Searching for history along the Thames

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LONDON, Aug 26 (Reuters) - A torch on his head, Jason Sandy scours the nighttime London foreshores of the Thames river, searching for objects that could offer a glimpse of life in the British capital hundreds of years ago.

As the occasional party boat passes by, its music blasting and lights flashing, the 42-year-old architect only has a few hours while the tide is low to make his finds.

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Sandy has been mudlarking for a hobby for the last five years, scouring the river banks for historical artifacts. Some of his finds are so rare they are displayed in museums.

"Over 2,000 years of time, everything has been thrown into the Thames, accidentally lost ... dropped so 2,000 years of history are down there," he said.

"It's really the thrill of almost like time traveling and knowing that the last person to touch this was from that time period," he added, describing the feeling of making a find.

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'Mudlarkers' hunt for history along the Thames River
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'Mudlarkers' hunt for history along the Thames River
Mudlark Matthew Goode poses for a portrait on the bank of the River Thames in London, Britain May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall
A mudlark shows a Henry VII coin that he excavated from the River Thames in London, Britain May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall SEARCH "MUDLARK THAMES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Mudlarks Andy Johansen and Ian Smith dig holes as they look for objects under Southwark Bridge on the bank of the River Thames in London, Britain May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall SEARCH "MUDLARK THAMES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Mudlark Malcolm "Mack" Macduff looks for objects on the banks of the River Thames in London, Britain May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall SEARCH "MUDLARK THAMES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Mudlark Jason Sandy looks for items on the bank of the River Thames in London, Britain May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall SEARCH "MUDLARK THAMES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Mudlark Matthew Goode climbs down a ladder as he looks for objects on the banks of the River Thames in London, Britain May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall SEARCH "MUDLARK THAMES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A mudlark uses a torch to look for items on the bank of the River Thames in London, Britain June 06, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall SEARCH "MUDLARK THAMES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Mudlark Matthew Goode uses a metal detector to look for objects near Tower Bridge on the bank of the River Thames in London, Britain May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall SEARCH "MUDLARK THAMES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Mudlark Matthew Goode looks for objects on the banks of the River Thames in London, Britain May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall SEARCH "MUDLARK THAMES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Objects recently excavated by mudlarks Andy Johansen and Ian Smith are presented on the bank of the River Thames in London, Britain May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall SEARCH "MUDLARK THAMES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Victorian lead figures excavated from the River Thames by mudlark Jason Sandy are displayed at his home in London, Britain June 01, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall SEARCH "MUDLARK THAMES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A Tudor comb and a Victorian toothbrush, which were excavated from the River Thames by mudlark Jason Sandy, are displayed at his home in London, Britain June 01, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall SEARCH "MUDLARK THAMES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A variety of metal pins which have been excavated from the River Thames by mudlark Jason Sandy are displayed at his home in London, Britain June 01, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall SEARCH "MUDLARK THAMES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Pipes dating from 1580 to 1900 which have been excavated from the River Thames by mudlark Jason Sandy are displayed at his home in London, Britain June 01, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall SEARCH "MUDLARK THAMES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A collection of Tudor coins excavated from the River Thames by mudlark Jason Sandy is displayed at his home in London, Britain June 01, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall SEARCH "MUDLARK THAMES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A variety of ceramic objects which have been excavated from the River Thames by mudlark Jason Sandy are displayed at his home in London, Britain June 01, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall SEARCH "MUDLARK THAMES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Mudlark Malcolm "Mack" Macduff looks for objects on the banks of the River Thames in London, Britain May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall SEARCH "MUDLARK THAMES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Mudlark Ian Smith digs a hole as he looks for objects on the bank of the River Thames in London, Britain May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall SEARCH "MUDLARK THAMES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A mudlark uses a torch to look for objects under London Bridge on the bank of the River Thames in London, Britain June 06, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall SEARCH "MUDLARK THAMES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A mudlark uses a head torch to look for objects on the bank of the River Thames in London, Britain June 06, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall SEARCH "MUDLARK THAMES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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Sandy, originally from Chicago, has found numerous artifacts like a Tudor comb, Victorian toothbrush and a Roman women's hair pin, which the Museum of London dated to AD 43.

Mudlarking is believed to trace its origins to the 18th and 19th century, when scavengers searched the Thames' shores for items to sell. These days, history and archaeology fans are the ones hoping to find old relics such as coins, ceramics, artifacts or everyday items from across centuries.

They wait for the low tide and then scour specific areas of exposed shores.

"If you're in a field you could be out all day long, with the river you're restricted to about two or three hours," mudlark Nick Stevens said. "Unlike fishing where there's one of 10 fish that you're likely to catch, with mudlarking there is an infinite amount of variety in terms of what you could find."

While many just use the naked eye for their searches, others rely on metal detectors for which a permit from the Port of London Authority is needed. Digging also requires consent.

The select Society of Thames Mudlarks counts just a few dozen members, who have the necessary licenses and can access restricted areas along the river.

Collaborating with the Museum of London, the mudlarks record their finds with the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Any item over 300 years old must be recorded.

"It's quite exciting to go down to a part of London that is only accessible for a very short amount of time," Sandy said.

"Thousands of years of London's history is still waiting to be discovered there on the Thames foreshore."


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