By Becca Peixotto
Every day at Rising Star is a busy one, but in our free time we’ve been lucky to make some local friends who follow the expedition and this blog. Thanks for helping us feel welcome in South Africa!
Today marked the last day of excavation for this round of Rising Star. In only eight days of digging, we retrieved more than 320 numbered fossil specimens and an awful lot of sediment. Don’t worry: an untold number of fossils, some sure to be spectacular, remain in the chamber waiting to be excavated in the not too distant future.
Why didn’t we get them all? First, it would take a very long time. All of the fossils we collected this time came from a small area of the total chamber floor. Second, archaeologists often like to preserve part of a site in the ground for study later. Future advances in technology and new research questions might alter how we’d excavate so leaving some areas undisturbed actually allows us to learn more from the site and the fossils down the road.
The End of the Day
As Marina Elliot and I were taking the last photos and making the final scans, we were joined by our intrepid cave explorers and support team of Steven Tucker and Rick Hunter.
Marina and I escorted bags of fossils, sediment, and equipment up through the famous chute with Rick hauling them on a rope from above. It’s tight in the slot with a person and a heavy bag. With a fair bit of grunting and some great cooperation, we got the bags up the chute, down Dragon’s Back, through Post Box, up the Ladder and to the surface.
Meanwhile, Steven was busy securing the cameras and lights from the harsh cave environment since they will sit there dormant for a few months. Everything else—every scrap of paper, bubble wrap and toothpick—was packed up and carried out of the cave. We didn’t say goodbye to the Rising Star cave, rather “thanks for an incredible week and see you again soon!”
Next, we’ll be working in the lab with Peter Schmid sifting through the sediment looking for still more fossils we may have missed. Tiny as they may be, each bone and fossil fragment provides another clue to mystery of the Rising Star fossils.