What is this stuff?

by Jeff Tenuth, Science and Technology Collection Manager

[Continued from Uncovering the truth]

There are two questions that a historian asks at this point: What is the material I’m looking at and what does it mean? In other words, what does this material tell me about the world of the past? How does it help me to understand how people lived their lives? By retrieving and analyzing this material, we can learn how people lived, what they ate, the kinds of materials they made and used, the kind of work they did and how they played. Science finds the material and history tells us what it means. And you would be surprised at what we’ve found over the years.

Bone fragments tagged and bagged.

What we find generally falls into five different categories: faunal, glass, ceramic, metal and (what I call) “everything else.” Faunal material consists of various animal bones, teeth, snails, mussels, egg shells, seeds and anything else organic. This material helps us understand what people ate nearly two centuries ago. Diet might not seem very important, but by analyzing what people ate, we can determine part of the general state of their health. Continue reading