Thursday, February 17, 2011

An Archaeologic Assay of Human Artifacts Deposited Alongside Roads, Vol. 1

On Lakeland Road in Anchorage, there's this deep gulch running alongside the E.P. Sawyer Park. The park, as my regular readers are probably tired of hearing about, used to be the grounds of the Central State Insane Asylum and is so haunted, they say you have to scrape the ectoplasm off your shoes when you get back to your car. (I exaggerate only slightly.)

Lakeland Road, incidentally, used to be a railroad track that shuttled directly to the asylum. If you look closely at some points you can still see evidence of the tracks before they paved it over and turned it into a road. And human beings, filthy creatures that they are, have been tossing crap out their car windows along that road ever since.

Today while in the park searching for the exact spot where the asylum's water tower had stood (more about that tomorrow), I happened up the embankment where the park's fenceline meets the aforementioned roadside gulch. It has acted as a catch-net for much of the debris that has been accruing there for decades, and while my left brain was appalled that no one has cleaned that area up for so long, my right brain was fascinated by inspecting what humanity had sloughed off.

Without even doing any digging or disturbing the site at all, I could visually identify corroding beer and soda cans from the 1970s with pull-tabs rather the modern stay-tabs. (Stay-tabs were introduced in 1975 and had become the industry standard in the United States by that decade's end.) Most of the outer layers of garbage were recognizably between the 1980s and the present. And if you think that's not very old, let me remind you that 1991 was two decades ago.

I spotted evidence of much older strata of trash peeking out here and there, however - large murky green and brown bottles, and a fragment of very old floor linoleum (seen in images #16 and #17). A little digging with a shovel would likely yield some more serious finds.

I found a liquor bottle still partially filled with what I presume is vodka or gin because it's clear and the lid is tightly sealed (see image #5). Then again, I also found a pop bottle full of a liquid bearing that unmistakable color of urine (see image #3). Such are the hazards of my profession.

What am I seeing in image #14? Is it a child's sweater? A hat? Definitely some sort of abandoned clothing. It appears to have a face on it. I didn't even really notice it until after I got home and looked at the pictures closely.

While the junk seen here isn't as immediately compelling as, say, the old dumpsite in Elliott County I chanced upon a few years ago, I betcha there's all kinds of groovy goodies lurking under the surface. Avid fan of urban archaelogy that I am, you can be sure this gulch hasn't seen the last of me.

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