I help with the Tucson region Site Steward training a couple of times a year. My section is a short in-class presentation: Artifact Identification and then a bit of fieldwork.
I had just gone through a “quick and dirty” bit on prehistoric artifact. So now it was time to present historic artifacts. I started with rusty cans.
As Site Stewards we ask the Stewards to clean up on-site trash IF it is not associated with pot hunting or other vandalism and the trash is recent.
I said, “We are now leaving rusty cans with aluminum tops as they are on the edge as historic trash”.
Wow! A woman in the audience said she objected, as these were nothing but trash.
I pointed out to her that Archaeologists study trash; the debris, which man regardless of age or culture, has left behind.
Her jaw dropped and she sputtered, “But these cans are from the 1960s and 70s, they are trash!”
I pointed out to her that, in my opinion, a can of this type was, in essence, no different from a projectile point dropped by prehistoric man. The projectile point tells us humans had been there, gives us a culture and even gives us a date. The style of the can may tell us a lot in its own way.
She did not buy my argument and was incensed to hear that Archaeologists study trash and we leave trash.
I guess she thought we only study whole vessels, sandals, jewelry etc.
We should be so lucky!
I have renamed my presentation: Lets Talk Trash