Thursday, June 2, 2011

Data entry, and the lost Coca-Cola bottle shard.

If there has been one thing I have learned from participating in digs falling under the historical archaeology clade, it is that the curation and cataloging of associated artifacts is a beast.

One can almost be certain to haul back mountains of broken glass and ceramic shards, each requiring scrutiny for the myriad markings that may give insight into origins and usage. In comparison, prehistoric sites may require the curation and cataloging of lithic debris, but you certainly aren't going to find an eighth inch "Coca-Cola" "c" on one of them.

My time spent at the lab entering baggies into the excel sheet was definitely a positive one as I was given a vantage point surveying a variety of finds. However, artifacts had broken in transit, or minutia had been overlooked. One example as mentioned above was a 3/4 inch coca cola bottle shard from the body of the bottle that had tiny micro-fractures all through it. On the convex side of the shard was some raised decoration whose outline was obscured by the micro-fractures. Squinting at it for a few minutes finally revealed that it was the characteristic, cursive font of a lowercase Coca-Cola "c", This characteristic was not mentioned and so I decided to enter it into the notes.

The importance of such minute traits might be easily underestimated. I personally have a difficult time caring about artifacts that are younger than my 81 year old grandfather and might as easily be found in the back of his refrigerator as 20 centimeters under the ground. I fight this feeling and think, "Well, if I could get my hands on a Coca-Cola catalog of historic products, maybe I could approximate when this particular bottle was made."

So much of what we do depends on how thoroughly we investigate the minutia. I think a lesson learned by myself is that the usefulness and richness of data we have to work with depends upon the undying curiosity that got us to where we are in our studies in the first place. While the mundane is easy to dismiss, it is through our level of attentiveness that interesting and informative conclusions are arrived at.

2 comments:

  1. The Coca-Cola bottle is awesome! Jamie was working on this clear glass bottle shard today with "fer's" on it and she finally matched it with Shaeffer's Ink from the early 1900's, it only took....a few HOURS!

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  2. Artifacts like this that resemble the modern objects of today always sent me into a dreamer mode, where I imagine what the artifact used to look like when it was whole and what the environment/time period looked like.
    For instance, was this shard of glass from a coco-cola bottle that held the famous drink which once actually had dosages of cocaine in it?

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