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john hawks weblog

paleoanthropology, genetics and evolution

Photo Credit: Hillside above the Rising Star cave system, South Africa. John Hawks CC-BY-NC-ND

Rising Star: Updates on the week's activities

Becca Peixotto has two updates on the Rising Star Expedition blog today, describing some of the excavation activities this week. In “What’s new at this week’s excavation”, she highlights the smaller scale of the dig and gives some insight about how the cave has changed at the end of this rainy South African summer.

The late summer in the Cradle of Humankind this year was remarkably rainy. In karst regions like this, rainwater does not stay long on the surface in creeks or rivers. Instead it quickly seeps through cracks in the dolomite.
The water sometimes pools in the caves, like the chilly puddle at the narrowest squeeze in the Postbox belly-crawl. No staying dry in that one! The water may hang in the air like it does in the final chamber where there is no standing water but where the humidity registers on our air monitors at 99.9%, or the rainwater may become part of an existing drip, dissolving the dolomite and slowly depositing calcium carbonate as a stalactite or other speleothem.

Becca’s second post, “Young Visitor Helps Recover First Top Jaw From the Site”, describes the visit of a young “Reach for a Dream” participant to the site, where he helped direct the excavation through the comms.

She then turns to this week’s progress:

We accomplished our initial goal of recovering the maxilla (the part of a skull containing the upper teeth) and long bone that have been calling out to us since their initial uncovering four months ago.
This long bone was one of the earliest pieces to be uncovered, but its size and orientation prevented easy removal throught out the November dig because with each bit revealed, other bones were found on top or adjacent to it.

That accomplishes the first of the week’s excavation goals, and further new fossils have come out.