A good spot for mudlarking requires two things — an old city and a river. Kurt Jaccoud, from Kingston, NJ, found both in Newark, and he has a trove of arrowheads, 19th-century coins, and Victorian inkwells to show for it.
“I guess it’s mudlarking,” Jaccoud told Jersey Digs. “I just call it ‘looking for stuff.’”
The word mudlarking originated in London during the 18th century to describe scavengers combing the Thames in low tide for lost items of value. Today, the term is given more broadly to amateur treasure hunters searching a riverbank. The hobby hasn’t quite caught on yet in Newark, but that seems destined to change, as Jaccoud rarely comes home from an excursion without a rare coin or trinket.
The best spots in Newark for mudlarking are along the banks of the Passaic River near Mount Pleasant Cemetery and along the path of a former waterway — the old Morris Canal, which is now the Newark subway — that cuts through Branch Brook Park, Jaccoud said.
“If there’s ever a zombie apocalypse, this would be a good place to hide,” said Jaccoud, as we entered a small forest in the park.
His hobby began eight years ago as a way to de-stress. During lunch breaks, Jaccoud would park his car and go urban exploring. He’s picked up a few tricks of the trade since then. For instance, groundhogs have a surprising knack for digging up buried treasures. In the springtime, searching for a den can yield interesting rewards.
“At first it was trial and error,” Jaccoud said. “I have an eye for it now.”
Branch Brook Park, though founded in 1895, is much older and a few nearby landmarks puts the park’s age in perspective: The Sydenham House, near the Cherry Blossom Welcome Center, was built in 1711 and was home to the daughter of one of the city’s original settlers. Then in 1892, the Tiffany & Company built a jewelry factory. Jaccoud has found artifacts from both of these eras, as well as everything in between, including a Civil War-era bullets, likely from when the park was a training ground for Union soldiers.
“I’ve also found a few modern-day bullets, but I just leave those in the ground,” Jaccoud said. “I don’t want to put my fingerprints on those.”