Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Searching For Neanderthal Tools In Spain, Part 2

(Editor's Note: David Katz, a lawyer turned archaeologist, continues to guest blog. David's descriptions of his summer excavating in Spain captured the attention of the popular travel blog Jaunted. Welcome new readers! Look around while you're here.)

San Llorenc de Montgai, Spain
Week Two (Aug. 17, 2008)

Evidence that I'm not in my parent's basement inventing travel stories: How to explain this video. . . . First night in Barcelona. There was a going-away party on the beach for a friend of Marshall's (in the video, Marshall is the one with the prominent middle finger). On the audio, I'm the guy who thinks he's asking the tough questions which will solve the mystery of how we got stuck with this bike. Dustin wound up trying to ride the bike home, but the seat was too high, and not adjustable without an Allen wrench, so Dustin gave the bike to a tall Senegalese man. The bike's owner was none too pleased, but should never have abandoned his ride in the first place.

Evidence That I Still Have a Few Tricks Up My Sleeve: Among our group, I, El Viejo, hold the "international record" for counting out loud while having beer funneled into my mouth with this glass bong-like device they (at the bar) call a "porro." You count "teeteeyous" ("One teeteeyou, two teeteeyou. . . .") while the beer cascades into your mouth from a spigot you hold several inches away from your face. This is better explained with a photo, I am sure, but that will have to wait.

I made it to nine teeteeyous. Then I went home to bed. The "local record" among our group, by one of the Catalan archaeologists, is 22. I am not sure whether to chase this mark, but, then again, one cannot always plan for such things.

Praise for the Spanish Medical System: I got a small cut on the inside of my ear, and the cut became infected. I was seen at a clinic in Lleida, the provincial capital about 35 km from here, with no hassle. There was no paperwork; all they did was photocopy my passport. The wait was only about 20 minutes. The doctor gave me antibiotics and ibuprofen free of charge.

Medical Mystery: Explain this. In the States, where I eat mostly vegetarian fare, try not to drink more than one cup of coffee per day, and essentially have sworn off spicy and fried foods, I needed one (and sometimes two) 150 mg Zantac's daily to manage my heartburn. In Spain, I eat all kinds of meat products, fried foods and ice cream (essentially, whatever the program serves, I eat). I drink several coffees daily. I drink a beer or two most nights. I haven't had heartburn for a week. So what is the mystery food substance that's killing my gut in the U.S.? Corn syrup? Unidentified preservative? Other possibilities: I eat much less fiber and many fewer vegetables here; I'm much more active here.

Oh Yeah, Archaeology: At the new level at which we are digging, we have come into a wealth of stone artifacts and bone. Much of the bone is burnt/cooked. We have found the remains of wild donkey, red deer and rat. Pretty much, if it had meat and lived here and wasn't a fish, a Neanderthal ate it.

A major goal of the excavation is to locate within the cave the hearths which the Neanderthals built and used to cook their kill (and to keep warm, have light, etc.). Locating the hearths is an important part of tracing activity patterns, and also helps give a sense of the number of occupants the cave may have had, as well as the frequency with which the cave was occupied. The way in which the artifacts and bones array around the hearths further enhances the picture. All of the data (over 20,000 stone and bone pieces discovered so far) is loaded into a database program which diagrams and helps to analyze the information.


More tomorrow....

Pictured: The photo has nothing to do with David, but it depicts a team of Princeton University students excavating a Neanderthal dig in Marillac, France. The vertical wires segment the site into one-meter squares.

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5:57 PM  

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