archeology

seeks understanding of the past from its materiality — even though by far the most material of ages “when a single city produced and discarded more indistinguishables in a day than the whole planet now does in a year” yields, predominantly, spam (and anything that appears authentic may be an impostor: modernity made elaborate fakes, almost more believable — and themselves imitated — than the real antiques which “tend to disappoint”). Cleanup evolved into a battlefield: how far need we err on the side of caution, how unique must be whatever our agencies pick up to be salvaged from recycling? What if its valuable historically but hostile environmentally?  ■    Earth will never have enough museums for everything buried in it: most known anthropogenic objects remain where they were found — mapped, catalogued, sometimes frozen but usually left to naturally dissolve; much about long-disappeared artifacts can be deduced from their chemical and structural traces in the strata. Theres still plenty to work on underground: whole subterranean provinces (e.g. oceans far from the coasts and trade routes) have only cursory old maps compiled by early-generation agencies; and yet, like astronomy where automated datasets replaced first-hand observations, archeology has long become a science of archive digs more than nature digs.

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