“A riveting crash course not only in the history of London from prehistoric times to the present, but also in urban geography and how to read a living environment from organic clues.” —Elizabeth Lowry, Wall Street Journal
As seen on TED.com • "Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames"
Apple Books • Best Books of the Month
BBC Radio 4 • Book of the Week
A Bookseller Book of the Month
A quixotic journey through London’s past, Mudlark plumbs the banks of the Thames to reveal the stories hidden behind the archaeological remnants of an ancient city.
Long heralded as a city treasure herself, expert “mudlarker” Lara Maiklem is uniquely trained in the art of seeking. Tirelessly trekking across miles of the Thames’ muddy shores, where others only see the detritus of city life, Maiklem unearths evidence of England’s captivating, if sometimes murky, history—with some objects dating back to 43 AD, when London was but an outpost of the Roman Empire. From medieval mail worn by warriors on English battlefields to nineteenth-century glass marbles mass-produced for the nation’s first soda bottles, Maiklem deduces the historical significance of these artifacts with the quirky enthusiasm and sharp-sightedness of a twenty-first century Sherlock Holmes.
Seamlessly interweaving reflections from her own life with meditations on the art of wandering, Maiklem ultimately delivers—for Anglophiles and history lovers alike—a memorable treatise on the objects we leave in our wake, and the stories they can reveal if only we take a moment to look.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Every day, ancient treasures wash up on the banks of London’s River Thames—and in Lara Maiklem’s sprightly memoir, we get to pore over them ourselves. Maiklem is a mudlark: a treasure hunter who visits the Thames at low tide to pick through objects churned up by the currents over a thousand years of history. During her excursions, she discovers everything from huge Georgian copper coins to a Victorian ale flagon, which she eventually traces all the way back to its original owner. Maiklem leads us on her adventures with a delightfully personal writing style, vividly describing her finds and the excitement of researching the histories behind the artifacts. Her quirky enthusiasm is so endearing that it left us wondering what fascinating objects lie beneath our own feet.
British editor Maiklem plumbs the archaeological history of the Thames River through unearthed remnants discovered on its banks in her engrossing debut. Taking up mudlarking scavenging for hidden treasures Maiklem "tunes in to the voices of the past." She explains the river's tidal effects for example, that "the height between low and high water at London Bridge varies from between 15 and 22 feet" and has learned the tidal table of each shore access point. When the tide goes out, she unearths jewelry, pottery, buttons, pipes, combs, armor, medals, and clothing. In Tidal Head, she uncovers a stopper to a Victorian Codd bottle, which sealed fizzy drinks; she then recalls that the oldest stopper she found was a clay, Roman-era olive oil stopper made in Naples. "The objects that are hidden in the mud at Greenwich fill in the details that are missing from history books," she writes. There, she uncovers cooking pots and dishes that were used in the nearby 16th-century palace of Henry VIII, and surmises that "he held extravagant entertainments," while explaining how the meals must have been prepared and served. This thoroughly fascinating look at treasure hunting along the banks of the Thames also serves as an astute history lesson.