“We call it Voight-Kampff for short.”

So I have mentioned that when not pretending to be a homesteader, working away out on the back forty, I am a federal bureaucrat. Yay me. Anyways, to add to my growing list of bureaucratic experiences I recently was tasked with assisting in the drafting, and eventual delivery of, a set of interview questions for a new hire. Interesting endeavor, but I swear I keep having these flashbacks of watching a small computer screen for empathy responses as interpreted by fluctuation of a person’s pupil. Hopefully it will not be anything like that as those flashbacks also involve a certain amount of gunplay. Completely beside the point I understand, but prevalent in my thinking of late nonetheless.

Did I mention that I have been a bit distracted lately? Well that is part of it, when my career world bleeds over into my homestead world things get a bit disjointed. I try to keep the two separate…except perhaps in the summer when I get to take part in the occasional field adventure, then the two dovetail fairly well. Especially when I get the chance to take part in a historic site adventure, usually a cabin excavation; then I can ponder the possibilities and intricacies, the dos and don’ts of building in the north… through time… while working. How cool is that? There is of course much more than building details involved and often the really fantastic part is getting an insight on how people lived, often in the middle of nowhere, always in hand built -often hand hewn- structures 40, 50, even 80 years ago. Well, there have also been some much older, but that is a story for another day…

This past summer I worked with a team of excellent folks to completely excavate a small miners cabin in the north west foothills of the Yukon Tanana uplands…an area that has experienced active gold mining, almost continually since the late 1880s. This cabin was from the 1940s, but it had evidence of multiple occupations…likely three. The claims around it were still being worked and the site was potentially threatened, and so we mitigated. That is, we gathered as much data as possible in order to build on a growing database of life in the north, particularly as it relates to historic gold mining. Fantastic!

The original cabin was really small; roughly 3 x 3 meters inside dimensions, with one small door and one small window. Hand hewn logs with rough sawn lumber for portal frames, floor boards, and roof planks. Sometime later a roughly 2 x 3 meter shed room was added on, primarily built of rough sawn lumber. The original chap was a smoker, liked to drink coffee, tea, and cocoa, baked with lard, and kept a supply of Klim powdered milk on hand. Ate a lot of canned meat. Later inhabitants employed plastic combs and cooking timers…perhaps in concert, hard to tell. They also fancied sardines and had a mouse problem. Over the course of time, three different Yukon stoves were installed and subsequently discarded. Along with a whole host of enamelware kitchen items. Aside from a single hanging scale, there was no obvious evidence of gold mining and even that is a tenuous association.

It is an amusing exercise to step outside of one’s own surroundings and look at them with the question “what would a future archaeologist be able to say about me from the stuff I surround myself with?” In my case I wonder if multiple occupations might be interpreted.

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2 thoughts on ““We call it Voight-Kampff for short.”

  1. I actually thought about this just the other day: my dad took the (likely fake) marble bases of all of our childhood trophies (swimmers, the lot of us) and buried them in his garden. I think he broke some of them up so that the added grit or something. What would you think of finding that?

    • Well of course it would depend upon the context within which the material was found. Concurrently, one would have to consider the surrounding soil matrix in order to evaluate taphonomy and site formation (and/or deformation) processes. At first blush however one might suspect a workshop of some sort; a mason or craftsman possibly…perhaps one that was dissatisfied with the work produced there. Or, alternately perhaps a midden, refuse left behind after some sort of construction. Or even some form of ritualistic offering… Or maybe a guy breaking up his kids old trophies for soil additive…
      One can never quite tell until you’re face down in the dirt.

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