Thursday, August 01, 2013

Unusual U.S. Government Publications, Part Nine: Archaeology With Coffee Cans

From the Hills Bros. Coffee Can Chronology Field Guide, published by U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (Fairbanks, Alaska):

Archaeologists use various relative and absolute dating techniques to refine the chronology of the sites they research. One artifact that is especially helpful on many 20th century western United States historic sites is the Hills Bros. coffee can. Hills Bros., established in San Francisco, California in 1878, produced the first vacuum-packed coffee available on the market. Through time, the lithographic images and information on Hills Bros. cans changed in subtle yet distinctive ways, which were first discussed and illustrated in T. Carroll Wilson’s A Background Story of Hills Bros. Coffee (1967). This field guide further refines the chronological attributes identified in these cans’ lithographic panels. We decided the easiest way to provide this data [sic] was to produce images of the entire lithography of each unique can type produced between 1900 and 1963. This time period spans from the first year that a Hills Bros. coffee tin can was produced to an arbitrarily selected end date associated with numerous technological changes in the cans’ manufacture.”

Read more here (opens PDF) about this novel archaeological technique.

This is the last post in our Summer series on unusual U.S. Government publications. We hope that you have enjoyed the series.

Ernster, the Virtual Library Cat

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