Raiders of the lost change, and so on |

Raiders of the lost change, and so on

If you have an interest in history and the aptitude to learn a scientific skill, you might find a new hobby – maybe even a new career – in the fast-growing field of home archaeology.

All across the nation, individuals and families want to know the story behind items they find around the house, and they’re turning to home archaeologists to provide the information they need.

Want to learn if you have the aptitude to become a home archaeologist? Let’s start in your kitchen.

Take that jar of Five Precious Spice from the back of the kitchen cabinet. Let us attempt to determine its age. We can do by carefully measuring the layer of dust that accumulated on the top of the bottle. We can analyze the price sticker and attempt to determine how many years ago you lived in a town near Rudy Muttendorf’s House of Chinese Chow. Or, in a more sophisticated analysis, we can note that this jar of Five Precious Spice doesn’t include a bar code – proof positive that it would be worth a small fortune if sold at auction on eBay.

A few steps away, you’ll find the in-home composting unit known more commonly as a “refrigerator.” Reach as far as you can on the bottom shelf. Bring out the plastic bowl. Let’s start our analysis, taking care that our rubber gloves and respiratory protection fit tightly before we begin! The bowl contains a reddish-brown substance. This means it dates from last winter, because people don’t eat reddish-brown food in the summer, and nothing placed in the refrigerator in the last 120 days could look this bad. It does not contain beans, which means it’s not chili. Ergo, it’s leftover spaghetti!

Head over the home office. Pick a piece of paper at random from the bottom of the stack. It appears blank, but closer analysis under a microscope – you do have a microscope at home, don’t you? – reveals the telltale evidence of now-faded printing. You discover traces of colored ink along an edge of the paper. You carefully measure the size of the page. You discuss the case with a colleague. At last, you have an answer: An unpaid Master Card bill from 1992. What memories – fabulous dinners, expensive hotels, carts full of stuff purchased at Kmart – it must contain!

Our final test of your home archaeological acumen takes us to the sofa. Not for us an easy test such as determining the age of a penny found under a cushion. Rather, we’ll ask you to chemically analyze the salt and butter content of that piece of petrified popcorn we find down in the springs. If your analysis is right – house-brand, double-butter, popped in late fall or early winter of 1991 – you might even win a scholarship to the Academy of House Archaeology.

Your new career awaits!

John Seelmeyer is editor of The Union, and his column appears on Saturday.

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