Spurensicherung literally means the process of securing circumstantial evidence. In German it is the term used for the forensic department of the police. As an art form it can be seen as a response to or a criticism of scientific archaeology and the way archaeologists study things in hope of finding out more about the past. Archaeological methods are seemingly precise but through the use of those methods archaeologists are often able to say a lot about things that may be insignificant. In that respect spurensicherung art can be seen as a critique of archaeology’s tendency to neglect certain aspects of the material culture and therefore human existence.
But what spurensicherung artists are able or motivated to do is only the preliminary stage of archaeological study, the first steps of archaeological inquiry. Spurensicherung art is not about making interpretations about the material culture. It is ignoring the actual scientific part of archaeological study and concentrating on what most archaeologists would not even consider part of the scientific inquiry in archaeology.
Spurensicherung art is nevertheless a manifestation of the way archaeology is perceived in popular culture and art, and it is an interesting aspect of the whole science/art distinction or division. The reason for my post – which, by the way, is inspired by Cornelius Holtorf’s take on this art form in his book “From Stonehenge to Las Vegas – archaeology as popular culture” – is the fact that I found a piece of paper that had been left inside a book in a library.
I have included here large images of the piece of paper (which would by themselves qualify as spurensicherung art) on which the person who used it has made notes. I think it is, however, more interesting if the audience is provided with some information about the find context.
The book inside of which I found these notes was the 1996 “Contemporary archaeology in theory: a reader”, edited by Robert Preucel and Ian Hodder. This does not give a terminus post quem of 1996 for these scribblings but only for the note’s context. It is, however, unlikely that the notes were done long before 1996 since the use age of paper notes like this is not very long.
The writings on one side seem like a route plan with departure locations and times as well as arrival destinations and times. The numbers most likely refer to ferry ticket prices. Rodos-Patmos and Patmos-Piraeus are ferry connections, Piraeus is a city near Athens, Patmos is an island, as is Rodos. Since there is the “€” sign indicating euro currency, we would, assuming the note was written by a Finn or a Greek, get a terminus post quem of 1999 (the year euro was introduced in Finland). It is still unclear to me if all the numbers refer to euros. The preceding currency in Greece was the Greek drachma which has the conversion rate of about 340 agains the euro, so it seems unlikely any of the numbers refer to drachmas. This would mean the note has been written in or after 2001, the year euro was introduced in Greece.