18 July 2008

i still think we should try stilts

So we have all these boxes of fossils, right? And we have all these excavatrices (and Ryan) to dig the fossils out. No problem, yeah?

look! look how happy we are! how happy, and... how short.

Problem, yeah: At least four of the tree boxes (forgive me,
fossil boxes) are well over 10 feet tall, and therefore well out of the reach of even our tallest paleontologists. Consequently, the past week has been spent figuring out how to essentially turn our Pit 91 excavation methods upside down. We gathered, we discussed, we brainstormed, and we eventually decided on...

A jungle gym! Yes! And the teeter totter will be installed next week.

Clearly, reader, I am joshing you. However, suggested (and summarily rejected) ideas for excavational elevation included stilts, a trampoline, moon shoes, and hovercraft technology. We settled on scaffolding (kindly donated by a certain excavatrix's father) and old reliable:

An extendable ladder. Genius, I know.

But wait, there's more! Look:

we built a RAILING! Gravity, your charms will ensnare us no longer! We are safe as houses. And check out the view -- we've got box seats for LACMA's Saturday evening latin jazz.

Life is good. Even without stilts.

09 July 2008

The story thus far

Between February and July of 2006, 16 ginormous fossil deposits were found underneath what used to be Ogden Dr. (and what is now LACMA’s fancy new underground parking garage). With construction deadlines looming and fossils constantly appearing underfoot, Robin Turner over at APRMI came up with a brilliant plan: rather than halting construction for an indefinite period of time to excavate each and every fossil, she boxed the deposits up as if they were colossal oak trees, lifted them out of the earth with an equally colossal crane, and set them aside for later study. These 16 deposits took up 23 tree boxes, and thus….

(Well, “Project 23 plus 2 fossil trees, 327 buckets, a whole bunch of film canisters and plastic baggies filled with other assorted fossils, and
20 plaster jackets containing the bones of one semi-articulated mammoth with complete tusks," but you get the idea, right?)

So what's in these boxes? We don't know! It's a mystery! We won't know until we open up them up! It's like a paleontological Christmas! If the deposits are anywhere as dense as Pit 91, we could have literally hundreds of thousands of fossils on our hands. And if we were to include all of the microfossils (bug parts and tiny shells) in that estimate: maybe even millions.

That having been said, we do know this:

This is the top of Deposit 1, and these are the bones of a sabertoothed cat. But furthermore, these are the semi-articulated bones of a sabertoothed cat: a hip bone and a lower hind leg, to be exact. Further furthermore, we know that these are the bones of a fairly young sabertoothed cat; since the epiphyseal line between the main part of the bone (the diaphysis) and the end of the bone (the epiphysis) is visible, we know that the animal was young enough that his bones hadn't finished fusing. We rarely, if ever, find this sort of articulation in Pit 91. The fact that we're finding this sort of thing right off the bat is fairly-to-extremely awesome.

Further further furthermore:

This is the scapula (shoulder blade) of a giant ground sloth (and Ryan's feet) (please note the tar-y socks). Giant ground sloths are AMAZING and made entirely of WIN, and their presence in this first deposit is an extremely good omen.

More soon...