24 April 2010

why working in a public park is fun.

Little kid questions of the week (both addressed to Carrie):

Small child: "Do you guys ever find anything besides bones in there?"
Carrie: "Like what?"
Small child: "Like weapons??"

I'm sure the kid meant spearheads, but my mind went instantly to a giant ground sloth holding a rifle.

Small child: "Why do they save all the dirt?"
Carrie: "We will look through it for microfossils."
Small child: "Microfossils... ohhhh like ancient germs??"

Now that one, I suppose, depends on what you consider a germ... We do get asphalt-eating bacteria, after all...

One of the most frequent questions we get from park visitors is, "what do you do when it rains?"

it's raining, it's pouring
clearly, you SMILE ADORABLY like laura

Well, as we've had to do more than once recently, we.... go inside. Despite our dirt-covered faces and tar-stained jeans, we are CIVILIZED after all (although to be fair, if it's only raining a little, and we've got a decent tarp rigged up, at least half the staff will opt to stay outdoors: "it smells nice!").

But this is California: we don't really have weather.

carrie and christina
this photo was taken in february; they're smiling because it's 80 degrees out. sorry, everywhere else.

People also ask which is better: digging in the cold, or digging in the heat. After several years of excavatrix-ing, I've become quite the connoisseur of digging conditions. Colder days have their advantages -- the asphalt "freezes" to the point that it chips off in these nice ovoid fragments -- conchoidal fractures, as in flint -- and you can get rid of big chunks of sterile dirt at one time.

And sometimes you find neat stuff in between the fractured pieces:

beetle wing imprint in asphalt
imprint of an insect wing, photo by the awesome carrie howard

more millipedes

However, cold days mean no detail work -- no dental picking! Which means no working on awesome stuff like these two articulated camel vertebrae (still from Clyde, our camel in 5B):

articulated camel vertebrae

Cold days, for me, also mean I'm at least 83% more likely to hit my left thumb with my own hammer before 9:30am. But I'm weird.

Warmer days, like I said, mean detail work:

beetle head?
i'm not sure what insect or which part this is, but it's neat

ice age termite gnaw marks!
more amazing photos by Carrie

Termite gnaw marks from the Pleistocene -- very cool. The keen-eyed excavator that got them out intact -- possibly cooler (I bet it was Carrie -- apparently this is We Love Carrie week).

ice age termite gnaw marks!

So, warm days = melty asphalt and pretty fossils. However, warm days eventually turn into hot days, which eventually turn into oh-my-god-i'm-dying-get-me-an-iced-tea. We've got another 2 months until then, though.

Another keen-eyed excavator (your truly, to tell the truth) spotted a new instance of the family Suidae at Rancho La Brea....

wait a second....
yes, it's a pot-bellied pig. no, it's not george clooney's. damn.

but, alas, not exactly Pleistocene in age...


Ashley said...

OMG. I think it's a fly's head...see it now? Or a beetle. There are two giant eyes. Crazy. Neat microfossils. <3.

Ryan said...

First, I'm sad to see that you have busted the Ghost of the Lone Male Excavator (no worries, he's a busy ghost anyway). Second, Are you still excavatricing? Third, Are you sure those are termite tunnels and not beetles? Fourth, I thought that peccary bones had been found in a pit or two; if so this little piggy would be the second suid sp.
Fifth, great post, awesome pics,and good finds!

andie said...

hi lion,
1) you are welcome to email in a post that we will put up in your ghostly honor
2) i am, as shelley brilliantly put it, excavatrix emeritus. i still work saturdays, primarily on writing reports, but a wee bit slower and with considerably more gleeful ha-ha-someone-else-fix-the-air-compressor punditry than before. (the air compressor is fine, don't worry)
3) Shelley and Richard say termites and that's good enough for me -- for now. not like this is PLoS One or something
4) mean to put "new" rather than "first" -- edited to correct
5) thank you :)

michael said...

Happy pigs, insect balls, smiley volunteers, wet laura, and sloths with guns, all in all a delightful post, thanks.