chapter  5
16 Pages

Integrated archaeology: a garbage paradigm

ByWILLIAM RATHJE

As founder and director of the Garbage Project, most of my career has been spent cheek-to-jowl with modern refuse. From the outset, the primary goal of Garbage Project research was to demonstrate the utility of archaeological methods and theories for achieving a better understanding of issues of current public concern – including assessments of resource waste and proposed methods of waste minimization, measures of diet and nutrition, evaluations of household participation in recycling programs, identification of household-level sources of hazardous wastes, cross-validation of census counts of minority populations, and providing base data for the design of new ‘environmentally friendly’ packages (for first-decade and second-decade summaries see Rathje 1984a and Rathje 1996a). As a result, I have rarely discussed what the Project’s understanding of the relation between contemporary garbage and the society that generates it means to archaeology. After twenty-five years of garbology, it is time to make those observations in an archaeological forum (one rationale for archaeological studies of contemporary industrial societies is presented in Rathje 1979a; see also Rathje et al. in press).