Skip to main content
Contemporary Archaeology in Transit: The Artifacts of a 1991 Van
International Journal of Historical Archaeology (2011)
  • Adrian Myers, Stanford University

This article uses an assemblage of recently abandoned material culture as a medium for exploring the world in which we all live. First it is suggested that if we are to study contemporary material culture, then our methodology must be collaborative, multivocal, and innovative. Next, an assemblage of materials recovered from a 1991 Ford Transit van, used by archaeologists in the field for 8 years, is investigated as a case study. The vehicle is epistemologically dismantled, and it is demonstrated that the car part should be treated as a diagnostic artifact. A close investigation of the recovered small finds uncovers explicit information about how the van was used and by whom. As with all people in every era, archaeologists too, leave material evidence of their passing. This evidence can be subversive and brings up questions about how archaeology is practiced today. Additionally, it is found that limitations to contemporary material culture also arise and esoteric knowledge can sometimes trump archaeological inquiry.

  • Contemporary archaeology,
  • Material culture,
  • Public archaeology
Publication Date
Citation Information
Adrian Myers. "Contemporary Archaeology in Transit: The Artifacts of a 1991 Van" International Journal of Historical Archaeology Vol. 15 Iss. 1 (2011)
Available at: