Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Week 9: Survey, Mapping and Wandering around the Woods in the Dark

This week marked the final visit to the Hemmingford animal cemetery until the late spring. We set out with a total station borrowed from Geography, an acclaimed total station handler (Chris Ames), some GPS units, a few trowels, and the brimming excitement of those about to go on survey in the woods with Andre. Only about six of us went out, and the rest of the team stayed back at the lab, working on cleaning and categorizing the plethora of finds we already had.
After arriving at the site, Chris found the unique triangular rock he’d used as a datum the year before, and then gave a brief demonstration of how to set up the total station. Claudine stood by taking notes while Noam held the prism. As they began mapping in the locations of some of last year’s trenches (in order to verify that this year’s coordinates matched up with those from the year before), the rest of us set out to do some survey in the field and woods that lay directly behind our site.

We began by examining some of the distinctive features that Andre had noticed on the magnometer map, specifically those that might indicate features of higher elevations than the surrounding landscape. After walking a clear ridge along the middle of the field, we moved NW and found another raised area of turf. Andre, using his powerful archaeological senses, soon found a cluster of large rocks that could indicate some sort of a feature. In short order Graham, Carrie and I began clearing away the brush that surrounded the purported feature, only to find more rocks (and half of a mandible), arranged in a fairly linear manner, stretching back into the woods.

After clearing away vegetation for about half an hour, we followed the trail of rocks into the woods, until they ended in a ditch that demarcated the southern edge of a nearby field. With the help of Andre’s masterful deductive methods, we determined that the field was constructed at a later date than the rock feature (as the former bisected the latter), and may have in fact curtailed the length of the original feature. While this was exciting, Andre had clearly not had enough survey for the day, as he strode off purposefully into the woods, urging us to follow him while speaking loudly so that we were not mistaken for deer and shot.

Moving in a westerly direction, we soon stumbled upon a series of features that greatly perplexed our fearless leader. A series of discrete depressions stretched across a plateau within the woods, and the low lying concavities did not appear to be formed as a result of natural forces. Andre’s logic was that the depressions were not lying on a slope of any kind, and accordingly could not have been formed by the movements of water. Additionally, the depressions were each separated by a few feet of earth, so water could not flow from one to another. The depressions remained a mystery, one that will probably be revisited by the next lucky Parc Safari team.
Our final stop in the forest was at a deer carcass that Andre and Chris had found the year before. While the skeleton was largely articulated, missing only a few long bones that had probably been moved by scavengers, we also changed upon a larger skull (that did not belong to the deer) which had been cut almost perfectly in half. Not wanting to lose such an excellent cross-section, we bagged it and took it back to the lab for identification.

After a brief walk-about with the ‘mapping team’,during which we revisited all of the survey sites to update them on our discoveries, we closed up the site for the year. Don’t worry though – we will continue to update the blog regarding the even more fascinating adventures that lie ahead. Stay tuned for Week 10: Labwork.

Chris sets up the total station while Andre and a bored student wait impatiently.

Chris leveling the TS.

Noam holding the prism.

Chris fiddles with the equipment; the rest of the team looks on in awe.

Mapping begins, with Carrie taking notes.

The view from the field behind the site, looking towards the road.

And again. The TS is the yellow speck off in the distance.

And now there are people at the TS.

Chris and Claudine, waiting for word from Andre.

Carrie standing at the "excavated" stone feature.

Noam, proudly standing beside the total station prism.

Neha, resigned, looks on.

Andre... or sasquatch?

Survey in the woods.

The other field/ where the rock feature ended.

Another view of the field.

The woods in the dark.

Rain boots and mushrooms.

Possibly not the most advisable of snacks.

More deer bones.

Our skull in cross-section.

The deer carcass from another angle.

The maxilla by the rock feature.

Wandering around the field at dusk.

Chris, spreading his wings quite literally.

Kicking at the ground.

Graham doing something in the field.

Startled creatures of the forest.

More woods walking.

All of the pictures that follow demonstrate Andre's attempt to photographically recreate the Blair Witch Project.

Andre: "I think we have discovered a new species of sasquatch".
Chris: "Yes, it would look lovely on my mantlepiece".

Neha shows Andre where the site is located on a map of the North American continent.

Final view of the site.


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