Archaeological artifacts are identified by their placement, relative to other artifacts, on a grid

Archaeology is a field of study.

It also serves as a metaphor.

By metaphor I’m thinking of the fact that an archaeological survey involves the application of a grid across a plot of land.

Each artfifact that is is dug up in such a survey is identified in relation to where it’s located on the grid, and where it was positioned in the earth relative to other artifacts that may have been located above, below, or to the side of it.

An artifact from a properly conducted archaeological survey typically — though not invariably — has a different meaning than a relic that’s been dug up at random by a non-archaeologist.

One can think of an imaginary grid that can be used to position all manner of information from the past – such as old photographs, by way of example.

If we know when a photograph of a human subject was taken, and know the names and stories of the person or persons in the photo, we have something of value.

If such information is lacking, the photo is likely to possess less value and relevance.

Grids as metaphors

We can also say that, metaphorically speaking, there are many kinds of grids, by which things are positioned in our minds.

A given object, artifact, or memory will have a given meaning depending on which grid we may be accustomed to using.

Words such as worldviews, mindsets, definitions of reality, and the like, come to mind when we think of grids as metaphors.

I enjoy reading authors who have explored this concept in some depth.

Some that I’ve been reading recently include:

Tony Hiss, The Experience of Place and In motion: The experience of travel

Mary Soderstrom, The walkable city: From Haussmann’s boulevards to Jane Jacobs’ streets and beyond

Jerome Christensen, America’s corporate art: The studio ownership of Hollywood motion pictures

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, fast and slow

Eric Kandel, The age of insight: The quest to understand the unconscious in art, mind, and brain: from Vienna 1900 to the present, 1st ed.

Mark Buchanan, The social atom : Why the rich get richer, cheaters get caught, and your neighbor usually looks like you


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