Artifacts Jill Eudaly

Sorting Us Out

Last week I helped sort and catalogue objects found at an archaeology site. I’m a “big picture” kind of person and found the people I was working with more interesting than the bits and pieces we sorted.

The chips of china weren’t much to look at but the conversations they sparked were interesting. The spoken words drew me into the past. The words were like puzzle pieces, they joined the objects and rebuilt a world that no longer exists.

The dig site where these objects were found is a pioneer settler’s property near the Venango Trail in western Pennsylvania. The site is mainly excavated by elementary school age students. Schools visit the site to learn about local history and are introduced to archaeology.

Archaeology is not a treasure hunt but a methodical piecing together of the past . Sites are laid out in grids and assigned individual nomenclature. When a found object is catalogued the grid coordinates and other pertinent facts are recorded on a slip of paper. The artifact and paper slip are then stored in a plastic bag.

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Across the bottom of the data slip is a series of letters and numbers.

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Here is how this code is broken down:

36 = PA

BT = Butler County

363 = The registered site #, The Michael Heckard Pioneer Homestead

L-1 = Level 1

My time spent touching the past made me wonder about the future.

More and more we are moving away from paper. Will digital records stand the test of time or be erased forever by some glitch in a server? Will what we see on a screen become more important than the physical objects that surround us? Might having “stuff” become a thing of the past?

I can’t help but wonder how technology will affect the way future generations learn about us, their past.

by Jill Eudaly

photos by Jill Eudaly

 

A gutta-percha hair comb.

 

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