I’ve been thinking a little about archeology. While driving past one of Johannesburg’s biggest landfills I began to wonder if the archeologists of the future will find anything of interest in our modern day rubbish dumps? And if they do, what sense would they make of it and how they would theorize about how life worked in our day?

So much of what we think we know about our history as a race is based on the findings of archeology. But what is archeology, beyond just a few khaki-clad academics digging around in dirty pits?

At its best, archeology is a postulation based on a minimal set of artifacts. I remember visiting Israel a few years back – a land where archeologists go mashoogas over what may be found underneath the dirt, and extrapolate their findings with gay abandon, reconstructing “life as it was back then”. The thing that gets me though about archeology is this: how do you extrapolate a theory about the historical context of a set of artifacts that you have unearthed into an accurate theory of what was happening at that point in time?

The majority of archeology digging sites that I’ve visited seem to uncover human dwellings in very good states. It was almost as if the humans of the day moved out and someone dumped a pile of dirt right onto their house, and then built new dwellings on the mound. The reality of human ages is that we biuld on top of our previous locations all the time, so much so that it must be impossible to uncover one specific set of artifacts that represent one particular point in time.

So there’s your useless reflection for the day, spurned on by a landfill.


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