— Bette Midler (via observando)
Anonymous said: Imagine in a 1000+ years or so when archaeologists stumble upon Barbie dolls and action figures, they will think of them as gods and deities.
See, statements like this always bother me, because they show a gross misunderstanding of how the field actually works, the theory that goes into analyzing, and the methodological process we employ.
Actually, we’re quite unlikely to find Barbies and action figures in places that seem to have some sort of spiritual connotation to them. We’re going to find them unceremoniously thrown in large piles with rotting food and vehicles and other plastics. And we’re going to assume that they held relatively little significance to social interaction or religious life, or else they would have been found in specific places in the remains of structures all across the country. And there will be a lot of other evidence involving treatment and placement that will suggest Barbies and action figures are exactly what they are.
We’re more likely to assume a large group of people worshiped a giant “t” than we are to assume people worshiped what all evidence will actually suggest is a toy.
Another thing we will have is text. Text will be a pretty big indicator of the thought of the day. And unless some sort of cataclysmic event wipes out every single text on the planet, printed and otherwise, that’s going to influence interpretation. But such a cataclysmic event, which would wipe out printed text, would also probably wipe out Barbies and action figures, and archaeologists would have nothing from which to draw the conclusion that those were deities.
So, no. We’re not going to assume that at all.
What about, like when young children die and their parents bury their favorite Barbie with them. Is that confusing to the whole analytical process? Cuz like, burial rights are generally really important to understanding a culture, isn’t it?
Not at all. That actually would ensure that it is a child belonging rather than a mortuary or religious symbol.
Things buried with a person are called “grave goods.” They have a huge impact on analysis, and this would only serve to confirm prior assumptions. They denote status. They denote what was important to the person in life. We would see inconsistency across the record in the same burial grounds. There would be inconsistency within and without the age group, which would suggest that it is not a cultural item but a personal one. It would suggest something important to the individual child. A toy.
That’s what I was talking about when I said “other evidence.”
I’d also just like to throw out there that archaeologists have in fact found children’s toys anyway and I think that they were able to determine pretty easily what they were. Of course, they were not vastly different than toys nowadays.
Yes, we have. And yes, we did. And yes, we still do. And we do it by looking at the material remains in the way I described. Because you can never be sure just because something looks a certain way. Many religious figurines do look like dolls. It’s about treatment and location in the record more than anything else.
Honestly, I even find speculation like that somewhat insulting. Because it’s like saying archaeologists are stupid and make assumptions off of nothing…No. We’re scientists. We draw conclusions based off of hard evidence and logic. Maybe someone who had never been trained in my field would make an assumption totally out of line like that, but we know what we’re doing. We know how to do our jobs. We have degrees in this subject. We have innumerable hours of experience digging and classifying and analyzing and approaching what looks like nothing to the untrained eye with a theoretical and scientific lens.
Archaeologists will almost certainly never assume Honey Boo-Boo was a goddess. Archaeologists will almost certainly never assume Barbies and action figures were effigies of deities. Archaeologists will almost certainly never assume that everyone dressed like Lady Gaga.
We’re pretty good at what we do. Give us some credit.
Is it strange or fairly common to look at modern things in an archaeology perspective, though? I kept realizing things like that on my first dig, but I kinda felt like “that new kid who doesn’t know we don’t talk about that kind of thing” kind of person when I mentioned it.
Within context…It would be weird to not think about it. Archaeological/anthropological thinking is analytical. It should get in your head and affect how you see everything.
That being said, there’s a whole division of archaeology dedicated to studying material goods in a modern setting. Sometimes in junkyards, sometimes in stores, sometimes in homes.
— Thomas A Kempis (The Imitation of Christ)