Day 7 – Kenya National Museum

Today was my first day out with only the archaeology people. Our destination was The Kenya National Museum, which was closed for renovations, but Dr. Barthelme managed to pull some strings and got us behind the scenes and in to the archaeology, paleontology and osteology sections of the museum. We had a short lecture in the archaeology lab, successfully cramming 800,000 years of history into an hour. Anyone know how many years that is a minute? We looked at samples Dr. Barthelme had collected at Magadi and he explained what sorts of material we might encounter during our time there. The lecture was very informative. Being in the archaeology storage room allowed us to see many exciting things, including samples that the Leakeys’ collected. We did not see any hominid fossils; those are all secured in a very large safe on the ground floor. After our archaeology lesson, we moved up to Paleontology and saw an enormous collection of prehistoric fossils. My favorite was a six-foot long crocodile skull that belonged to a creature 40+ feet long. I saw skulls and femurs that were larger than me, pieces of animals 80 million years and older. To a kid that spent a majority of his childhood digging in his sandbox for just such creatures, it was very exciting. We had a bit of lunch at the museum café and rested our feet. There was a lot of shoptalk about the upcoming trip to Magadi, which is now only one day away. Feeling re-energized, our next stop was the osteology department. There were over 16,000 specimens in the room; aisle after aisle of elephant bones, antelope and gazelle horns, feline skeletons, even a spine and skull from a sperm whale, which was massive! The pictures are quite neat and I am very eager to show everyone. Dr. Barthelme won a few beers by quizzing us on certain bones, I suppose I’m going to have to brush up on my faunal remains before we hit the field or I’m going to be broke. Our final stop of the day was the Snake Park, which was located next door. It is a very small reptile museum showcasing the deadly snakes of Africa. We got to meet all the snakes we will encounter in Magadi. Special emphasis was put on being able to identify them, which is key if you have been bitten and the snake gets away. All around a very informative day. I would love to write more, but like every other day, I am knackered. More tomorrow.

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