Friday, November 6, 2009

We had to stop digging… when we hit a wall of dirt-flesh

When we stood over our excavation pit for the first time, we were greeted by skull of an enormous male watusi. The cranium of the animal was lying alone at the bottom of the pit, its body rather elusive. Professor Costopoulos suspected the body was waiting to be discovered in a particular adjacent wall – it was our task to find out.

With that we began to enlarge our pit with a two metre squared grid unit. We slowly peeled away the living later of the ground. It was much like the reversal of lying down sod – but with an added battle against stubborn plant roots. Once we, the inexperienced excavators, had removed the stubborn stuff, we began chipping away with trowels. It was a slow process as we became acquainted with the dirt, with its texture, with the sound of rock, and of bone. As we slowly revealed the mysteries of the ground below we discovered the very distinct ‘park safari stench’.

It is a smell we will not easily forget – a smell that is not for those with a weak stomach. We would later come to equate the odour with valuable finds – with bones and materials for us to rise from the ground. This time though, it was still a mystery. As we chipped away strategically, the ground began to peel. We were no longer clearing loose dirt, but a foul smelling blackened stringy substance. As we moved along it became yet more substantial and hard to penetrate. When tapped with a trowel it revealed itself as unmistakably solid and somewhat spongy. It also proved to have distinct contours, a very real surface that resembled a massive animal backside (an animal far bigger than our watusi). We had been peeing away decomposing skin and had run straight into a partially mummified animal – and an enormous one at that. We were forced to take another route – the animal was not yet ‘ready’ to leave the ground. Digging would have been a dissection, not an excavation!


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