Thursday, October 30, 2008

Week 6: No silly, ribs can't have teeth

Grave 2, "The Glory"

Friday once again greeted us with weather warm and sunny, not unlike the feelings we diggers enjoy as we tear decomposed and disarticulated corpses from the bowels of Park Safari. Week six had a different feel to it as Professor Andre claimed to be out of the country on some sort of academic or professional commitment or something. His story however did not stand up to archaeological scrutiny, for when asked where exactly his conference or meeting (or whatever) was, his only answer was “Iceland.” This is obviously a fictional island that I assume to be located off the coast of Middle Earth. Unfortunately due to Andre’s pursuit of the One Ring, our regular caravan of transportation was reduced by fifty percent and limited our excavation crew to sixty two percent, leaving five beautiful and intelligent students, one fearless TA, Neha, and our multitalented van-pilot, Colin. The three other students would remain at the lab to process and investigate the now sizable number of artifacts from past weeks of excavation.


As upon every arrival at the site we were greeted by sunshine, the sweet smells of agriculture, and flooded test pits. After the completion of our bailing ritual and Colin’s proper and respectful burial of our friend “Floatie” the rat, we laid our eyes on the glory that is Grave 2. If Alpha Group’s last visit during week four had revealed an equid mystery, the current state of Grave 2 could only be described as (literally) wrapped in an enigma. Kim was so excited by the chance to investigate these new questions that she leapt up from her perch on the edge of Grave 2, directly into the bitter and neglected test pit number something or other, which promptly swallowed up her leg as far as her kneecap in brown, cloudy and smelly mudwater.

David. This is impolite.

The process of flooding over the seven days between visits had disturbed articles exposed by Group 1, requiring photo documentation and a furious session of bagging. The tangled mess of ram and equid discovered by Group 1 proved to be even more complicated, each article removed from the grave proved to expose others. Most confusing was my removal of an equid rib that proved to have teeth. While this discovery only strengthened my hypothesis that we are not excavating an equid but some sort of hybrid-equid-ram (a hybriquidam if you will), Allie believed that we had discovered a mandible belonging to yet another individual. Only time would prove which hypothesis more likely. After the removal of nearly two dozen ribs and a pair of scapula, it became clear that we were dealing with a far more complicated situation than we had initially suspected. In addition to the ribs and scapula that we believe to belong to the same individual as the equid skull, Grave 2 now is known to contain the partially exposed ram, two small mandibles and matching cranium, a large number of long, thin and slightly porous bones, a thick and broken plastic pipe, and another individual wrapped in a garbage bag. Movement through this entanglement of individuals was further complicated by the level of decomposition of fat layers in the grave, which had reached a consistency similar to bones. Not only did we have to determine which individual each bone belonged to, but also whether what we pulled out was a bone at all. Kim became our expert in bone/not-bone analysis after crushing a “bone” handed to her by Dave between her thumb and forefinger. This impressive display of brute strength has earned Kim the title of “Bonekrusher,” by which this blog will now refer to her as.

Like a puzzle, but with way more bones. And muck. Lots of muck.


Bonekrusher, resisting the urge to crush bone.

A hoof and longbone beside a partially exposed ram horn?

As the main objective of the excavation remains the equid, we refocused or strategy to uncover other articles relating to this individual. The excavation of mass jumble was temporarily abandoned in favour of exploratory digging on the periphery of Grave 2. Neha’s strategy proved productive as three hooves with longbones were uncovered. Their finding did not however alleviate the equid enigma, as all hooves and longbones were on different sides of the jumble. The levels at which these bones were found was also confusing because whereas the ribs were found over and almost around the garbage bag, the longbones and hooves rested under the bag.
Though more questions were on the rise, the sun was in disagreement and suggested that our day had come to an end. Our rugged crew of excavators took some final photos of our days work and loaded up our tools and finds. Colin safely piloted our van back towards the city as we discussed the day’s findings, already nostalgic for our hybriquidam, and looking forward to our next visit.

Bones for walking like zebra.
"Please Colin, teach us more!"
Dispite the keen interest of the diggers, the sun had had enough for the day.

If more photos in higher resolution from week six is your idea of a "good time," feel free to swing by:

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