Pyramiden was a Soviet mining town in the high Arctic that was completely abandoned in 1998. We were lucky enough to have Bjørnar Olsen, an archaeologist from the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Tromsø in Norway come speak to us about his recent documentation of the archaeological-site-in-the-making. Pyramiden is a fascinating town all around, built on a remote archipelago by the Swedish, then rented by the Soviet Union in 1927 until it was rapidly abandoned one day, leaving many of the official buildings and residences intact.
Dr. Olsen’s presentation was truly compelling and left me wondering about developing a methodology addressing modern abandonment. There is a growing genre contemporary archaeological studies, for example the archaeological excavation of a van and Gavin Lucas and Victor Buchli’s study of an abandoned flat in the UK.
I found the exploration of Pyramiden to fit more into a growing post-apocalyptic aesthetic, one that I have commented on before, but that remains of interest to a large segment of the population, if the many flickr groups dedicated to the topic are any indication. I was also reminded of the “Elena” narrative that was circulating several years ago; a woman posted a travelogue of her motorcycle trips through Chernobyl, with astonishing photographs accompanying an astonishing story. The details of the trip are falsified, but the images are real, and fed the imaginations of an audience fascinated in a World Without Us.
Ruins turn us all into archaeologists, speculating on the lives of the absent people and the meaning of the objects they left behind. I wonder if these more contemporary studies bring us even closer to an everyday archaeology, living in our own future decay.