11.5: Activity 4 - Someone Else’s Trash
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Part 1: Assignment Description and General Instructions
- Select a trash container or other type of trash deposits in your home or apartment.
- Collect everything you throw away (the assemblage) for one week (5-7 days). If you wish, you can record your findings in a series of shorter periods of 2-3 days to make it easier to inventory (your house may produce a lot of trash).
- Inventory: Be as accurate as possible when compiling your inventory. Your list should look like the Garbology at Lancaster list in the preceding activity (11.3). Each object recovered in the assemblage must be listed by type of good (e.g., milk), brand or manufacturer when possible (e.g., Pillsbury), container type (e.g., paper, plastic), and remains of any product left in containers unconsumed (e.g., half-filled bottle of pickles).
- We recommend that you keep a clipboard or notebook handy so you can write down items as you throw them away. Alternatively, you can collect and then inventory your trash after a couple of days, but that can get gross! It is completely up to you to decide how to conduct your inventory.
- Take several photographs of your trash/midden assemblage and submit the photographs with your inventory list. This documentation will make it easier for your fellow student to analyze your trash.
- You should choose a source that provides a diverse assortment of kinds of refuse. Your inventory list must include at least 50 different kinds of things.
Part 2: Interpretation of the Data
- The culture in general
- The specific domestic unit
- What the garbage doesn’t tell you
- What does the refuse tell you about the household?
- What in this assemblage suggests the time of year in which it was deposited?
- How many people do you think lived in the residence?
- What ages and genders appear to be represented in this household? How do you know? Is it possible to interpret the gender of the inhabitants in a different way than the one you used?
- Can you identify the likely ethnicity of the people in the household? What sorts of material in the assemblage provide clues to their ethnic background? Why?
- Can you infer the socio-economic class of the household?
- How would you characterize their diet? For instance, what range of foods appear to have been eaten? How healthy is their diet? Does their diet appear to be expensive, cheap, trendy? What does their diet suggest about their lifestyle?
- What does this refuse tell you about the political and economic system of the culture?
Part 3: Complete a Written Interpretation of the Artifacts