''Buried Treasure'' Features Toys and Mudlark Finds

National Geographic News: Many of the artifacts in the ''Buried Treasure'' exhibit touring the UK, including pewter toys and other artifacts, come from finds from the amateur archeologists and treasure-hunters of the Society of Thames Mudlarks. Along with jewelry and other such treasures, some of the items in the ''Buried Treasure'' exhibit include playthings (often pewter), including cannons and guns, metal figurines, and miniaturized household objects such as stools, jugs, cauldrons, and even frying pans complete with little fish.

Some of the miniature guns and cannons were once working replicas, made of a copper alloy. ''The largest of them are equivalent to a pocket pistol. So [they're] perfectly capable of killing somebody,'' said Hazel Forsyth, curator of post-medieval collections at the Museum of London. ''It's obvious they are not perfect replicas. But we know they worked, because some of the barrels have exploded.''

But the toy guns aren't the only working miniatures; tiny copper cauldrons have been found with sooty bases, suggesting that children used them to cook food.

The British Museum's Richard Hobbs, curator of the ''Buried Treasure'' exhibition, said other replicas, including a three-legged stool, a birdcage, and tools such as saws, are important because no previous record of these objects is known for the period. ''It enriches what we know about the medieval household in terms of the contents of a house,'' he said.

''Buried Treasure'' will be on display at The National Museums and Galleries of Wales in Cardiff this summer, and will move on to Manchester, Newcastle, and Norwich.