Day 5

28 July 2017

We arrived on site at around 9. It was a sunny and clear day, with a warm berg wind blowing from the North East. The first thing that happened on site today was the shooting in of the datums into the total station.
Yesterday, we were divided into three groups, namely faunal, (lit)hic and calcrete. Since faunal had the opportunity to start excavating yesterday, we were placed on sifting duty and lithics were allowed to excavate. The calcrete kids mainly walked around marking cool calcrete sites (so basically calcrete formations that had specific characteristics) with Azraa.
Hence, I was placed on sieving duty. For this, you get bucket loads of sand that you then sift and check for tiny lithics and small bone shards that might have been missed during excavating. On some sites, each excavator sieves his own bucket, but because we were so many, we took turns at excavating and sifting.
As I write this post, every time I close my eyes, I can see bone shards. I can see the pores, the weathering patterns on the outer surface of the bone. The dark, rich colour of the bone shards. My arms are still numb from the movements of sieving. The constant second guessing and then having to perform the very legit method of testing whether it is a bone or a piece of calcrete, namely licking the bone. The rule is that if the piece sticks to your tongue, then it’s bone. My biggest question regarding this method is not the validity or how big the influence of fresh saliva is one 200 000-year-old bones, but rather, who is the person who discovered this, and how? (Like what were those guys doing when they had this realisation?)

Today I decided that even though we might not have speakers, I will play some tunes. I placed my phone into a mug and blasted the timeless tunes from The Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, a.k.a. Awesome mix Vol. 1 &2. (Kirsten and I have decided to create a “We dig this” playlist for the excavation. It’s going to be lit. If you have any suggestions please do send them to us.)

So, on sifting duty today, Tamara, Nick and I mostly found teeny tiny bone shards and some baby lithics (we were one of two sifting teams). I found a femur head belonging to a bird or something. I also found a small vertebra, not bigger than 10 mm. It was so delicate. Nick and Tamara also found a flake (we suspect that the raw material might be Table mountain sandstone, but once again, don’t quote me on that). The flake had a small, but visible bulb of percussion.

We finished off the week of excavating with a braai. For dessert, we had smores. Everyone left in high spirits, but very tired.

Mabeth Crafford



Word list

Bergwind: a hot dry northerly wind blowing from the interior to coastal districts.

Bulb of percussion: a cone-shaped bulge on a fractured surface of flint that is made by a blow applied at an angle

Datum: a fixed starting point of a scale or operation

Total Station: an electronic/optical instrument used for surveying


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