Tin Cans and More

I think historic archaeological sites and artifacts sometimes get a bad rap for not being as interesting or fun for archaeologists to record and it can be difficult to explain to non-archaeologists the importance of protecting a pile of tin cans. I’m not talking about the large-scale heritage sites like Mount Vernon or a wooden fort, but piles of tin cans and other historic rubbish piles. While surveying, I have been guilty of being like, “ugh, another hole-in-top can. Break out gps.” At times, I have to remind myself the importance of recording the past, no matter the date. Where I’ve done most of my work in the southwest, isolated artifacts and dumps can tell us so much about how people lived during the 19th and 20th centuries. And there is so much more than just tin cans—there are beautiful amethyst and aqua glass, fragments of leather shoes, and so on, to discover. In different parts of the United States, amazing historic artifacts have been recovered from the 16th and 17th centuries, such as metal fragments of armor along the Santa Fe Trail. And, then there are all of the unique post-contact artifacts of various Native American groups, such as metal projectile points. So, in a nutshell, historic archaeology can be pretty fascinating.

Please note: it is both unethical and illegal to remove any kind of artifact—prehistoric or historic—from archaeological sites on public lands. It doesn’t matter how nice you think that historic bottle would look on your desk. Leave it!

For type guides on historic artifacts, visit:

-The Society for Historical Archaeology: https://sha.org/resources/20th-century-artifacts/

Women in Archaeology Podscast: ‘Gender’ Artifacts – Episode 29

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An episode I recorded with the rest of the Women in Archaeology Podcast group back in August, which can be found on the Archaeology Podcast Network.  On this episode, the hosts discuss why we view some artifacts as being intrinsically gendered. Specifically looking at why weapons are male and sewing implements are female and how our modern biases affect our views of the past.

Trowel Tales: Favorites in Archaeology

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Check out my newest episode of Trowel Tales.  Episode Summary: On this episode, we’re keeping things lighthearted. Listen to archaeologists’ favorite artifacts, archaeological sites, places, and experiences in the field and how hard it can be to choose just one. For a lot of archaeologists, it’s not just about the stuff. It boils down to the love of discovery and recording the past for future generations.

Lithic Series, Part 5: Impact Fracture

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I’m sure you’ve been just pining to know all about impact fractures and be provided with a somewhat humorous depiction of this occurrence.  So, while surveying, I’ve found a lot of broken projectile points in the field, which are then discarded since they can’t be fashioned into a new point.  Some of the points broke upon impact with the target, still showing how the tool literally fractured into two or more fragments.  Exciting Stuff.