• Name: Paul McLerran
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Sunday, January 30, 2005

Dig Spotlight: Early Humans in Spain

Orce, Andalusia, Spain— Here in southern Spain, palaeontologists have found human-made tools that are up to 1.7 million years old. When, exactly, did humans first arrive in Europe, and how did they get here? How did they live? A father and son team, Dr. Josep Gibert Clols and Luis Gibert believe they can find the answers in the sediments of the Guadix-Baza basin, with your help. So far, excavators have found stone flakes, fragmentary human remains, and, most interestingly, parts of elephants and hippos together with evidence of human tools, suggesting that the animals were killed, butchered, and carried to some other location. These sorts of detailed scenarios are precisely what the Giberts are hoping to reconstruct.

Working against the dramatic backdrop of the dry, austere Guadix-Baza basin, you will be trained to excavate the sites, remove fossils and artifacts, and map the remains. You’ll also clean, number, and catalogue the finds, and you’ll sieve sediments for microfossils. Some evenings may be used to survey for new sites. The sun is fierce at this latitude and elevation, about 1,000 meters, so bring your sunblock and a big sunhat. Typical work hours are in the morning and evening, with the hottest hours of midday reserved for refreshing swims in a nearby oasis, enjoying lunch, relaxing, and, if the spirit moves, siesta. At the end of the expedition, you will have the opportunity to explore the historic cities of Granada and the Alhambra nearby.

After your fieldwork in the hot, dry desert, you’ll return to the soothing coolness of your very own cave. In fact, this cave has all the comforts of a simple hotel, with shared rooms, running water, showers, and toilets; the rooms just happen to be made of solid rock. There is no electricity, except a small generator for lights in the evening. Your daily lectures will be given in the cool of the cave, and your meals will be taken there. Staff will prepare delightful and healthy Mediterranean food, including salads, lamb, and paella.

From Early Man in Spain, Earthwatch Institute


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