Archaeology and sardine tins: lunch breaks through the ages

“A deserted camp with empty sardine tins gave proof of Newcombe and Hornby.”

T. E. Lawrence – Seven pillars of wisdom, 1935, p.250

In the Swiss Alps for many hunting is an integral part of life. When doing archaeological survey work and excavating in the Alps one often comes across little sites dating to the 19th and 20th century: the remains of hunters’ camps, sheltering from the elements, most often under abris, or rock shelters. These sites mostly consist of varying combinations of beer bottle shards, bottle lids, a cartridge or two and drinks cans and – particularly Swiss – small metal pots which contained paté. Sometimes we even find the remains of a fire. The sardine tin, however, is almost always part of these assemblages.

The presence of such assemblages often coincides with us archaeologists finding older traces of humans using rock shelters while hunting or shepherding. These can date back to any period from the Mesolithic to the early modern era.

The photo below I took in 2012 in Lisbon, Portugal. Sardine tins: the universal sign of past human lunch breaks.

Sardine tins on a building site in Lisboa, 2012.

Sardine tins on a building site in Lisboa, 2012.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s