All construction workers have a tale of weird and wonderful artefacts they’ve discovered during demolition. Usually, these range from the odd broken bottle to tools lost for decades within wall cavities. But sometimes, buried treasure, dead bodies and even archaeological finds have been unearthed by the unwitting tradie.
Here is a list of the top 12 unusual finds on construction sites.
When a loved one of the four legged variety dies, chances are it’ll end up in the backyard.
“I must have found at least 20 dogs and cats,” says Troy Eiken, Director of modular projects MMC Consulting in Melbourne.
“A skeleton we thought was real turned out to be a prank from the original builders in the mid-1950s. Gumboots were sticking out of the concrete slab resembling someone being stuck in the slab,” says Eiken.
2. Buried Money
Excavator Warren Bruggy and labourer Daniel Boyd hit the jackpot in 2019 on the Gold Coast when they dug up $388,850 in old paper cash and $100,000 in destroyed notes while demolishing a house, swimming pool and tennis court.
A police station was just across the road so they ‘did the right thing’ and walked it over straight away – without telling their boss.
Queensland Supreme Court documents claimed Shane Grimwood, their boss, said he headed to the site ‘to fire them straight away’.
The judge agreed with Grimwood, that ‘finders keepers’ was a reasonable claim and had some ‘ancient authority’ to support the legal argument. Grimwood offered to split the cash with the property owner Scott Morrison (not the current Prime Minister).
‘I’m not greedy… so we should just split it 50/50 and we could both be on a yacht eating oysters and drinking champagne,’ Grimwood said, according to Morrison.
As the cash was wrapped in Chinese newspapers, it looks like the money belonged to the previous owner, Stephen Ma, who may have buried the money to avoid tax.
The saga continues.
3. Monster Moth
The heaviest moth in the world was found by a tradie at a Brisbane primary school worksite in May this year.
Identified as a Wood Moth, it weighed up to 30g with a wingspan of 25cm, making it too heavy to fly.
4. Renaissance Artwork
Construction workers at the Uffizi in Florence uncovered two Renaissance-era Frescoes hidden under the plasterwork.
The hidden gems, which depict Ferdinando I and Cosimo II de Medici, were discovered while expanding the gallery in April this year.
5. Horse Fossil
Rocks may be an everyday sight, but intact fossils of large animals, such as a horse are a lot rarer.
A horse fossil, possibly from the Ice Age, was discovered during the construction of a pool in a Las Vegas backyard. The fossil is believed to be 14,000 years old.
6. Unexploded Bomb
This year in Germany, 3,000 people had to leave their homes after construction workers came across a 500kg bomb. Police first cleared a school adjacent to the site, although given the unusual pandemic situation, only 25 students were in class. The bomb was defused safely and life continued as usual.
7. Old Newspapers
Lining the inside walls and floors with newspaper may have offered some insulation, but also provides a window into the era of the property.
‘The fun facts you learn about history when conducting demolition on a house. Found a @tennesseannews paper from 1972 that shows we were bombing South Vietnam with B52’s and Nixon was planning a major government shakeup. Written on the walls, in ‘75 Jerald Ford was president, the economy was terrible, and a Ford automobile only cost between $3k-$6k’.
8. Illegal Pipework
Dodgy work may hide well behind walls. But, the truth can’t stay hidden during a demolition.
“We found illegal pipework directing the stormwater to the next door neighbours property,” says builder Craig Millar of Millar Projects in Melbourne.
“Your stormwater needs to leave your property. They didn’t design the house properly as they didn’t want to put piping through their concrete slab. So they dug it in next door.”
9. An Ancient Stone Coffin
An ancient marble sarcophagus was found during excavations in the Seyitgazi district of northwestern Turkey’s Eskişehir province.
The 1.5 meters tall and 33 centimetres wide coffin was handed over to Eskişehir Museum officials for further analysis.
10. Human Remains
Construction workers at Sydney’s light rail project were forced to stop digging after stumbling upon human remains just outside Central Station.
NSW Police were immediately called however the bones were from an 1820s Sydney cemetery.
Many of Sydney’s early settlers were buried at the site but by 1901, plans to build Central Station in the same area led to the cemetery being closed.
11. Time Capsule
A different sort of treasure, a time capsule containing items from the 1890s was uncovered by Scottish construction workers while replacing a bridge.
The capsule, a metal box about the size of a shoebox, was buried with newspaper from 1894 and what was believed to be a bottle of whiskey. In 1894, horse drawn carriages would have crossed the bridge, making the workers reflect on how times had changed since the owner first buried the little box.