Bottle And Dump Digging
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What It Is And What It's About
Many people have asked me where I find my bottles? How do you know where to look? How do you dig and not break the bottles? I will attempt to answer some of these questions and give some tips to people wishing to search for old bottles.
Getting permission to dig on old properties is sometimes difficult to get. The hardest part that I find is finding out who owns the property! If you can locate the owner explain to him what you are looking for. Tell them that you will leave the spot in good condition. As with metal detecting, try to give bottle diggers a good name so that people don't get their own bad ideas. Offer the owner of the property some of the finds you make, as you would when metal detecting. They usually will say no thanks anyway because they feel there is no need to take your finds as long as you treat their property with respect. I must admit that I have not always had permission to dig, because I could not find the owner of the property. When miles into the woods it is difficult to find out who owns the property. I try to leave the spot in good condition.
Most of the bottle dumps that I have found have been by hiking or travelling on old dirt roads looking for "signs" of an old dump. I keep my eye out for pieces of rusty metal or broken glass on the surface that might indicate that there is other stuff buried under it. Look for depressions in the ground that do not look natural. These depressions might yield some bottles if they were a dump of the past.
I have had good luck following old streambeds around where houses were or still are. Often old bottles and other artefacts were thrown into these. Look for old pieces of glass washed down the stream and follow the streambed up to where the source is. I have found various bottles in dried up streambeds.
The equipment I take with me when digging consists of heavy leather gloves, a small 3 prong gardening tool, a small hand spade gardening tool and my metal detector. I have used some of the light aluminium spades and 3 prong diggers but I went back to steel ones. Firstly the aluminium ones leave a mark on the glass that is very hard to remove. Also these are not as strong as the steel equipment. If I find a spot that is deeper then expected I return to the spot with heavier digging equipment. I like a small spade with about a 5ft handle. Don't forget to bring something to bring back your finds. I like to bring the large plastic buckets with the handles. I bring along some newspaper to wrap some of the "special" bottles so they have less of a chance of being damaged on the return trip home. When I go dump digging, I always take my metal detector with me because often finds can be found on the spoil heaps such as early cake decorations or jewellery.
Picking the starting spot to dig is important. Try to find the outside perimeter of where you think the dump might end below. Carefully dig down until you do not find any further evidence of buried stuff. The soil will usually change colour when you hit that spot indicating undisturbed dirt and it is usually wise to not go any deeper than that. I then carefully rake the dirt off the sides of the hole looking for bottles as I go. Whole bottles have a distinct "sound" when raking the dirt off the sides. Carefully dig around the bottle trying not to touch to bottle with your digging tool. Loosen up enough dirt to free the bottle. Do not try to pull the bottle out if it is still solidly stuck in the dirt. You might break it! I pause to then take the excavated dirt out of the hole and throw it in a spot behind me that I won't have to dig again! I have put dirt behind me only to find out that the dump did go under where I threw the dirt and I have to move all that dirt again! If the dump is quite deep, it is not recommended to dig alone. When digging, keep an eye out for rocks or bricks as you are scraping the sides of the hole for bottles. Carefully remove the rocks or bricks from above so they don't fall and break a nice bottle! It has happened to me! Also watch where you are throwing the rocks, to make sure they don't roll back into the hole and do damage. Cave-ins are always a possibility and it can be dangerous! Keep an eye out for snakes also.
Look at the stuff that you find...if you are digging up electric light bulbs then the dump might not produce any older stuff. Plastic items are another indication that the stuff is not that old buried along with it. I usually don't spend the time to go any further when finding these items.