Teen Science Scholars Peru Update - August 5th

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By Kimi McBryde, 2013 Teen Science Scholar


August 5th, 2013

Today, we got up at 6 am and got ready for the first day in the field.  Had a small breakfast, and were ready to go at about 6:45.  Lauren and Airielle didn't feel well and stayed back in the house today.  Clare, Michele, Ari and I got in a 12 person van with the driver, a police officer, and three of the workers (Panchito, Guillermo, and Neri).  We had to make a few stops around Magdalena before we hit the road, and then we went into Chocope to pick up Paolo and Nayo.  I felt kind of sick this morning, but toughed through it and was fine after we started walking around at the site.  So after Chocope, we hit the road.  It was about a 45 minute drive through corn fields and sugar cane fields to the part of the desert where we wanted to be.  The first site we stopped at was one that Michele had briefly visited about 6 years ago.  We were looking for ceramic sherds or any other sign of the Moche people in the area.  There were a couple of looters pits around the huaca (pyramid), and very few pieces of pottery.  We took some general photos and walked around a little bit.  Clare tried to teach Nayo and Paolo how to use the GPS mapping system on the iPad with Ari translating for her, and they got a kick out of that.  Since we weren't finding anything at the first site, we piled back in the van and drove on.  The roads are horrendous-they are very bumpy and lopsided, not really made for traffic at all.  We got to the next site, literally in the middle of sand dunes in the middle of nowhere, and all we could find were Moche sherds.  Everywhere.  The dunes went on and on, and so did the ceramics.  Ari and Michele picked a kind of central point and all of the workers and the four of us walked out from the center in a ray pattern, in an attempt to find the edges of the archaeological area.  We wanted to find the edges of the area because Michele and Ari wanted to do a bunch of sampling and digging, and didn't want to do it on an archaeological site for fear of damaging something archaeological, and to make sure that it didn't look like we were looting and get in trouble for that.  We all walked away from the center point for a long time, and there was still a lot of ceramics scattered all over the dunes and the desert floor.  Eventually, we just had to find points where the amount of ceramic material dwindled because there really was no end to the archaeological site.  Clare had downloaded an app on the iPad that allows you to track the shape of something using GPS coordinates  and tracking systems.  She walked around the edges of the polygon where we had all marked the edge of the archaeological site and labeled the polygon on the google earth map within the app. 

Because we all ate breakfast so early, we had a snack/second breakfast break at about 10 am.  After this breakfast break, we got the auger (named Oscar), as well as buckets, trowels, and other materials and walked past the archaeological site (which we knew the edges of due to Clare's GPS tracking system) to find some places to make cuts and take samples from.  Nayo and Paolo started to use the auger at the top of one of the dunes in an attempt to see how far down the sand went, and they got it through one extension easily enough (one extension=4 feet).  Once we added the second extension, there was no end to the sand, so by the time they had hauled the "bucket" at the end of the auger up, all of the sand had drained out of it back into the hole it came from.  Michele and Ari called it on that hole, and we moved down to lower ground.  At this point, we had the auger going, and the workers started to make a cut in the sand.  A cut is basically a cross section of the sand, and whatever else is under it.  Michele and Ari marked out a 2x1 meter rectangle (using the Pythagorean theorem to double check the angles and the lengths).  The workers started digging on the cut, and Clare and I watched them dig while Michele and Ari wandered off to try and find another place to make a cut.  Throughout the entire day we had been marking our locations with waypoints in the GPS systems, both the iPad and Michele's GPS, and we did that again with the cut and the place that Ari and Michele ended up.  At one point, the driver moved the van up the road and parked it in front of a farming type shack with big piles of corncobs in front of it and down the road there were huge piles of fresh orange corn lying in the sun. 

In the cut overall, they got down about 1.5 meters through 3-4 levels of material.  Clare and I labeled bags for samples and wrote out sample lab cards for the samples that we would be taking. After taking pictures of the cut with the white board-with Michele's initials, the name Río Seco, the GPS coordinates, the date, and a few other things, the image scale, and an arrow that pointed at North, we were almost ready to take samples for the lab.  Ari drew out the cut on millimeter graph paper, using the workers to help her measure the different depths and widths to create an accurate diagram.  When she was done, we were about to start sampling when the sides of the cut started to tumble in and completely filled in the lower portion of the cut.  Clare, Ari, and I jumped in the pit and quickly pulled sediment samples from the wall.  In doing so, we used a different metal spoon to take each sample.  We scrambled out of the pit and packed up to go back to the van and head home.

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