Meaning from Surface Finds

Post by Nate Jereb, PSU Undergraduate and Archaeology Lab Intern

This is a canid skull from Port Clarence. Probably a domesticated dog (Canis lupus familiaris)(Photo by Nate Jereb).

This is a canid skull from Port Clarence. Probably a domesticated dog (Canis lupus familiaris)(Photo by Nate Jereb).

I’ve been working on putting together procedures for cleaning and processing surface finds from Port Clarence. “Surface Finds” are artifacts that are found on the surface, as opposed to in the ground, where they should be. Because these artifacts are on the surface, we can’t learn too much from them, or at least not as much as we would like. The context in which an artifact is found is arguably more important than the actual object, because archaeologists need a wide range of information in order to understand past human life.

This is a common artifact from the surface finds. This is a piece of bone that’s been drilled. Not sure what it’s for, honestly. Pencil for scale. (Photo by Nate Jereb)

This is a common artifact from the surface finds. This is a piece of bone that’s been drilled. Not sure what it’s for, honestly. Pencil for scale. (Photo by Nate Jereb)

In this case, these artifacts made their way to the surface as a result of human action, specifically unauthorized digging. Because of this digging, the artifacts that I’ve been working with have lost their context, making it difficult to say anything meaningful about them. Unauthorized digging, even in the few cases where it is technically legal, is really bad; we lose a little bit of our shared culture every time a site is disturbed in this way.

 

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