More about the cave

Now that I’ve been here a week, I have a better sense of what we’re working on! The youngsters I’m with (most of whom are students of archaeology) have been educating me.

They tell me, that for them, this is the ultimate of digs, and the reason they got into the field. We are digging in a cave called a Sima, that is probably 2 stories high. A sima is a cave that you enter into from above, so when we dig (about 6 of us at a time) we are perched high up on a scaffold at the 30,000 year level.

It’s a looong way down

Right now, we have designated our finds as “party in the cave” since we have found mostly animal bones, burnt and unburnt (burnt, due to cooking) Seems as I’m not the only one who liked to eat in Spain. There is a lot of turtle and an unusual amount of horse. I cannot get the vision out of my head of a horse wandering by and falling mistakenly into this cave, legs akimbo.

Our greatest find was by a new woman who joined the dig who is a professor of Archaelogy in England who found a hammer stone or pestle, about 6 inches long and 2 inches high, an oblong, rounded stone, used to either make arrow points or to pound vegetation for cooking. She also found the distal (hoof bone) of an ibex and a so-called Levallois point which is an actual arrow type head, as opposed to the flakes (or discarded point parts that collect when making points)

We spend our days digging for 6 hours or cleaning the finds for 6 hours. Then, we come back to the lab to sort our finds. Today, I was actually the roper…the person who dumped all of the dirt–every scrap of dirt we scrape in the cave–into a bucket that is then lowered down those 2 stories by means of a pulley.

That would be Mrs. Roper to you

You too can look stylish while hauling dirt!

A guy stays at the bottom of the cave (or about 100,000 more years back in time) and dumps the dirt into sacks. The sacks are then delivered to the cleaning area, where they are reviewed meticulously for bones and flakes. It’s painstaking and a little discouraging, since many times we’re looking at 2 cm sized black flakes. I wish I was exaggerating. We sort by: classiable or unclassifiable Microfauna or Macrofauna that is either burnt or unburnt. Also, teeth, turtle and lithics (flakes). But, this will hopefully all change next week. I just found out that our professor has predicted that next week, he expects to be at a level where we find Neanderthal bones. OMG, to say the least.

By the way, if this all seems like I’m making it up, I can vouch for my being here with this article in the local paper. There I am!

In the meantime, we had yesterday off and headed to the beach at Mar Menor, which is an inlet of the Mediterranean, maybe 10 miles away. Beautiful azure warm water. You could walk out about 1/4 of a mile and still be up to your hips. All of the youngsters baked, while I hid under a tiki umbrella, but somehow, I still managed to get burnt. When people look at my chest and back, they wince, but, I tell them “it hurts you more than it hurts me”. Nothing a little alcohol can’t cure! Speaking of which, I just found out one of my favorite Spanish liqueurs is made close by: cuarenta y tres (43) a vanilla liqueur that I mix with orange juice and milk for the most delicious orange-sicle you’ve ever tasted. I also just found out that bacon-wrapped dates are a specialty of this area, as are melon wrapped in ham. Heaven is Murcia, Spain.

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Torre Pacheco

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