Today The New York Times is running a nifty annotated list called "A History of New York in 50 Objects." Historians and museum curators chose for this project 50 objects that, to this anthropologist's eye, reflect the great significance of material culture in human life.
For each object listed, there's an interactive link.
The first in the sequence is a mastodon tusk found in the Bronx and dated to about 11,000 B.C.; among the last is the mask from the Broadway show Phantom of the Opera.
Some of the items evoke a smile — remember the Automat with its sandwiches and pies behind vending-machine glass? Others reflect a serious anthropology of New York, as in the entry about the African Burial Ground, a cemetery where in the 17th and 18th centuries, enslaved and freed African people were laid to rest.
You can keep up with more of what Barbara is thinking on Twitter: @bjkingape