Archeologists Study Modern Immigration

March 4, 2012

photo provided courtesy of Marshall Astor, immigration into the United States, particularly along our southern frontier with Mexico, is both blatant and mysterious.  We know that hordes  of people are coming over.  Some of them even get caught.  But due to the illegality of the enterprise, the mundane details of this migration remain shrouded in myster. Immigrants and smugglers don’t want to tell their secrets.

Archeology magazine has a fascinating article describing a surprising endeavor.  A team of archeologists, led by University of Michigan professor Jason De Leon, has taken a unique approach to studying modern illegal immigration.  They study the junk left behind by immigrants just as they would study ancient grave sites or trash piles.  By cataloguing backpacks, left behind so that their sullied appearance doesn’t  attract attention, they can make estimates on how many people have passed by a particular area.   The archeologists have noticed a preponderance of black plastic water jugs, manufactured in Mexico to appeal to the large market of people who want water bottles that will be hard to see at night.  Many more fascinating details are described in the article.

Unsurprisingly, the article’s author, Heather Pringle, is sympathetic to the immigrants, lamenting the dangers of their journey without considering the harm their lawbreaking causes.  Nevertheless, she has succeeded in providing a new look into a human path of migration whose particulars can be lost to those of us considering the topic in a broader sense.

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