08 June 2009

Them bones, them bones!

08 June 2009

Image: Bones from Cuevita de Huesos. Credit: Gerhard Huedepohl 2008.

We are revisiting all the caves we worked last year. As mentioned in the first blog of this expedition, the purpose is to complete the mapping effort, service the sensors, and conduct near real-time analysis of the temperature and barometric pressure data collected over the past year. So, we return to Cuevita de Huesos once again. This incredibly small, yet incredibly cool cuevita contains one of the discoveries that attracted so much attention by the media last year.

Image: Mapping team posing for a photo.

It contains thousands of bones and bone fragments within and along the cave walls. These bones likely belong to one of the four new world camelids that call the altiplano home – vacuƱas, guanacos, llamas, and alpacas. However, the jury is still out as to how these bones were deposited. Did these animals die in a flood, and their remains washed into a hole that ultimately filled by soil and then eroded out when the cave formed exposing the bones? Were these bones deposited much earlier, perhaps tens to hundreds of thousands of years, and then the cave formed resulting in their exposure? Or, perhaps a more interesting possibility, is does this area represent a midden where ancient people (e.g., the AtacameƱos) and these bones were then exposed by alluvial activities? To read about this, go to LiveScience.com, Incredible Discoveries Made in Remote Caves (31 July 2008).

Image: Dan and I entering data. Certainly, the most glamorous part of expedition! Image: Tim Titus.

Once again, our expedition team garnered much success today. The sensor team pulled data from the sensors and redeployed the instruments, while the mapping team mapped the entire feature.

Image: Group dinner after a day in the field. Credit: Dan Ruby.

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