Archaeology Field Journal – June 10, 2007 – Day 2

Each of our days began at 6am. Since we didn’t have alarm clocks, Dr. Barthelme was kind enough to wake us with the sweet sounds of his harmonica each morning. I slept like a rock. Whether it was the fresh African air, the nighttime sounds or the Malaria medication I don’t know, but I always slept right through the night. On our first full day in the field we had many things planned. The first was an examination of the local geology. Dr. Shadrack Murimi and Dr. Lazarus Ngari were the assistant professors on our trip. They both teach at Kenyatta University in Nairobi and helped us better understand the geology and archaeology of southern Kenya. That morning they took us to some nearby rock outcrops to study the stratigraphy of the area. We studied two outcrops, examining the color, texture, sediment and thickness of each layer of soil. Any archaeologist knows that the geology of a site is integral in understanding the paleoenvironment. For example, sandy sediments can indicate that a site was once home to shallow water or a beach. On the other hand, very fine-grained sediments usually indicate a deep-water paleoenvironment. During our study we came across many fossil bones that had eroded out of the outcrops during the wet season. Some of these bones were articulated and the osteology students in our group did good work deciphering what they belonged to. Many of the bones belonged to zebra and gazelle, though there was one giraffe as well. We stumbled upon a more recent carcass near our second rock outcrop. Recent as in last night. It seemed one of the Maasai boys had forgotten a goat and that goat had ended up a meal for a local carnivore. We took the opportunity to study the tracks and the condition of the carcass. Our Maasai student, William, helped us to decipher the crime scene and later reports indicated that it was most likely a family of cheetah, two adults and thee cubs, that committed the act. Olekukuu reported that on his walk he had seen the felines on the nearby ridge. We were told not to worry, but walks alone were henceforth prohibited.

After our geology lesson, our next order of business was a trip to church; A.C.K. St. Barnabas’ Komii Church was celebrating their first anniversary and as I mentioned previously we were invited as special guests. We loaded up the Land Rover, learning that despite having seven seats fitting 13 people inside is no problem. At the church we were welcomed by Rev. Ogonji and the local Maasai. The men and women were very friendly, anxious to shake our hands and greet us in Maasia, “Sopai” The children are not allowed to shake hands, rather they bow their heads as a sign of respect and you respond by placing your hand on their head. The children were so cute and they were incredibly curious about us. The Reverend treated us all to a soda and then we moved inside the church for the celebration. Mind you, this isn’t a church like most of you are used to; merely a cement foundation with steel sheet walls and a roof. The church doubles as a schoolhouse so the walls are filled with children’s drawings, giving it a very unique appearance. There was plenty of singing and dancing during the ceremony, everyone seemed very happy to be there, despite the heat and lack of seating. Dr. Barthelme made a speech and thanked the community for their hospitality over the years. I sensed that he was a very well respected man in these parts based on the overall response from the Maasai. At lunchtime, we bid our new friends goodbye and returned to camp for lunch and an osteology lesson at the outcrop from the morning. I was fortunate and found a cluster of bones that belonged to a prehistoric bovid while the others came across teeth, horn cores and various other articulated bones. It was an informative lesson, but by 6 o’clock we were all ready for dinner. Another great meal and some stargazing on the Land Rover and I was ready to hit the sack.

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