What a crock!

The Vertebrate Paleontology & Paleoecology Module began last week under the instruction of paleontologist Dr. Mikael Fortelius from the University of Helsinki.  After an introductory lecture on processes that affect the preservation of organisms and their traces, we set out to unearth crockery that was buried within the TBI facility. As part of a taphonomy experiment, TBI students in the Spring 2013 field school reluctantly smashed and buried pottery that had belonged to famous paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey!  This year, TBI students unearthed the pieces of pottery as an introduction to surveying, documentation, and collection of fossils and archaeological artifacts.

After a brief survey of the area, pieces of pottery were located and appeared to be eroding out of a hillside.

Dr. Fortelius explains the importance of documenting observations of the surrounding area before any excavation.

Dr. Fortelius explains the importance of documenting observations of the surrounding area before any excavation.

Pieces of Mary Leakey's pottery

Flagged artifacts. Pieces of Mary Leakey’s pottery

Dr. Fortelius watch as Sam, Dylan, and Rachel dig a small trench next to the pottery in order to examine the subsurface sediment.

Dr. Fortelius watches as Sam, Dylan, and Rachel dig a small trench next to the pottery in order to examine the subsurface sediment.

Students find more crockery beneath the surface!

Students find more crockery beneath the surface!

After documenting and collecting a pottery shard from the surface, Kate proceeds to slowly brush aside sediment on the surface in the hopes of finding more pieces.

After documenting and collecting a pottery shard from the surface, Kate proceeds to slowly brush aside sediment on the surface in the hopes of finding more pieces.

Anna brushing away sediment while Tom (TBI mascot) wonders what everyone is doing

Anna brushing away sediment while Tom (TBI mascot) wonders what everyone is doing.

In the end, we learned that if this were a real fossil or archaeological site, we would NOT collect any items. Instead, we would GPS the location and gather data for a later excavation by a professional paleontologist such as Dr. Mikael Fortelius.

DAY 2- In part two of this investigation TBI students reconstructed the pottery to its original form.

Page, Sam, Dylan, Kate, and Jade try to piece together pieces of Mary Leakey's pottery.

Page, Sam, Dylan, Kate, and Jade try to piece together pieces of Mary Leakey’s pottery.

Larisa and Rachel piece together a plate.

Larisa and Rachel piece together a plate.

Additionally, students constructed a diagram connecting different plates, bowls, and tea pots to one or more types of crockery based on shared characteristics such as color, shape, and how it was made. This type of figure is used in cladistics to show the relationship between organisms.  I have included an example in the image below if YOU would like to fill in the synapomophs.  🙂

 

vert_cladogram copy

By | 2017-01-04T18:04:49+00:00 February 9th, 2015|Field Schools, Spring 2015|Comments Off on What a crock!

About the Author:

Hi I'm Linda. I'm the Resident Academic Director for the Origins Field School. In addition, I'm a geologist. I have been working in the Turkana Basin since 2011 and am interested in reconstructing the past landscape on which our ancestors evolved.