Couple Ripping Up Carpet Spots Old Papers, Realizes They’re Worth Thousands

Moving into a new house always brings along certain surprises, whether that’s the leaky faucet or a misplaced memento from the previous family. Most of the time, the surprises aren’t too exciting. But the same cannot be said for Christine and Gifford Watkins.

They had some serious remodeling ahead of them in their historic adobe, so there was no doubt the couple would discover little traces from the past. But imagine the couple’s surprise when they found buried treasure — with a serious price tag — right under their floor! Before they could celebrate, however, they had to figure out what it all meant.

After living in Florida for 12 years, and with a baby on the way, Christine and Gifford Watkins wanted a change. They packed everything up and made the trip up to Canada, returning to their hometown in Nova Scotia.

CTV News Atlantic

Being close to family wasn’t their only motivation. “We wanted an older home,” Christine told Cape Breton Post. And it turned out that the town of Yarmouth might have had more history than the Watkins could handle.

The WatkinsCTV News Atlantic

Once back in Yarmouth, the Watkins searched for their new home. It didn’t take very long. Being a history buff, Christine told CTV News Atlantic that it was “the second house we looked at and we knew we had to have it.”

Cruise Mapper

And what a history it had. The 170-year old home been owned by generations of the Cann family, who were famous for owning numerous ships and a shipping company in Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia Archives Photo

The Watkins quickly started renovations. But as they wanted to keep most of the house’s original architecture intact, they mainly focused on the floors. It was while they were tearing up the rug in the dining room that they discovered something unexpected.

“I just couldn’t believe my eyes. I was really surprised and grabbed my camera,” Gifford told CTV News Atlantic. Beneath the floor coverings, there were old newspapers, dating back to the 1930s. And mummified within them were maps. Very old maps.

CTV News Atlantic

“I kept tearing and we ended up with six maps, three of which were done by James Imray and his son, a company still in existence today,” Gifford said. He knew how important that name was.

CTV News Atlantic

James Imray was a hydrographer, or a surveyor of bodies of water. Active in London during the late half of the 19th century, Imray was famous for producing blue-backed nautical charts.

The Loring Greenough House

Imray’s charts were known for their intricate composites, based on charts dating back to the 17th century. Gifford Watkins speculated that the maps he found were kept in the wheelhouse of a ship due to their thick backing.

Photo by Culture Club/Getty Images

The maps the Watkins found varied in sizes and geography. They highlighted the English Channel, Dutch coast, and British America. Gifford observed, “You can see that there are large parts of Canada that are actually missing, so maybe these are unexplored regions of Canada.”

W.R. MacAskill / 1933 Nova Scotia Archives

The maps revealed something about the original owners, the Cann family, too. “The fella that built the house was a ship owner and his sons were sea captains and from what we gather from these maps, they would have spent most of their time in the North American ocean,” Gifford pointed out.

20th Century Fox

That wasn’t all. There had only been six owners of the house, which had been built back in 1833. So the maps and charts predated the house by 40 or so years!

CTV News Atlantic

Don’t forget about the newspapers that wrapped up the maps. One showed the return of John D. Rockefeller lll from his honeymoon in Bermuda. It would seem this old house had much to offer its new, history-loving owners.

CTV News Atlantic

After some research, the Watkins learned their buried treasure could be worth $6,000. But they weren’t so eager to offer it to just anybody. They felt the maps deserved to remain in the Maritime provinces — perhaps at the Yarmouth County Museum and Archives, which expressed interest in providing a permanent home.

Notable Travels

While the Watkins considered their options, their original goal of renovations still had to be completed. There was certainly no hesitation. What if the couple could find something else under the floor of another room?

The RationedLife

Furniture was moved out of a room at the same time as they took up another rug. This time they had an audience. The Yarmouth Vanguard was initially invited to take a look over the already discovered maps. But who wouldn’t love a breaking story?

Pick Pik

Breathless excitement filled the air as Boston newspapers from 1931 were soon exposed. The Watkins peeled away the rest of the floor in a rush. All to find…

Published photoactuallyharry / Imgur

…just more wooden floor. No maps. Disappointment was short-lived, however. The newspapers unearthed were still a relic, and everyone read through them as if they were citizens of 1931 Boston. A piece of undated sheet music was also discovered. “Is it an unpublished Beatles song?” a reporter quipped.

Sydney Living Museums

The Watkins still had other floors to tear up. But that was for another day. One could really work up a sweat when remodeling floors, after all. Gifford couldn’t hide his eagerness for what else could be uncovered.

CTV News Atlantic

Through the rest of the house, Christine continued to find more intriguing relics. A portrait of a previous owner. Secret rooms. And yes, they still had all those other floors to investigate. The Watkins’ imaginations jumped to a mind-blowing historical discovery underneath a floor across the pond.

CTV News Atlantic

Luke Irwin, a famed floor covering and rug designer, had no idea his humble Wiltshire, England, dwelling was hiding an underground relic. There had been no evidence of anything ancient until workers were digging for electrical wiring on his property.

Luke Irwin Rugs / YouTube

Luke was sitting inside his home when he heard a worker shout, seemingly in shock. The rug designer ran outside to see what the commotion was about, only to be met with a worker holding a pickax in the air and looking curiously into a hole in the ground.

Luke Irwin Rugs / YouTube

“In February 2015, while laying electricity cables so my children could play ping-pong in an old barn, we struck a cold, hard surface,” the designer explained. Thankfully, workers noticed the bright colors peaking out of the ground just before shattering whatever it was with a pickax.

Wink News

Upon further inspection, it was a tiled mosaic boasting bright blues, oranges, and creams. While everyone else scratched their heads, the strange find had Luke thinking of another oddity on his property.

Luke Irwin Rugs / YouTube

There was a bizarre trough located near his property’s main house, which his contractor asked about. No one knew how long it had been there, so the designer didn’t think much of it at first. But after finding the mosaic? This property was special.

Paolo Gagliardi / Getty Images

Experts looked at the mosaic 18 inches underground and concluded it was a Roman mosaic floor from approximately the 4th century, preserved for years by the chilly English countryside. As he learned more details, Luke became even more incredulous.

Luke Irwin Rugs / YouTube

The Roman mosaic was once in a luxurious estate, the Deverill Villa, which existed from 175 to 220 AD. “It really goes to show how all empires stand and fall,” Luke said. The ancient site was far more advanced than experts expected.

“There was running water and heat in this villa,” Luke explained to Architectural Digest. “That hadn’t existed in the 1,600 years after that.” With answers slowly trickling in, he revisited the odd trough on his property. What was it?

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Luke had an archaeologist visit his property, who confirmed that the trough was actually a Roman child’s coffin! Clearly Luke was unknowingly living on land rich in ancient history. He felt both foolish and invigorated.

Architectural Digest

“What this sort of thing throws out to you is a level of your own ignorance. I knew what this thing was, but I had no idea the date of it or the quality,” Luke said. The more Luke learned about the mosaic’s backstory, the more he wanted to honor it.

Luke Irwin Rugs / YouTube

After discovering the ancient beauty, it didn’t leave Luke’s mind. In fact, he thought about the mysterious mosaic floor for six weeks, trying to calculate how to use it as inspiration for his own floor designs.

Luke Irwin Rugs / YouTube

“I design floors for the 20th century, and here’s a decorated floor from the fourth century. The conclusion I came to is that you cannot spit in the eyes of the gods when such a gift is given to you,” Luke explained, excitement taking over him.

With the tesserae, AKA the tiny square tiles from the mosaic, as his muse, Luke set out to design a collection of rugs that both recognized the Roman floor’s historic pattern and exuded 21st-century tastes.

Luke Irwin Rugs / YouTube

“What I wanted to do with all the rugs was to make things that people would look at and see the story of how they were made without it being fussy or overdone,” Luke said. And he had a plan to do just that.

Luke Irwin Rugs / YouTube

He decided to separate the collection into two distinct categories: Rhythm and Flow. “One is more geometric, and one is more abstract,” Luke explained of his creative decisions.

Architectural Digest

“The geometrics are more synonymous with the antique pavement. What you’re trying to do is show that inspiration comes from all different places,” he continued. He didn’t simply want to make a “pastiche of Roman mosaics” that would be cheap and unoriginal.

Luke Irwin Rugs / YouTube

However, the Deverill rug in his Mosaic collection for ABC Home, which is made of silk, is close to an exact replica of the buried floor, as to allow the world to experience the beauty Luke was lucky enough to see in person.

Architectural Digest

Aside from that one rug, the rest of the collection merely sees the Roman flooring as a creative starting point. “We are not the British Museum shop. We don’t want to replicate; we want to create something new,” Luke explained. And the collection didn’t stick to just one style.

Luke Irwin Rugs / YouTube

Luke’s past collections have boasted elaborate, elegant designs fit for both striking country houses and mosques, but this collection aimed to speak to more modest floors. “So what you’re balancing are abstract designs and the geometrics, which go in contemporary spaces and work in more traditional environments,” Luke detailed.

Architectural Digest

And though the designs pay homage to ancient Roman mosaic tiling, the creation of the rugs relies on Indian weaving. With silk and wool blends and a tedious washing process, which all add to the rugs’ antique appearance, Luke calls his weavers’ methods “genius.”

Luke Irwin Rugs / YouTube

“Part of the adventure of this is that I figured out that the Romans actually made it to India, and there is a trade history between the Romans and the Indians,” Luke disclosed. Today, the world continues to interact with Roman history in magnificent ways.

Luke Irwin Rugs / YouTube

For instance, in the heart of Rome stands the ancient ruins of Largo Di Torre Argentina. Dating back to 4th century BC, the remains of the historic landmark include four impressive temples and the Theatre of Pompey. It would inspire some incredible rugs.

Atlas Obscura

See, every day people come to visit the spectacular ancient Roman ruins. Tourists marvel at the construction that has withstood over two thousand years of elemental wear.

Helmut Reichelt / Flickr

But, the sheer age of the ruins isn’t the only draw for daily visitors. This place holds significance in Roman history because it was here the dictator Julius Caesar met his tragic end — betrayed and assassinated, on the steps of the portico of Pompey.

Ian Dolphin / Flickr

After excavation efforts in 1929 under Mussolini, the sunken ruins like those uncovered by Luke were revealed. From then on, visitors paid tribute and witnessed the important place where history changed so abruptly, but that’s not the only reason that tourists just can’t stay away…

Sblinn / Flickr

You see, after the excavation exposed the ruins, Rome’s notorious feral cat population eagerly claimed the spot as their own. And we’re not talking about just a few cats, either…

We’re talking upwards of 250 Italian felines! Mamma Mia! That’s a lot of kitties! Once the cats arrived, they stayed put, and it wasn’t just that they found the ruins comfortable. They had a good reason for staying close by.

While stray cats might be discouraged from visiting other historic monuments, that’s not the case here. Thanks to the efforts of the gattare, or, cat ladies, these furry critters are fed and cared for while they slink around the Torre Argentina.

Dreaming In Italian

But where did all these precious creatures come from? Stray cats are plentiful in every city, but Rome is truly littered with them. It’s due to Italy’s no-kill law for homeless cats. That leaves the streets filled with kitties with nowhere to turn.

Mark Mansfield / Flickr

So they flocked together and draped themselves over one of the most gruesome and famous landmarks in all of the city. Really, they were smarty cats: posting up in a historical landmark ensured people would take notice the helpless animals and step into action. It’s almost like they knew what they were doing.

Luke Hanna / Flickr

For over sixty years the street cats were fed, spayed and neutered by the gattare of Rome. But in 1993, two women stepped up to the plate to help get the population under control — and the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary was born!

Atlas Obscura

Many of the kitty residents had been abandoned by their families. Some were disabled; others were sick or wounded. The volunteers at the sanctuary provided permanent residency for the most high-risk cats in an existing underground 100 sq. meter tunnel.

Atlas Obscura

Still, caring for hundreds of high-risk cats cost a pretty penny. Renovating the tunnel and other expenses to keep the rescue going put enormous pressure on founder’s shoulders. Who could they turn to get support? If only they had some enthusiastic people wandering through the ruins, ladened down with vacation cash…

Atlas Obscura

Oh wait. They did! The founders asked the tourists for help. Visitors came for the historical landmark but stayed to pet the sweet kitties. Not only did the shelter receive a massive influx of donations, but they gained impassioned volunteers from all over the world.


As years passed, the T. A. Cat Sanctuary grew, and so did its popularity. More donations and volunteers made for healthier cats! Now they could provide higher quality food, vaccinations, and organize fostering programs. But not everyone was on the cat-wagon…

Christian Sculpher / Flickr

The Sanctuary constantly lived under the threat of eviction, but the authorities turned a blind eye to their operation. Until 2012, when the National Archeological Department made moves to squash the refuge.

Martin Conde / Flickr

The organization lodged a formal complaint, claiming the Cat Sanctuary invaded the ancient space and offended its dignity. They launched an eviction campaign in national papers.

Seton Hall University

What they didn’t expect was the power of motivated cat lovers! A petition to keep the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary running formed, and the public outcry of support was overwhelming: the petition gained over 30,000 signatures.


Politicians spoke out in support of the Cat Sanctuary and proposed a plan of compromise and cooperation. Since that time, no other campaigns against the cat savers has been launched.

Andrea Schaffer / Flickr

For now, the cats of Torre Argentina continue to live peacefully. Certainly, their presence adds to the draw of the historic landmark. Who knows, maybe the ghost of Julius Caesar sits with a cat on his lap, brooding over the betrayal of his senators, scratching a snooty cat’s ears in the sunshine…

Nina Sabatino / Flickr

These Italian alley cats prove that kindness and compassion are the two best qualities a person can possess. It is amazing to see what can happen when people come together, but what one man alone did when he saw animals where in need, would ultimately change the fate of thousands.

Heather F / Flickr

When Joseph Sekhar moved his family to Chennai, India in the early 1990s, his intentions were clear-cut: start a business, make a living, and provide for himself and his loved ones. Unsure of where to begin, he looked to his personal passions for the answer.

Sampath Speaking

A lover of photography from a young age, Sekhar quickly found his footing as a camera repairman and soon opened his own shop in the city of Royapettah.

Though cameras were his passion, Sekhar also made time to care for the local wildlife and could often be found feeding the squirrels and sparrows of the area. But little did he know that these small acts of kindness would soon change his life…

On one fateful day, following India’s 2004 tsunami, a pair of ring-necked parakeets appeared on Sekhar’s doorstep. Seeing the poor shape they were in, Sekhar decided to feed them as well.

The parakeets returned the next day, only this time they brought friends. The two parakeets became 10, those 10 became 20, and 20 became a hundred…

Pretty soon, thousands of these parakeets began descending on Sekhar’s modest shanty in search of a meal, and big-hearted Sekhar was more than happy to oblige.

Cafe Chennai

Fourteen years later, Sekhar is still at it, feeding between four and six thousand parakeets every single day. As you can imagine, feeding a flock of birds this large is no small task.

Every morning, Sekhar sets his alarm for 4:30 a.m. to begin preparing pots of rice for his birds’ 6 a.m. arrival. Small birds, small appetite, right? Don’t bet on it.

Barcroft TV

On an average day, Sekhar cooks nearly 60 kg (130 pounds) of rice for his birds—a morning meal fit for a king! But the work doesn’t end there.

The 62-year-old Sekhar then lugs the rice to the rooftop where a dozen wooden planks serve as a buffet table for his feathered friends. With a skilled hand, Sekhar places hundreds of piles of rice for the coming feast.


Buying enough rice to feed the birds is a significant expense for Sekhar, accounting for almost half of his yearly salary. For a man making roughly $13/hour, it’s clear that these birds mean the world to him, and the lengths he’ll go to to protect them are just as incredible.

The Hindustan Times

While Sekhar purchases most of the rice himself, he also receives donations from time to time from people who admire his mission. Always wary of what he feeds his birds, Sekhar makes sure to eat the first handful of rice himself in order to see if it’s safe.

Planet Custodian

The health of his birds is so important, in fact, that Sekhar actively shelters and nurses injured parakeets back to health and has even gone as far as discouraging buses from honking outside his shop to avoid frightening the birds.

The New York Post

“I feel responsible for them,” Sekhar said. “I remember how during the cyclone, I fed them non-stop in the rain with a raincoat on.”

Sekhar’s story has spread far and wide, earning him renown as “The Birdman of Chennai”. Even his neighbors can’t help but marvel at the scene that unfolds outside their windows each day…

“Watching [Sekhar] feed parrots is a majestic thing and a spectacular sight,” a neighbor said of the daily ritual. “Many people pass this way and stand and watch for a long time.” But the crowds may not continue for much longer…

According to Sekhar, he’s been given eviction orders by his landlords, who are looking to demolish the entire lot. While this poses serious consequences for Sekhar and his family, it may mean an even worse fate for his birds.

Barcroft TV

“[T]hey will suffer initially, like a newcomer in a city, lost without a direction,” lamented Sekhar. “I don’t want to put them through it.”

While Sekhar’s landlords are open to selling the property to someone interested in preserving the birds, Sekhar has come up with a plan of his own. With the funds from selling his lifelong collection of 4,500 vintage cameras, he hopes to raise enough money to buy the plot himself.

“I’m willing to let go of [my cameras] for the sake of my birds,” Sekhar said proudly. “After all, what’s more important than love?”

New Indian Express

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