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Cultural & Religious Upheaval In The Middle East / Treasure In The Thames

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from whyy in Philadelphia. I'm Terry Gross. With fresh air today the unraveling of the Middle East and the intellectual and cultural darkness that accompanied extremist religion. We Talk With Journalists Kim Guitar author of Black Wave Catastro- in Lebanon during the civil war. She had dodge sniper bullets on her way to school. The war also made me who I am. It drove me to become a journalist. It drove me. Explain other people's stories in the hope that I could bring more understanding about Lebanon about the Middle East to the rest of the world. She covered the Middle East for the BBC and the Financial Times later Laura mclamb talks about at her experiences searching the muddy banks of the River Thames in London where she found historic treasures like a Neolithic Skull Roman hairpins and medieval shoe buckles. US Make Limbs. New Memoir is called mud lurking support for this podcast comes from the Neubauer family foundation supporting. WHYY's why spreadsheet air and its commitment to sharing ideas and encouraging meaningful conversation in her new book journalists. Kim Guitars asked the question. She says haunts and most people in the Arab and Muslim world. What happened to us? Guitar Lebanese grew up during her country's civil war for people in the Middle East. She says the past is a different country one that has not mired in the horrors of sectarian killings a more vibrant place without the crushing intolerance of religious zealots and seemingly endless wars. Her new book is a history of how the Middle East unraveled in the past few decades. It's called Black Cuevas. Saudi Arabia Iran and the forty year rivalry that unraveled culture religion and collective memory in the Middle East. She covered the Middle East for the BBC in the Financial Times for twenty years and is now a non resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington she. She divides her time between Washington and B. Route Kim guitars welcome to fresh air. So I want to start by asking you of General Qassem Sulamani. Because you've you've written about him the US killed him in a drone strike earlier this month and you know he was a very powerful leader in Iran. He was the leading commander he had. He headed a powerful militia. The Al Quds Force. He was also a political leader and ran around France proxy wars in the Middle East after the US killed Suleimani and then Iran retaliated. It really looked like we were on the brink of war with Iran. Things have quieted down. Since then and here in America where so absorbed in the impeachment and the Senate trial and the upcoming Iowa Caucus. That's money as kind of an around of kind of like fallen off the radar but it feels like this story is not over. What's your sense it's of what's coming next? You're absolutely right that the story is not over even if it's not making headlines in the US anymore and that's a pattern often when it comes to covering the Middle East The story continues in two ways. One there are renewed protests in Iraq where custom Sulaimaniyah had led the crackdown on protesters In Iraq who were protesting against the corrupt leadership of the country but also Iran's stranglehold on its politics were Iran. is basically in charge of deciding almost who gets to run for For political office and how how to form a government and they run as you say Very powerful militias so the protests in Iraq paused for a second after after awesome Sulejmani was killed and after people celebrated his death because people did celebrate and Iraq and now they have resumed. People are back in force. The story also continues canoes because after the back and forth Iran's retaliation The very unfortunate plane crash the tragic plane crash of the Ukrainian plane that was brought down unintentionally Finchley by Iran after they launched missiles in retaliation a US interests in Iraq. Iran is looking at how it can and capture this moment Where it is supposed to look like a moment of weakness for Iran where? They've just lost their top commander the architect of their regional policy but Iran and their region and its regional. Allies are very good at seizing on moments. Like that Sometimes provoking chaos to try to grab lab as much as they can Territorially or politically. Just the way they're doing in Lebanon for example where Iran's ally is Hezbollah militia And political party so there is a almost a counter revolution happening in Iran In Iraq and in Lebanon where where Iran is trying to seize the day and use this moment of vulnerability and of weakness to come on top because the US has turned its sights away. I don't understand how Iran uses this moment of weakness to come out on top. Well if you look for example at Lebanon where aware for the last hundred days or so young people older people people of all sects an old faiths and all uh-huh Social classes have been protesting Relentlessly doggedly against the corruption in the country the management of the country the establishment that has essence brought the country. Almost two or. I think we're we are about to default on huge debt and has been which has always positioned itself as the defender of the oppressed and the poor found itself in the sights the protesters as well because it has become so entrenched in the establishment that it became a target of the protests as well and for the first time in its history Lebanon. It found that protesters were directly Attacking its its power in Lebanon insulting some of its leaders and And some of its allies and for a few months it looked like Hezbollah swallow was a very difficult position and it looked like Iran was in a difficult position because there were also protests as I mentioned in Iraq that had very strong anti Iran Sentiment and. I thought that it was very interesting Terry to see that when Customs Sulejmani was killed in Baghdad on that January third Morning thing he was coming back from Beirut there was no proxy war to run there but it was a proxy militia to manage has below was trying to figure out how to Get Out of of this Bhind where its position in. Lebanon was being challenged as part of this wider movement of protests. And so what they're doing now is instead of compromising thing and they could have gone both ways. They could've said okay. We need to compromise. Because we're going under we are coming under a lot of pressure so we need to compromise solidify our position in the country or or we could go another way. Break everything in in front of us and just grab everything we can and I think they're going for that second option where in Lebanon they've imposed in essence a new cabinet that represents them and their allies. Now that sounds I come quite a dramatic move. He has well as very pragmatic But as I said they're also very cunning in their planning and they have a long term strategy she and that is Iran's strength in the region. Whatever you think of Iran its policies what it has done in the past to the region or two Americans and they're very good at positioning themselves and taking advantage of moments of weakness so another question about Iran and Sulamani After the US killed Sumani. Iran retaliated by bombing a U. S. military base but it wasn't doesn't as catastrophic as it could have been American soldiers had what is probably traumatic. Brain injuries But considering what and many people were braced for it was you know a relatively restrained attack and almost like they were intentionally not not doing more damage than they did. I did not expect Iran to use restraint. Why do you think they did? I would have to Disagree about the fact that it's unexpected. That the US restraint I think they are in their own very interesting way restraint because they want to avert a full on conflict with the United States which they think which they know. They can't win win. And so they resort to the pattern that they've adopted over the last four decades of the existence of the regime in Iran which is mostly proxy wars proxy militias Restrained attacks six with a big message. Something symbolic that shows their people at home that the government has not stayed silent into this affront and yet does not bring the risk of full-on war so I knew right. Then that the response that Iran would adopt would would be limited and there was almost like a dance a very dangerous dance where everybody understood that this would be the extent of their reaction. Even the Americans understood that but the tragedy cady in that restrained response was the The downing of the Ukrainian plane that carried two hundred ninety people who all died and that was an unspeakable unspeakable mistake that is causing ripples within Iran. As well now you WanNa ask you about your book. Your Book One chapter with Your Book starts with the question question. What happened to us? Want you to elaborate on that question. What you're asking and while you're asking the question what happened happened to us is one that we ask ourselves a lot in the region because we look at the childhood and the young adulthood of our parents and we realized they had a completely different life? First of all it was not one that was mired in sectarian bloodletting and constant upheaval and constant instant towards their work crews. There were wars but there were more contained in time and they were more localized it in feel like this. This endless war across across the whole region. Second of all it was much more diverse and vibrant time politically culturally socially and hand religiously and so we look at pictures of our parents. You know Walking on the streets of Beirut or riding bicycles in Dodd men and women we look at posters of Egyptian actresses from the sixties We look at you know. Women dressed in skirts. Kurt's on the campus of Kabul University You know also in that same period and we wonder what what happened. What went so wrong? where did we go wrong. And how can we move forward. And who is responsible in the region and also abroad and how can we recapture the lost. Hope from the passed well in trying to answer that question. What happened to us? And how did it happen. You spend a lot of time in the book focusing on nineteen seventy nine nine. That's the year of the Iranian revolution and for Americans the Iranian hostage crisis when radical students took Americans hostage at the American embassy in Tehran It's also the year that the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and the year that the jihad against the Soviets was launched national ad. Nineteen seventy-nine is also the year that the Grand Mosque in Mecca and Saudi Arabia is seized used by zealots. Who took it over So this is a really consequential year all the things the three things that we just focused focused on leading toward a more extreme form of Islam and more extreme cultural norms social norms is religious norms enforced by the state nineteen seventy-nine is such a consequential year that sometimes I think I should have written a book just about that year a year because so much else happened In Egypt you had president Anwar Sadat who signed peace with Israel in Pakistan. You had the execution of former prime minister isil Cod Ali Bhutto by his successor. The dictator is the L.. Hawk an ally of the US. There there was so much that happened in that year that one Pakistani journalists told me that it felt like the sky had fallen to to the earth dot year and what I found was crucial about looking into the consequences of that year. was that you know other turning points in the Middle East You know brought an end to wars or or started wars or brought an into certain political ideologies or signaled The birth of a new movement but nineteen seventy-nine. Did all of this. This and and more because nineteen seventy nine is the year when Saudi Arabia and Iran to former allies in five twin pillars of US policy in the region to contain the Soviet Union became rivals and suddenly Saudi Arabia which sees itself as the leader of the Muslim world is challenged in that role by Iran and I- Tola Khomeini who emerges as the ultimate leader of this revolution and turns the country into into a theocracy. He also wants to be leader of the Muslim world except Khomeini is Shia and Saudi Arabia is Sunni and that rivalry puts them in a constant dynamic of trying to one up each other about who is really the most righteous leader of the Muslim world. And so they they keep trying to outdo each other not just in the geopolitics of it and in the military aspects of it but in the cultural and social aspects of it so they both try to use and wield and exploit religion to rally people to their side and in doing so they create new divisions within within the Arab Muslim world that are very sectarian driven something that did not exist in that same way before and because the rivalry continues were still living with the consequences. Today give us an example of how Iran and Saudi Arabia exploit religion for their own rivalry between them so there are many ways in which they they do that but I would look at for example. The efforts spy Iran to export. Its own understanding. Its own version of essence state-sponsored Shiitism and they do that for example in Lebanon very early on in the early eighties by sending around nineteen eighty two Members members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards to set up a front base there and train this new movement that becomes Hasbollah and in doing so they bring with them You know literature they set up radios They introduced the CIA door. The all in all all in -veloping black cloth that is known in shares The chadar start spreading in In Baalbek in this town in eastern Lebanon that becomes later a stronghold of Hezbollah and women start adopting the Cheddar because of the pressure that they feel under when they walking on the street Because more and more women are wearing it and they're afraid of these Revolutionary Guards that are coming from from Iran. And it's just safer to to wear it because you don't want to stand out. This is in the middle of a civil war. Well in Lebanon in Baalbek is a very distant town And there are reports that they also paid women to Put on this charter at the same time rough or a little a bit later. On the Saudis start focusing on ways that they can Rally people to their understanding of Islam and one way in which they do that is is Bhai spending money in a country like Egypt in the ninety s to Rally people in the media for example to their side so you have laudatory Lori. Editorials or articles journalists are paid for that. They get paid huge sums of money which they would not get if they were just writing for an Egyptian newspaper And you have this sudden wave of Egyptian actresses who had been beloved in the Middle East for their roles in these beautiful full Films Black and white and in color Where they suddenly start donning the veil the Saudi style Niqab which covers the face on the Saudi style? Black Abaya the rope the black robe and that had been unseen and hunt heard of in Egypt before and there was a joke at the time. Time In Egypt that that described how you know the second richest women in Egypt were the belly dancers who were getting money slipped on their are under their skirt by Saudi rich Saudi men who were watching them Downs but the richest Egyptian women were the belly dancers who had converted and don't the veil because the rich Saudi men deposited the money directly in their bank accounts you talked about how Iran created Hezbollah and Nineteen nineteen eighty two as a as a proxy force that Iranians trained you were living in Lebanon than you were five years old at the time. Did you notice the change. Did the creation the civil war was already underway. Did you notice the country becoming more fundamentalist or parts of it more fundamentalists did you notice. Changes in social codes in how people dressed and again. You're you're only five. I we were or in a civil war and we were very. The country was very divided. So I happen to love on the front line sort of with our front door facing towards the Christian Christian parts of Beirut but we had to go to school in the what was then known as the western part and the more dominantly Muslim part of Beirut and and so it was kind of cantonized and you didn't necessarily know what was going on in other parts of the country and I would say two things about that period one the Sunni Shiite divide that is so prevailing. Today in everyone's discussions about the Middle East did not feature in that war The second thing that I would say is that there were a lot of reports about the CIA doors spreading in the southern suburbs of Beirut or the southern parts of Lebanon Ebanon or in the car. But you know we didn't really know what was going on exactly and what it meant and who was doing it and I have a chapter where I described the rise of Hezbollah in Lebanon and I go a little bit against the accepted truth about how they were created because most people think that they were a direct result of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in nineteen eighty two whereas I argue that Iran was already planning to sort of set up a foothold on the Mediterranean. Even before nine hundred eighty two. It wanted to export its revolution. My guest is Kim Guitars author of the New Book Black Wave Saudi Arabia Iran and the forty year rivalry that unraveled culture religion and collective memory in the Middle East. After we take a short break. We'll talk about growing up in Lebanon Lebanon during the civil war and Laura make limb will tell us about hunting for historical treasures along the muddy banks of the River Thames in London. She's found amazing using things. I'm Terry Gross. And this is fresh air support for. NPR comes from Newman's own foundation working to nourish the common good by donating all profits profits from Newman's own food products to charitable organizations that seek to make the world a better place. More information is available at Newman's own foundation DOT ORG DOC. Let's get back to my interview with Journalists Kim Guitars author of the new book Black Wave Saudi Arabia Iran and the forty year rivalry unraveled culture religion and collective memory in the Middle East. She covered the Middle East for the BBC and the Financial Times for twenty years and is now a non on resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. She divides her time between Washington. And Beirut you point out that in Lebanon ebanon where you're from. You grew up during the Lebanese civil war. You know you say that. The Sunni Shia divide was not an issue in the civil war but on the other hand the Islam that's predominantly practiced is a branch of Shia Islam and also there was a Christian Muslim divide in the civil war and your family is Christian. What was it like to be Christian? During the civil war growing up in the war was was was unreal. But it was the only reality that I knew and in a way it felt normal. Even though I knew that beyond the borders of Lebanon there was was peace. My mother is Dutch and so we traveled sometimes to the Netherlands on vacation. Whenever we could and I would be in tears every time we had to come back to Lebanon on on? We were very lucky because we survived unscathed There were material losses. We lost our house several times but all of US survived. No one was injured. I can't believe that none of our friends. None of our relatives were killed or entrant because this is a war that killed one hundred fifty thousand people and this. This could be a stop story where I can cry about the fact that I have probably some kind of trauma about growing up in that war but the war also made me who I am. It drove me to become a journalist. It drove me to write. Drove me to explain other people's stories in the hope that I could bring more understanding about Lebanon and about the Middle East to the rest. The world did you grow up a frayed lack. If you played outside did you hear shelling. Did you see militias down the street. We saw everything we lived on the frontline so we really did see everything we saw militias. Who camped in the ground floor four of our building all sorts of militias? Whoever was was on top at the time whether it was you know a Christian militias or the P. L. O.? And then the Syrian army and then the Israelis and everybody came through and You know we didn't play outside very much. We played indoors at friends houses but because it was a no man's land where we live the frontline. Anna no-man's-land I didn't have many friends to play with after school's I would go to school whenever it was possible. And there was no shelling and there were long periods is where we couldn't go to school but then when I came home I really just stayed home and no one would visit us because it was so dangerous and I know that the next question is going to be I think think why did you stay. The answer is well. We didn't know how long it would last. My parents simply didn't know how long it would. Last there would be ceasefires and then there would be more fighting and then they would be surprising. Like wow I can't get worse than this but then it would and we ended up staying almost until the end of the war in that no-man's-land and we didn't leave Lebanon Either so we saw it all. We had to walk through Checkpoints to get to school. We had to sleep in shelters when you're or a child growing up during the civil war would children targeted by snipers or snipers tried to protect children from their own gunfire. I don't think anyone was protected from from snipers we had to dodge sniper bullets often crazily enough. I know it sounds crazy When we had to go to school or even leave the neighborhood but snipers were playing a game and I don't think they spared anyone? You mentioned that you you lost your home several times the same home yes. We lived In that terrible area that was known as Snipe PERV. Sniper central called Gorie some at the intersection of East and West. Beirut and it was shelled several times So we had to move vowed every time and rebuild. It was a flat and apartment on the third floor of a building and it took a lot of direct hits. I mean the whole building was brought down there was just you know pockmarks essentials had entered. Where mullets or glass was broken and holes holes in the walls and and so on a slightly surreal scenery? But again you know. It's the syndrome of the boiling frog. You you're in it and then it gets worse and worse but your sense of how it compares to the normality that you lived you know five hours ago. Oh ten hours ago. Five years ago ten years ago is dulled by the intensity of the moment that you're in your friend and colleague of Dramatic Shoji. He was murdered in in October of two thousand eighteen in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. And it's believed that NBS The crown prince of Saudi Arabia ordered his murder order. How did you hear about his death on twitter? I was in Beirut and I I can't remember who tweeted it. I that he had gone into the consulate and not reemerged and I really got the chills. Because somehow somehow and I don't say in hindsight somehow I felt instantly that something was terribly wrong terribly terribly wrong and I also so got the chills. Because at the time I was somehow writing a passage about Gemma's life was the episode around the time when he was fired from his job. Saudi newspaper round two thousand and three or so for having printed An opinion piece that was very critical of how Saudi Arabia understood and exercised Islam and I thought wow what he had been A an incredible credible friend and a an a an a person interviewed as as a source for for the book to try to understand things about Saudi Arabia and it was just devastating eating The he was killed in the way that he was killed because he still held much promise. he was such a towering figure and the Arab world in the world of commentary and analysis about Saudi Arabia and it just provided a devastating very very macabre twist to the tale that I was trying to to tell. I assumed that the reason why he was murdered. It was not only to stop him from writing but to teach a lesson and to warn other journalists and opinion writers and analysts Do you think it had a chilling effect on other journalists in the Middle East. It had it definitely had first of all. It had a chilling effect on young Saudis within the country who were hopeful that Their country could have a different more open more progressive a future under this crown prince. Who promises so much change and reform and is implementing some of it? But you know there's a lot to be said about how and what exactly is doing and suddenly they thought thought. Oh my goodness. Our country's going to turn into a pariah so there was that fear and then there was the chilling effect of the example. That was set. You cross the Crown Prince You rain rain on his parade in Pez that you're writing from the US in the Washington Post of all newspapers and you get punished finished that and across the region. Yes I think. People are thinking twice about what they write and what they don't write about the kingdom and a lot of people. Ask me whether I I was afraid to write what I was writing in black wave and my answer is I pull no punches. I write it as it is described what happened and I'm I'm an equal opportunity critic and I and I write about Iran and I write about Saudi Arabia and I say exactly what both of those countries did and I think that they both guilty guilty of having driven the region to the abyss. Well Kim Guitars thank you so much for talking with us. Thank you so much for having me tear. It was wonderful to speak to you. You Kim Guitars is the author of the new book. Black Wave Saudi Arabia Iran and the forty year rivalry that unraveled culture religion and collective memory in the Middle East. After we take a short break. Laura make them will tell us how she searches for and finds historic treasures during low. Oh tied on the banks of the River Thames in London. This is fresh air. Hey It's guy-roger here host of how I build this from. NPR How do you turn an okay idea into a better one. Check out the how I built this podcast. In my live conversation with Stewart Butterfield. Founder of slack and Flicker Z.. Explains the art of the pivot. Listen now a gold ornament from the sixteenth century ancient Roman coins shards of Medieval Pottery Prehistoric Flint. These are just some of the thousands of historical treasures. Our guest Laura make limb has found searching the banks of London's River Thames. The river is title so twice a day at retreats retreats exposing its Muddy River bed and the amazing amount of historical stuff stuck in it may clem. Says she's obsessed with pouring over the mud. In search of these things lost to history. The hobby is called mudlark being a term used in the Victorian period to refer to poor mostly women and children who would scour the water's edge for anything of value to sell make them has written a new book called Mudlark in search of London's passed along the River Thames. She spoke with fresh air producer. Sam brigger will our make them welcome to fresh air so I guess I actually. You went down to the River today you snuck in a quick visit before coming here to talk to us today. So did you find anything. I did really cold as well as freezing them. That didn't have enough clothes on Yes I did. I found a piece of Roman poultry. A Musket Ball Aucoin I think it's probably eighteenth. Century is very very warm I need to clean it up. Lots of pins What else did I find A piece the media will handle so is bad for an hour. That's an hour. That's what you found in. Just one hour yes. Yes and how big a space where you just looking at an hour to find all these do things This time I know great expense. I was up again on on on Tuesday. Found a really great spot and I found loads of stuff so I was. I was going back to that spot. But the tide didn't fall low enough so I hung around there for a little while and that was a fairly small area and then I wondered along the foreshore a little bit further than I looked at another fairly small spot. I find I find more if I keep my areas fairly small so the river goes out of low tide and the tide can vary. I guess you've said from fifteen to twenty two feet and that uncovers this area which is called the foreshore and that's the space between the high tide and that's where you look for things right. That's right right yes you can. Search the title teams in the Tidal Thames is from Teddington in west London. Right the way out to the street or well. Let's get to some basics basics Please tell us what the word mudlark means an and where does that come from. Matlock's Today Basically people who go down onto the full show of the river take. The Thames is tidal so twice every twenty four hours drops low enough for us to get onto the foreshore and basically searched the river bed for objects of of historic importance or interest. So these are things that have been lost over two millennia Since the Romans arrived and settled the area that we now call London and they've been lost thrown away and dropped into the river and they gradually wash up. And if you're lucky go down you find things but the words mudlark is quite an old word. It was first I written about at the end of the eighteenth century by a man called. Patrick Call Huynh. Who is the person who began the Thames River police and he started the river police? Ace as a way of protecting the west India ships. That were lying anchor in the river waiting to unload. And they couldn't wait for up to six months to unload their precious cargoes of sugar and spiced spiced rum and they were being preyed on by all these groups of criminals who would sneak aboard and steal easings and at the bottom of of these is this. Hierarchy of criminals was the mud logs and they were the people who were scavenging around the hulls of the ships at low tide for anything. They could sallow us. And they receive if these packages of spices and bladders of Rahnman and convey them to the to the taverns rather high than whopping and then into the black market but the mudlark most written about in Victorian Times by the social commentators of the time and they wrote really beautifully about these. These people who Mainly old people cool and children and women and there again at the bottom of the heap of scavenges of the people who went down into the mud at low tide. And if you think In the mid eighteen hundreds of the Thames. Little more than moving sewer a cesspit. It was just revolting. And they would wound around and they pick up pieces of coal and a couple of nail if they were lucky or bones or anything that could scavenge to sell to keep themselves out of the workhouse. And why are these object so well preserved in the mud the mud anaerobic which means that once the in the mud That the oxygen is kept away from them so without oxygen they can't degrade or rust so quickly. So that's why you find leather perfectly preserved I and objects so much better preserved. Need find them in a field for example and people have even even found cloth fabric but then once it's taken out of the mud. What happens to it once? He's out of the mud. It really is a race against time. with leather objects. If they dry out they start to curl and shrink and crack wooden objects thought to Split So it's really a matter of Preserving them as well well as you can With so lucky London. We have so much staff Mrs soon as they start to dig in into the into the soil anywhere in London you start to find things so the museums. Just don't have the resources to to conserve everything that comes out of the river. So much of it's left to Mud logs to try and conserve things as well as they can. Really some of the ways you you preserve things you just stick it in the back of your freezer for a couple of years. Isn't that right. I do yes I know. There's probably Museum people out that that cringing and horror at some of my rather unorthodox methods but I found that with wooden objects I find wouldn't combs that date back to this sort of Fifteenth Fifteenth Sixteenth Century and the made of boxwood which is a very hard tight grain would And I found the best way to preserve these without them starting to split and cracked his wrap them in in I think you call it. Saran wrap cling film. And then I put them in the bottom of the freezer. It sort of helps the the drying process I find anyway and then then then if I drive the peace with slowly after that it it does seem to stop it from from splitting quite so badly. It's pretty amazing. How quickly things erode once you've taken now the mud you've said that you've gotten brightly colored objects that once it's in the air you actually see the color vanishing in front of your eyes? I have specifically it was. It was a toothpaste taste lead in the old days. They used to in Victorian Times. They used to supply toothpaste or tooth powder in these beautiful ceramic pots and They they had very bright lids and found one out on yesterday and as soon as it came out of the mud it was beautiful. It was really bright vibrant colors and before my my is it just faded away. It was it was. It was almost like Raises of Star watching one of the skulls dissolve Over into dust but it did just just fade away into these review could still say it was colored but it just wasn't just lost. Its vibrancy you say that there's two kinds of my luck says the hunters the gatherers. Can you describe those. Two groups Yes in the book I do describe them as hunters and gatherers there are. I would describe myself as a gatherer Thura. I don't use a metal detector I go down there for a number reasons. I go down to find peace and quiet and to commune with with history. I find history very A grounding Relaxing kind of Thing to commune with I suppose and I I just look I just I just relaxed I let myself go and just got lost in the moment and I just look if I come away with nothing that really doesn't matter because for me Ah Mocking is about so much more than the find The hunters I describe as the people who use Meta Texas who dig. Who are more more focused on the fines than the experience of actually being there and finding it they they tend to be the people who are looking for coins metal? Object on what you might call treasure. And you're kind of opposed to this. The hunter gathering method right in certain areas. I think the problem with the fall show is the auto show is eroding very very quickly. We're losing so much archaeology. To erosion it speeded up over the last twenty years because of the increased river traffic. We've got if you're down there and one of the riverboats comes past. You'll notice a huge wave. Come up and it'll suck out again and in places we've lost you know feet of foreshore shore and it's washing away larger pieces for killer. Gee there's a a medieval jetty Greenwich that's completely washing away So where people are digging and scraping. Its it's destabilizing the foreshore and it's it's speeding up this process of erosion which is going to happen anyway but if you start to dig in something that's quite firm unstable It makes it much softer and the rivets gets gets into it much faster And I've watched it happen of watched it areas with the fortunate have been dug over Disappear very quickly. Why don't we take a quick break? If you're just joining us. I guess this Laura McLellan her new. The book is called Mudlark in search of London's passed along the River Thames. This is fresh air support for NPR comes from whyy presenting the podcast Eleanor amplified and adventure series. Kids love here reporter. Eleanor Atwood crafty villains and solve mysteries as she travels the globe to get the big story available salable where you get podcasts or whyy dot org. Hi It's Terry Gross inviting you to check out our new online archive collecting forty years. Here is a fresh air interviews and reviews. You can hear my interviews with people like David Bowie of Franklin Johnny Cash. John Updike Tony Morrison Search for names. You're interested in make a playlist for yourself or friends at fresh air. Archived Dot Org. That's fresh air. Archive Dot Org. Our guest is Laura make them. WHO's WHO's new book is called Mudlark in search of London's passed along the River Thames? And it's about how she goes down to the foreshore of the towns which is the space between the high and low tides and finds these amazing objects from antiquity. Let's talk about how disgusting the river can be. Sometimes it used to be pretty much an open sewer it was. The Nineteenth Century was disgusting. Now it seems to be cleaned up a lot but it can still be pretty pretty gross down that right it. Can I mean if you think in the nineteen fifties fifties the Thames between gravesend and Foxhole was declared biologically dead. There wasn't a single living creature in the Times that was so much industrial industrial. Waste and sewage going in in the eighteen hundreds it was just a moving cesspits like you said there were bodies of animals. There was all blundell's waste going straight in there and it just moved very slowly up and down and this. Laurie barely moved Than Bazalgette came along a built as soon as that. Yes took the the sewage away from central London but dumped it just further downstream. Just east of London says to let you know it's a tidal river. So of that would often come up anyway right. Absolutely it wasn't washing straight out into the rivet was going down a lot. And then during the war the blitz destroyed after the suicide so there was real sewage pouring pouring in again after the Second World War along with the industrial waste. So what really was you know in a terrible state by the nineteen fifties It was biologically dead and it was decided ought to be cleaned up so the fact that we now have over one hundred twenty five different species of fish in the river whitcomb lobsters living in the street and the oysters awesome. Returned is incredible. May this amazing recovery. But it's still not the cleanest river it's very. Clean is a very urban rivers one of the cleanest urban rivers in the world But we still get sewage spills. We we live with Bazalgette suicide though. We've got Victorian sewage system so when it rains very heavily instead stead of all of the sewage bubbling up through into people's houses and into the streets. They have to let it go into the river. So this quite a lot of raw sewage going into the Thames which is why I wear gloves? They're building at the moment a supervisor that goes underneath the Thames and that hopefully will solve the problem of the sewage spills and the Thames become even cleaner which will be great. It's got it's got that recovery smell. The Thames rivers do smell rivers then clean the C. I suppose clean smell but I don't mind it a quaker a lot of the times you're finding fragments of things like shards of pottery. And how did you figure out what is that you're actually looking at. I spent a lot of time in museums and online looking at things For me it's mud. Logging is is is yes about going down onto the foreshore and finding things but also you've got the rest of the week to research this object and there's all these experts right. There's experts in practically everything you so you have a list of in your acknowledgments of the experts of clay pipes and buttons and coins. I mean there's all these people that have these niche interest right there. I love the the the the bunkers they I've met so many interesting people. But they they specialize in such niche areas. If fascinating are the people fascinate eight me as much as the objects Yes I've met these brilliant people and also generous with a knowledge But also I I should say that you you you need a permit to go mud logging and as part of your permit you have to report any finds of historic importance so you have access to. What a cool? The fines liaison offices. Who Work for the portable antiquities scheme which is part of This fantastic project that recording all they've recorded now over. A million objects have been found in our fields and four sheldon. I'm beaches as a stray fines that this arrest objects that they're recording quoting and a finds liaison offices then have access to all the specialists in the museums. So there is this network of people that you can access To try and identify the things that you found where you actually say that if you find something that's actually considered treasure it's it's considered owned by the crown it is onto UK law. Anything thing that's this is very simply put but may have a certain percentage of precious metal and over three hundred years old effects but he belongs to Queen so You have to by law. Reports is it and then it goes through the whole process where the coroner declared as treasure. It's valued is offered to museums. If they won't buy it if they do want to buy it. Then the finding gets half the value and the landowner in this case. It's the port of London. Authority gets half the value or you can opt to donate it. So I've I've had a couple of things that have been reported as treasurer. I've got back most of them just one thing which was a gold chewed? Sixteenth century lay send invade decorated lace end which is possible mini. Hoard that's coming out of a part of the full show that I mentioned And I've donated that to the Museum of London because they're collecting as much much of is they can. Can you give us an example of one of your most prized possessions. My favorite finders. It's child's chewed shoe. That's not easy to say okay but Is this little tiny leather shoe. And it's complete. I pulled it out of mud absolutely perfect and it looked like it had been lost yesterday. It's got little creases over the tall where you know. Whoever's foot was bending in it and when I I found it when I looked inside when it cleaned out look inside I could see whether he'll in and the toes little faint imprints and that to me is more precious than treasurer and gold? That's my kind of treasure because it's just this link with an individual from five hundred years ago I mean the magic for me with with Mud logging is that moment. That you you reach back through the years is and you touch something. That hasn't you know hasn't been touched since the last person who owned it or dropped it Touched it and and it's nothing like it. It's it's almost indescribable. That moment that you pick something up. And that's where I really get my cake. Laura thanks so much for being here. You're welcome thank you for inviting me. Laura make limb spoke with fresh air producer. Sam brigger. Her new book is called Mudlark in search of London's passed along the River Thames. Fresh Air's executive active producer is Danny Miller. Our interviews and reviews produced an edited by. Amy Salad Phyllis Myers San Brigger. Lauren Principal Heidi Soman Moods. Eighty Seth Kelly early and challenor. Roberta shorrock directs the show. I'm Terry Gross. Yeah Yeah.

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