09 June 2009

update update update wow.

la brea tar pits panorama - pit 91 compound

OH, we have been bad bloggers. Apologies for the complete and total lack of communication. BUT, in our defense, we've been really busy. Look:

Project 23 @ the La Brea Tar Pits - box 7B

This is Deposit 7B, and it is open for excavation. Now that 10A and 10B are done, lead excavatrix Kristen and curatorial assistant Aisling decided that the 7's would be next to go (while continuing work on the never-ending saga that is Deposit 1). According to APRMI's field notes and photos, the 7's are pretty fossiliferous -- more so than 10A and 10B, anyway -- and so far, the sediment hasn't been terribly hard -- good for excavators' hands, good for the fossils' relative safety.

Serendipitously enough: Shelley et al in the lab just opened another plaster jacket in the lab labeled "mammoth" only to find that it's actually half of a Giant Ground Sloth pelvis from near Deposit 7. Other finds from 7B:

Project 23 @ the La Brea Tar Pits - box 7B

From top to bottom: the ischium of a bison pelvis, an herbivore (possibly bison) rib, a cervical vertebra from a sabertoothed cat, a bit of plant, and a dire wolf humerus. We've also recovered another sabertoothed cat vertebra, another herbivore (possibly bison) rib, and a small piece of maxilla that may belong to a small dog or a mustelid of some sort -- we won't know until it's clean.

So, why has this taken up so much time? Well, I'll tell you:
Diagram of box 7B
Opening a new box/deposit isn't as simple as lifting up a tarp and digging in. First, we have to determine the box's original cardinal orientation -- that is, we have to figure out what side of the box originally faced north. More often than not, our imaginary north arrow isn't actually perpendicular to the northernmost side of the box; it's at an angle that can only be determined by carefully referencing original field notes from the salvage. It's only after we figure that out that we can set our grid lines, and begin digging. The diagram above (mid-pass from me to Laura) is a sketch of the overall layout of Deposit 7B, with every grid labeled, and the angle of that imaginary north arrow recorded for future reference. Did all that makes sense? If not -- comment, and I'll explain better next post.

So what else have we been doing?

The Page Museum hosted an Art + Science event in conjunction with LACMA's art walk. I put this 4 minute time lapse film-lette together for it -- PLEASE watch it; I think it turned out quite nicely! Time lapse experiments are largely responsible for stealing the time I would ordinarily spend updating the blog -- sorry! -- but I hope you will agree that the results have been worthwhile.

LACMA's art walk invaded our side of the park in a pleasantly chaotic sort of way:


These partially constructed hexagons of what would have been a geodesic dome spotted the hill surrounding the museum.

Bert the bear -- LACMA's art walk

And these white and black tarps surrounded our sloth and bear sculptures! By the end of the day, they were re-purposed somewhat...


...as awesome space age forts for young paleontologists. More pictures, as always, if you click on the picture above and explore our flickr photo feed.

Speaking of social networking...

...especially when I'm MIA, or if more than 140 characters is just too much for you.

Finally, Michelle has recently discovered her true calling: she is a poet, and she didn't know it. Her specialty: the ancient Japanese form of poetry known as the haiku:
Working in Box 1
Ouch! I hit my hand again!
Chiseling is hard.

Dermal ossicles
There are many in this grid.
Natural defense

Haikus can be so random.
Cheese quesadilla

Like I said, we've been very busy! Next update will be prompter, I promise!