Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Archaeological Responsibilities

I have been reading the absolutely fascinating report from the Cypress Archaeology Project, and marveling about the rich history of West Oakland. In case you didn't know, when Caltrans reconstructed the part of Freeway 880 that collapsed in the 1989 earthquake, they contracted the Anthropological Studies Center at Sonoma State University to examine the area, in compliance with section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

So between 1994 and 1996, the archaeologists dug up artifacts all the way back to the Victorian era: tea sets, cutlery, dolls, tools, bottles, witch balls, decorative objects, religious objects. They wrote really interesting reports that reveal a vibrant, diverse, cosmopolitan community. They examined gender politics, race relations, and social class distinctions. From what they wrote, it looks like West Oakland used to be an urban planner's dream: a socially and racially diverse, "walkable" community with easy access to shopping and services.

When we toss stuff in West Oakland now, we are leaving a picture of our lives for future archaeologists. I am thinking about burying some weird stuff just to provide a bit of a head-scratcher.


Colburn said...

I hope I find some time to read some of that. Does reading about West Oakland in its heyday change your perceptions of West Oakland in the present day at all, for better or for worse?

Sussu said...

It makes me appreciate it more. West Oakland is one of the most cosmopolitan-feeling places I have ever lived. It makes sense to me that it's part of the DNA of West Oakland to be like that. It reminds me of the highly independent and tolerant culture of islands I've spent time on, like Ibiza.

The real civility and dignity of people can't be seen without exposure to differences and adversity. In the time I've spent here, West Oakland has struck me as a place very rich in civility and dignity. Learning about its history has helped me understand the roots of that a little better.

oaksnap said...

Thanks for sharing. I am going to read the report as well.

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