One of the most exciting things in my archaeological “career” was when I began, as a young archaeologists, to recognize signs of wear on ancient objects and architecture. I remember Daniel Pullen or, maybe, Nick Kardulias patiently showing me a piece of chert which was used as a blade in a doukani (threshing sledge) and showing me how you could see the marks left by the silica (?) in the grain on the stone. As a text guy, this blew my mind.
Owning an old house has taken some of the excitement from discovering wear marks. For example, the signs of wear of our rickety back landing seems a bit more like hazard than a physical memory of years of cookouts, backdoor getaways (not mine, I promise!), summer time chats with neighbors, punishing blizzards, and sparkling spring rains.
Every now and then, however, there is some sign of wear in our house that brings back the old feeling of fascination. This weekend a contractor pointed out some strange wear patters on a piece of molding above the passage between our front room (probably the living room originally) and our back room (originally the dining room).
Looking more carefully at the molding above the door showed strange signs of wear:
It was difficult to tell if the wood molding was cut away or worn away by rubbing or something. The ceiling in this room is the original plaster ceiling so one would assume it would show signs of wear or disturbance (plaster shows almost everything!) if whatever effected the molding involved the wall or ceiling.
It is possible – if a bit unlikely – that the molding was damaged before it was installed, but the house shows almost no signs of this kind of cosmetic modification. Since much of this molding was pre-fabricated (even in the late 19th century), this wear could be from its shipping into Grand Forks. One could imagine a piece of rope holding a bundle of these molded door frames together and rubbing away part of one during its journey by rail into Grand Forks.