University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Digging at Clifford Rocks

May 3, 2010

Mulu’s philosophy on the mental state of archaeologists

There are elephants outside my banda right now. I can hear them trumpeting. I also found out that the whooping noises are hyena. As the ascari (guard) walked me through the darkness, I shined my flashlight into the acacia bushes and saw the most sinister eye shine. Greenish, far-set eyes all trained on us. It turns out they were impala. Harmless enough.

We made anther trek up to Clifford Rocks today to excavate the rock shelter. A portion of it was excavated in 2007.

Simon, Chris, Paul and Mulu had the difficult task of searching for the old stakes that marked the previous excavation so they wouldn’t overlap it. They finally mapped out an adjacent 1×1 meter square adjacent to the ghost of the olf one. I thought it was pretty ironic that they were using stones as tools to hammer the stakes into the ground to mark the square. And they would hopefully find some stone tools a few centimeters down. Peter and Paul sieved the soil and found some charcoal which Mulu said is the best for radio carbon dating.

Our little friends from the village below emerged from the bush again to help us our. Robert, Julius, and James. They speak very good English but they are very shy about it. James was helping to transport the buckets of dirt to Chris and Paul for sieving.

There was a herd of elephants down the road. Komande drove us closer so we could take pictures and video. I gave to remind myself that I’m documenting Kathleen’s research, not making an episode of Planet Earth. But the animals here are so dramatic, it’s hard to avoid them.

The same elephant herd that is milling through the camp was yards away from our van this afternoon. They were on the opposite side of a river. My anxiety level started to increase as they started crossing the river. And it went through the roof (luckily the van has a pop-up roof) when the matriarch burst through some bushes and started tilling her tusks into the ground and stamping her feet. I don’t understand elephant communication as well as Peter, our ascari (guard) and Komande, our experienced safari driver. But my primal instinct was to get away from the giant stomping elephant as fast as humanly possible.

When Peter told Komande to twende, Komande ignored him. The car wasn’t even turned on. “Twende, Komande. Twende,” he said in an urgent whisper. But Komande, in his eminently languid fashion waited until the elephant started mashing up the ground and did a fake charge before he even turned on the ignition. At this point I was about to pass out. “Is Komande awake?” I asked. I know I will hate watching the tape with my whiny appeal to twende. Jenn was cool as a Kenyan cucumber the entire time. We finally drove away and Paul and Simon were light heartedly making fun of me for being such a scaredy cat.

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