I’ve finished uploading all of my Africa pictures on to Flickr.com. Originally I was going to go through and write a paragraph for each photo so you wouldn’t just be looking at pictures, you’d be learning about Africa as well. However, with 597 pictures uploaded, I just don’t have the time. What I’ll do is invite you to check out what I have so far, if you have any questions, simply post a comment on the picture asking for an explanation.
Check them out and enjoy!
I was browsing my hard drive and stumbled across my final project for my “Monsters in Literature” class. I’m so proud of this film so I thought I’d share it on here one more time. If you haven’t seen it before, take a few minutes and check it out.
A beautiful sunrise this morning followed by more work at Oloololo. Today was looking grim. We worked on our excavation squares all morning and found nothing. As the day dragged on we all began to doubt we’d find anything. I suggested we cut the walls and finish it up. As soon as Dr. Ngari swung the pickaxe to cut the north wall we discovered a rather large bone protruding into our excavation square. Bingo.
We immediately began clearing away the soil and discovered it was a zebra metapodial along with another shaft fragment. The zebra metapodial did not appear to contain any stone tool cut marks, but we did find two small holes that looked like canine marks. We added the artifacts to our site map, tagged and bagged them. We excavated the square all the way down to the Oloronga Green bed but did not manage to find anything else.
After a lunch of leftover goat, we sat down one on one with Dr. Barthelme and discussed our ten page papers for the course. I’ve been thinking about the topic since well before we arrived in Magadi. I found myself fascinated by the geology of the Rift Valley, something that peaked once we arrived in Magadi and I became familiar with the unique soil layers. My plan was to explore the way in which the geology of a site can help archaeologists recreate a paleoenvironment. Dr. B. gave me a few suggestions on where to focus my research and I felt more comfortable about writing the paper.
A while later Kesoi took us on a walking tour of the area. He led us west along the base of the ridge to check out some of the hyena dens. Let me be the first to say that Kesoi Ole Parseyio is one fearless Maasai. He literally crawled into the hyena dens to see if anyone was home and then began pulling out bone after bone for us to examine. One den yielded the remains of a porcupine and we all collected some quills to give out as gifts. The trail ended at a massive gorge that would be perfect for swimming in the rainy season. Jordan took this great picture of me showing off the dangerous side of archaeology.
We returned to camp for dinner, then we were out for the night.
Definitely felt the strain at Oloololo today. Perhaps it was the day off yesterday, but I felt completely drained. More excavation, not much was unearthed unfortunately. We cleaned out a trench that was unearthed last year and expanded on the work that was performed. The work was tough going, but I just kept my mind focused on our dinner celebration we had planned for later and I made it through.
After lunch, I made a trip into Magadi with Dr. Barthelme, Evans, Kesoi, and Katie. I was excited for this because it was my first on foot excursion in the mining town. The Magadi market was our destination, a small dusty lot with steel and cement stalls. We were there to pick up supplies for our goat roast with Kesoi and his family.
While Evans and Dr. B. shopped, I explored the market with Katie. I purchased a few kongas at a Maasai run shop, I had Kesoi’s help in picking out a konga that that a man would wear, now I’ll be all set for our ngoma next weekend. Kesoi ensured we got them at the special Maasai price of 200 shillingi so I bought him a Coke to thank him for the favor. With our groceries and supplies, we returned to camp for our first goat roast.
Today was our first goat roast. We had another one planned for our Ngoma out last weekend in Magadi, so this was sort of a practice session. Kesoi and Mepukori slaughtered a goat while we watched. They showed us how the Maasai suffocate the goat, which is the “kindest” way to kill it. They then made a small incision in the neck and collected the blood with a cup. Once that was done they systematically slaughtered the animal. I was fascinated how quickly and efficiently they took the goat apart. The meat made its way to our fire and soon we had a huge platter of goat in Alex’s special garlic sauce. The meat was tough to chew, you had to pick it up and eat it with your hands but it was very sweet tasting. I can say now that I’m a fan of goat. After a filling dinner and a round of Kenya poker, I was on top of the Land Rover star gazing and then off to bed.
Finally, wash day. After more than a week in the field, working all day long in the dust and the dirt, Dr. Barthelme took us to a stream about two hours west from camp so we could bathe and wash our clothes. We picked up our Maasai friend, Mepukori, along the way, he had invited us to attend a Maasai wedding later in the day and we gladly accepted the offer. The drive was great, a lot of nice Rift Valley scenery. The sheer size of the Rift Valley always gets me, its just unbelievably massive. We heard a “scary story” along the way about a specific fly that lived in the region we were entering. This fly is called the Tsetse fly and if it bites you there is the possibility you may catch a very nasty “sleeping disease”. We saw a few of them; big brown nasty looking things, but we kept them off our skin.
The wash spot was a fast water stream that ran at the foot of a beautiful set of Rift Valley mountains. The lush green flora was a nice change from the harsher foliage of Magadi; in fact it reminded me a lot of what we left behind in Nairobi. We washed our clothes and then ourselves. I must have washed my hair three times and I still didn’t get all the dirt out. It felt great though knowing that you’d at least smell a little better than when you got there. John, Kyle and I took a hike upstream to view some of the towering stream side cliffs and see if we could find some baboons. No luck with the baboons. The time soon came for us to head out, but we couldn’t find Mepukori anywhere. It seemed we had misplaced our Maasai. When we couldn’t wait any longer, we left without him and headed back to the small town we’d passed along the way for a bit to eat.
Dr. Barthelme ordered us some cooked goat with onions and peppers and ugli. We all had a few Tuskers with lunch, they were warm but I didn’t care, Tusker is Tusker and a week with just water gets old quick. Mepukori finally met up with us, turns out he’d fallen asleep back at the stream. After lunch we headed to the Maasai wedding, which was on the way back to camp. When we first pulled up to the boma, I couldn’t believe how many Maasai were present, at least 80-100. They all looked amazing the way their ebony skin contrasted with the brilliant colors of the kongas. The children were drawn to us like magnets; some of them had never seen mzungu (white people) before. One man offered Dr. Barthelme some goats and donkeys for Jordan, but we decided to keep her because of her osteology skills. Another Maasai, an older woman, took us all one by one into the Maasai circle to dance. Can’t say I was very good, but I’m going to practice before our big ngoma next Sunday. As we left the wedding, a few of the Maasai children tried climbing into the Land Rover with us, it was adorable! We laughed and they cried. It was definitely an experience I’ll remember for a long time.
We headed back to camp late that night and managed to catch a beautiful sunset along the mountains where we had washed that day. Alex and Evans had dinner all ready for us by the time we returned to camp. I finished the night with a bit of stargazing on the Land Rover, a fitting end to a fantastic day.
A new day at Oloololo began with a twofold plan; begin excavation on one of the grid squares and work towards finishing our site map. Kyle, William and I were tasked with the later. All the surface artifacts had been plotted the day before, now we just needed to shoot random points on the landscape in order to finish our contours. Our original estimate was that 17 shots would be sufficient enough, but we ended up shooting just over 40. Meanwhile, Jordan, Laura, Katie, John, and Magdalene began excavating the unit where we discovered the artifacts in situ yesterday. Sieving artifacts in Magadi High Bed matrix has got to be the messiest job known to man. It was dirty work but they they did good.
After our contour map was completed, my group was tasked with hiking back over to the Engilata site we discovered a few days before to get the GPS coordinates. It was a quick and easy task. We saw a few animals on the way; a giant secretary bird, a small dik-dik skittering up the western ridge and even a nest of eggs. The thing I love about working out in the African wilderness is that you never know what you are going to see from day to day. For example, when we leave camp in the morning, sometimes we’ll see zebra- a whole herd grazing next to the road, other days we’ll see a herd of giraffe watching us from behind the trees, or a herd of Maasai cows trampling down the road in front of us. Variation is the spice of life I guess, and I can’t think of a better place to experience variety.
We returned to Oloololo with the coordinates and with the little amount of time left, Dr. Barthelme gave us a square to excavate. Today will go down in history as the first day I wielded a trowel, right next to the discovery of electricity and the invention of the microprocessor. Unfortunately it was so late in the afternoon, I only got to work for a few minutes, but I cut through that matrix like a professional I can tell you that. Work will resume on Sunday, two days from now.
Another day at Oloololo. After a beautiful sunrise, the sun dipped behind the clouds and took a break for the day. No complaints from the crew after battling through such harsh conditions yesterday. We added seven additional excavation units to the site just north of yesterdays survey area. We cited a dozen more artifacts, mostly articulated bone fragments. The big find of the day was a radius, a bovid tooth and a stone flake all in situ, very promising when you consider a good portion of the artifacts here aren’t in situ.
Lunch was a treat today as Alex and Evans, our cooks, had made pizza, which is quite impressive considering it was done without an oven. One word: delicious. John, William and Magdalene had never had pizza before and I’d never had it cooked on an open flame, so it was an experience for everyone.
After lunch, Kyle and William headed into Magadi with Dr. B while the rest of us stayed at camp. Doc had assigned us a walk around Little Magadi while he was gone so we could get familiar with the eastern portion of our campsite. We were also asked to keep an eye out for any bones we could use in our osteology lessons. With that in mind we set off. Along the way we spotted two towering termite mounds, one of them was over fifteen feet high! Doc informed us later that it had been there for several years and that that termite mounds can often serve as homes for several types of animals and insects. We saw several gazelle on the walk as well. We and were lucky to see where Little Magadi and Big Magadi are separated by a raised “floodplain”, which was quite a remarkable site. Our walk produced a few flamingo skeletons, a giraffe humerus and a few random articulated bones that belonged to gazelle.
Overall, a successful day.