Litterbugs of Yesterday and Today

In the dimly lit veil of morning, I could see something laying on the sidewalk, outside our house.  I was walking my dog and as we approached, I realized that it was a plastic cup, from McDonald’s.  The cup had once held a chocolate shake.  No, I am not a McDonald’s connoisseur.  I simply turned on my flashlight and saw the golden arches, along with the remnants of the shake actually laying on the sidewalk.  Fast forward to lunch.  No, I didn’t go to McDonald’s with the cup to see if they had some kind of free refill program.  I was watching Disney+, as is my usual custom.  Today, I was watching a program about a lake high in the mountains of Peru.  Some felt that this area had been the ancient home of an Inca temple.  Yet, nobody had ever been able to prove it.  It was merely a legend, since the Inca have no written history of their own.

Several years before, a man who was studying the land as an aquifer, put on his scuba gear and dove into the freezing cold lake.  Up until today I had no idea that scuba diving at high altitudes is very dangerous and requires a great deal of skill and training.  This man was diving to search for a species of frog that was indigenous to that region.  He found the frog and he found something else.  He came across a single clay pot, partially buried in the sediment of the lake.  The pot looked ancient, and not being an archaeologist himself, he simply took a picture and then swam back to the surface.  The discovery of this pot led to multiple expeditions back to the lake.  Along with hours of research concerning the legends of the Inca Temple.  One scuba diver even lost his life in the lake. Permits to remove the pot were acquired from the Peruvian government.  Finally, a team of divers, archaeologists, conservationists, along with the man who came to this lake many years before to study an aquifer, showed up to officially remove the pot from it’s lake bed grave.

When they removed it they were able to date the pot to around 1,000 years old.  This would predate even the rise and fall of the Inca Empire in Peru.  Thus, they hypothesized that this must have been an important site long before the Inca conquered the territory.  Inside the pot, under the centuries of silt, they found two smooth stones.  Other pots of this kind had been found in other areas of Peru, but none had contained two smooth stones before this discovery.  The team was very excited about what they found and they looked forward to exploring this lake and the surrounding area in greater detail.  Who knows what they might find.

As I sat there watching this documentary, I thought about my discovery this morning on the sidewalk.  I discovered a plastic cup that was garbage.  Something that was discarded out of someone’s car window, as they drove down the road.  I began to think about someone who was pre-Inca and pre-Peruvian who happened to be walking by that lake 1,000 years ago.  They had just finished using whatever it was in that pot, so they simply whipped it into the lake because they were too lazy and didn’t care about polluting their environment.  They didn’t want to lug this big clay pot back to their cave or tent or whatever else they might have lived in 1,000 years ago, up in the mountains.  What these scientists had unearthed from the lake might not have had anything to do with anything, except a lazy human litterbug.

I then thought about what archaeologists, 1,000 years from now, would think about us?  Especially if we vanished into the pages of history with no written record, like the Inca?  The only thing left of us would be the things that future people would dig up or find under the water of lakes and oceans.  I pictured a team, with a film crew, unearthing this plastic McDonald’s cup that rested on some sort of hard, man-made surface.  They date the cup back 1,000 years to 2020.  They determine that it must have been significant because it had some sort of primitive markings on it.  These markings precisely matched ones that had been found on ancient pieces by other archaeologists around the world.  The cup would have been found laying on some sort of man-made pathway, right next to a much larger man-made pathway.  All of this was not far from the remains of ancient dwelling places.

In the cup they would find the remnants of biological material that resembled some sort of food.  These remnants would even contain traces of the now extinct cocoa leaf.  Cocoa was known as an ancient food that was desired by humans all over the earth.  Thus, it must have been thought to have either some kind of medicinal purpose or that drinking cocoa must have been a part of some sort of religious practice.  Then these scientists would protect this area as an archaeological site.  For the next several years teams and teams of people, from around the world, would dig up my house and my neighbor’s houses.  And oh what things they would find and what mysteries they would uncover.  Us 21st century humans would be exposed as the odd bunch that we truly are.  And it would have all started because someone found the discarded trash of a litterbug.