We are now down to the last two modules of this Spring’s field school. It’s been a wonderful journey so far; and the students have now been joined by Dr. Sonia Harmand, who is teaching the penultimate module – Archaeology.
On Monday, the students learned what archaeology is all about and discussed the ultimate question: What makes us human? For decades many archaeologists and anthropologists thought that a unique defining factor was the ability to use and produce tools. However, as the students also found, there are several non-human primates, and even other mammals and birds, that have also been observed manipulating stone tools and organic ones too.
Our relatives, the chimpanzees, are a classic example of this and they are very skilled at cracking oil palm and panda nuts using stone anvils and hammerstones to get to the tasty grub inside. During the afternoon, it was the students turn to try out the chimp technique on Doum Palm nuts down by the Turkwel River.
The first challenge was to collect the nuts from the tree.
And then it was time to look for some tools.
The Doum nuts are very hard to crack, so the students task was to peel the nuts so they could taste the outer flesh. This is something the Turkana do on a daily basis as the nuts have a high nutritional value and constitute an important part of their diet.
After the students found their tool, they set to work on the nuts, many using different peeling methods.
It was no easy task, but with much perseverance the nuts were peeled and the students were able to taste the fleshy layer surrounding the nut. Some said it tasted like gingerbread… others, like date-flavoured sand paper; and others tried some unripe nuts by accident which resulted in some very amusing facial expressions. All in all, an afternoon very well spent! Stay tuned for more exciting news from Turkana!