It's been quite an adventure, I can tell you.
Indiana Jones and his fedora have nothing on me and my hard hat!
We're up at 5:30 am, out of the house by 6:45 and after our trek, working at the site by 8am. We work till 4:30pm or so, then dinner, errands and we don't get back to the house sometimes till almost 8 pm. And by the time every one has taken turns showering, making lunches for the next day, etc. it's time for bed!
And although it's crazy, everyone tells me that this is the Rolls Royce of archaeological digs as we are not living in a tent or bathing in rivers.
It's hard, physically demanding work. And for an absolute novice like me, a little overwhelming.
But it's also very cool.
So, first of all, the overall complex of sites is called "Pinnacle Point." It is near the town of Mossel Bay on the Southern Coast of South Africa on the Indian Ocean. Here's what good ole Wikipedia has to say about it:
"The site consists of caves that have revealed occupation by Middle Stone Age people between 170,000 and 40,000 years ago. The focus of excavations has been at Pinnacle Point Cave 13B (PP13B) where the earliest evidence for the systematic exploitation of marine resources (shellfish) and symbolic behavior have been documentedand at Pinnacle Point Cave 5-6 (PP5-6), where the oldest evidence for the heat treatment of rock to make stone tools has been documented."
Here's what PP 5-6 looks like as we walk up to it.
Basically, what it amounts to is evidence of complex behavior by human beings much earlier than people used to think. For many years the perception was that more advanced human behavior began in Europe with things like the cave paintings in France (which are aprox. 30,000 years old) -- but what PP 5-6 and PP 13B (and other sites) are showing is that complex human behavior began right here in Africa much earlier than that.
So, even for complete civilians like me, it really is fascinating stuff. And I've always had a fascination with archeology (if not the discipline or patience to ever make it my life's work) so this has just been an amazing experience.
As far as what my work at the site has actually entailed, I've worked as a "recorder" -- essentially helping the excavators record the hundreds upon hundreds of tiny finds (anything from slivers of bone to tiny shell fragments -- I tell you, these people have A LOT of patience.)
I've taken pictures, filled out forms, helped make diagrams of finds on grids and of course have done basic fetching and carrying. As I said, it's been physically tough (especially coming on the heels of my IBS attacks) but it's been totally worth it -- especially as I have finally gotten to see this dude at work:
Yes kids, that's a Vikings hard hat!
And I can now much more fully appreciate what his work entails.
And as hard and confusing and terrifying (have I mentioned what a klutz I am? I am continuously terrified of falling in the pit!) as it has been, there are many perks! Like rainbows! And whales! And of course the very cool team of people -- they're funny -- a lot like poets -- very serious one moment, and totally insane the next ... pictures of the insanity will be forthcoming ...