Are you a licker?

by Tyler Mackie

A recent update on my university’s Archsoc group began with a link to I have lost count of the hours I have wasted procrastinating on that website. I digress. The post lead from how archaeologists have ‘balls’ to a humorous competition of ‘who has had the most dangerous dig experience’ or rather ‘who has the biggest balls’…
… And sometimes balls comes with risk factors, and sometimes, stupidity.

Which leads me to… Licking artefacts.
I once got told that, although unconventional, and unorthodox, you could lick an artefact to tell whether it was either pottery or rock. Back then I was a digging virgin, so anything that came out of the ground was potentially significant in my brain and so… I may have licked a few rocks or two. In some artefact forms, it may ask you what it tastes like. People have tasted bog butter in their past digging experiences. Must’ve tasted awful.
Then last week I was on the beach. I was lazing, “excavating” with a stick – sad, I know – when I uncovered some strange looking, weird feeling clumps. Mettallic, light, blackened clumps. Without thinking, I licked to check what it was. Aluminium, from a barbecue, I believe.
Rewind to ‘balls’ competition, where someone told an anecdote of excavating the Old Quad in Edinburgh University, where they uncovered some ‘shiny substances’… Which turned out to be the remains of an 16th C chemistry lab, and was a heady concoction of arsenic, mercury and other residues.
If I excavated there and licked something, I would have died. So please note, lickers, that licking any metalloid substance is potentially dangerous. One day it might not me aluminium or pottery, it might be some horrific death cocktail. Or just stop licking, amylase is slightly acidic and causes damage to artefacts too.
Also non-archaeologists might think you mad for licking something from the ground.