Last Spring semester Dr. Fortelius, Dr. Meave Leakey and the TBI students initiated a simple taphonomy experiment. They started off with the exciting task of smashing Mary Leakey’s crockery into small pieces, which were then buried at different levels within the TBI compound. Here is the link to the blog post: http://www.turkanabasin.org/2013/03/paleontology-off-to-a-smashing-start/.
Taphonomy is the study of the processes and environmental forces that act upon organisms after death, in the lead-up to fossilization. Using the broken crockery sherds as a model, the aim of this exercise is twofold – to assess and better understand the taphonomic processes that occur over time on a given organism; and to get a grasp on how different organisms are classified based on the remains that are found.
This Spring semester, the task for the TBI students was to look for the sherds deposited by the previous field school and collect them for a taphonomical and cladistic analysis. In a nutshell, cladistics is a method of assessing the evolutionary history and relatedness of different groups of organisms based on the number of shared and derived characteristics they have.
But first, a bit of excavation practice…