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Olorgesailie 1999 Field Season

1999 Field Blog

A Final Word From Our Team

Posted on July 19, 1999 - 1:00am by pottsr
Olorgesailie 1999 Crew

A Final Word From Our Team

We have really enjoyed the opportunity to bring a bit of our research at Olorgesailie to you through this web site. While the dispatches for this field season stop today, excavations are going to continue through the last week of August. By the end of the season, we will have completed the excavations at the sites you have become familiar with (extending Site B7/8-1, hoping to solve the interesting puzzles it presents, tracing the interesting stone cobbles at the Elephant Site, and mapping out the... Read more

1999 Field Season: Day 25

Posted on July 19, 1999 - 12:00am by pottsr
Dr. Rick Potts and two transit team members.

July 19, 1999

Several teams of three were assigned to dig geologic trenches today as part of our continuing effort to understand in detail the structural and sedimentary history of the Olorgesailie Basin. While our excavation trenches tend not to be very deep (we try to dig through the least amount of overburden as possible), geologic trenches often climb the entire hillside, and we try to pick the tallest slopes that will crosscut the most amount of sediment. Also, while excavation trench sizes (length and width) are determined... Read more

1999 Field Season: Day 24

Posted on July 18, 1999 - 12:00am by pottsr
Sunset over the western wall of the Rift Valley.

July 18, 1999

Today we decided that a trip to Magadi was in order; every so often it is nice to get out of camp and take an afternoon trip. Magadi is a town roughly 45 km to the south and west of our site. It is located on the shores of Lake Magadi, a "soda lake," or lake that is highly alkaline (the opposite of acidic). People have long taken advantage of this natural resource, and there is a factory in Magadi that produces soda ash (Na2CO3). Soda, as it is generally called, is used as an ingredient in many things, such as the... Read more

1999 Field Season: Day 23

Posted on July 17, 1999 - 12:00am by pottsr
Cut marks on specimen 18 from Site 15.

July 17, 1999

We have temporarily closed down site B7/8-1, pending investigation by our stratigraphy team.

Continued excavation at Site A11-10 is showing that the site is as productive as we had hoped. The crew is digging through the "C" sand layer, carefully removing this layer to the surface of the layer underneath. As each layer was formed by an event in the past, it is important at this site to excavate stratigraphically, that is, following the sediments. This way, we can associate each artifact and fossil with a... Read more

1999 Field Season: Day 22

Posted on July 16, 1999 - 12:00am by pottsr
The site at Locality B just before the lift.

July 16, 1999

Site B7/8-1 certainly looks like a place where early humans butchered a large animal, probably a rhinoceros. We have about 25 bones from the animal, including some of the ribs and vertebrae arranged in roughly the correct anatomical order. This means that the excavations are right where the animal died (as a rhinoceros is too large to carry as one big mass, and transporting it in pieces would disturb the anatomical order). And we have sharp stone tools indicating the presence of humans at the site. All of the bones... Read more

1999 Field Season: Day 21

Posted on July 15, 1999 - 12:00am by pottsr
A long bone in the west wall of the trench.

July 15, 1999

This morning, we decided to take advantage of the continuing lack of dust from the rain of two days ago. The fossils on the surface of the ground were much more easily visible than the last time we did a survey on July 2. Today's survey concentrated on the gully that emanates from Hell Hole. This is an area of the basin that hasn't been surveyed in several years (due to the very rough terrain). A visitor to our site, Jillani Galla, from the Paleontology Department of the National Museums of Kenya, helped us out,... Read more

1999 Field Season: Day 20

Posted on July 14, 1999 - 12:00am by pottsr
A cluster of stone tools.

July 14, 1999

At Site B7/8-1, our improvised plastic coverings held up, and we were able to extract the last of the bones from the second lift without any problems. We decided to take the excavation down one more spit (the ninth at this site) in order to ensure that we had indeed unearthed all artifacts and fossils. Pretty quickly after beginning work on this spit, we uncovered another bone; what appears to be another of the ribs. However, the rib appears isolated, and we haven't hit many stone tools as yet in this layer, so we... Read more

1999 Field Season: Day 19

Posted on July 13, 1999 - 12:00am by pottsr
A mountain of dirt, produced by the overburden of A11-10.

July 13, 1999

We lifted artifacts and fossils today at Site 15 (the Elephant Site). Roughly thirty stone tools and bones were taken from the site. The fragmented skeleton of an antelope was identified, although an exact identification of the species will have to wait until we get back to the lab in Nairobi. Pieces of the skull and several of the long bones (legs, ribs, etc.,) and teeth were found. This was from the paleosol layer directly above that in which the fossil elephant was found.

At Site B7/8-1 we began... Read more

1999 Field Season: Day 18

Posted on July 12, 1999 - 12:00am by pottsr
Site A11-30.

July 12, 1999

Today, we closed down the A11-20 site, after finishing the last spit. In its place two new sites were opened, A11-15 and A11-30. A11-15 is a new site that is roughly halfway between the A11-20 site that we just completed and A11-10 (the site that is requiring the immense amount of digging). A11-30 is an old excavation that was covered over last season when it was not completed.


You may notice that we are excavating a lot of sites beginning with "A11" (you will recall that A11 stands for: Locality... Read more

1999 Field Season: Day 17

Posted on July 11, 1999 - 12:00am by pottsr

July 11, 1999

Sundays are liberty for the crew, giving people the opportunity to go into town, write letters to loved ones back home or to simply sleep in a bit later than normal. For me, it was a day of preparing notes for two talks to be given at a meeting of the International Union of Quaternary Research (INQUA), in South Africa during the first week of August.

The talks center around the research that has been going on at Olorgesailie since 1985, dealing with early humans and the interaction of early humans with the... Read more