Every amateur archaeologist knows that the best way to learn about the history of an ancient society or civilization is to root through their garbage. After all, our trash provides a bevy of unique clues about what we eat, what we wear, and — in the case of the strange island formations in the Florida Everglades — where we lived. According to a recent article in Treehugger, researchers believe that the clustered groves of trees, or “tree islands” in certain parts of the Everglades are actually leftover landfills from early settlers.
So about 5000 years ago as ancient settlers wandered through the region, they discarded their trash into various neat little piles throughout the swamp. Most of their garbage was in the form “largely of bones, leftover food scraps, bits of pottery and tools, charcoal, and other ancient artifacts.” And while almost all of these items were organic in nature, these piles created perfect breeding grounds for trees and plants above the current Everglades swamp line, creating islands such as the ones pictured below:
Pretty cool, eh? On a sad note though, if any alien archaeologists descend upon Earth thousands of years from now, looking for the remnants of a long-lost civilization (assuming we’ve wiped ourselves out) they won’t be rummaging through just bits of organic material. They’ll have a pretty good idea of how we lived based on our modern landfills. That said, some places like New York City are working on transforming local landfills, like the one at Fresh Kills on Staten Island, into parks and recreation areas.
(Eds note: in slightly tangental news, the author saw the movie Waste Land last night, which highlights the lifestyle of Cariocas in Rio de Janiero’s trash industry. Fascinating stuff and strongly recommended.)