Exam 2 extra credit

Your Grave

In class and in the required readings we have discussed how both Homo Sapiens and the Neanderthals practiced the intentional burial of the dead. Much of what anthropology has learned about their ancient culture comes from items found in graves. These are call ‘grave goods’ and are thought to be of some symbolic importance to the deceased.

Now imagine that you are dead and your loved ones are preparing to bury you in the ground.

In the comments section below, write what you think those surviving you will put in your grave with you. Think about your family and your friends, both your old friends and your ODU friends. What will they bury you with?

Then write what you imagine future archaeologists might glean from these items.

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About Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson is a project cataloger at The Mariners' Museum library. He has a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and was formerly a professor at ODU. You can find him on Twitter @m4ttTh0mps0n.
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23 Responses to Exam 2 extra credit

  1. LOOK HERE! This is where I want you to post your reply.

    • Mozelle Garner Jones says:

      I have been pretty mobile in my residing in places. For my childhood, I grew up in Alabama (scary). For the first eighteen years of my adult life, I resided in New York, in the suburbs. For the next years, from 1987 forward, I have resided in Virginia.

      Since residing in Virginia, both of my friends died at an early age, before the age of 40 and 50; as a result, I have not allowed myself any close relationships except my ex-boyfriend and my ex-husband. These are the only people I would call friends. I do not have friends at ODU.

      My immediate family consists of my mother, two brothers, sister, two daughters, and a grandchild. Sadly, I think think my mother and siblings know enough about me to make decisions about what to bury with me as symbolic to a life I loved living. Perhps my youngest daughter and my ex-husband would come closest to knowing my passions.

      I am passionate about traveling and learning. Although a passport would not survive aging, it would be the most significant statement about my life; books would also be representative but they would not survive either. I believe that every day presents an opportunity to learn and I believe in spreading knowledge around. I hope that would be my legacy but I am afraid it won’t be if I don’t tell someone who would also not survive long enough to be part of a fossil record.

      Thanks for prompting me to think about it and allowing me to make that statement.

    • Eric Hanson says:

      When I die, my friends may leave with me a science fiction book, my oldest grandson would probably leave his Star Wars storm trooper helmet, my coworkers may leave a set of calipers and my classmates would probably leave a bag of peppermints.

      Years later, if archaeologists open my grave, there may be confusion of the timeline if the book is legible because a lot of science fiction from the past has become reality and add the helmet to the confusion. Looking at the peppermints, one may look at them as a type of currency or favorite food. The calipers would leave them to believe I was a man of science.

    • Tiffany Smith says:

      I think my family and friends will bury me with a few particular items. I would like my daughters handmade popsicle stick/ glitter box she made me this past mothers day or any of the other beautiful gifts she gives me. I love taking pictures so I’m sure my camera and plenty of pictures of my friends, family and me will be put in there. Also I love music so my ipod would defiantly be in my grave. Hopefully there will be a new James Patterson book to put in my grave so I’ll have something to read. I have no idea what anthropologist will infer from my grave. I’m sure my sentimental handmade things will be recognizable and they’ll know its from a child. They’ll know i enjoy music and taking pictures and ho much i love my family and friends and vice versa.

  2. Ashley Hodges says:

    I think my family and friends would bury me with a couple of things.

    1. Manatee stuffed animal – I love manatees, they are my favorite animal. Anyone who knows me well enough should know this. I am currently studying marine biology in hopes of one day saving this endangered animal.

    2.Paint Brush – I have loved art ever since I was little. I love doing arts and crafts and making collages. In my spare time I love to paint pottery. My ODU friends probably don’t know this about me yet but my old friends and family certainly do.

    3.Disco Ball – I love to DANCE ! Whether it is at a party or in my room I love to dance.
    My ODU friends would defiently be able to back this statement up without a doubt.

    4.Red Velvet Cupcake – My favorite food in the world. I just recently discovered red velvet cake and cupcakes but I know that all my friends and family have noticed my obsession with them.

    5.Cell Phone – I am sadly attached to my cell phone. I rarely ever use it for its actual purpose, to talk on the phone. I think everyone these days are addicted to texting.

    Archaeologist might insight a few different things about these items. First, depending when they find me the manatee may or may not be extinct by then because it is slowly dyeing off. If so I think they would probably wonder what kind of animal it is and when did it live. Next, the paint brush would probably still be around but it might be more modified by then so they might be able to use it as an artifact. Then, Disco ball they would probably be confused about. They might understand what it is but they might use it as a reference for the time period I lived in, which would be obviously wrong. Also, The red velvet cupcake, being technical it would have probably be desinigrated, but they would hopefully still have these delicious treat still around. If not then they would probably replicate it to see if it had some kind of significance. They would probably be able to tell that I love to eat. Finally, my cell phone, I think they would realize that I liked technology. The technology would most likely be far more advanced than the cell phone I would have buried with me. Hopefully, they would be able to recognize it, and maybe put it in a museum.

  3. Ariane McBean says:

    I don’t have many items that I hold dearly due to moving a lot when I was younger (military brat, hooray. . .) and never really growing attachments to anything because it was futile and would get lost or thrown away. Such sentiments stick.

    1) my red leather cambridge messenger bag
    I forged through the forest of Google websites in order to make me feel like a British little boy during WWII on his way to his primary school that has been halved due to the Blitzkrieg. Those who know me know I whined for a month until this came in the mail from England, bitched about a bag like this for years, and how it makes the room smells like fine leather.

    Future Representation:
    Considering this item is made of leather it should be intact for a decent amount of years. Future anthropologists can gather that this item was used to keep goods in; possibly for learning? Possibly for gathering? The anthropologists should be able to deduce that people from my time often received foreign objects through trade. However, I bet anthropologists would not be that stupid as to citing our civilization with Romans or what-have-you.

    2) my stuffed bear
    I still have this huge care bear (roughly the size of a 4-5 year old) from when I was a kid and it’s the best pillow to cuddle and lay my head upon. His name is Waxy Bear, and he was named such after I tried to wash him when I was younger and added too many dryer sheets. Thus, he was waxy for weeks, but oh-so delicious smelling. I can’t even recall a different name other than Waxy.

    Future Representation:
    Bits and pieces of this stuffed animal should still be intact. The anthropologists would deduce that people of my time often kept sentimental objects well into their adulthood.

    3) my iPod & headphones
    I am a member of this super hip generation where people give up silence or cordial conversations in order to drown quiet or awkward times. These items are always with me and filled with music I love (obviously). Plus, these headphones are 1950’s replications of the harnessing of noise of yore.

    Future Representation:
    I get images of Back of the Future 2 with technology, so I’d assume that future anthropologists would already know about most technology and have somewhat of a timeline similar to that of man in order to show technological advancement. If not, anthropologists would find a decent amount of iPods to deduce that people during my time were people who often fell into trends and similar thought.

  4. Jessica-Rae Ziolkowski says:

    I think they would buried me with books. As an English major, I read ALL the time (27 Books already this year). Also, my friends would make sure I looked good. They would probably bury me in a nice outfit and my favorite necklace and ring. I’m a photographer too so they would probably put my camera in with me too.

    In a million years when my body is discovered (well at least my fossilized bones), scientists will be confused by what they find. The clothes will have disintegrated and there will just be a polished loose stone left over from my necklace because the string will be long gone. Maybe they will think I just liked rocks or maybe they will guess it was apart of jewelry once. I hope that they will make up some story about a funny way I used the stone. My ring will still be together how ever this will probably again confuse them since the ring is nice and I am so young. They will probably gather that I was from a wealthy family. My camera still might be together or at least recoverable. I would real hope of all the things they would be able to recover the camera and make a working replica. My favorite part about class so far was the flute that they found and that they were able to play the replica. Hearing what someone so long ago heard all the time is really cool. It really gives the person personality. As a big fan of photography, I love seeing how people used to take and develop their pictures. I’m sure when they find me they will have a completely different way they use photography. So, hopefully they will learn about our photography from my camera. Although it breaks my heart to say this. The books will definitely not last. Unless there is some miracle, my books will probably be long gone before anyone would ever dig up my bones.

    -Jessica-Rae

  5. Amber Balsamo says:

    I think my family and friends would bury me with my ladybug necklace named “danny bug” because it means the world to me, and everyone knows it. They’d probably also include my cellphone because I never put it down.. Other than that, I don’t really have a lot of items that are really important to me.

    When future anthropologists find my body, they will find my necklace (most likely) intact, and assume it was special to me. And they will most likely laugh at my cell phone, seeing how by then there will be chips or something in everybody’s heads allowing them to silently communicate. Haha.

  6. Brandon Guglielmo says:

    If I were to die tomorrow I think my family would burry me with a copy of my favorite book (that doesn’t give unfortunate implications) The Idles of the King by Lord Tennyson because I love to read, Arthurian Legend, and history (I kind of counts). My friends would probably put in a movie, “Manos” Hands of Fate come to mind, because some of the best memories I’ve had with them was watching really bad movies.
    When found in the future if everything, magically, is intact would find that we were a race with literature and an artistic race that developed plastics. Or more likely they’d just find my fossilized bones.

  7. Mozelle Garner Jones says:

    After pondering it further, perhaps a GPS, a bottle of red wine, and books in a capsule. Archaeologists may grasp my love of traveling, healthy libation, and thirst for knowledge. I would have to work on which books. I love my Oxford, desk dictionary/ thesaurus. It gets me through times and assignments when I may have otherwise appeared, lets say “not so worldly.” 🙂

  8. Seann Barbour says:

    Well, I imagine that my relatives probably wouldn’t bury me with anything, but for the sake of this thought experiment, I would say: a flash drive/jump drive/ usb drive/whatever. It would have all my stories and art projects on it.

    Depending on the context of the future, archaeologists would either wonder what this strange device was, or they would recognize it, but have no way of getting the information off of it, or they would use super-advanced archaeology computers that are full of old data storage drives to extract the information. Then they’d read the stories, examine the art and comics, and conclude that the owner of this drive was completely insane, due to my love of the fantasy and horror genres.

  9. Athena Beskenis says:

    If I were to die anytime soon, my friends and family might bury me with a few meaningful items such as a golf club, Virginia Zoo uniform, Volvo emblem from my car, and my bongo antelope shirt.

    Golf club- I love to play on the golf coarse everyday, no matter what the weather brings me.

    Virginia Zoo uniform- I currently work at the Norfolk Zoo as a zookeeper intern. I love taking care of all the different kinds of species and hope to become a Zoologist.

    Volvo emblem- I am addicted to my Volvo cross country wagon and will never have another car.

    Bongo shirt- Since bongos are extremely endangered, my bongo shirt means a lot to me. My shirt has the names of all the bongos I cared for at the zoo.

    If archaeologists were to open up my grave long into the future, they might think the golf club looks ancient, since it might have rust and the technology is old. The Bongo shirt will probably be disintegrated . However, if part of the shirt still remains they may not even know what a bongo is. Archeologists might think the Volvo emblem is worth a lot of money because it is shiny.

  10. Meagan Hickman says:

    I honestly don’t have very many material possessions that mean a lot to me, but i think that if I were to buried with anything, it would probably be my guitar. Music has been a big part of my life for about as long as I can remember, and I don’t think that I have anything else that would have as much significance to myself and my life.

    If archeologists were to discover me in the future, they would probably guess that music was a big part of the culture of my time.

  11. Ariella Gould says:

    My family would probably bury me with my favorite foods, seeing as I love to eat and am constantly noshing on something when I am home. But then in serious thought, they would bury me with my blanket from when I was a little kid. I carried the thing everywhere for the longest time of my childhood. They would also bury me with my favorite swim team suit/cap/and goggles, since it is one of my life long passions.

    My friends from home would bury me with our signature Ari-Debra-Shana-Hannah tye dye tee shirt. I feel like my friend Shana would make a picture collage to put in with me, Debra would stick in the spongebob sippy cup she gave me at our college parting, and Hannah would probably bake/puffy paint me something cute.

    As for my ODU friends, my friend Graham would probably bury me with the mixed CDs I made him for all the long car rides we’ve had together, Matt would bury me with a bunch of ricer car pictures for me to “laugh at”, and Andy would buy a pair of footie pajamas finally so that we could finally “match” and bury myself with mine. Meg and Yoana would bury me with letters to dead me and make a poster with pictures of our times together while we were here, and a strip of the “CAUTION Wild Girls” tape.

    Even if I’m wrong, I know that whatever I’m buried with is something sentimental and meaningful to the time I had spent with the people in my life.

    The scientists may infer from my grave that I was an athletic from the swim gear. As for all the other things, it may be hard to understand the significance to my life since most of the other artifacts are based off of past memories. They may conclude that I was very childish/young at heart.. which I can be haha.. They would be able to understand some of my interests from the pictures and the CDs that were in my grave.

  12. Jack Graham says:

    My friends and family would bury me with the ball of each sport i play; I’m very athletic and can play almost any sport well. Sports also helped build my character in such areas as discipline, coachability, following directions, and self improvement practices.
    They would also bury me with my instruments; I grew up in a musical family learning various instruments as i grew up such as the piano at 7, the double bass at 12, and the guitar at 15 just to name a few. I learned to read music fairly well over those years, then, when i got to high school, i was the leading baritone in our A Capella group and learned to sight read excellently among other music theory.
    Lastly, my family and friends would bury me with something technological of mine. I tend to have the latest, up-to-date, fancy, new-age gizmos like iPods, MacBooks and everything in between. I am not ashamed to say i’m a computer nerd, because when people need help with their computers, they call me. Then, when i’ve fixed the problem, they say, “OMG you’re soo smart, thank youu.” Girls like a guy that can work his way around the machinery 😉
    The items my friends and family bury me with would benefit the archaeologists because of what each item meant to the time period. I did various things at different stages in my my life, all of which i held onto, making exacting the age of my remains simpler. It would also give them insight into what i did during my life that could’ve changed the outcome of the anatomical structure of my body which may or may not show signs of evolution.

  13. Ted Palmer says:

    If I were to die, my friends and family would most likely place my sunglasses and Phillies hat in my grave. Since I was a kid, I have always worn sunglasses constantly. They have become a second feature to my body almost. It would not surprise me if they buried them with me in my grave. The second item that would be placed in my grave is a Philadelphia Phillies hat. If you ask anybody they will tell you I am a die hard Phillies fan. I have been watching them since I was little and have always been a fan. These would be the only two items i could see my family putting in my grave.

  14. Madelyn Rhodes says:

    My friends and family would probably bury me with many symbolic items upon my death, although I have very few material items I hold near and dear to my heart.

    1. My stuffed animal- my favorite stuffed animal growing up was none other than the little mouse from a book I read throughout my childhood “If you give a mouse a cookie” I always adored his small overalls and if I ever needed comfort at night he was always by my side, and I spent countless hours reading the book to him while eating cookies and playing along side.

    2. A track competition shoe- Being very competitive in high school I ran track all four years competing in all speed related events from the 400 meter dash (one lap) to high jump, triple jump & long jump. Making it to states for twelve seasons and running on the Nike Nationals team 6 times I feel my competition shoe would be buried with me to show my love for athletics.

    The items I would be buried with would help benefit archeologists because they represent something I did throughout my life and this can help piece together not only my interests and the story of what I did, but can also help them pinpoint the time period of which I lived in. They would probably be able to concur I was athletic and young at heart which I can be, but the significance might be harder to understand without details of the story.

  15. jason rodman says:

    My friends and family would probably bury me with items that meant a lot to me:

    1. Pictures of my family. I think anthropologists would find that I was dedicated to them and loved them, and that they played a huge part in who I was as a person.

    2. They may also include my design portfolio. It would provide insight into what I did for a living and how I personally communicated with the culture I was a part of.

    3. They would also throw in small artifacts that represented what interested me in my spare time. For instance, pens and pencils (for illustrating), mechanic tools (for messing around with vintage BMW’s), a model of mid-century chairs (I’m a fan of modern design), and lastly music that spans across different genres (hip hop, hardcore, jazz, afrobeat, funk, etc.)

  16. Shannon Medved says:

    First and formost I would be buried in my Atlanta Braves jersey 🙂 Every one I have ever met in my almost 28 years of life have known i am born into a Braves family.. funny enough we are all from Va.. (Richmond Braves games when I was little).. I have tons of signed baseballs and pictures so I’m pretty certain most of them would be buried with me too. As for friends Ive been a bartender for almost 7 years so I am sure my fellow greenie girls would put my bottle opener in there too.. lol, maybe a bottle of yager and a pack of ciggs too.. just incase I got bored.. 🙂 , As for my family I love, love, love my doggy Bandit so there would be a picture of me and him and one of his toys thrown in ❤ , a picture of my pop (god rest is soul), and prob some of his ashes. As for my wonderful boyfriend he would deff put my hiking stick in my grave.. He actually cut it down about 4 years ago from a tree. We love to hike and I always told him to spread my ashes over shenandoah valley, well now Im being buried so I have to say he would bring something back sentimental from one of our hikes and throw it in.. (even though that is unlawful, I'm "dead" park shouldnt care that much). He would also probably throw a foosball in there too. We love to play foos. In a nutshell this is me. Theres a few more things but I deff am not trying to bore anyone.
    When people found me they probably would think I was a major league ball player.. lol… probably some type of hiker if my awesome stick was still there, it has burnt end from using it for fires so I think they would put it together. Hopefully my dogs toy was still there but by then it would probably fall to pieces. But the picture would still be good, ( They're framed ). So they would know I was a dog lover, had a handsome boyfriend, (hopefully no one would think that was my brother) , and an important pop:)

  17. Heather Willyard says:

    If I were to have anything buried with me from friends and family I can only think of a couple of things. Books because I read a lot, maps because I have lived a lot of places being from a military family and I want to see the world, pictures from all the diabolical plots my friends and I get into and music since well that is truly how you could get to know me. If Anthropologists were to ever find these items they would understand the culture of the time I lived since I would have a lot of aspects of it through music, writing and clothes in the picture. And also that I was well traveled from the maps.

  18. Kelsey Bohlinger says:

    It’s interesting to think about this. For me, I don’t think it’s necessary to bury people with material items only because, yes they may have importance to you in your human life, they will serve no purpose after death. They are just material things. But, IF i were buried with some meaningful items, there certainly would be a few necessary items.

    1). My bible. My faith is a key component in the way I live my life, the friendships I gain, and the decisions I make. It is extremely important to me in that it has been in my life for as long as I can remember.
    2). I love music. Can’t explain it. Can’t explain what genre I like. I love it all. I would definitely love for my friends and family to bury me with some records of my favorite bands.
    3). Lastly, I would want to be buried with something that I discovered. Perhaps my greatest find. I want to be an archaeologist. Always have wanted that. This would mean a lot to me to have something from my life’s work be with me in the grave.

  19. Ally Castro says:

    If I were to die, my mother, although her first instinct would be to keep it, would probably have me buried with my peace necklace. This necklace never comes off. In instances where I may not have it on such as gymnastics meets and sorority ceremonies, I always have it riskilly pinned under my dress or leotard. This necklace is near and dear to me and I know my mother can never imagine me without it. Archaeologists can look at this and inquire that even though we do not live in the most peaceful world, there were still people that believed in peace.

    I am an only child but I have a very close, siterly bond with my older cousin Carla. She has been the biggest influence in my life. Photography is our hobby. We always have our digital cameras with us because we never want to miss a memory that should be captured. If she was to have me buried with my camera, however, she would probably have me go with my SLR film camera because that is the camera she used to teach me with. That camera taught me patience and appreciation the way I had to wait to develop my photos to see them and the way I would be so happy when I was able to develop them correctly. With this, archaeologists would see cavemen used cavedrawing and people of our time utilized thisngs like cameras.

  20. Carlton Greenawalt says:

    I would prefer to be buried without my favorite belongings, as i would pass them on in hopes they too would get the joy I got from the objects. But if i were buried with things that describe my life, the casket would be lined in paisley bandannas, there would be a massive sound system embedded in the walls of the casket, there would be my 12 string, and also a stuffed octopus with legs holding a sword signed by Dick Van Dyke.

    If archeologists were to discover this sarcophagus, they might be quick to think the bandannas were a cultural symbol, or a fad of the decade. The sound system would most likely infer that i loved music, and such an inference would be supported by the 12 string guitar. As for the Octopus, well that might confuse the hell out of them.

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