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View Full Version : Archaeology and cavities in masonry



tashirosgt
2010-Feb-14, 05:21 PM
In tearing apart parts of old concrete block walls, it is common to find places where the masons packed debris into the wall. I think they used the cavities as convenient trash bins. You find such things as pieces of cement bags, bottle caps etc. I wonder if archaeologists find trash discarded inside ancient masonry walls - or are they so solid that this couldn't happen?

kleindoofy
2010-Feb-14, 05:36 PM
... I wonder if archaeologists find trash discarded inside ancient masonry walls - or are they so solid that this couldn't happen?
Not that I know of.

Cinder bocks, resp. pre-fabricated blocks with holes and cavities are a more modern invention, a least by archaeological times dimensions.

Before that, wall were either small brick (presumedly a Roman invention), stone blocks, or clay that was reinforced with straw and perhaps covered with baked clay bricks.

If anything was stuffed in walls, it was chips of stone, backed pottery sherds or wooden beams.

First, anything else would have weakened the structure dangerously.

Second, the people back then didn't have much to throw away.

Lianachan
2010-Feb-14, 07:13 PM
In Scottish archaeology, it's not unknown for some structures to be built into middens. Not quite the same thing as you're asking, but that was the first (well, second actually) thing that came to mind. The first thing that sprang to mind were the brochs, which are double walled dry stone iron age structures that are exclusive to Scotland - almost all of them in the Highlands & Islands. The space between the walls is usually occupied by stairs and passages, though.

Delvo
2010-Feb-14, 09:24 PM
I recall reading a book about castles when I was a kid, in which it was written that some European castles had walls with a structure of multiple layers from front to back, where the outer layers were made of bricks or cut solid stones, but an inner layer could be packed with soil and/or gravel. (There might even have been multiple distinct inner layers with different sizes of pieces or something like that.) I can picture a smith, mason, potter, or glassworker throwing broken tools, broken or rejected products, and leftover scraps of material from the workshop into that kind of filler section of a castle wall, but have never heard of any noteworthy discoveries coming from it.

Castle walls needed to be thick, so this construction method might have been a way of just adding to the size and mass without needing the additional expenses and work of more bricks or cut stones. That reasoning wouldn't apply to most other buildings where that much bulk wasn't needed. Even in the book I got the idea from, it was only said to be done with some castles, I think the more advanced and complex ones from late in the castle-building era, not most castles. And now I haven't even heard of the idea at all anywhere else since reading that book as a kid, and I can't find any pictures online showing such a structure in cross section.

ShadowSot
2010-Feb-14, 09:35 PM
I remember that there's a decent amount of fill in the pyramids. They're not solid stone structures.
However, there's not much in the sense of artifacts.
One thing they found was the chamber filled with graphitti, though, dating back to when the pyramid was constructed.

Strange
2010-Feb-14, 09:36 PM
Friends, who live in an old stone-built house, were doing some work on an internal wall and found a window frame (the wall was once external) and under the window frame some 18th century pennies that had been used to level the frame.

NEOWatcher
2010-Feb-15, 04:11 PM
I recall reading a book about castles when I was a kid, in which it was written that some European castles had walls with a structure of multiple layers from front to back, where the outer layers were made of bricks or cut solid stones, but an inner layer could be packed with soil and/or gravel.
The Great Wall would be a great one too.


Friends, who live in an old stone-built house, were doing some work on an internal wall and found a window frame (the wall was once external)
I would assume that is very common in old structures.
I was involved in a building project which involved excavation of a demolished building. We found doors and windows in the basement. Obviously when the sidewalks were wider and with stairs.

Swift
2010-Feb-15, 04:21 PM
I heard a relatively modern example of this in a few years ago.

The James A. Garfield house (former President of the US from Ohio) is in Mentor, Ohio, where I live. They were doing a major repair/restoration a few years ago, and inside one of the walls, someone had written their name and added "God's gift to women". A person from the National Park Service mentioned this in passing in some news story about the house restoration. Well, the fellow's daughter heard about it and contacted the NPS. Apparently, her dad was a carpenter, had worked on the house back in the 20s or 30s, and used to do this on jobs that he worked on, of course, where no one could see it.

Only reference I could find on this (http://clevxi.cpl.org/CLENIX/ACQ-1011) (rest from memory)

HenrikOlsen
2010-Feb-15, 04:36 PM
I was involved in a building project which involved excavation of a demolished building. We found doors and windows in the basement. Obviously when the sidewalks were wider and with stairs.
The gradual raising of streets from accumulated leftovers which left previous ground floors as basement floors is a well known phenomenon.

Some interesting historical "solutions" has included keeping the sidewalks at the previous ground level and letting the road build up until it reached the next floor at which time the previous sidewalk was covered with what was essentially a ceiling to make a new level, or in the beginning slightly higher than the road, sidewalk.
This naturally included making new entrances to the houses and bricking up the old ones if you bothered.

danscope
2010-Feb-15, 04:42 PM
Anyone taking apart my fireplace and chimney will be astonished at the volume of compressed beer cans within that structure!
My Father and Father-in law used to laugh while hollering "More bricks..
more wood, more beer....." They have all the beer they want now.
I still enjoy the home they helped me build.

Best regards,
Dan

NEOWatcher
2010-Feb-15, 05:30 PM
The gradual raising of streets from accumulated leftovers which left previous ground floors as basement floors is a well known phenomenon.
Yes; I agree. Chicago has plenty examples.
Although, in this case, we were adding on to an over 100 year old building which is older than the building that was demolished. The sidewalk level had not changed in those 100 years, based on both the entries into the building, and the old coal bins. (Oh, and original photos of construction)

Gillianren
2010-Feb-15, 09:18 PM
Yes; I agree. Chicago has plenty examples.

Seattle as well. Indeed, per Terry Pratchett, Seattle is the reason Ankh-Morpork does as well!

SpecialEd
2010-Feb-16, 12:22 AM
There's an old carpentry custum of placing a coin with the current year's date between the roof ridge beam & the upright beam supporting it. Kind of like signing your work. Remember running across one once working on a remodel & the boss explained it to me.

Don't think it's done much anymore, tho.