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"It is the journey which makes up your life."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Zany Education.

Bones smell icky.

I've spent the last few days working with the famed Dr. Salima Ikram to learn the tricks of the zooarchaeological trade.

This means that I've been elbow deep in plastic bags full of dirt, dirt, dirt, and random chips of bone that may or may not be from one animal, that may or may not be from the same species, may or may not be from the same millenium, and may or may not actually be yet more dirt.

My job consists basically of figuring out which amorphous blobs are dirt, and which are bone, then sorting them into piles based on... well, the way Dr. Ikram describes it is "It's just like Sesame Street: which of these things is like the others, or not?"

Furthermore, the bones may or may not be from Sais, a delta village that served as the (non-Nubian) capital of Egypt in the 26th dynasty. And the bones' presence in Cairo may or may not be with the approval of the SCA (Supreme Council of Antiquities). Ahem. Surely a mere minion such as I am not privy to such details.

I'm supposed to be working my way up to actually identifying what animals each bone is from (in the cases that such an identification is possible), and which particular bone each fragment is from. The only thing I've had much success with so far is teeth--of course, as anyone who dinks with dead bits can tell you, those are the only particularly readily identifiable...anything.

It's been really interesting working with Dr. Ikram. She's--an intimidating lady, to say the least, but as one might not know from watching her on Nova or the Discovery Channel she has a very intense personality... she swears a lot, and has a real flair for the dramatic.

Some typical quotes:
"*muttered under breath* Oh, holy fuck. That's disgusting. ew. ew. ew. ew." (in reference to the really tiny, hideously unidentifiable bone bits)

"First, we need to let this girl [me] into my office. She's going to play with corpses." (addressing the guest speaker for our class)

"Don't touch that. Stop stroking it. ...Sex fiend!"(addressing a wayward tourist at the Egyptian Museum who couldn't keep his hands off a sarcophagus)

Anyway, so far we mostly have bits of cow. Bos taurus. I'm seriously evaluating my desire to be a zooarchaeologist. Such a thing was never particularly high on my list of life goals, and now, hm.

Uf, the smell. x(


Blogger Janna said...

I can empathize. Bones are stinky. (but corpses are worse! Especially ones that you've had all semester and are in various states of drying out/decay...yay anatomy class)

6:10 PM

Blogger Kat said...

Yeah, the not-particular-favorite corpses I've had to dink with were back in Marine Science in high school...

Mr. whats-is-name had literally had those things sitting in formaldehyde for 15+ years. Now THOSE were smelly.

10:44 PM

Blogger Janna said...

Any comment on this?

1:28 PM

Blogger Kat said...

Holy crap, that was only about a block from campus! :O

I wasn't there though, otherwise I'd have been out snapping photos on the sly--I was off at 7am on a massive 3-day field trip to Middle Egypt, which I'll be writing about soonish, hopefully.

As to the insanity, I guess I'm not all that surprised...the AUC student body president elections were the last week and I don't think I've ever seen such impassioned political participation. I suppose it makes sense then that the actual presidential election gets people even more riled up.

These Egyptians. They are intense.

11:45 AM

Blogger Kat said...

Or... I guess maybe you were wanting me to comment on the police involvement?

I'm not too sure what to say about that, except that it's not really unusual. It's really hard to succinctly state anything about what I've observed of relations between the police and the plebes. On the one hand, the police are just average guys, on the other hand they are the militant arm of a government that isn't always very nice, especially if you aren't a tourist bearing monies for their economy.

Chaos is probably the best summary I've got. :P Around here police brutality is just something you have to take in stride.

11:54 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please DON'T "take photos on the sly" (or any other way) if there is a civil disturbance. Instead, get out of the way--fast! Excited young guys with assault rifles may not bother to check whether passerby are cash bearing tourists. (Parental Plea of the Week(TM) #32, paid for by AFRO KEN)

8:25 PM

Blogger Kat said...

Well, by "on the sly" i mean something more along the lines of "while hanging out the 4th floor window of the library" or some such thing. I'd like to think that, while I like taking pictures of potentially interesting things, I'm not stupid.

3:13 PM

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6:37 AM

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4:20 AM


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