How to Plan an Excavation in the Valley of the Appliances

It’s almost time to plan my next excavation.Osiris was the lord of the dead in the ancient Egyptian religion. Here, he is shown in typical mummy wrappings.[1] Based on New Kingdom tomb paintings. By Jeff Dahl, Creative Commons License

Of course, it’s not what you might think.  Unless you think it’s time to clean out the fridge, which I call an “excavation” because it sounds more fun.

As with any excavation, you start by putting down a grid, so that you can record where each and every artifact removed from the site was originally located.   For reference sake, I also append a depth chart to accurately record which layer in each grid has yielded the objects in question.

At this point, there can be no more procrastination. Sending in a canary to detect noxious emissions is unwise, they never come back, and let’s face it, we all know this is an expensive way to find out what we already knew, and you’ll now have a dead canary to excavate.  Just put the money toward a gas mask. Two to three pairs of latex gloves worn simultaneously would also be a wise plan. In fact, if you can afford it, a full hazmat suit would not be entirely ridiculous.

Now that you can’t smell the site, the work begins. It’s best to think of this as the remains of an ancient civilization, where every remnant is a vital clue to understanding history.  As you carefully sift the debris, place any decaying organic matter into a black waste matter disposal unit.
Items which cannot be sifted are what I call “artifacts.” These should be taken back to camp for proper cleaning, identification and cataloging. I usually just put them by the kitchen sink.

Last dig, there was a very confusing moment when I uncovered elements which were clearly dated to the bronze age in the middle of a level of stone age debris.  How could I explain the contradictions in my analysis?

A further search and careful digging uncovered the key evidence:  the jar of ketchup, which I remembered falling a few weeks ago. In its collapse, it probably drug some of the upper layer bronze age material with it into the stone age.  Hopefully, the bottle didn’t cause too much damage to the fragile artifacts in the bottom layers.  Fortunately, the jar itself was still intact.

The mysteries reveal themselves bit by bit.  The soft, green coloring near the back wall, looked like it could be part of an exquisite painting of Osiris, and I started to suspect that this could be a tomb for more than canaries!  Or, it might just be that bell pepper I bought six months ago for a batch of lentil soup.  I wondered where it had ended up.

My hopes of finding the lost tomb of Tetisheri disappeared with that realization. Also, I discovered the seal on the gas mask had slipped, and I was probably hallucinating. I closed down the dig for the day.

A few more hours, and the site would be cleared to bedrock. It was another thrilling excavation, and would be months before I’d start planning the next one, and for that, everyone was grateful. Especially the canaries.