Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish: The Disposal of Unwanted Objects in Ancient Greece. Astrid Lindenlauf

The concept of the biography of objects was introduced by Igor Kopytoff and stresses the integral relationship between objects and people. Following a biographic approach, artifacts start to come into existence and eventually die. This paper focuses on the end of things, when they can no longer fulfill their original purpose, for instance, because they are broken, or when they are regarded as useless, undesirable, or unwanted. At this stage, items become rubbish. Objects were typically deposited just outside activity areas in ancient Greece, especially when they were intended for reuse or recycling. While these objects are separated and removed, they are often still visible; they may even re-appear in a different place or in a different shape. Some types of objects, however, needed to be deposited in barren and remote places so as to be out of sight and reach. These objects were put to death and were not meant to have a second life; their permanent disappearance was important for the well-being of the polis community. Analyzing spatial disposal patterns of unwanted objects across time and space in ancient Greece allows us to better understand which types of objects required special disposal practices and which places the ancient Greeks regarded as perfect «away-places.» It is argued in this paper that ancient Greeks rarely felt the need to permanently get rid of rubbish, as trash often disappeared over time and re-appeared refashioned into a new form. Ideal away-places included landscape features such as chasms, mountains, and the sea.

BIO/BIB ­— Astrid Lindenlauf studied Classical Archaeology, Near Eastern Archaeology, and Ancient History in Frankfurt, Berlin, and Athens. She completed her dissertation research entitled «Waste management in ancient Greece from the Homeric to the Classical period» in 2001, receiving her Ph.D. in Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. She worked at the German Archaeological Institute at Athens for several years before accepting a teaching position at Bryn Mawr College. Her research interests include practices of disposal and recycling in ancient Greece, fortifications, and processes of urbanization in the Eastern Mediterranean.