05 August 2008

Another Trip to Cuevita de Huesos

Originally Drafted 03 August 2008

One of many ungulate skulls observed within this Cuevita.

Today we had the day off. Guillermo had emailed me the day before and indicated that Gerhard Hűdepohl and Raul Areas would be taking a trip to San Pedro to photograph Cuevita de Huesos. Gerhard is an electrical engineer with the ALMA radio telescope facility outside of San Pedro and he is also a photographer Atacama Desert Photos. Raul and I had met last week when he brought me the compasses. He has worked with Guillermo for many years and is extremely well-versed in Atacama geology.

Christina, John and I met them at Puerte de Rio San Pedro, and then we went to this cuevita. I was really looking forward to this because I knew this would give me the opportunity to further investigate this cave.

I had a lot of questions regarding this cuevita. I mentioned many of these in a previous blog. Most importantly is this site a paleontological site or an archaeological site? Also, what was the process for deposition? Were they deposited by humans or was this flood related?

First off, these are still bones. They are not fossils. Thus, the bones probably not that old. However, I must qualify this by stating I do not know the fossilization process in salt or soils containing significant amounts of salt – so, perhaps these bones are old.

I am leaning toward the possibility that it is either a paleontological site or simply a site containing recently flood-deposited animals. Raul did make an interesting observation. He noticed there were not many vertebrate within the bones eroding out of the cave walls. I did see what appeared to be a remnant of a vertebral body. However, it is also possible this could be the diaphysis of a long bone.

One piece of what appears to be fabric in context with the bones. Because this was the only evidence of humans in context with these bones calling this an archaeological site is tenuous at best.

We have very little evidence to suggest this is an archaeological site. We did photograph one area within the soil that contained fabric. I also saw some dark soil like material that may be carbon. However, it was high up on the cave wall, and I was not about to climb up on the wall and risk disturbing these materials. Also, within the larger portion of the drainage containing this cuevita we found broken pieces of ceramics and evidence of stone-tool making. Given all this, I still think this site is due to flood-related activities, and is probably not related to human activity. Because this area has been used extensively by humans for millennia, the fabric could have been garbage and simply washed into this cave with the animals. Whether the black material observed was carbon or simply dark soil/ rock is still inconclusive. The prehistoric materials observed within the larger drainage may have originally been deposited exactly where they were observed. They may not have washed down from the cuevita containing the bones.

This was a fun little trip, and it was rather instructive insofar as to understanding how these bones were deposited.

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