Archaeology Field Journal – June 12, 2007 – Day 4

Today we visited a new site, one that will be the focus of our research for a good part of the season. Oloololo is a real tongue twister. It is a Maasai word that means “around the corner”. Oloololo is located at the branch of the Lake Magadi, just north and around the corner from Olkena. Oloololo covers a 50 x 30m area; the site slopes upwards to the north and is bordered on the east by a large ridge. Heavy erosion has occurred to the south, completely removing the High Magadi Bed. The surface of the site is littered with subangular volcanic cobbles and erosion on the western side has revealed layers of stratigraphy. I know this is all a bit boring, but it’s important for understanding the site so bear with me. In the 2006 season, Oloololo bore the potential for a Late Stone Age occupation area. Excavations that year revealed the fossil remains of several animals including dik-dik, gazelle, impala, wildebeests, zebra and leopards. It was now our task to continue the research and determine if Oloololo was in fact once a place of hominid activity.

Our first order of the day was to explore the site and familiarize ourselves with the terrain. The recent rainy season had exposed many new bone fragments. We took special note of these, marking them with small piles of volcanic cobbles so we could locate them later. For efficiency purposes Dr. Barthelme had us split into two groups. His group headed north while my group, led by Dr. Ngari, crossed the dirt road and headed for the western ridge. Along the way we were to keep our eyes glued firmly to the ground, searching for bones and stones that may indicate more potential sites. We covered roughly 3km and unfortunately we didn’t find much. At the base of the ridge we found a strip of stone fragments and eggshell fragments extending roughly 50 feet. None of the pieces appeared to be the result of human manufacturing and our search did not reveal any eggshell beads. The area of deposition seemed to indicate that the items had simply washed down hill. The day was hot and we were growing tired quickly so we headed back to camp for lunch.

That afternoon we broke out the alidade and the dumpy, two instruments used for surveying. Surveying is a basic skill that any archaeologist should have under their belt and while more archaeologists nowadays use laser transits, we were just fine with our older methods. The way I see it, if you can do it the hard way, you can do it the easy way. I was glad to see that a few things from Dr. Weets archaeology class in the fall had stuck with me. By the end of the lesson I was ready to survey with the best of them. The remainder of the night was spent around camp. I accompanied Jordan and Laura on a walk over to the outcrop from a few days before. It’s an archaeologists dream to have a bone yard in your back yard and I enjoyed finding several more bone fragments. More archaeology tomorrow.

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