Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Week 4: Not a Giraffe and MORE intrigue!

It’s not a Giraffe. Of course you already know this because of the spoiler at the end of last week’s post, but I felt it necessary to mention this at the beginning of this post. This was determined not through further excavations of the skull, but rather by using the miracle of Google. A Google Image search led to several interesting photographs of Giraffe skulls and comparing these photos to those photos already taken of the skull found in Grave 2 it became clear that the morphology of Grave 2’s skull is significantly different than that of a Giraffe. Further Google Image searches seemed to indicate that the skull found in Grave 2 was most likely that of an equine.
So this week Alpha Group (which as you all know is Group 2) headed down in the hopes of uncovering more remains within Grave 2, hopefully leading to a full skeleton, and identifying the species of the skull and any associated remains (the two most likely choices; Zebra or Onager). Upon arriving it was fairly certain that the majority of our work would be in Grave 2. However it wouldn’t be too productive to just throw everyone into Grave 2, so Jess and Claudine (who had traded places with Alpha Group regulars Amelia and Lisa) continued to excavate Grave 1 in hopes of gaining more insight into what exactly was buried in what was becoming more and more clearly a complex burial.
The day of excavation in Grave 2 began with everyone’s favorite activity, bailing, the ever present water table once again forcing us to empty out Grave 2 which was filled to the brim with water. Grave 1, owing to the fact that it is not very deep, did not require the ritualistic bailing operation, and thus excavation there began quickly. Grave 1 at first produced some finds, mainly small loose bones, around the topsoil. And then… well after that there was what Andre described as “surprisingly nothing”. So Grave 1 is quickly turning out to be a bust.
Grave 2 was of course the center of attention this week. The discovery of the skull led to a whole bunch of questions, mainly, was there a full skeleton down there? If there was the orientation was of course still a mystery. The previous week’s excavation also uncovered some ribs and this was a possible indication of the way the remains were orientated. The main task thus was to expand the area of Grave 2. We expanded it both to the west and east. The eastern expansion failed to lead us to any other equine remains. What we did find was a garbage bag that seems to be filled with the remains of a deceased animal. The animal contained within said garbage bag was not determined. Frankly, I’m not entirely sure any of us wanted to find out what was in the bag, especially when you consider the fact that emanating from the bag was a smell that would make dung farmers wince (I do not know if dung farming is a real profession, please do not e-mail me with facts about dung farming, and if any dung farmers are reading this I apologize, I truly meant no harm). The western expansion was much more productive and did in fact expose remains which we believe belong to the equid. (Sidenote: As we expanded Grave 2 Kim was talking about dismemberment, she claimed that she had recently been watching horror movies, the rest of us on the other hand were becoming slightly concerned. This will become relevant a bit later in this post). As I said the western expansion uncovered more of the equid remains, mainly the ribcage of which a couple of ribs had already been found. With the eastern expansion a bust the excavators working there moved to the center of the pit in order to clear more area around the skull and hopefully fully expose the neck of the equid. This is where things got intriguing. Located by the skull was the neck, which was fully articulated. The neck led to the scapula, however it led to the wrong end. Instead of leading to the top of the scapula, as is anatomically correct, the neck led to the bottom of the scapula. The neck seems to have been removed from the rest of the body (Kim was right) and even more intriguing was that the cut seems to have been relatively clean. So the big question is… what happened to this equid before burial? It’s, as of right now, an unsolved mystery. Huzzah!
So in the end week 4’s excavations led us to more questions, so it looks like that we have a lot more work to do.
I want to apologize for the tardiness of this post, which has been caused by illness. I also want to thank Graham who will be covering for me on week 6’s post.


The skull after we bailed most of the water out of the pit.
It sure does look like it's trying to eat that bag.

You can totally tell that Kim is thinking of nothing but dismemberment.

The skull and neck. Notice how the neck leads to the wrong end of the scapula.

The ribcage

Andre "teaching".

Jess and Claudine in the semi-isolation of Grave 1

Close-up of the ribcage as its being excavated.

The ribcage as we began to excavate it.

So, yeah we threw nearly everyone we had at Grave 2.

Andre showing Julien how to remove topsoil.

Grave 2 right after expanding the pit. Notice the ribs poking up towards the western expansion.

Uncovering the bag in the eastern expansion.

I believe that Graham is attempting to recover the bag in this picture.

How our wonderful equid looked at the end of the day. Notice how water is already starting to seep in to the pit.

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