25 July 2017
As predicted, it was raining today, so we had the opportunity to sort through faunal material found at the site last year. We divided into four different groups and began sorting. Our main objective was to go through the material and identify the identifiable fragments and go through tiny fragments of bones and see whether it can be used as identifiable or not.
Our box had 4 main bags in. Michael was lucky because he got quite large bone fragments which he could use to identify bone. That was one of the bags.
Ruan and Reuben were a little less lucky. They ended up with bone fragments stuck in sand chunks. They had to use little brushes (archaeology is 50% art) to remove the fragments, which were lacking most -if not all- identifiable features. We initially thought they might be part of rib bones because they exhibited long pores on the inside and they were long and slightly curved. Those were two of the bags.
The last bag was, therefore, the responsibility of Dani and I. Our bag consisted of tiny miscellaneous bone fragments of which half of it was the inner part of bones, also known as spongy bone (I know right? Science) and the rest were tiny bone shards, most of them less than 2 cm long and 1 cm wide. These were all sorted into two main categories, unidentifiable and miscellaneous. Most people in the class had to sort through the same class of contents as this last bag.
After Dani and I finished our bag, we helped Reuben reconstruct the pieces that came out of the sand chunks. It consisted of a thoracic vertebra (more like the main body of the vertebra and the top of the shaft and couple of smaller pieces). As we began playing around with the pieces we realised that all the fragments from all the chunks belonged to the same vertebra. It was then that our adventurous couple of hours began where we started to reconstruct the most difficult 3D puzzle that you will ever find.
Mini fragments fitted into slots that looked like minor cracks in the bone. The breaks were irregular and the sizes of the puzzle pieces were inconsistent. Whenever you completed a part, you felt like an absolute boss. As a template, we used another thoracic vertebra.
After about 4 hours of extreme puzzling, it was time to go home. The vertebra is still waiting to be finished, and when it is, it will be an absolute smasher. Most of the other groups found the lab work to be tedious because they had the same type of contents that Dani and I had. In that way, I think it is a lot like fieldwork. The person excavating right next to you could find a whole mandible with teeth intact and your square could be devoid of any the faintest lithic scatter. But there is always the consolation that tomorrow is another day, and you might be the person to discover an Acheulean Handaxe.
Identifiable bone fragments or faunal remains: these would include heads or certain parts of long bones (these include femurs and humeri) as well as molars and premolars and other specialised or unique bones because these can be used to identify the animals to which they belonged (or at least the family).
Thoracic vertebrae: bones of the backbone to which the ribs are attached.
Unidentifiable bones: these would include rib fragments, cranial fragments, pieces of enamel from the teeth and parts of long bone shafts.