Friday, February 22, 2008

Modern archaeology

I link this partly because it's cool and partly because it reflects some archaeological issues:

This is a building where our deeply-troubled public school system once stored its supplies, and then one day apparently walked away from it all, allowing everything to go to waste. The interior has been ravaged by fires and the supplies that haven't burned have been subjected to 20 years of Michigan weather. To walk around this building transcends the sort of typical ruin-fetishism and "sadness" some get from a beautiful abandoned building.

Many other photos at the link (via Amaxen at TPW). Very good photos. It boggles me how entire buildings could be abandoned with stuff still sitting in them like that.

You can probably see the archy connections. One, it's an example of abandonment, a hot topic in archaeology. Why are structure abandoned? When they are abandoned are they left as they were while in use (Binford's 'Pompeii Premise"), or were they cleared out first? Were they re-used in some fashion after abandonment? What about taphonomic processes occurring after abandonment?

You can see a lot of these things going on here. Much burning of materials has taken place, no doubt a lot of stuff was removed, and the removed stuff was probably removed for a reason; value or utility. It looks as if some of the structure has started to collapse already. There is vegetation growing within the building, using the nutrients in the organic remains. The plants not only use the organics by breaking them down chemically, but also destroy them physically through root growth.

Some things remain, such a wrapped textbooks. These have little apparent value and are one of the few things left over for future 'archaeologists' to find. That's a biasing element.

So, a lot going on beyond the contemporary assessment of the building's abandonment.