The refuse that people dispose of can be a valuable source of information about individuals or households. In particular, it can throw light on their economic status, spending habits or lifestyles (Rathje and Cullen 10). This information can be of some interest to archeologists and anthropologists. This paper is aimed at discussing the application of this method.
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In particular, my waste can be divided into two major groups such as recyclable and bio-degradable materials. For instance, one can mention paper, glass, bottles, cans, and many other items.
These objects indicate at the relatively high purchasing power of a person and strong economic position. In this case, much attention should be paid to particular products or brands that a person purchases. This is one of the main issues that an anthropologist should pay attention to.
Additionally, waste can sometimes be used to determine the religious affiliation of a person. For example, many food packages can have labels showing these products can be classified as kosher foods. Therefore, one can assume that a person, who disposed of this refuse, can practice Judaism.
However, one should bear in mind that this information is not always available to researchers. For example, my refuse does not say anything about my religion. This is one of the limitations that should be considered. In most cases, the conjectures about the religion of a person cannot be supported.
Additionally, the refuse cannot throw light on the political system established in the country in which the owner of the goods lives. For instance, waste cannot be used to learn whether a person lives in a democratic or non-democratic society.
Nevertheless, judging from the variety of products and brands, one can suggest that the person lives in a capitalist society which has a very competitive market. These are some of the main aspects that can be identified. Therefore, the study of disposable items can be very informative, but they cannot give definitive answers to researchers. This is one of the main points that can be made.
Furthermore, an archeologist can sometimes determine whether disposed of items belong to a single household or several families. For example, by looking at different tubes of toothpaste, a researcher can conjecture that they were disposed to be several families. In many cases, the members of a single family prefer to buy toothpaste from the same producer.
Nevertheless, one should bear in mind that this is only a conjecture which cannot be always confirmed. This is the main limitation of interpretive archeology (Thomas 7). Apart from that, one cannot always estimate the number of people in a family only by looking at the disposed of items because people can have different eating habits or consumption patterns.
Overall, these examples show that people’s refuse is of great value to archeologists and anthropologists. In this way, researchers can examine people’s spending patterns or even estimate their income level. Sometimes, one can even identify the religion affiliation of the person who left the refuse.
Nevertheless, one should remember that this method strongly relies on the accuracy of interpretations which can be based on false assumptions or even stereotypes. This is one of the main pitfalls that should be avoided. Moreover, it is difficult to confirm the conjectures that a researcher poses. These are the main issues that should be taken into account.
Rathje, Wlliam and Murphy Cullen. Rubbish!: the archaeology of garbage, Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2001. Print.
Thomas, Julian. Interpretive Archeology, London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2000. Print.