The Armchair Archaeologist

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This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend an archaeological excavation at a site known only as “The Toy Pantry.” Now an isolated area in the northwest corner of the Dubois territory, these findings indicate that the Pantry was once a thriving nucleus of civilization. Gradually, the toy pantry was abandoned in favor of more productive living conditions, such as the nearby air-conditioned bedroom. Working through the strata of human history, my team and I uncovered many artifacts that can aid in imagining what life was like all those years ago.

Not even ten minutes into excavating at this site, our team uncovered a concentrated area in which the only artifacts were lip protectants (or LPs). There were five distinct designs present. We hypothesized that each design was specific to a particular year. When analyzing the texture of the specimens, we found this theory to be potentially validated. The relics known as Rudolph 01 and Rudolph 02, which have a consistency similar to that of glue, have been dated back to Christmas 2011. Older LPs, such as Candy 01 through 05, rank close to diamond in the Mohs scale. The oldest ones are probably from 2005 or earlier. The outer designs reveal the range and evolution of artistic interests, from simple text to crude depictions of animals. We have found fifteen intact, but we unearthed many more incomplete or broken LPs.

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It is clear that this ancient society coveted aesthetics and hedonism above all else. Many other beauty products were unearthed, as were simple board games, building blocks, balls, and an accumulation of comfortable clothing. A conspicuous absence of efficient tools confirmed our suspicions. Nearly all of these artifacts had some kind of decorated or embellished surface, once again placing the emphasis on beauty and appearance. Another form of art important to this ancient society is literature.

The ancient texts that we found were surprisingly undamaged. By observing the style of writing, we were able to discern their relative ages. There seem to be three distinct eras of written communication. The first involves a system of separately drawn characters, generally all of the same large size. These are found the deepest in the so-called Notebook Piles, a specific area of the excavation site rife with old manuscripts. The second generation of writing links all the characters together and adds ornamentations and flourishes. It is at this point in history that writing became regarded as much as an art form as a means of communication, both visually and rhetorically. The third era of writing is the one we are most familiar with today; haphazard scribbling that is half-connected, half-separate.

The literature of the time is marked by a staggering realism that takes the reader by force. The deadpan narration of the unfolding events is an ironic contrast to the action-heavy, emotionally charged subject matter. Here is one of the very earliest examples from the first era of written communication, circa 2001.

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Despite our knowledge of this civilization past, there are still a few items that defy categorization.

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This small figure had only about an inch in height, but miles in potential significance. All we know for certain about this artifact is that it is molded out of plastic and has been decorated with many colored paints. We cannot be sure what it is meant to represent, if anything at all. This mustached mystery is just one of many reminders that, for as much information as we uncover about the lives of the ancients, there is infinitely more that we will never know.

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