1999 Field Season: Day 12

July 6, 1999

In Locality B today, we set up the datum points that will allow us to locate our latest fossil discoveries on our mapping system for the entire Olorgesailie area. We would have liked to create a single datum point to service the entire locality, but the rugged terrain and the weird geometry of our site B8-1 required three datums (B1,2 and 3) in order to see the site. The first datum links us to our coordinate grid, and is on top of a hill. The second one sees down the hill, and from the third point we can see the site around the bend in the river bed. Our datum points are concrete markers with a nail sunk into the center. When we set up our transits and prisms, we use a built in viewfinder to align the tripod exactly with the nail each time. Since the nail will not move within the concrete (unless the whole ground under the marker moves, as in an earthquake) the datum will stay in the same position. We took several shots of the first datum, and were able to get a consistent position for it. When we performed the "backshot" (switching the position of transit and target) we got the same distance and elevation difference to within a few millimeters, so we are confident of the accuracy of our data.

A piece of concrete marking one of our new field datums.

The area around our datum B2 is especially fossil and artifact rich. Hundreds of stone tools and flakes of stone litter the erosional slope, and there are concentrations of bone and tooth. We haven't yet traced the source of all of the eroded material, although the locality pictured to the right appears to have some bones still securely in the ground -- a promising new excavation. Downslope from this cluster of bone fragments are dozens of others.

Several fragmented piece of fossil bone at Locality B.

On our hike out to Locality B, we startled a group of eland, a large, cow-sized member of the antelope family. We counted a total of 28 individuals in the group, which is a very large group. We were pleased that the group appeared to have members of all ages including several young. There has been a distinct lack of wildlife this season in the basin. Until recently, a Maasai family maintained a boma, or temporary house compound, in the basin, near the old excavation of the hyena dens. The Maasai are a semi-nomadic herding people that live in the region that includes the Olorgesailie Basin. About a week ago, they burnt the boma and moved to a new location. Since then we have been noticing the gradual return of the wildlife. As this is being written, there are two dik-diks, a smaller member of the antelope family, just to the north of camp.

Looking over the Olorgesailie Basin toward our vehicles and transit.