Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mammoth Bone!

So last Friday I drove out to San Marcos to help the Gault School relocate its lab. They lost their funding and space with UT Austin and got taken up by Texas State last year, but it's taken this long to get the office and lab space organized. Basically they're in an office/warehouse behind the campus police, but it's a nicer space than the trailer they used to have out at TARL, more room and big ceilings and some really good old-fashioned warehouse casement windows. It's farther from the site, but it's a lot closer to me and I'm hoping I can get to the lab even in months when health crap makes digging unwise.

So I showed up and I admired the ginormous plush mammoth that Nancy picked up for the lab at the Waco Mammoth Site, (which I totally need to get out to and see about getting 11,000 Years Lost into their gift shop) and I helped unload furniture and boxes and more furniture, playing "light as a feather, stiff as a board" with enormous heavy tables that had to be walked across a narrow ramp from the truck to the loading dock to the back of the space; and then the truck went back for the second load and I sat around mostly listening to Clark and Nancy gossip about archeology and the people involved and then the truck came back and we unloaded more furniture.

And at one point Clark and Nancy gave me a bag full of goodies they'd saved for me from the 2010 Archaeology in the Classroom Workshop, which contained the usual things - some magazines, some handouts, some brochures - and a ziploc bag with a mammoth bone in it!

The Corpus Christi Geological Society's Bones in Schools program had donated sample bones for each bag, from a quarry in Nueces County. These bones, obviously, are not scientifically valuable in the sense of needing to be curated for museums or future study. They are broken, crumbling, unsuitable for extracting DNA for cloning, and so on. But as concrete focal points to arrest the attention of students and turn them into megafauna geeks they rock. And I, as a megafauna geek, am thrilled to own it. I need to make (i.e. get my sewing student to make) a bag for it that can be unwrapped from around it in such a way that it's cushioned when traveling and doesn't have to be handled to display it to a class, so if I ever get another school visit (sigh) I can take it along without losing more of it.

The card that came with gave the age of the bone, but didn't say which bone it was, and Clark and Nancy were annoyed to find that none of the unpacked reference works they had included a full-body diagram enabling them to ID every bone in a mammoth. The unbroken end consists of a series of broad, flat scallops that make us think it's an active joint, and the best bet is that it's part of the foot assembly. Nancy photocopied it to ask Cinda the paleontologist and she'll get back to me on it eventually. Before my next school visit, almost certainly.

The pay for this job sucks most of the time, but some of the perks rock.

1 comment:

  1. I know just what you mean. There is something about a mammoth bone that brings home just how big the thing is/was/will be.

    The first time I learned human skeletal anatomy, in high school, I began writing a filk to "Sink the Bismark" about the unearthing of a giant's skeleton, as an excuse for lines like "With cuboids as big as patellas, and patellas as big as scapulas". Probably just as well I didn't finish that one.