Urban Archeology

Decoding the Hieroglyphics of the modern day.

Have you ever looked at an icon?

I mean really looked at them?

Icons can really be quite fascinating; they range from the visually accurate, to highly gestalt symbology, to just plain weird depictions of abstract concepts. A lot of icons have made their way into our shared language as a species, but if you look at them as, say, some noble archeologist decrypting these symbols for the first time. It kind of makes you scratch your head.

So join with me as we delve deep and decipher the cryptic coded messages in a modern temple to the gods of plenty and trade. Let’s go, to the mall…

Our first example is on this strange yellow obelisk we found on the ground.

On it appeared a strange symbol of what appears to be a man all askew — possibly dancing — in the centre of a pyramid. I assumed this was some strange way finding system towards some sort of strange ritual, possibly involving some strange hallucinogenic dance.

It was this point that my guide identified that the Triangle shape on the obelisk usually indicates some form of warning, and the accompanying text (in two languages) indicates that it’s most likely meant to represent someone slipping on the wet ground. I was slightly disappointed.

And here we had a confusing mess of symbology, illustration and several languages, or not in some cases. I decided that I need to decode them one at a time if we were ever to get to our destination.

This appears to be two figures, one smaller than the other, passing through some sort of gate. I will assume that the figures are a parent and child. Unless there is some sort of race of small humanoid creature around, maybe some type of gnome but they rarely coexist peacefully with humans.

My guide informs me that I was right with my first guess, this is indeed a child and parent mounting an escalator. now that is ridiculous — I do not see any indication of stairs or movement. My guide also informs me that gnomes are not real. I’m beginning to have my doubts about him.

Next is a photo of some sort of tailed or winged human.

My guide informed me that this is supposed to indicate a person in a wheeled chair. Right.

My guide and I agree that this is meant to represent some sort of child’s basinet. Which i find odd as basinets have not been used by anyone with any frequency in decades. My guide implies that it might be used to indicate strollers as well. Then I ask why they don’t just use an icon of a stroller then? That shut him up.

Now this is more like a stroller. My guide indicates that this is more likely a hand cart and I am forced to agree with him.

Perhaps this icon indicates some form or shopping cart or live animal cage. My guide agrees with my shopping cart assesment, though we are split on whether the it can be interpreted as an animal cage.

Now all of the images were covered with this strange symbol. I can tell it is abstract so I try to suss it out. It contains a circle with indicates unity and infinity, while the bar across is not horizontal nor vertical. Instead forming some form of bar across the image. So im going to guess it’s some sort of preventative symbol, such as a “No” or “Do Not”.

My guide is taken aback by my ability to identify this symbol. I can’t imagine why, I am after all an expert.

Now that we’ve arrived at the grand mall, Let’s take a look at the symbols we find peppered throughout.

First we have this box with figures. I’m assuming they’re figures as they have round little heads and legs. The arrows point up and down, I’m going to assume this means it’s moving?

My guide tells me that this represents and elevator. I as him if this elevator can only take three people at a time? He does not respond.

I know this one. It’s an “i”. I don’t know what it means… it really could be anything that starts with an “i”, Igloos, Incas, Ice Cream… I hope it’s ice cream.

My guide tells me that it’s for customer service. That’s ridiculous, neither of those start with “i”. He tells me the “i” stands for “information”. Now how was I supposed to know that?

Okay, another figure — the round head is a dead giveaway — but he appears to be on a snake or slide.

My guide informs me that this symbol means “escalator”, and though I think it’s a little more clear than the last one, I still don’t see any stairs or movement. Does the escalator go up or down? Both? Is that even possible?

Parking. This symbol must mean parking. That looks just like a van, like the one I drove.

My guide tells me that this symbol means public transit. I was genuinely convinced that this meant parking. I mean it kind of looks like a bus, but it leave a lot to guess work.

I’m going to assume that only one of the sexes or classes of people in this place wears a skirt. This must be a place where they have to be segregated.

Apparently this is where they bathrooms are. I point out that many of the women I’ve seen are wearing pants, but he had not comment.

Okay, we have a key, a box, and what looks like a bag in a box. My guide agrees with me that this is most likely some sort of storage locker. I ask why they used a key instead of a lock, but my guide doesn’t seem to know.

Now this, this is a room for families. Men and women young and small. I’m not sure what takes place there, but I’m sure it’s fun and wholesome.

My guide tells me this is another bathroom where families can go together regardless of sex. I’m not sure about you but I find this kind of gross.

There were many more symbols we discovered. As a modern man, comfortable with the symbols I come into contact with on a daily basis I could identify all of them — though the public transit one still confused me — even though they could be really confusing if you thought of them from a subjective manner.

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