Homeowners are finding that as they renovate and walls are removed, they’re uncovering tokens from the home’s past. They’ve found everything from ritual objects placed behind the walls to ward off evil spirits to time capsules with notes enclosed for future owners to find.
Michelle Morgan Harrison, an interior designer, recently found a skull buried beneath an old white oak beam while renovating her 1816 New Canaan, Conn., home. She was relieved to discover it was a dog’s skull, and not a human one.
“I’ve seen a bit of everything” while renovating, contractor and carpenter Patrick Kennedy told The New York Times. He’s renovating Harrison’s home. “But the skull was unique, and there’s no way it could have fallen in there the way it was buried. It was placed almost exactly in the center under the doorway, and there were no other bones with it. I immediately thought it was something superstitious.” As such, he plans to rebury it in the same spot once the home’s renovations are complete.
Indeed, “the practice of burying or concealing items in the structure of a house is called immurement,” says Joseph Heathcott, an architectural historian who teaches at the New School in New York. “It is actually an ancient practice that cuts across many cultures and civilizations.”
For centuries, archeologists have discovered ritual objects tucked inside walls from the Egyptian pyramids to Roman villas to ordinary houses. Often times, the tucked away objects are believed to bring good luck to the inhabitants of the home. For example in Ireland, it was once customary to bury a horse skull in the home’s floor or ground. In England and Ireland, many regions would bury dead cats in the walls or under the floors to ward off bad spirits, Heathcott says.
“In my 30 years of architectural practice we’ve found many different things under floors and inside of walls, most left there inadvertently,” Marvin J. Anderson, a Seattle architect, told The New York Times.
In fact, Anderson says that when they renovate homes, “we encourage clients and their families to create and leave time capsules inside the house somewhere, something to be discovered when walls and ceilings are opened up in 50 to 100 years.”
Source: “The History Hidden in the Walls,” The New York Times (Jan. 20, 2017)