This past week the BBC featured an article on "mudlarking," which apparently is treasure hunting along riverbanks at low tide.
"... there is no place better to mudlark than on the 95-mile foreshore of the Thames, considered by some the largest open-air archaeological site in London...I think it sounds like fun, although I think I remember references in some Dickens' novels that it was not viewed that way in earlier times:
While a general permit to look for artefacts allows the aspiring treasure hunter to dig only 7.5cm into the ground, a special mudlark's licence allows the enthusiasts to venture much further underneath the surface.
"The best thing I've ever found," says Tony, "is a silver wine taster, dated 1634, that is now in the Museum of London's collection."Over the last 30 years, Tony and his friends from The Society of Thames Mudlarks have amassed a collection of more than 2,500 buttons ranging in date from the late 14th to the late 19th Century. They are now being donated to the Museum of London and include examples of buttons made of silver, pewter and semi-precious stones...
During the Industrial Revolution, mudlarks were usually young children or widowed women. Becoming a mudlark was a cry of desperation as it is considered one of the worst "jobs" in history. At the time of the Industrial Revolution, excrement and waste would wash onto the shores from the raw sewage which wasn't treated. The corpses of humans, cats and dogs would also wash up. Mudlarks would be lucky if they made a penny a day selling what they had found during low tide, which was the only time people could scavenge along the shores of the rivers.I'm sure lots of murder weapons and wedding rings have been tossed into the Thames.