Domestic Residuality

December 13, 2012 § 1 Comment

I spent some time this fall preparing grant applications for my work at Polis-Chrysochous in western Cyprus. One of the points that I make in most of the applications is that our area of the site provides a tremendous opportunity to study the phenomenon of residuality in ancient ceramics. This is the tendency for ancient pottery to continue to appear in contexts far removed from its original function. I am interesting in considering how it is that broken sherds of tableware appear in fills, floor packing, or in discard context created many centuries after the vessels from which these sherds derived arrived in Cyprus or on a Cypriot table.

As I reflect on this very basic and ubiquitous archaeological process, I have become more attentive to residuality in my own life. I have begun to take note of objects that appear far removed in time and space from their original contexts.

So, on Tuesday, as I got ready for my quick jaunt back east, I noted this hanger in my closet.

Residual1

Residual2

The hanger comes from North Hills Cleaners in Wilmington, Delaware. I haven’t spent time in Wilmington for over 5 years now, have lived in North Dakota for almost 10, and probably haven’t been to North Hills Cleaners for close to 20! My parents frequented North Hills Cleaners my entire childhood so it is not hard to imagine how this hanger appeared in my closet, but, on the other hand, it is difficult to track the specific sequence of events that would allow something like this to persist in our household¬†through several moves and probably a complete turnover in hangers. Like the Carrefour plastic shopping bag from Cyprus that entered my lunch bag rotation in the spring of 2010, even relatively ephemeral everyday objects can have remarkable histories and life spans. ¬†¬†

Now, back to grading…

§ One Response to Domestic Residuality

  • I should have taken a photo of this. Before reading your posting, on my walk home, I saw a bookmark in the middle of the street from “The Lame Duck,” a used bookstore in West Philadelphia that has been closed for over a decade. It was a legendary bookstore from the 1980s and 90s. It had a reincarnation at Cambridge, Mass., but I think that closed, too.

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