Greetings from Pacheco de Dolores, a small town about 25 miles from Cartagena, Spain, the oldest port from the state of Carthage. Yes, I survived the train crash…I am in the other corner of Spain right now, although I will in fact, most likely be taking that train in a few weeks, since my cousins live in Galicia and I´ll probably be headed there.
As for my trip….It was a long one! 2.5 hours to Dallas, 1 hour layover at DFW, then 8.5 hours to sunny Madrid, .5 hour cab ride to my dear friend Gloria´s place. I am 9 hours ahead of all of you in Seattle, so I´m a little confused when it comes to time, but I am certainly not confused when it comes to food. Almost as soon as I landed, I started eating. I am lucky enough to have 2 friends in Madrid, who I met while I was in college here. My other friend Consuelo and her husband Jesus (I told him we don´t have that name in the US, since it would equate to being called God) invited me to their house for fresh large shrimp, jamon serrano and queso manchego. Yes, I can sense the envy from afar.
Anyway, after spènding the night in Madrid, I took a 4.5 hour train ride down here to the glorious S.Western coast of the country. I passed some old windmills, of the Don Quixote variety, then, after opening my eyes from a nap, saw some of the newfangled Iberdrola windmills that are now all over Spain (those who have driven through the Gorge in WA will have seen the type) The windmills felt a perfect juxtaposition of the old and new here.
I am on the 2nd day of my dig now, trying to accustom myself to the heat and humidity and to being the viaja of the group. I am about 20-25 years older than all of the others here, except for the professor and his two handsome Spanish assistants. It´s in the 90s every day and we have one fan for our room of 7 women. I put wet sheets on the bed last night, which at least cooled me off and will have to serve me well tonight, since I got a sunburn today.
Yesterday, we toured our site called Sima de las Palomas, named for the palomas or doves that lived in the cave. The site is a short climb up Cabezo Del Gordo mountain to a couple of interconnected caves. This is where Paloma, the first Neanderthal lady was found. Her skull, when they found it, looked like it had a growth on the side, which, after being x-rayed, was discovered to be one of her hands beside her head. It is surmised that she was buried in the pose of a person sleeping with her head upon her hands.
As you can see, my English is already stilted. Once again, I am one of the few bilingual speakers here. We are 4 English girls, 1 from Sweden, 1 from Montreal and 5 Spaniards. Everyone now knows I speak both languages and, although I feel like a bit of an outsider due to my age, I think the language will come in handy. I realized today, that I joke around in 2 languages…I just cannot seem to help myself.
Today, some of us starting excavating, while others of us (me) sieved…that is, took the buckets of excavated dirt and washed it and sorted it. We are finding mostly animal bones that date to about 60,000 years ago, the same time of the Neanderthals. Many of the bones are burnt, meaning, they were animals eaten by the Neanderthals. We´ve also found flakes, which are the bits of rock that are castoff when a spearpoint is made. I sound like I know what I´m talking about, don´t I??? This has, in fact, been a different process from digging for dinos, since those bones are way bigger and we toss all of the chunkasaurus bones and don´t go through everything. The entire cave where Paloma was found will be excavated. It rises about 50 feet, with scaffolding from top to bottom. Right now, they are only about 10 feet from the top, but close to the bottom a panther paw was found. So, if anyone wants to come on this dg for the next 50 years, chances are you´ll still be needed.
Yesterday, we went exploring in the cave system of the mountain. This was frightening, since there were only a few people with flashlights and, obviously, no light enters after about 20 feet. We found water that seeps in from the sky, although this area is filled with aquifers that water the many crops (oranges, melons, peppers) here. At one point, I walked along with a girl in front of me. In the close to pitch black, you must be careful to distinguish black and really black. As I looked down and to my right, I saw a really black darkness on the ground, which I steered clear of, but which she stepped right into… and down she went! She had stepped right into the darkness…a hole in the ground and she clung to the edge by her hands. I ran over and helped her out. She didn´t fall far, and in fact, it was a long slope down, but not something I would like to repeat.
It´s now almost 9pm and I´m off to dinner. We eat 4 meals a day here in Spain…breakfast at 7am, merienda of a bocadillo (for me a chorizo and tomato sandwich), the big lunch meal at 2pm, with sangria of course, and now dinner. I know, life is rough, right?by