Michael Fronda, an old friend at McGill University, sent along some photos of a collapsing building in downtown Montreal. It is a nice example of archaeological formation process in a modern urban setting.
On one of my regular walks around Grand Forks, I noticed another interesting example of the archaeological process. After the flood of 1997 which inundated almost the entire town (see here and here) numerous lots were left vacant. Some of these lots were promptly rebuilt, but others owing either to specific circumstances of the property or to their vulnerable position were not reconstructed. The entire Lincoln Drive neighborhood, for example, vanished as it fell on the river side of the new flood walls.
With the flood walls completed this past year, the city is selling several of the properties which had not been redeveloped on the city side of the flood wall.
The only physical reminders of the past use of these properties are the driveways that lead nowhere or the alleys that abruptly end in open lots.
In a few cases the brick foundations or concrete pavers of the vanished houses continue to peak through the carefully mowed city lawns.
Now that some of these properties are being redeveloped, the foundations of the new homes have been cut through the remains of the earlier structures. From an archaeological perspective, the material excavated for these new foundations provides insights into another kind of formation process. Substantial piles of rubble from concrete basement floors and scatters of brick from foundation walls surround the new foundation holes. At one site the bricks and earth are being graded around the new foundation.
Amidst this construction debris, there are a few remnants of everyday life: a broken plate and the neck of a blue bottle really stood out. They combine to make a nice assemblage of building material and household goods some of which will surely fill in the foundation trenches of the new walls and form part of the stratigraphic record of the buildings on this plot of land.
From a landscape perspective, the new homes on these plots will not only fill in gaps left by the flood which served as reminders of this difficult hour in the community's past, but also create the top layer of the archaeological palimpsest that urban historians and archaeologists find to be such a useful metaphor.