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Better than Jurassic Park

Everything I saw in the Jurassic Park movies was wrong.

The high-tech everything out on the archeological site where bones were being discovered isn't what it appears to be.

That lesson was the first one learned the moment I set foot on the digging site.

It's not like Jurassic Park; it's better.

It's one thing to watch something being uncovered in movies and books but another to discover something with your own hands.

That's what Day One of the Carden Bottoms Excavation was all about – discovering and learning the field.

I got to the field in the afternoon, just in time for some discovery.

But before that here's the run down on what I missed out on earlier yesterday morning.

The team of archeologists and interested participants, including three members of the Osage Nation, conducted remote sensor surveys; where lasers are used to show the exact location of underground findings.

Then it was time to dig.

Dr. George Sabo, the Arkansas Research Station Archaeologist and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, showed me the ropes.

From the remote sensor survey the team located what they believe to be houses and trash pits.

The excavation units, as they are called, are two-meter by two-meter squares laid out based on the information given by the survey.

Two excavation units are feet within each other and, if the surveys are correct, will later show the housing layout of ancestral people who once lived there.

The third excavation unit was chosen based on the survey that indicated a trash pit.

Sabo said the findings in the survey turned out fairly accurate in the first day of digging.

“We saw dark splotches that showed up that we thought might be pits or house features,” Sabo said. “Low and behold this unit right here as soon as we got a foot in depth, just below the plow zone, we saw a very dark stain in one corner of the unit that represented the edge of the (trash) pit that we were able to see from the remote sensing equipment.”

The initial evidence was then documented by a drawing and photograph. As the digging continues various stages will be documented.

Sabo said while most might not see the significance of digging in someone else's trash, he and many others in the field do.

“As we excavate the trash pits we'll be able to find artifacts, plants and animal remains, that will tell us what the people living in the house ate, what kind of pottery they made by looking at the style of pottery and the way it's made, what time period is represented by those materials,” he said. “The pit itself, although it's just someone's garbage is very important to us because it tells us a lot about the people living in the house, who they were, what they did.”

This is especially important to tribes like the Quapaw, Caddo and Osage people.

Based on previously discovered pottery archeologists believe people of the three tribes might have had some connection to the people and lands in the Carden Bottoms of Arkansas. That possible connection has drawn 0sages Trona Walls, her sister Trini Haddon and Martin Miles to participate in the excavation.

Haddon said she has always been interested in learning new things and wasn't about to let the opportunity to learn about her history pass.

“Just a different adventure in life, something else to learn, I don't think you ever learn enough, I’ve never done anything like this and I thought it'd be interesting, you know who knows this may be our ancestors,” she said. “Just the history of the Osages, where we've all come from, where we've been . . . but maybe they used to meet other tribes, maybe they used to have big meetings and big gatherings, who knows, but I just think it's going to be really cool if our tribe converged with other tribes, it'd be cool to see where we come from and where we're going.”

Thanks to technology it's a lot easier to do these days.

Sabo said new technology has changed the way archeologists dig and even how they prepare for digs.

“Archeology today is quite a lot different than it was 25 years ago. We're talking about electronic sensoring equipment that we use at the site, that identify features like the ones we're finding here, even before we put a shovel in the ground,” he said. “Previous generations of archeologists would have used their best guess. This is pretty remarkable, this is what technology allows us to do today.”