WHAT IS IT?

Butterfly Can Opener
What Is It?

In 2,500 years or so, after empires have come and gone, what will scientists and archaeologists dig up from the material culture that we now all take for granted?  Will they know what it was used for when they dig it up?

I’m always thinking about this a little bit.  For example, when they dig up McDonald’s from all over the world, no doubt they will assume that it was a global religion based on the worship of a clown-god whose devotees proved their loyalty by eating the holy happy meal and sacrificing their children in the ball pit of death.

At least, that is what I think they might imagine.

This weekend I enjoyed reading the most recent edition of BAR (Biblical Archaeology Review) which is probably my favorite magazine.  This particular edition has a lot of great articles in it as well as much vitriol.  No other academics yell and curse each other quite like archaeologists.  It is jolly good fun.

My favorite part of the magazine, though, is one of the games they put in.  A picture of an artifact is placed placed on one of the earlier pages with the simple question–What is it? and then four or five choices are given.  The answer is on a page near the end of the magazine.  Mrs. Greenbean and I always play.  She doesn’t even like archaeology and she is right as often as I am.  This time, we both were wrong.

photoThere were five possible guesses.  A.  hairbrush without bristles  B.  Philistine jewelry mold  C.  Sumerian pegboard  D.  Fossilized honeycomb  E.  Game board.

I will not tell you yet, what the answer is.  I will include it at the end of the blog post.

What might people of the future imagine, or work hard to discover, the purpose of some of the simplest and most mundane objects of our world are?  Consider how hard it might be to know what a can opener is if you’ve never seen a can?  Our everyday world is filled with such things–obvious to us but perhaps future puzzles for scholars.  Consider:

  • a DVD
  • a drinking straw
  • a daily pill-box sorter
  • digital thermometer
  • toilet bowl brush
  • An oil filter on a car

All manner of electronics might fit this category because I am assuming two things.  One, electronics that are buried degrade quicker than metal or stone.  Two, the future will be more technologically sophisticated than today, but the devices will be different.  Hence, the DVD will be found, perhaps, but no method will be know to play it or even to know that it is a digital device.  Therefore, it will be considered, perhaps, a decorative item that males aligned their wall with in order to attract females?  Archaeologists tend to always make things either about religion or sex, which leads me to a theory I have about mummies . . . but I’ll save that for another time.

Now, in case you were still wondering about that image–the right answer is (E) Game board.  It is an Egyptian game called Senet.  This board came from Tel Arad in Israel and is 5000 years old.

Assuming humanity survives, and the Lord does not sew everything up, what sort of things do you guess that future generations might have a hard time figuring out?  I’d love to see your list.

BEACH READING

Okay, it isn’t really beach reading because I was not at the beach. But during vacation I did read; and thought I would share some of my reading with you.

Let’s start with the magazines.  I read my July edition of “National Geographic.”  The feature article was about Cleopatra.  It wasn’t nearly as exciting as I thought it would be; but Natgeo is always one of my favorite magazines and I look forward to it each month.  I also read the July/August “Biblical Archaeology Review”.  It too is one of my favorites and it did not disappoint.  I especially enjoyed the articles about the martyrium of Philip and the ivories of Nimrud.

I also read several books.  In Mesa Verde, Colorado I picked up a book titled The Mesa Verde WorldExplorations in Ancestral Pueblo Archaeology.  It is an anthology from various authors bringing several different perspectives on the Mesa Verde ruins and it has great photographs!

Professionally I read a book titled The 21st Century Pastor by David Fisher.  I’ve had this book in my library for almost a year and finally decided to read it.  The book is really great; but poorly named.  It is not really about the 21st century pastor at all, it is about the struggles of being a pastor in the late 20th century.  Personally I identify with much of the writer’s views and agree with his conclusions.  The ideal reader of this book would be a young minister fresh out of seminary.  The book is dated; being 15 years old and I wish I’d read it 15 years ago.

A friend of mine from church gave me the book Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton.  Once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down; that is how good it is.  I will not give any spoilers, but it is a novel that will make you think and break your heart.  I highly recommend it, (thanks Mike!).  This was the most enjoyable and meaningful literature I’ve read in a long time.

About a month ago I picked up Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter-House Five at a garage sale for fifty cents.  I’d never read Vonnegut but had heard about him.  Slaughter-House Five is a very hard book to read because it is violent, disturbing, and profane but it is also an important book to read.  There is a profound message in the pages.   Slaughter-House Five is odd, quirky, and funny; but not in a “funny ha-ha” kind of funny.  Mature adults should read this; but do not read it if you are easily offended.  Vonnegut could never have gotten published today—the world is just too sensitive.

I continued reading Pascal’s Pensees.  I have not finished it, and am beginning to wonder if I ever will.  I enjoy reading it, but the material is so dense that I never feel like I am making progress toward completing the book.

I took with me a book a friend gave me titled The Rickover Effect which is about Admiral Rickover and how he influenced the U.S. Navy.  I did not get to it, but will start soon because when my friend gave it to me he said, “Read this and you’ll understand sailors better.”  Since many of the people I minister to are connected to the Navy; reading this book and fixing apparent defects in my ministry is an important learning endeavor.