1999 Field Season: Day 8

July 2, 1999

After breakfast, the team broke into two groups. One of them continued excavations at site A11-10, and the other carried out the first of four surveys of the basin planned for the early portion of the season --today' s survey is of Locality A.

These surveys give us an idea of what the rate of erosion is from year to year, and how many artifacts and bones are being uncovered by erosion. While we come to camp each season with specific questions we want to answer and an idea of which sites to excavate in order to answer them, the discovery of new sites is very important. Often answers to your questions can be better found in places that you never expected. Or, as is more often the case, new finds cause your old hypotheses to be proven false. Then you must reevaluate the evidence with the new finds included. This has led to many exciting new theories in archeology and paleontology over the years.

An example of a potential site.
Fossils and stone tools at potential site.

We perform these surveys at the beginning of the season, which is why we are going to take teams off of some of the excavations and put them on survey. The reasoning is simple; if you find a new archeological site and it looks interesting or important enough, you want to have time to excavate it before the end of the field season. If it isn't excavated by the close of camp, then you must cover it with backfill, and hope that it doesn't get washed away by the rains before next year.

A promising fossil and stone tool site.

The survey team broke into two groups that started from opposite ends of Locality A, and began walking towards each other. The members of each team spread out over the designated area, and walked towards the other team very slowly, looking at the ground the entire time for the any hint of bone or stone. When the two teams met in the middle they exchanged information on what they had found, and then as the teams passed, each team double-checked the area that the other had surveyed. The process is time consuming and can be grueling work in the sun. Fortunately, we were blessed with an overcast day that kept temperatures down.

Clouds over Mt. Olorgesailie

We found several potentially interesting sites were uncovered since last year, and we marked each site with stone cairns. However, Kenya is currently experiencing a drought, which is making the discovery of some of these sites difficult, as most of the new artifacts and fossils are covered in a healthy layer of dust, making them nearly invisible on the landscape. Over the coming week,we will be visiting the new sites and we will determine whether to excavate these sites immediately, or to wait until next year.