Archaeology, uninterrupted

By skepticlawyer

3747421383_58d45c18d8Via the indefatigable Tim Train comes notice of this amazing site, which provides a continuation — albeit in an eccentric direction — of my earlier post on the slow death of Motown. This time, however, the structures have acquired a festering but somehow majestic encrustation of greenery, such that they appear to have taken on a real life of their own. The author describes Detroit’s abandoned properties as ‘feral houses’, and they are:

Feral, used in this sense, means they have reverted to a wild state, as from domestication. Our world feral comes from the Latin root fera, or “wild beast,” but it also has a connection to another Latin word, feralis, literally: belonging to the dead.

I’ve seen “feral” used to describe dogs, cats, even goats. But I have wondered if it couldn’t also be used to describe certain houses in Detroit. Abandoned houses are really no big deal here. Some estimate that there are as many as 10,000 abandoned structures at any given time, and that seems conservative. But for a few beautiful months during the summer, some of these houses become “feral” in every sense: they disappear behind ivy or the untended shrubs and trees planted generations ago to decorate their yards. The wood that framed the rooms gets crushed by trees rooted still in the earth. The burnt lime, sand, gravel, and plaster slowly erode into dust, encouraged by ivy spreading tentacles in its endless search for more sunlight.

Like some of the dogs I’ve seen using these houses as shelter (I followed a whole pack into #9 last week), these houses are reverting to a wild state, as from domestication, a word derived itself from domesticus (the Latin for belonging to the domus, or house). Now these houses are feralis. They belong only to the dead. 

I’ve only included one image; do follow the link to see civilisation moulder into, if not dust, a rather spectacular wrack and ruin.


  1. Posted August 6, 2009 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    The greenery in those photos is, if not “majestic”, at least with some appeal. It’d be kind of cool to have a place like that… tinkering to keep it from falling around your ears.

    So different from that photo in your earlier post, which I find very sad. Now if I was a looter, there’d be many fewer books left in the abandoned shelves. I suppose it could be sadder… the shelves taken and the books left lying on the ground.

  2. Posted August 7, 2009 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Ah but is the architeture worthy to make a ruin? Or is it just bulldozer time?

  3. Posted August 7, 2009 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    Someone’ll have to make a decision soon — that greenery is winning fast.

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