Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Crap! It's Herculaneum!

There are folks who think archaeology must be one of the best jobs in the whole, wide, world. Many of them have added hot air to this ubiquitous thought-bubble after having watched a vintage Indiana Jones movie. They are magic, these movies.

But unlike real bubbles, or even Internet bubbles, this thought bubble doesn’t seem to ever have dissipated—or exploded.

Let’s face it, archaeology can be a crappy job. I once spent weeks with a crew excavating a city block of Oakland’s turn-of-the-century’s privies. Old ones*, fortunately do not stink—and since people threw their old and worn out stuff in them when they finally got real plumbing, there were some incredible finds lying in wait in those perfectly rectangular holes. Like old pottery.

“Whoopie!” I hear you muttering. (You are edging toward the exit door of your gigantic, archaeological thought bubble, aren’t you?)

Romantically backward modern archaeologists are today less concerned with shooting pistols while watching slaves excavate glittering jewelry from inside the ruins of grand palaces than they are with everyday stuff. Low life stuff. For example, they often get excited when a Coprolite appears like a fat, dull, burnt umber corkscrew in their sieving screens.

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