Watch in plastic bag, 2018.
challenge history practical history pragmatic historian using history

The Litter Layer Challenge

In order to explore The Litter Layer I brought up in the last post, I’ve created a challenge to get you thinking about it. The Litter Layer is my term for what I expect archaeologists of the future will find in terms of dumps, landfills, and litter everywhere within this era’s layer of earth, especially in comparison to archaeological digs of previous eras.

Take a walk a block or two from your home and make note of all the litter you find.

I used my cellphone camera to capture a bunch of the litter I found near my house.

  • In observing the litter you have found, what do these items say about who may have discarded them? What do they say about our era? Your community? What might future archaeologists think about our era and communities by looking at our litter? Is this the impression we want to leave?

Most of the litter I found was along an abandoned railroad track, which shows that quite a few people walk along this stretch of tracks. There was a lot of plastic and glass debris here, both of which take forever to decompose. People really like to throw away food- and beverage-related packaging.

  • What is the most curious item you found? Can you identify it? If not, how would you go about trying to identify it? If so, what about the item makes you curious?
Litter, unidentified plastic something-or-other. Do you know what it is? 2018.
Litter, unidentified plastic something-or-other. Do you know what it is? 2018.

Here is my curious item, mostly because I have no idea what it is. It’s fairly large and seems to be part of a wheel, but, then again, maybe not. By showing this photo, I’m hoping an eagle-eyed reader will be able to identify it for me.

If you take this Litter Layer challenge, let me know what you find. Teachers, this would make a good activity for your students, allowing them to pretend to be archaeologists from the future.