Welcome to our first issue of 2021!
Release Date: January 22nd, 2021
The Future of Archaeological Remains
By Alondra Rodriguez
Tech and Plastics
Not too long ago I played a video game called Horizon Zero Dawn, it portrays, drastically, how technology and pollution became the downfall of life as we know it, all while the main character, Aloy, haphazardly uncovers the truth about what happened to humanity many years later. In the game’s story there was a loss of thousands of years worth of knowledge and history and all that remained in that post-post apocalyptic world were the rebar and concrete bones of buildings, underground government facilities, and the very technology that both doomed and saved humanity.
What does this game have to do with archaeology? Other than it being an interesting take on archaeology and the remembrance and preservation of physical remains, it begs the following questions: How will future archaeologists study us? What remains will our modern period leave behind? And how will our stories and knowledge be preserved for future generations?
Over the last century the world has grown rapidly in many ways, though especially through innovation with the rise of technology, the internet, and social media. Nowadays much of our information is stored in a digital space, so, how will this show up in the archaeological record? Smartphones, computer hard drives, and even CDs come to mind, however, a cracked phone screen and wifi issues also illustrate that to some extent technology is not always reliable, even when it comes to storing information. Take CDs for instance, they were the most common form of storing data, including sound recordings, during the 1990s. It was then that many looked to CDs to transfer and record data, but even they are not invincible, they’re prone to “CD rot” (Sydell) where the top most layer of a CD degrades, and that warm conditions, like a hot car, can also impact the longevity of a CD. Hard drives and solid state drives also depend on an optimal environment to also be preserved unused yet with intact data, and the years that data can survive without succumbing to “bit rot” (Paul), the loss of data, also varies but by no means can it guarantee that it will survive hundreds of years into the future.
Technology and its various hardwares are some of the most impactful things in our everyday lives, however, it's not the only thing that will define our modern era. Pollution and climate change also impact our daily lives, going back to Horizon Zero Dawn, I briefly mentioned that pollution was also a contributing factor in humanity's demise in that story, it echoes our present day. Plastic, in particular, will also be one if not the most visible kind of remains for future generations and archaeologists. In the article “Plastic is now part of our planet’s fabric – a scientist and archaeologist discuss what happens next," Dr. Sharon George from Keele University states that “plastics are a scar that will hopefully warn future generations of the folly of unsustainable over-consumption” (George), further noting that plastics will decay over hundreds of years under various environmental conditions. This notion is echoed by others such as Dr. Pamela Gellera at the University of Miami, who states that the pandemic in particular has “exacerbated the world’s single-use plastic problem” (Geller) with the rise in use of surgical masks and plastic containers. Dr. Geller in “The Archaeology of the Disposable Mask” goes on to state that future archaeologists will uncover a “stratigraphic layer of plastic waste” with disposable masks marking the pandemic in this “Age of Plastics” (Geller).
The remains we will leave behind will be varied, some unfortunately environmentally harmful, though they will tell a story; both plastics and tech hardware document the way society stored information and impacted the environment. However, what physical remains will tell our other stories, those of culture, societal change, or even resiliency. What else will stand the test of time?
Geller, Pamela. “The Archaeology of the Disposable Mask.” Slate, 2020, https://slate.com/technology/2020/10/disposable-masks-ocean-pollution-archaeology.html.
George, Sharon, and Matt Edgeworth. “Plastic is now part of our planet’s fabric – a scientist and archaeologist discuss what happens next.” The Conversation, 2018, https://theconversation.com/plastic-is-now-part-of-our-planets-fabric-a-scientist-and-archaeologist-discuss-what-happens-next-106019.
Paul, Ian. “Bit Rot: How Hard Drives and SSDs Die Over Time.” How-To Geek, 2020, https://www.howtogeek.com/660727/bit-rot-how-hard-drives-and-ssds-die-over-time/.
Sydell, Laura. “How Long Do CDs Last? It Depends, But Definitely Not Forever.” NPR, 2014, https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2014/08/18/340716269/how-long-do-cds-last-it-depends-but-definitely-not-forever.
By Francisco Carter
A recent study published in Nature aims to uncover the genetic makeup of Vikings. Around 500 AD, people from Eastern and Southern Europe migrated to current-day Denmark. The article points out that Viking-era residents actually shared more genetic similarity with ancient Antolians than previously thought. It is likely that dark hair and brown eyes were significantly more common than the stereotypical blue-eyed Viking.
During the January 6th storming of the U.S. Capitol, a couple of the protestors can be seen with pagan, Nordic tattoos. One of the standout protestors, the ‘horned man’, was seen with Thor’s hammer and the Knot of the Slain tattooed on his body. It should be noted that Adolf Hitler and Richard Wagner were infatuated by similar imagery. They have since been adopted by many extremist groups.
With this recent study, the notion of a blue-eyed blonde-haired Northman may not be historically accurate. It will be interesting to see if certain groups still fixate on the supposed “ethnic purity” of Vikings. Perhaps some might deny the conclusions derived from genetics. Science was never popular among them, anyway.
Wu, Tara. “Sweeping DNA Survey Highlights Vikings' Surprising Genetic Diversity.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 18 Sept. 2020.
LET US KNOW
WHAT DO YOU THINK? WHAT CAN WE DO BETTER?
we welcome any and all constructive criticism and thank you for your support!
if you are interested in submitting a guest piece, contact us at email@example.com