Pretend-Excavating Australopithecus afarensis, Part 1

January 15th, 2016

As December rolled around, I found myself on Amazon browsing for good gifts. I settled on a large Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton for my brother (which looks amazing) and was ready to shut the browser window, when Amazon dangled another model in front of my eyes: an Australopithecus afarensis (e.g. Lucy) model! I had already gotten myself something so I begrudgingly surfed away without buying it. As luck and a great significant other would have it, I got one for Christmas even though I told no one about it! It has been a long time since I was on an archaeological dig, so I wanted to do this block of plastic bones justice. First, the unboxing:

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The model is branded “Cave Girl” since it is ostensibly a female afarensis, not because the toy was made for girls. In fact, as Megan McCullen pointed out, the metadata for this model states that it was intended for boys. Another bit of marketing sexism: there is a “Cave Man” model, of a Neanderthal. “Girl” versus “Man,” :/.

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{ Brochure of the different models. The sea, flying, and ice age sets are especially neat. }

In any case, the cover is a flap that opens to reveal the actual block of stuff that encloses the model pieces, as well as three plastic tools.

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The tools are sturdy, much hardier than what comes with a Halloween pumpkin carving kit. There is a hammer/scraper, chisel, and brush. The brief instructions state that the hammer and chisel are the way to go, but I found the scraper to be much more accurate and effective at removing the gypsum matrix. As a good archaeologist would do, I started at the surface and slowly dug away as evenly as possible.

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{ The newspaper was very worth it. Dust got everywhere, including my hands and phone. }

A few pieces appear! The light brown piece was puzzling until I realized that it was the display stand, upside-down. An excellent find, since the stand should have lots to say about the bipedalism of this species.

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A hand emerges, and to the right of it, another plastic bone and a hair! Maybe we can DNA test the hair and do an isotope study of the keratin for any dietary clues.

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The display stand has text imprinted on it. Early language?!

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Taking the stand away reveals an impression of an impression of the feet. They may be worth preserving so I started excavating around them.

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As I wrap up after around three hours (I went slow over two days), a lot of skeletal elements can be identified. All limbs are visible, as well as the pelvis, sacrum, and ribcage. I am definitely getting my money’s worth out of this kit. So far, I highly recommend getting one for yourself or the young person in your life. Who knows what future excavating will uncover!


One Response to “Pretend-Excavating Australopithecus afarensis, Part 1”

  1. Bob Benfer says:

    I’m glad to be out of that line of work, although I do miss the lab work some.

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