August 13, 2004

Whew! The last day of work for the season. It was tense, but all the sieving of sediment, closing down of excavations, recording of measurements, and packing of specimens has been completed. We're ready to roll to Nairobi tomorrow morning.

My last visit to an excavation today was to the hominin fossil site, the one from last year. We've now ended all the digging and sieving of loose sediment beneath the place of discovery, right down to the volcanic bedrock. As for the photo, I'd like to pay tribute to George Mumo (whose head is just poking up from the gully), Kakai ole Milto and Kiluva Nume (who are doing the sieving). They're the three guys in the picture who worked tirelessly all season to look for more bits of the hominin skull. They found a couple of small braincase fragments, and I'll see whether these might attach to the original specimen when I return to the Nairobi Museum.

The hominin site

Have we found all of it? Could there be other bones of this individual's skeleton scattered somewhere along this volcanic ridge? Or were all the others destroyed by a voracious hyena? Or by the sluggish process of decay as bones weathered away on the volcanic ridge?

At some point, we'll continue excavations along this and other volcanic ridges. We think we know where to look, but there's a ton of luck involved in the process of discovering more hominin fossils at Olorgesailie. Rather than have luck dictate our findings, fortunately most of our research pursues how these early humans lived, how they adapted to environmental change, and the evolution of other animals that lived along side the early humans. We depend on finding stone tools, the remains of many other animals, the reconstruction of vegetation and environmental change. We've had good success in these endeavors - and we have an excited eye on what the next season will bring.

Still, I had a quiet moment to myself as the work finished up at the hominin discovery site. And I couldn't help thinking: what if we dig a little more to the right?