The Fingerprints We Leave Behind

What will we leave behind for people—hopefully there will still be people in the future—to ruminate on and wonder about Twenty First Century human civilizations? All right, that is a little deep for the end of the week but a couple of things got me to thinking about the subject.

First, on a recent vacation my family visited an archaeological site in the Yucatan:


Chacchoben was a Mayan settlement where the remaining ruins date from somewhere around 700 AD. What is left does not represent the average Mayan’s life because what remains is a ceremonial site. The average Mayan’s ruins would have been made of wood and thatch, materials which long ago decomposed back into the jungle. You are left to wander among platforms that hosted the elites’ homes and some common areas for ceremonies.

Second, I finished Mary Beard’s very good SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome where she takes great pains to remind us how little we know about daily life in the words of the people who lived in Rome, elite or otherwise, and how what we reconstruct from the archaeological records is inevitably tainted by our own bias.

What will someone say when they unearth the hundreds of football stadiums in the former United States? I can almost read the interpretation of thousands of people gathering in a predetermined day of the week to watch teams of armored men do battle on the turf. Will tailgating be discussed as a ritual sacrifice of food and drink to the deities believed to have some interest or hand in the outcome of the contest to be decided on the field? What will someone make of the exalted position we give to athletes?

What fingerprints will we leave behind for future generations to judge us by?


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