We had an interesting conversation on site the other day. One of those profound talks that only comes from everyone on site being on the same page and having just watched Avengers Endgame. Essentially, we were indulging in that age old archaeological practice of wondering what the hell future archaeologists will think of us.
So, all of us having watched Endgame (don’t worry I’m spoiler free) were theorising the prospect of the likes of Iron Man, Spider-Man and Hulk being regarded as some kind of Gods, as part of a massive pantheon. Think about it. Really think.
As archaeologists, we take the fragments of previous lives and cultures that we find in the ground and assign meaning to them based on what we either know, research or think. For example, prehistoric Venus statues; typically, these are stone carved and represent a female of large proportions. We interpret them variously as cult figurines, a fertility symbol (technically could be the same thing), art, toys (a less popular interpretation but valid), etc. Most often it is the cult figurine or fertility symbol that is cited with the dreaded phrase “ritual significance”, but typically it is interpreted as an artefact of certain cultural significance.
If we take Spider-man (he’s my favourite), we can theorise something similar in the future. So, here we are 1000 years in the future when the whole world is a desert or snowball depending on your preferred doomsday scenario, our archaeological team is digging around and in the ruins of a house, lying in a darker patch of soil that looks like decayed wood they find a red and blue plastic figure (those things will be here forever). In another area of this house they find another red and blue plastic figure along with a miraculously preserved text (contained in clear sealed plastic wrap), detailing the phenomenal struggle of the blue and red figure with a demonic thing of some sort. (yes we know it’s just Doc Oc, but the future might not, especially if the internet breaks). What conclusion can they as archaeologists draw?
They take the discovered figures and miracle text and compare them to other sites, where the red and blue figure has been found. Turns out this figure has been found on almost every domestic (house) site in the last century, there are loads of them. Sometimes found alongside other plastic figures. What are they? Here is where the archaeological mind kicks in, and let us assume that the future people have heard of Marvel, but don’t know it like we do. This figure is everywhere, in a lot of sites it appears to have been reverently placed along with other figures of similar strange stature. There is clearly some form of lore associated with it (our mysterious text) and it belongs somehow to the Marvel, whatever the Marvel is.
Back to our thoughts, could this spider-person be a cult figure (technically this is actually true) or could he be a child’s toy? What if he was a totem to ward off spiders? (random guess but not implausible, think of St. Christopher medals to ward off bad luck). Okay, so we have some form of cult figure that we may have identified, now to look at his text. This appears to be a symbolic figure who fights bad guys and preaches values like “with great power comes great responsibility”. Do you see where I’m going with this? To archaeologists of the future this is a cult statue of the red and blue Spider God, one of The Marvel pantheon worshipped by the peoples of the 2000 – 2100’s. He defeats evil and teaches people about good values, and ways to live.
There also appears to be a another related pantheon, this one with darker themes and symbology – perhaps the gods of the underworld… The bat-guy certainly looks like some sort of demon.
There you have it an insight into the minds of archaeologists, we do know what we’re doing … honest.
S. M. Porter
Professional archaeologist and author, S. M. Porter loves history, adventure and digging in the mud. Her career is in ruins - just where she wanted it to be.