Although using the past to explain or question the present remains part of ethnology's self-image, ethnology has become a contemporary-oriented discipline. While we tend to emphasise the complexity
of our own time, we risk representing the past as a series of single events with immutable meaning, reduced to a backdrop. This article attempts to discuss the practical implications of using ethnographic methods to describe and understand a lost world. Is it at all possible? Inspired by Barthes's method for analysing three levels of meaning in the advertising image, and by Ricoeur's metaphor of history as a map, I shall attempt to outline a method for performing ethnography in eighteenth-century Stockholm, using a notorious ball at the Royal Palace in April 1768 as an example.
Keywords: ethnography, method, eighteenth-century Stockholm, prostitution, clues