On Friday the field school said goodbye to our camp at Ileret where we’ve lived for the past 7 weeks and got on the TBI plane to fly over the “Jade Sea” (Lake Turkana) to our new home, the Turkwel campus. This new camp is situated next to the wide, muddy Turkwel river just a short walk from our camp and the students have been exploring this palm tree covered area every day since we arrived. We also have a new addition to our group: Tom the Turkwel field camp dog, who is receiving a lot of love from the students and likes coming on our river walks with us!
Over the weekend we also got to visit the nearest town: Lodwar, which was a much anticipated trip for the whole group. Lodwar is growing rapidly and has a university campus and a thriving market which we got to explore. We visited a number of local shops where we met basket weavers, dress makers, and got lunch at “The Diner.” The students also got to stock up on chocolate and snacks which we have been very excited about for the last few weeks in Illeret far from any shops. Some of the students had dresses or shirts made out of the local fabric and the man working at the fabric shop quickly produced some beautiful creations right in front of our eyes.
Because we’re at a new campus, we’re now living with a new cohort of TBI researchers. So we’ve been treated to a number of guest lectures, including a cosmologist from Case Western University, and Dr. Isaiah Nengo the discoverer of the fossil “Alesi.” The visiting cosmologist researcher explained to us that his goal is to uncover why, after the singularity of the Big Bang, the universe is cooling and expanding at different rates.
Dr. Nengo also treated the field school with a trip out to his excavation sites that he is currently working at. Because our large excavation lorry couldn’t make it to the site after the heavy rains we’ve been having, we had to hike out to the site. After an hour of hiking deeper into the Turkana desert we reached the site at which he found “Alesi,” an ancient ape ancestor. Because new fossils can become exposed at any time after wind and the rains sweep the sediments away, we scored the sight for any more of Alesi’s bones that they weren’t able to find during the initial excavation. This area was especially interesting because there is amazing preservation of large tree trunks still standing in the place where a volcano dumped meters of ash, enveloping them, millions of years ago. Luckily, this ash fall also covered any animals that happened to be lying dead on the ground at the time of the eruption giving them a good chance at fossilization. And this is how we have evidence of the ancient ape ancestor, Alesi.
Our last module in Kenya will be Archaeology with Dr. Lisa Hildebrand from Stony Brook University and the students will be able to participate in an excavation of their own. First however, we head out on another camping trip, this time to Nariokotome!