Daily Prompt Digging Up Your Digs 500 years from now, an archaeologist accidentally stumbles on the ruins of your home, long buried underground. What will she learn about early-21st-century humans by going through (what remains of) your stuff?
I despair of human progress if, five hundred years in the future, they are digging at all. I imagine they will go at the surface of the earth with devices we cannot imagine that see through the ground and register aeons of detritus and lives. The earth is a low-rise apartment building housing past generations.
My parents used to joke about how future archeologists would think toilets were household shrines — but that would depend on the philosophical and religious bent of the people doing the excavation. If they themselves have no house hold shrines and have toilets, then they’ll see toilets.
The point; it will be hard for them to see anything. They will be as crippled as we are, hobbled by their own knowledge, experience and expectations.
This interests me right now for two reasons. I’ve been packing to move and that is a kind of “self-archeology.” The other is I’ve recently watched the Nova series “Becoming Human” and I’ve been amazed by the discoveries and dismayed by the assumptions — it seems to me that things are fixed as facts that might not be facts at all — such as all humans started in Africa. What if that’s not true? It very likely IS true but what if it isn’t?
Involved in these two directions of archeology it hit me that the closer one is to the findings (my dad’s high school journals and letters to his cousin) the better able one is to find the truth — but even then, it’s pretty doubtful I’ll know it 100%. But (in the case of my dad’s notebooks) his inability to know the future intersected with my knowledge of his future in this little poem/paragraph he wrote about growing old. He wrote it when he was 19. He died at 45 of MS. Knowing that, I could read this a couple of ways — one of which is as a presentiment of his actual fate.
As for the other archeology? The paleoarcheology? In the NOVA series I learned that no, there was no cross-breeding between Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals, then my research shows that in the interval between the production of the series and now, scientists found that yes, there was. That right there would make me — were I a scientist — very careful about making any statements. Their bias toward Homo Sapien is also very apparent in the series. We are the “most advanced species on the planet.” What does advanced mean? And, how in hell can we judge that OURSELVES?
So maybe those future archeologists will have transcended the (extremely primitive) need to assert their “bestestness” and look at the artifacts of my very simple life with curiosity about the person who lived it. Maybe they will use their magic equipment to reconstruct the life of someone who didn’t do much of any importance but tried in her own small way to “affect the quality of the day.” Maybe by then human beings will have learned that THAT is how the species progresses and will be curious to know how all the “ordinary” people strove in that direction back in 2014. That is what interests me when I am doing research for my novels. “All well and good, Mr. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, but what about the people whose names we do not know?” We think a lot of Homer for writing the Illiad and the Odyssey but we owe most of our thanks to generations of anonymous story-tellers who repeated the stories told in those epics over and over and over, the “vast chain of dancers,” described by Aristotle.