Thursday, October 27, 2011

Errey Day I'm Shov-vellin!!!!!

The day started off pretty fantastically, I came up with a brilliant pun (seen above) based off of LMFAO’s single “Party Rockers Theme” and was busy shuffling around with spade in hand. I was very excited that day because it was Octoberfest and I was looking forward to going to the bar smelling like rancid pachyderm. During the car ride to the site (I was riding shot gun !!) we discussed our goals for that day as well as the physics of Aaron Carter taking on Shaquille O’Neil in a one on one basket ball match.

The main goals of our excavation that day were to A) Remove the skull from the pit and B) to expand the pit. By removing the skull we will give ourselves more room in the pit and access to other areas of the pit which may have been blocked by the skull. By taking the skull out it will give time for the skull to dry out a little bit before we bring it to the lab and potentially turn Peterson Hall basement into a gas pit. The reason we are so eager to expand the pit is to access bones that are jutting out of the walls and the skulls removal would mean more room (this is difficult since the bones are so large). Additionally our time is running short before the soil starts to freeze up so we need to try to expose as much as possible.

On arrival to the site we realized just how much it rained that week. The elephant head was almost completely submerged, I considered for a long time to go for a snorkel but my better judgment went against it. Once bailed, we then faced the problem of moving the elephant skull. The main difficulty of moving the skull lay in its awkward shape and fragile sections. I will spare the details but surprisingly enough we got it out without a hitch. As soon as we removed the pit we were visited by Ashley and Thomaz who came to “help”…great timing guys, really…good job.

With the skull out of the way we mapped out the ribs so that they can be removed and permit us to get started on uncovering the scapula. The ribs were cut in half which indicates a possible autopsy done on Magic. We were then faced with the dilemma of where to expand our pit. Since we don’t have the time to excavate the entire elephant we had to determine which expansion would yield the most bones. After hours of heavy archaeological discussion we determined to expand North and East. Expanding northwards will permit us to remove the humerus while simultaneously connecting our pit with the pit dug in 2007. The logic in this expansion was that it would be less work in connecting the two pits so it would permit us to expand in two directions. We picked the east side over the west because of the presence of our massive back dirt pile which would be directly over the west scapula.

Before expanding north wards we had to bail out the old pit which hasn’t been touched since 2007. Because of its age the pit was filled with sediment. We decided to continue our current pit and the northern expansion so we split into three groups. One group mapped out bones and worked on our first pit, the second group worked on taking down the barrier between our pit and the old pit and uncovering the humerus while group three worked on re-excavating the older pit since it was filled with sediment.

We managed to remove the humerus and create a passage connecting our pit with the older pit. We found a large amount of plastic garbage bags which may indicate the presence of a mass grave. A fractured pelvis bone was uncovered however we are unsure if it belongs to Magic or not. We managed to reach Magic’s backside in the older pit, which was to our pleasure very rich in decomposing fatty tissue.

Even though we did not use remote sensing, coring or chemical sampling of soil in our dig, much can be said about it and its relation to our work. The three methods would have had great potential in the beginning of our dig since they are focused on possible site detection. However as we progress in our excavation the uses for these methods are apparent. Core sampling or auguring is used to give a quick idea of the stratigraphic content of the soil without having to dig a test pit (Stein 1986). Coring gives an idea of the soil composition of a possible archaeological site. It indicates the depth of the cultural layer as well as giving a stratigraphy of the soil content. Even though they are less time consuming than test pits or shovel tests they do require a greater degree of analysis in determining what a cultural layer is (Roskams 2001). The reason that I bring coring up is that we found a layer above the scapula which is composed of fatty tissue and animal flesh. This layer is made up of dirt and sod soaked in fatty tissue and is what we would be looking for if we conducted a core sample of the area.

Chemical sampling uses soil samples to show levels of phosphate is (Roskams 2001). Levels of phosphate will be present if the soil was disturbed by fire or the presence of a human or animal burial. This method is used in the initial phases of the excavation to get an idea of what may be available before digging of test pits is (Roskams 2001). Often soil samples are obtained by coring. However we did have records of methane output obtained by the Geo-department who’s van we olfactorily demolished (luv you guys xoxox ) . Therefore we are familiar with the use of chemical sampling but on a different scale, instead of using soil we use gas output.

Remote sensing can take many forms. It can include electromagnetic scanning, aerial pictures or ground-penetrating radar, to name a few. Essentially the goal in using these methods is similar to those of coring and chemical sampling, which can give an understanding of what is under the soil before digging (Kvamme 2005). Use of ground penetrating radar gives archaeologists the potential to direct their excavation according to what the scan finds (Kvamme 2005). Remote sensing can give an idea of artifact distribution before the dig commences so less time is wasted in digging test pits which potentially contain nothing of relevance. Remote sensing would have benefited our excavation in determining the direction for us to expand our pit. As mentioned before we decided to expand eastwards. However after further excavation we found the second humerus was positioned underneath the scapula heading westwards, which was directly under the back dirt pile. Remote sensing would have given an idea of where to dig to uncover the most bones as well as where to position our back dirt pile.

P.S do not trust McClean with a coffee, he has a tendency to THROW THEM AGAINST WOMEN’S WASHROOM DOORS

P.S.S ANOTHER thing about Sting, do you know that Sting’s song “Walking on the moon” was originally “walking in the room” because he wrote the song while he was pacing in a room. HA HA!

Kvamme, K. 2005. Terrestrial Remote Sensing in Archaeology. In: Maschner, H.D.G.,
Chippindale, C. (Eds.), Handbook of Archaeological Methods. Lanham, MD: AltaMira
Press, pp. 423-77.

Roskams, S. 2001. Excavation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Stein, J.K., 1986. Coring Archaeological Sites. American Antiquity 51, 505-527.

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