Archive for September 7th, 2009

Bronze Age Predecessors

September 7th, 2009

MAKHTESH GADOL, ISRAEL–My field area contains several rocky ruins like the structure pictured below.  These are the remains of shelters and livestock enclosures constructed during the Bronze Age about 4000 years ago.  Flint chips and the occasional scraper can be found in and around these sites.  Sometimes they are so common that I have to pick them out of my fossil collections.  It is a nice touch to this fieldwork to have evidence of human antiquity in the same places I’m studying the very deep past.

Bronze Age structural remains in Makhtesh Gadol.

Bronze Age structural remains in Makhtesh Gadol.

Wandering in the Wilderness (Literally)

September 7th, 2009

MAKHTESH GADOL, ISRAEL–Today I mapped exposures of a particular fossiliferous unit in the Matmor Formation. It meant climbing up and down steep hills bent over the ground scanning for fossils. It is a remarkable skill we humans have for visually sorting through millions of images and then suddenly noting the one set of curves or angles or colors that identify a target. In my case I walked over thousands of square meters of rocky ground to spot bits of fossil crinoids, as in the photos below.

Crinoid calyx as found in the Matmor Formation (left); calyx fragments (right).  I use the two-shekel coin for scale because conveniently it is two centimeters in diameter!  Specimens found at N30.92907°, E34.97295°.

Crinoid calyx as found in the Matmor Formation (left); calyx fragments (right). I use the two-shekel coin for scale because conveniently it is two centimeters in diameter! Specimens found at N30.92907°, E34.97295°.

These crinoids are indicators of a unique community of echinoderms, brachiopods, sponges and corals found near the middle of the Matmor Formation. I collected enough specimens from several localities for analysis in the Wooster paleontology lab this winter and spring. I hope these fossils can be the basis of a student Independent Study project in Israel next year. It was much fun collecting these specimens because I never knew what treasure would turn up on the next hillside. A bit dangerous this kind of enthusiastic collecting in the desert because it is easy to forget to drink water — or even to stand up straight occasionally!

The sorted contents of one of my collection bags.  The items in the left two-thirds are crinoid parts.  Hotels probably don't like the way I use their towels in the afternoon!

The sorted contents of one of my collection bags. The items in the left two-thirds are crinoid parts. Hotels probably don't like the way I use their towels in the afternoon.