At 50, Ring-Tab Beer Cans Are Now Officially Historic Artifacts

Started by gash, April 22, 2019, 12:01:31 pm

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A simple relic of 20th century life has taken on new meaning for archaeologists: The ring-tab beer can -- first introduced 50 years ago -- is now considered an historic-era artifact, a designation that bestows new significance on the old aluminum cans and their distinctive tabs that are still found across the country.

"Once an artifact attains the 50-year threshold, it is eligible to be recorded as an archaeological site or an isolated find in most states," said William Schroeder, an archaeologist with the firm Reiss-Landreau Research in Yakima, Washington.

"This means that even beverage-can pull tabs are eligible for protection under state and federal laws."

Schroeder discovered that this year marked the golden anniversary of the aluminum ring-tab while investigating a modern midden of beverage cans in Washington State.

"I was tasked with a small survey near the Cle Elum Dam in central Washington," he said.

The ring-tab beer can -- first introduced in 1965 -- is now considered a 'historic-era artifact.'
"I encountered a small refuse scatter. It was full of beverage cans and bottles, some plastic oil quarts, et cetera. The cans were vintage, but I had no way to know for certain in the field whether or not the cans were historic -- that is, 50 years old or older."

Eventually he was able to discern labels on some of the cans that dated them to 1968 -- not quite at the half-century threshold.

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