Field Work Travelogue: Day 11 – Back into the Depths #NTCave15

After three days working topside, I went back down into Natural Trap Cave today.

Most of what I did involved the excavation of a North American cheetah.

Digging for cheetahs.
Digging for cheetahs.

The skeleton is all broken up, but may be fairly complete. It’s mixed with what appears to be bones of a native sheep.

The vertical bone is a cheetah metatarsal (foot) bone. Lying next to it is a sheep toe bone. Yes, the cheetah bone was found that way. It was deposited nearly vertically.
The vertical bone is a cheetah metatarsal (foot) bone. Lying next to it is a sheep toe bone. Yes, the cheetah bone was found that way. It was deposited nearly vertically.

I found a little cheetah hand bone.

A cheetah metacarpal (hand) bone.
A cheetah metacarpal (hand) bone.

We did some heavier work today too, clearing out overburden to get to the most fossiliferous layers.

Sometimes, shovels and buckets are what's called for.
Sometimes, shovels and buckets are what’s called for.

One of the highlights of working in Natural Trap Cave is learning to tell the time by where the sun is on the cave floor. At about 11:00 am the sun just reaches the floor, behind a pile of rocks and dirt. It’s just beautiful to see.

Morning floor lighting at Natural Trap Cave.
Morning floor lighting at Natural Trap Cave.

When the sun sends its beams to the opposite side of the cavern in the afternoon, we know it’s time to pack up and climb back out.

The sun clock says it's nearly time to leave.
The sun clock says it’s nearly time to leave.

By the end of the day, the chill of the cave plus exhaustion from hard work have made us all a little slap-happy. But you gotta admit, this brush does remind you of someone, doesn’t it?

I'm thinking Beaker from the Muppets.
I’m thinking Beaker from the Muppets.

And did I mention that the sunset was lovely again?

Published by paleololigo

Scientist (Paleontology, Geochemistry, Geology); Writer (Speculative and Science Fiction, plus technical and non-technical Science); Mom to great boy on the Autism spectrum; possessor of too many hobbies.

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