Backyarchaeology (Another In A Series)

So I’ve wasted blog space and time posting here on B.la about some of the oddball finds I’ve unearthed through the course of various Silver Lake backyard endeavors. It began with a pair of whiskey bottles that could be as much as 50 years old — here, let me put some quotes around the “could be.”

The strange thing is that my excavations don’t have to dig too deep for me to come up with some sort of relic. Just this weekend I uncovered an empty tube of Moll√© brushless shaving cream that was big back in the ’40s. But big whup, right? So I’ve mainly relegated recounting my other finds to my own blog because the treasures have consisted of basically some more bottles (one with some sort of pill still in them), and of all things a teaspoon from the Beverly Hilton — fascinating to a point, but nothing with a whole lot of wow factor involved.

Today was all about the wow. To be honest today was all about the holyfuckingshit (picture on the other side).

It started with me clearing foliage for a river rock-lined brick path up in the back. We have no shortage of either; there’s a pile of stones I call the rock quarry and next to them a tumbledown stack of used brick I call the brickyard. Near to the end of all the manual labor carrying these things up and placing them, I came across a pair of big pieces of poured concrete, perhaps pieces of the house’s old foundation and I decided to haul them out and lug them up to the end of the path where I’d figure out a use for them.

After extracting the second one, a piece of rusty metal caught my eye. With it’s flared rim I thought it was a metal basket or a bucket of some sort, but when I tugged it out of the earth, I found nothing less than a World War II-era German infantryman’s helmet. Dude, in my backyard. Dude… in Silver Lake. WTF!? Unfortunately no sooner was a I carrying the literal rust bucket when the top gave way and the dirt that was filling it spilled to the grass below, leaving me with this…

helmet2.jpg

…and way too many questions: Is it authentic? And if so, how the hell did it end up buried out there? And what the hell else might be lying just beneath the surface?!

4 Replies to “Backyarchaeology (Another In A Series)”

  1. Dude indeed.

    Time to figure out who used to live there, eh? I believe you can find that out downtown.

    Damned if I know how, but I know it’s doable: 1947 Project does it all the time.

    There may have been an outbuilding or storage shed on the spot, which would account for all that stuff; or it may have just been a place where someone’s irritated wife threw her husband’s “junk” at some point.

    Also, very often, random little mini-dumps were used all over L.A. county: anywhere there was a dip in the topography, people threw their crap. The lot I live on now is partially over one of these, and occasionally we find all sorts of fun, old pressed-glass bottles. w00t.

    I love the fact that we are creating our own archaoelogical strata as we live, during our very own lifetimes. By the time we are old and pass away, young people will be examining with even greater wonder the things which we discover now; those 50-year-old whiskey bottles will be even more magical for your great-granddaughter…and whatever she unearths…an additional, oh, say, 85, 100 years tacked onto the earth beneath our feet, and the history we lay down…

  2. Will,

    Congrats on the find. Extremely wow!

    Over here in Eagle Rock, we too find things almost every time we dig. Nothing nearly as cool as that helmet, but marbles are a very routine find. We’ve found a few spoons, plateware and small bottles too. Our best treasure so far is a set of 1930s license plates (matching). Most of it comes from along the back of the yard behind the garage.

    I once mentioned this to my dad (who has lived in LA for 75 years) and he suggested that what I’m finding are leftovers from the trash incinerators that were routine fixtures of days past. (As recently as the 40s, it was common to burn your own trash, greatly contributing to LA’s horrendous smog problems; they were banned in 1951.) The concrete base of “our” incinerator remains in the yard and a few neighbors have crumbling remnants.

    Anyway, my dad told me that you had to periodically clean out the ashes in the incinerator–and that you’d occasionally find items that weren’t burned (like silverware and glassware). People simply buried the ashes (and accompanying stuff) nearby.

    So you may be digging in a series/strata of incinerator leftovers. That still doesn’t explain the helmet, though!

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