraphic sins.

  12. #12 Birger Johansson
    August 8, 2013

    I just realised, the habit of burying beloved pets near the house may be interpreted as a kind of cult practice.

    And since a lot of broken bottles or shards thereof will be found in the soil nearby, the bottle of spirits obviously played a central part in an animistic ritual, with the spirits of the dogs/cats carrying our wishes to the spirit world.

  13. #13 Martin R
    August 8, 2013

    Well, think about it, what is the reason that we bury pets if it’s not a cultic practice?

  14. #14 Birger Johansson
    August 8, 2013

    (OT) To quote Life of Brian, “Blessed are the cheesemakers”
    http://www.nature.com/news/archaeology-the-milk-revolution-1.13471
    So we owe the success of early diary farming to a mutation?

  15. #15 Birger Johansson
    August 8, 2013

    Loki’s Castle? Now, all we need is someone to build an underwater city nearby, so future generations can excavate an underwater Pompeji. Bring all bottles you can find. http://www.thelocal.no/20130802/Volcanic-range-discovered-in-Norwegian-waters “Volcanic range discovered off Norway”

  16. #16 derek
    August 16, 2013

    Birger, I think it’s the other way around, we owe the spread of a mutation to the success of early dairy farming.

  17. #17 dustbubble
    August 22, 2013

    .. although I do remember the terrible fate that overwhelmed the Slide-Rule people in the late C20th, so these things are not without parallel.
    It was either a glacial readvance, or a rise in global temperatures, IIRC. Either way, the Science is settled on this matter.

  18. #18 dustbubble
    August 22, 2013

    One time I was poking around in forestry/scrubland in the backend of Aberdeenshire, and came across a ruined farmworker’s cottage. Not at all unusual.
    What did impress me was the closing deposit, a deeply moss-covered wall of spirits-bottles (I assume whisky) laid horizontally and transverse in the correct drystone construction method, double-faced and necks interlocked.
    It was about 700mm high and two bottles wide, and cut off access to the building on two sides, as a lower extension of a normal fieldstone dyke, maybe 10 metres overall.
    It was a *very* remote spot, for Britain. Bottles around 2nd quarter of the C20th, I noticed. No sign of collective interments or any untoward ritual activity inside the collapsed structure, I’m happy to report.

  19. #19 Martin R
    August 22, 2013

    Amazing! Imagine that man, descending into abject alcoholism in his cottage, the wall of bottles the last thing he kept control of…

  20. #20 dustbubble
    August 23, 2013

    You’re right, Martin, astute observation. Only a loner could have got away with that sort of ‘creative’ thing. Hadn’t occurred to me.

    To bang on about this sort of near-field (in a temporal sense) archaeology a bit more, this house (where I’m sitting) was once tied (as part of the man’s “bargain” with his aristocratic employer’s agent or “factor”), and again a loosening of old-school mores and standards, and indeed services, at about this time (1920s-’30s) was evidenced by a rubbish-tip at the house end, just over the wall dividing it from a field of fairly good ground, where normally one might expect the farmer not to tolerate such slovenliness and encroachment.
    Again, loads of spirits-bottles, all sizes and colours, and many dozens of broken or worn-out (blackened, stem too short) clay tobacco pipes. I had the leisure to excavate this one as part of the process of tidying it away (it’s my bloody house!) and along with the meatpaste jars and miscellaneous tin cans, alarm clocks (seriously, like four .. ??) and iron scrap, found a wad of coarse woollen cloth of a greenish colour inside an old enamelled baby-bath. Plus some completely knackered brass buttons and a tiny German coin of the 1890s, 5-pfennig I think.

    OK long story short, economy of hypothesis (maybe)? I think a fair few blokes came back from The War with one or two ‘issues’ they couldn’t decently chat with the wife and kids about.
    That end wall of the house is solid diorite boulders, and heats up, really nice on the back after sunset, after a hard day beasting it, with a good view of the hills, I’ve discovered. Ideal spot for a private smoke, and as much whisky as it took to get the nerves right again, and stash baccy, pipes and booze in the rubbish tip away from inquisitive little fingers.
    Similar story with wall’o’bottles man?
    Many farm-servants were evicted after the Wall Street Crash and ensuing depression, even the farms went for basically “buttons”.

  21. #21 John Massey
    August 23, 2013

    The Slide-Rule people are not extinct, you know. Some of us adapted fast enough to survive. (Frankly, after a slide rule and 10 figure log tables, using the first generation of affordable pocket electronic calculators was a doddle – once I got used to that infuriating Reverse Polish notation.)

    My daughter has 5 alarm clocks, and we still have to phone her from 7,000 kilometres away to make sure she is on her feet, if not yet actually awake. And she doesn’t drink.

    I once knew a driller who did superb work. He was working in a remote location, so needed to be supplied with food etc. When asked, he requested one crate of small bottles of CocaCola and one bottle of Johnny Walker whisky for every day that he would be working there. No food required, thank you. After he finished, the crates of empty Coke bottles and the empty whisky bottles were all found very neatly stacked. But I assume one cannot survive on nothing but Coke all day long and a bottle of whisky every night, and continue to do physically demanding work to an excellent standard, forever.

    I suspect wall’o’bottles man was not unique. As a student I worked with a lot of men on road construction gangs out in the bush during my university vacations who basically lived on alcohol – being young and naive, I used to try to get them to eat, but those more far-gone just couldn’t. As they descended into their own private hell, they went from skilled jobs to doing stuff like emptying the portable latrines, etc. By that stage they didn’t weigh much – after they had passed out at night I used to pick them up and carry them back to their huts to put them to bed. It was educational – I never imagined that people lived like that until I saw it.

  22. #22 Martin R
    August 25, 2013

    Dustbubble, that’s the kind of archaeological site where you wish you could talk to the people involved and get som explanations!

  23. #23 dave
    minneapolis
    August 31, 2013

    back in the 50’s my scout troop would sink cans and bottles in the remote lakes we took canoe trips thru.in the 60’s that of course changed.
    thinking back at how many trips were taken by how many groups,just not scouts but loggers,hunters and who knows who the bottom of some of these lakes must be deep in junk.

  24. #24 Martin R
    August 31, 2013

    Dave, as an archaeologist I find your scout troop’s habits thoroughly commendable.

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