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Monika Milani

Professor Kindon

Intro to Archaeology

24 April 2019

Garbology

The purpose of this paper is to apply the information we have gained in Intro to

Archaeology by experiencing a glimpse of what it would be like to be an Archaeologist in 250

years from now. What is usually left behind is the garbage that people didn’t need anymore.

Thus, we are analyzing our own garbage and the “historical records” we leave behind in the

Activity Log and essentially demonstrating the difficulties of what an archeologist must do every

day in forms that are easier to understand to a regular person, or a person who has taken just one

or two Archeology classes.

Part I: Analyzing and comparing the data.

The first two days of the activity log and the findings in the excavation do not hold much

direct correlation. The main thing that one could figure is that since it is a bag of garbage, many

times things are added when there is a need to clean. I unfortunately do not see any cosplay

material remnants. I know that at the time, I would usually clean before friends come over so

perhaps the trash on the bottom of the bag is from just that rather than, say, a pile of craft foam.

Many of these findings are office-related. Seeing that my desk is right by it, it makes sense that

the bulk of the material is snack foods and discarded papers.


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A few things of particular note would be 3/27 where there is mentions of dog pee, then at

the top of the garbage pile happens to be a ‘Pet Fresh Odor Eliminator’, typically used for

cleaning dog pee out of the carpet.

On 3/29, the occupant ate various ‘junk foods’ with a friend. Usually, when there’s

people over at my house I will have all kinds of food and sometimes it’s pizza. There was a cup

of ranch from Little Caesars, a pizza play I tend to frequent.

The mention of packing for Denmark on 3/30 and the US Passport Services pamphlet is a

bit telling, but how is it at the very bottom of a box? One could figure that maybe all of that part

of the trash was made on a day that I was getting ready to leave. Figuring from what I know is a

finished deodorant stick, that could be indicative of throwing away something that was almost

packed up. Other than that, it could just be from getting my passport earlier than packing.

Looking at the activity log and place that the gray leggings sat among the

garbage, I could figure that it is likely from while I was packing for Denmark and decided to

throw it away. Everything else could be from the days that were logged as relatively hectic, as I

know my mornings are very ‘hurry up and wait’

Overall, there are only a few artifacts that truly seem to fit the chart’s order well. Not

many of the activities listed can be materially traced, or simply are not in this bag. Most of it

could be because usually, when I clean, I will take a bag and mass-clean everything at once and

throw the bag away immediately since there is so much. It may have been a error on my part for

not thinking of that while doing my day-to-day work.

These happenings reflect history, though. Many past populations didn’t really seem to

build up to the idea of creating records, or how records needed to be kept. Most information we
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have of ancient history came from oral history and only recently began to be written down. Even

then, how do begin to correlate that history- typically about hugely impactful happenings such as

wars, myths, and natural disasters- directly with the remains in what is likely their form of a

garbage bin? This is where the job of an Archaeologist can become extremely tricky and where

the ever-evolving Archaeological methods of identification comes into play.

Comparing the decomposition chart and the nature of each of the items, I can figure that

the plastics are really the only things that’d be left in 250 years. The deodorant packaging would

be the most preserved. The thick cardboard could still have pieces of it left around, but the logo

would likely be completely gone considering the circumstances it’d be in is likely not with the

intention to preserve it.


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Part II: Interpreting the material record.

While walking through the tattered remnants of what seems like a home, we stumbled

upon a particularly intact pile of artifacts. The space of the room suggests that not many people

could live within it, so one could figure that there’d be up to two people in this room or that it

was used for storage. Figuring from the artifacts we’d found, it would make sense that someone

would work and/or live there.

In this purple and green box made of thick plastic holding multiple items that were

seemingly compressed within it. What was there looked more like a small mound of flurried

together material, some clearly still decomposing. There is reduced mounds of wet mulch within

the box, which were likely once paper. All of the items found were mixed-medium recyclables

which were a typical thing to find in homes at the time.

The only things that have discernable writing left if the very faint printing on the plastic

slip with the logo, “Coca-Cola” and their thick plastic bottle. The aluminum can is falling apart,

but clearly still there. The light blue thick hunk of plastic is particularly odd. There is a

mechanism on the bottom, that brings a stick inside of the container up and down. There must’ve

been something inside it at some point. It was a place to store product.

There is nothing in particular that was left intact that could indicate what the person’s

gender would be according to the imposed societal gender roles of the time. Then again, there are

clear records of this time in history being a time of beginning to break the gender roles we no

longer have. This time was the origins of the freedom we have now, and thus, we couldn’t
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particularly base everything regarding gender off of what we found. Though, with very telling

items, like the very popular decorative novelty pins with opinions written on them we could

likely figure it out a bit more.

The most we can infer is that this was their home and that they lived or occupied this

room frequently. The perimeter of the house structure left behind indicates that it was big enough

to occupy more that just two people. In what looks like multiple rows of similar homes, this was

likely a place a house multiple family members or roommates. This room likely belonged to at

least one tenant.

Coca-cola is still around now, and was historically one of the most popular soft drinks. I

see no indication of other typed of drink containers. One could infer that they like to drink soft

drinks and that if that was their choice of drink, they might not be in the best shape of health

depending on the frequency of ingestion.

With the large amounts of paper mulch left behind, one could also infer that this

person(s) dealt with writing and reading a lot and that this garbage or recycling box was near

where they worked on projects. If they spent a lot of time at this workspace, they likely lived

quite sedentarily.

Without historical records like the Activity Log, it is difficult for the Archaeologist to

really understand the full picture of what was once happening to the artifacts that they find.

Knowing what the everyday citizen would do is more difficult of a task than knowing what is

valuable to a person, as those are usually passed down or kept in a place in which it was well

preserved and thus, we know more about the nobility of societies than the everyday person in a

historical society. What is usually left that an archaeologist can look into is especially the
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garbage that extrinsic taphonomic factors had not affected the artifact’s structural integrity. In the

past, the history that people have bothered to log was bigger events such as weddings, battles, or

empirical changes. Most ancient written languages were only used for religion and/or

governmental notices. But what person would log their every move, every day, exactly where

they threw it away and what they throw away? Finding the links between a human’s life and

garbage is essentially what the archaeologist is tasked to do. This may leave many gaps for errors

to occur, but with the help of further developing archaeological methods, we can do our best to

lessen this occurrence and still “paint pictures” that link us to our origins and our past.
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ACTIVITY LOG
3/24/19 at 8:45 PM: Occupant and friends work on cosplays. A very messy workspace with
scraps of materials lying around before vacuuming and cleaning the desk off.
3/25/19: Children play in the room. Some family visiting for the first time. Various kids toys are
strewn around the room.
3/26/19: Occupant of the room has a busy day preparing for the Llama Day student government
and mental health awareness event. Simply leaves the room as it is in a hurry, throwing clothes
on and off and throwing their school bag/materials wherever they can.
3/27/19: Another busy day for the occupant, mostly out all day at school. “” There is an attempt
to clean up the room with all the haphazardly strewn papers on the floor, clothes, and dog pee.
3/28/19: Another work day for the occupant and house’s occupants. Many friends visiting for
their spring break but not in the house. “”
3/29/19: Occupant brought over a friend to watch movies and create forts. Popcorn is made and
various ‘junk foods’ are consumed.
3/30/19: The occupant prepared to leave for Denmark immediately after waking and left to the
airport in the afternoon. Packed luggage and rummaged through clothes haphazardly.
TRASH LOG
Excavation Site: The remnants of what used to be a mobile home in a the midst of Silicon
Valley. A complex lined up right by where the Guadalupe River Trail once was.
The following items were found within a ~40 cm. tall clear green plastic bag with ‘Thank You’
printed multiple times on it. There were various other bags stuffed within a very thick purple and
green plastic container that had a retractable handle on the side, not sticking out.
Excavation Depth Artifact Description Count
Level
1 0-10 cm Orange, rectangular thick cardboard box 1
labeled ‘Pet Fresh Carper Odor Eliminator’
with a picture of a dog on it.
2 10-20 cm Ripped gray stretchy fabric sewn to be 1
leggings.
Cardboard and plastic package with ‘Dual Gel 1
Insoles’ printed in black ink on the back of the
cardboard.
3 20-30 cm Sideways cardboard box labeled ‘Amazon 1 (with 14
Prime’ and what seems like a home address items
filled with various items, listed below: inside of
it)
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- Ex. Lvl 1: Crushed Coca-Cola can


made of aluminum, open plastic cup
labeled ‘Little Caesars Ranch’, a skin-
colored stretchy mesh circle of fabric
resembling a shrunken cap, folded up
white plastic packaging with clear
plastic bubble-like pockets of air also
labeled amazon prime in light blue
underneath, 7 plastic sacks of air
labeled ‘AIRPlus’with two deflated
and ripped open
- At the very bottom of the box, about
20 cm in: 3 pamphlets with the title ‘
US Dept. of… Passport Services’
3 20-30 cm Upright plastic bag beside the sideways 1 (with 25
carboard box containing the following upright items
artifacts about 10 cm in. inside of
- Crumpled white plastic bag it)
- A tall plastic bottle with a plastic film
logo labeled ‘Coca-Cola’ similar to the
tin one from the cardboard box.
- A small carboard box with a thin
instruction pamphlet wrapped around
it.
- Empty and flat, cylinder-like shaped
light blue thick-plastic container
labeled ‘Suave 24-hour protection’
- 17 slips of 8x5 inch. sheet yellow
paper with the title ‘Audition Form’
atop it.
At the very bottom ~30 cm in the bag, 3
various crumpled up papers and a thin pink
plastic bag.
3 20-30 cm 10 pieces of paper attached together with a 1 unit (10
small piece of metal, the front paper reading ‘ pages)
Curtain Call Drama Club Bylaws’
4 30-40 cm At the very bottom of the bag: A clear, 1
crumpled up plastic bag.

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