On a trip to Israel, right in the middle of Jerusalem, I saw a big archaeological dig:
Look! That guy was uncovering the past right in front of me! In my next life I wanna be an paleonlogist. I wanna DIG.
So imagine how happy I was when I read this year that Rowan University - right here in NJ! - wanted volunteers to dig in their fossil pit. All I had to do was bring my own lunch and drive 2hrs each way. Oh Boy! Into the pit:
The Edleman Fossil Park, at the bottom of an old quarry
High-tech equipment: buckets(to sit on) and crates (to dump the dirt).
My own little plot of million-year-old dirt. All day, I sat there, carefully scraping away the dirt, revealing shells and bones and conglomerations (bits of nothing-interesting stuck together so that it looks like it might be a fossil, and you show it to the post-doc for assessment).
All the fossils are placed in red plastic boxes, all labeled to show their exact location.
The red boxes are sent to the paleo lab, where I volunteered to sit and clean up the fossils with a toothbrush and dental tools.
On the left are some of the specimens. On the right are the same specimens, after cleaning. Yes, after driving, digging, scraping, brushing and scraping some more, you have an exciting bunch of....slightly less grubby lumps.
I love it. I happily crouch in the mud, slowly uncovering what are certainly very common fossils. If I find something exciting, I'll hand it over immediately to someone who actually knows what they're doing. But the mundane interests me. There are small orange stripes in the dirt, which turn out to be bog iron. Worthless in the study, but historically important in NJ history. In the past, I had spent a lot of time & effort hunting for bog ore - more on that next week.
I see silvery lines in the layers, mushy remains of what? I've read enough to know that the earliest rope is found at archaeological sites as lines of decayed material. Here, we find the fossilized remains of tunnels dug by ancient critters.
No idea, yet, how or even if, this will influence my art. Will it lead to a new series? So far, I've played around with the greenish stain that forms on our clothing in the pit. What is that stuff? Glaucomite, I'm told, when I ask the high school and college volunteers around me. Just kids, but eager with the same addiction that drove George Smith back to the British Museum, again and again.