Sunday, 22 November 2015

Olduvai Gorge- The student's perspective

Previous post about Olduvai Gorge introduced the Olduvai Geochronology and Archaeology Project excavations. This post will be from the perspective of the students that participated this summer- Anna, Jan and Abby.  It feels crazy to say that now already 3 months have passed since we returned from what was an amazing and unforgettable experience.

As explained before, Olduvai Gorge is a very important site for the discovery of early hominin activity. It was first excavated by Mary and Louis Leakey in 1935 and excavations continue there today. Echos of Mary and Louis Leakey's presence still remain at the camp where we were living.

The Leakey's home, now the camp's dining hall- or colouring area during the mid-day break! (Photo by Emily Orlikoff)

The Laetoli Lab- our conservation lab for the season
Our friend Merve gets lovingly dressed up by the Maasai  for the Zinj Day celebrations
Every year the day that Mary found the Zinjanthropus boisei skull (also known as Paranthropus boisei) is celebrated. We were lucky enough to be part of the celebrations this year. Throughout the night everyone expressed their thankfulness for the collaboration that has taken place between the local Maasai and the visiting researchers.

This year the main sites excavated were based on the meticulous notes of Mary Leakey. They were incredibly rich archaeologically. Over 5,000 artefacts were excavated this season and over 550 of those passed through the conservation lab.

GTCT (Greatest Tanzanian Conservation Team) treated more objects then ever before. Comprised of myself, Anna, Jan and Eli. We were led by Dr. Renata Peters to have a highly successful season conserving fossilized bones and stone tools.

The fossilized bones came into the lab requiring joining, consolidation, fills and surface cleaning. The stone tools were often delaminating, in addition to needing joining and surface cleaning.

Anna consults with Renata about a treatment.

We could not have had such a successful season without help from the Tanzanian excavators and field school students who quickly became part of the GTCT.
One of our dedicated students, Rukia, working on a difficult object
Jan teaching another of our dedicated students, Lucie

When reminiscing about our time in Olduvai to others we have gotten some interesting reactions. Daily life at the camp would not be considered easy by most. We slept in tents, had no running water (which meant showering from a bag and brushing your teeth in a bush) and only limited generator-powered electricity. We would start work daily at 7:45am and would finish around 6:30pm- when there was no more light to work by. However, we would also watch the sunrise over the gorge every morning, see giraffes running behind the camp in the evening and fall asleep to the sound of hyenas. We were surrounded by loving and caring people with whom we formed friendships that will last a lifetime. Olduvai Gorge is a unique and wondrous place. I think I speak for all three of us when I say we feel lucky to have been part of this experience.

Conservation Tent City- our home away from home. We were all jealous of Anna's large tent. Can you guess which one it is? (Photo by Jan D. Cutajar)

This trip could not have been possible without help from our friends and family who donated to our crowd fundraising campaign, the Zibby Garnett Travel Fellowship and OGAP. Thank you so much!

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