Understanding What’s Underground

Small tea saucer.

Small tea saucer. Source: Kate Deeley

After spending almost two weeks excavating in the James Holliday house, digging up countless household items, it’s easy to see that although generations span between us, modern day Marylanders are similar to their Annapolis ancestors.    As we slowly sift through the shards that once made up a family’s life, it becomes apparent what kind of life that James Holliday and his family held.  Pieces of glass from everything from bottles to windowpanes litter the dirt floor, toys such as marbles and dolls are sporadically spread apart, and tiny bits of fish and bird bone pop up every couple of millimeters.  All of this acts as a narrative; suddenly the Holliday family comes to life as we envision children playing on the kitchen floor while fish or chicken is prepared for them.

Discovering commonplace items like broken glass and pottery may seem insignificant, but these small things give a seemingly arbitrary family a face in history and a voice in time; every little bit helps us understand life in Annapolis in a way that written documentation never could.  The ability to physically hold something in your hand and know that this was part of someone’s real life is an amazing feeling.  It really made me personally understand that even though they’re gone, the Holliday’s imprint on society is still present, letting us better understand them and their day-to-day life.

One day all of our house hold items will be rediscovered by archeologists from the future—perhaps they will grow weary of how many hangers or soda cans they have to dig up and count, just as today we grow weary of the amounts of oyster shells and coal shards that must be accounted for.  But one thing that excavating has taught me is that matter how unimportant an artifact may seem, in the end, it all adds up to a life well lived, a life that deserves a voice and place in history as well as recognition and respect from its modern day counterparts.  Future Archeologists will revel in our small forgotten items, trying to get a feel for our culture and ideals the same way that we attempt to piece together the Holliday’s lives.  This kind of understanding is key to forging connections between modern culture and that of yesteryear’s.

1 Comment
  1. I often think about how much of our trash goes in to landfills instead of our backyards. Poor archaeologists of the future, they will be dealing with much more intense smells than we.

    The Holliday House has so many children’s toys! I really wanted our field school shirts to have a doll’s head on them, but that creeped everyone else out. Don’t forget to design your shirts or you won’t get any!

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