Oh What a Tangled Web: The Symbolic Use of Road Trash to Advertise Drug Sales

Author(s): Walter Dodd

Year: 2015


This paper summarizes eight years of ethnoarchaeological research into the material consequences of drug-trafficking behavior. Tens of thousands of mundane trash items have been retrieved from roadway margins in a suburban setting, then sorted and analyzed. More than 175 artifact categories and pavement features are identified that carry subtle meaning for both buyer and seller. Artifactual, behavioral, and linguistic evidence has been assembled that links individual drug types to everyday objects on the street. Sales of marijuana, crystal meth, and crack cocaine dominate the sample. Several alternative substances are also represented. Recent interview of recovering drug users has provided a crucial chance to test the soundness of ideas generated by the fieldwork. The hidden undercurrent of drug dealing in contemporary society creates a fascinating but illusory archaeological record, one that interweaves systemic and archaeological contexts in an intricate structure of crypsis and mimicry.

SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit http://www.tdar.org/SAA2015 for instructions and more information.

Cite this Record

Oh What a Tangled Web: The Symbolic Use of Road Trash to Advertise Drug Sales. Walter Dodd. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397621)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


Spatial Coverage

min long: -125.464; min lat: 32.101 ; max long: -114.214; max lat: 42.033 ;