Simen Oestmo: Week 4, No “Dig Brain”—Yet

Every field season is different. Not just because we find more new artifacts and excavate more sediment but also because we have new students and experts who visit us.

Every season also has a different pace. Some seasons jump out of the gate and sprint from start to the finish line. Other seasons starts a bit more slowly, like this one, and the momentum builds as we enter the final weeks of the field season.

cave and people

Excavation frenzy in the lower area. Dr. Marean (in green hard hat) is observing excavations and checking if the paper work is in order.

As we gather momentum into the second half of this season, site procedures and methods get woven into the actions of the people at the site. Everything becomes automatic and efficiency ramps up. But things can also go wrong when the job gets automatic. People can get careless and don’t think about what they are doing, and turning off the auto-pilot can be difficult. We call this “dig brain”—when somebody does everything automatically and doesn’t realize or notice they are doing something wrong. So far no signs of “dig brain,” and we are all hoping that it stays that way for the remaining half of the season. The diverse group of students this season has worked hard so far, and I will be watching to make sure they stay sharp and alert for the rest of the season.

people in cave

Ben Schoville (ASU and IHO grad student) is this season's site-tech. He is in charge of making sure that all data we collect every day with our total stations gets in order and checked a last time before the data enters a database.

As mentioned in the last blog entry, this project is working with several different internationally known specialists. During this season, four scientists have visited us. We have had Dr. Panagiotis (Takis) Karkanas, a renowned micromorphology expert. He looks at the fine-level structure of sediments and soils using a microscope. Takis is from Greece and is working at the Ephoreia of Palaeoanthropology-Speleology of Southern Greece.

Our world-renowned OSL dating (the method that dates the last time a sand grain was exposed to sunlight) expert, Dr. Zenobia Jacobs, is an South African but works at the University of Wollongong, Australia.

Dr. Rosa Maria Albert also came to visit. She is from Spain and works at the University of Barcelona. She is a renowned expert in studying archaeologically recovered phytoliths. Phytoliths are small particles of silica or minerals that occur in many plants.

The fourth specialist that came down to this field season is Dr. Andy I.R. Herries. He is from England but works at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Andy is a world-renowned expert in paleomagnetism and archaeomagnetism. Paleomagnetism can be shortly described as the study of the record of the world’s magnetic field in rocks, and archaeomagnetism is the application of that to the archaeological record.

Having these specialists come and visit is a very cool experience for everyone. Students get to chat and hang out with highly skilled people in their respective fields of study and watch and learn from them as they work with us in the field.

Med vennelig hilsen (Norwegian for “best wishes”)!

Simen

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