It is finally the end of the Archaeology module and our field school students have learned a lot about stone tools. Now it is time to put them in good use! Cracking nuts using a hammer stone and an anvil is just the beginning of technology. To convince ourselves that the stone flakes we made are capable of more advanced tasks such as processing fur, skin, bone and flesh, we brought them to a butchery site where two goats had been euthanized for human consumption. None of us really had any experience in butchering so we were really concerned whether we could put some food on the dinner table! As it turned out, the stone tools were fairly efficient in cutting through skin, tendons and meat! No wonder human ancestors started using them very early on in our evolutionary history.
After successful completion of all classes and field exercises, we gathered together to congratulate 15 new graduates of the Origins Field School! We were honored to have Dr. Louise Leakey, Director of Education and Outreach of the Turkana Basin Institute, at the ceremony. One of Dr. Leakey’s recent projects aims to promote the fossils and artifacts found in the Turkana Basin as part of the national heritage of Kenya, and she is showcasing them on the Internet via a virtual museum. The team focuses on digitizing conventional museum collections in forms of 3D models that can be viewed and shared easily online. Dr. Leakey also visits local schools with cardboard cutouts that can be put together into life-size replicates of the fossil skulls. And our field school students each received a set of these cutouts as a gift for their graduation!
Eleven weeks have passed and it is finally time to say bye. We have come from far and wide, from different corners of the United States to Europe, Asia and Africa. We have shared many adventures in the Turkana Basin, shared moments of excitement and laughter. We have grown to know and respect each other, as well as the local communities in the Turkana Basin. And most importantly, we have become friends! It is not just about the time we spent in the classroom or in the field, but the time we spent together. Living in Kenya, whether at Mpala, Ileret or Turkwel, has given us an amazing opportunity to understand how diverse our life can be. And we leave the stories to our own students to tell. Congratulations, Field School graduates! It is in the hope of all Field School instructors and staff that this unique learning experience will serve you well in your future endeavors!
P.S. We thank the Turkana Basin Institute, Stony Brook University and Mpala Wildlife Research staff for organizing the Field School and providing such a great learning opportunity. Our special thanks to all the Field School instructors for their excellent teaching and field instructions.