July 3, 2004
Today was rather eventful, bringing many guests to the site. Early in the morning, we were visited by a very brightly colored helicopter, which flew in from Nairobi carrying a videographer. Last February, a British film crew had scouted the cliff where we set up our camp every summer. They liked the location so much that they had planned to use it for shooting a car chase scene - leading to the car diving off the side of the cliff! Last week, the film producer drove into our camp and was shocked to find our tents and dining area set up on the road that led to the edge of the cliff. I explained that we set up our field station every year here, and the producer admitted to wondering why there was a clear dirt road already leading to this spot. They offered to move our camp to another location while they filmed, but we can't afford the time it would take away from the research. Both the film producer and the person who plans the filming locations were very understanding; in fact, they really wanted to hear about our latest finds. So, instead of filming the car chase scene in our camp, they sent a helicopter to film the edge of the cliff and other landscapes around. I guess they intend to splice together the shots of a car chase and the landscapes - and make it look real. The helicopter came very close to camp, just off the edge of the cliff, spooking several baboons and eagles in the area.
Later, a group of 110 students and teachers from high schools in Nairobi, members of the Prehistory Club of Kenya, visited the site museum. I agreed a couple months ago to give a talk to the group and to lead a tour around the site. What's surprising is that so many people signed up. I began by telling them about the history of Olorgesailie investigations - beginning with two geologists who walked through the Great Rift Valley in 1919 and were the first to report stone tools and diatomite sediment at the base of Mount Olorgesailie. This was followed by Drs. Louis and Mary Leakey, who explored and excavated the Olorgesailie region in the early 1940s. Dr. Glynn Isaac, a very influential archeologist, worked here in the 1960s, and then the Smithsonian team began here in 1985. The idea that it took 62 years of survey and excavation until an early human fossil was found was of great interest to everyone. They were very interested in many aspects of the site, and asked questions about Acheulean handaxe technology and about the fossil animals discovered in our work. All in all, many of the students and all of the teachers seemed really excited about it all - and having a chance to visit the rift valley on a beautiful day.