I went shopping for a soap dish yesterday. (Yes, I have no life, thank you for asking.) As I looked over the tasteful display at the Dollar Tree (“Everything $1.00!”) I realized that these oddly shaped ceramic objects would probably baffle an archaeologist in the distant future. If you didn’t know what a cake of soap was, you’d have no clue as to what this thing shaped like a swan or a seashell was for. For votive offerings, perhaps? It’s too shallow to be an oil lamp…
And the one I eventually settled on, a simple rectangle with a raised edge and about 20 parallel corrugations, well, they’d have no idea as to what that was. I’d enjoy hearing their speculations.
I’ve been reading about the Olmecs, who left very few artifacts behind, which is what got me thinking about this. In 2000 years, say all that was left of American culture was a few ceramic, glass, and stone artifacts, our colossal garbage dumps notwithstanding–pretend something happens to all the anaerobic long-term storage facility known as “landfills”, and all that’s left is a few bits and pieces. What other items can you think of that would have hotshot archaeology grad students in the year 4000 wetting their pants for a chance to “interpret” them?
I could only think of a few others. A glass or porcelain candlestick–if you didn’t know what “candles” were, you’d find this item mysterious. It’s too shallow for a drinking vessel. An incense burner?
The bottom half of a glass salt shaker. Why the mysterious corkscrew design at the open end, and why is it wider at the bottom than at the top?
Ashtrays, in general. What were they for? Why the slots?
Anybody else think of any? I’m leaving out obvious things like CD players and automobiles. I don’t think that, lacking long-term storage in a landfill, plastics and metals would last 2000 years.
Okay? Does this make sense? 20th Century America reduced to nothing but potsherds…