As I mentioned last week, this is our last week of work at PP5-6 for the May–June season. The final days of excavating include cleaning the profiles so that all the layers are readily visible, taking rectified photographs of the profiles to be used for documentation and analysis, and extensive mapping of all surfaces with the total station. All these activities are in preparation for covering the site with sandbags to protect excavation areas until next field season. Simen and I are busily doing “section drawings” of the profiles by taking the 3D coordinates of archaeological layers visible in the profile and sketching them onto graph paper. This is basically an interpretation of the visible geologic structures, which is labeled and eventually overlain on section profile photographs. One fun aspect of this process is naming “stratigraphic aggregates” (groups of layers between highly identifiable layers) that can be used as shorthand for different layers within the site. So far we’ve introduced Hank, Arnold, Simen, and Kirk to the PP5-6 family. However, section drawings can be particularly frustrating to do when layers are truncated, unconforming, or otherwise discontinuous. But after you’ve stared at the archaeological profile for several hours in a trance-like state following every appearance and disappearance of contact lines, it gives you an appreciation for the site formation complexities occurring in cave sediments.
I have appreciated the opportunity to engage with the IHO community during our short dig season with this blog. Since we weren’t digging intact archaeology, I hope this season doesn’t give the impression that there are never days where interesting artifacts are uncovered. This has been more of a “behind the scenes” look into what makes a dig the magnitude in size, detail, and rigor as at Pinnacle Point possible. Although I wasn’t able to blog any “big discoveries,” the work we are doing sets the stage for our October and November field season, which looks to be one of the largest groups of scientists, students, and specialists this project has yet assembled and which will no doubt lead to fantastic insights of modern human environmental interaction on the southern coast of Africa for the past 90,000+ (still don’t know how deep PP5-6 goes!) years.
Rumor has it in the very near future, contributions to the IHO blog will be made further up the road from Mossel Bay at the Langebaanweg Field School north of Cape Town. ASU/IHO and South African students will be learning about Pliocene fossils, and I look forward to hearing about their progress and how their summer goes and encourage everyone to keep checking the blog out.
Thanks for reading!
Ben (Cave Guy)