Sunday, August 26, 2012

afternoon at the national museum (part 3)

Middens are locations were ancient humans threw away their domestic wastes (and may have acted as toilets, as dumps for food scraps and broken cooking and eating gear). These middens are treasure troves for archeologists because they give clues about ancient man's diet and eating habits (1).

At the Museum of the Filipino People, a shell midden indicates that the pre-historic Filipino (if he/she can be already called a Filipino) ate a lot of shellfish. This is far from surprising because the country has a very long coastline. That is thanks to the thousands of islands surrounded by water. According to the caption of the exhibit, shells last longer than bones and may provide more information for archeologists.

Ancient man's domestic waste dump

Somehow, I imagine that archeologists have to get their hands really dirty to understand what the ancient Filipino was up to. Imagine being excited about their domestic waste! I only shake my head at disbelief.

In the aftermath of the recent flooding in different parts of Metro Manila and surrounding provinces (2) and the avalanche of garbage in Baguio City last year (3), people have been abuzz with how to minimize waste. There's a renewed emphasis on recycling, on use of paper packages and reusable shopping bags, and on composting. However, these talks focus on waste material that are being generated now or are going to be generated in the future. But what will be done to garbage that already clog the drains and the esteros all over the city, apart from the usual garbage-collection-at-the-Manila-Bay drives?

Today's garbage mounds and clogged esteros may be the future
archeologists' dig sites.

That is one tough question. While I was looking at the shell midden, it got me thinking: our garbage dumps will one day be an archeologist's dig site. What conclusions will future archeologists make, with no clue about today's culture and eating habits, based on all the non-degradable materials in the future midden?