Monday, October 15, 2007

Week 4: Paydirt

Four weeks in, and not a moment too soon, we've finally struck paydirt. Greasy, black, partially decomposed paydirt.

We were beginning to have our doubts. We found houses, cows, rhinos, monkey jaws, garbage, a hypodermic needle, and a significant quantity of feces, but our quarry, Magic, had remained elusive as ever. We wondered what would happen if we couldn't find it. Would we move on to the house? Try elsewhere? Go back to the rotting rhino? Naturally, conversation turned mutinous. Some spoke of trying to make a break for the American border, where, we've been told, they remember where they bury their elephants. Others conspired quietly to sneak back at night with a backhoe. There was little that could be done to quell this nascent uprising, and we knew only a miracle could ever bring us back.

Fortunately, the archaeological gods were watching, and they heard our cries of despair. After emptying buckets and buckets of water out of our test pits, we got to work, fearful of what may come if we didn't discover something. Our trepidation, however, was quickly replaced with joy. Magic! Our white whale! Buried a metre and a half deep, in test pit M-9, we found what appeared to be a very large and solid chunk of decomposed fat and skin. Professor Costopoulos quickly realized that M-9 was very similar to the pit that uncovered the rhino in the first week: the soil was highly disturbed, the groundwater was greasy (known, delectably, as adiopocere), and the dirt near the corpse was darker and somewhat more enriched than its surroundings.

And then came the smell. Many of us, all of us, were by now used to the odor of dung. That said, we were definitely not prepared for the smell of unearthed feces combined with the scent of decomposing animal. The air in M-9 was thick with methane, seeping out of its muddy, greasy walls and floor. Deep and narrow "like a chimney" (Professor Costopoulos' words, and a useful simile to describe how the smell billowed out of it), we were unable to conclusively identify what we found as an elephant, so we set about to widen the 1x.5 m square to 2.5x1. Hopefully, we'll know for sure whether to celebrate or not by next week (please don't forsake us, O Gods of Archaeology!).

In much more definitive and exciting, but much less elephantine, news, it appears that the watusi skeleton is lying in a relatively undisturbed position. As buckets of mud were hauled out of the ever-widening watusi pit, it became clear that the horn was still connected to a skull, and that the skull may very well be connected to the rest of the skeleton (some ribs have been exposed that look to be in the right place so far). As we are unable yet to all dig out Magic (assuming, knock on wood, that it really is Magic down there), we may be able to uncover the watusi over the next couple of weeks. We know that it doesn't overlap in any way with the elephant (there's a great picture, which will be made available shortly, of the exact limits of the watusi pit in the soil), and that ensures that we don't have to rush to get it out.

Finally, pictures will be up tomorrow of the last few weeks worth of digging. We have some good shots of what we assume is Magic (it might not look like much, but you luckily can't smell it through the internet), as well as the watusi skeleton, the site, and everybody looking busy.

That's all for now,
The Watusi (?) Team

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