Palaecol Research Ltd
The past is key to the future!
Pyramid Valley 2008 excavation picture gallery
Accurate positional records were essential. The lake bed sediments are very elastic and it was difficult to provide a stable platform for measurements. We set up a total station instrument on a solid wooden base, and the operator was isolated from the instrument by a flexible platform.
Even with these precautions, we found that people moving within 20 metres of the excavation disturbed the instrument's level. Only the operator and the person holding the prism staff were permitted near the excavation when measurements were being taken.
To avoid damaging the sediment surface, the excavators stood, kneeled, or lay on a suspended platform. This was hung from a frame by webbing straps which could be wound up and down. The frame was moved backwards and forwards as the excavation was deepened.
The sediments are finely laminated and contain well-preserved plant remains, and fossils of snails, ostracods, and other lake fauna.
We set up a laboratory in the Pyramid Valley farm woolshed so that bones could be sampled on site for later extraction and analysis of the ancient DNA, stable isotope analysis, and radiocarbon dating.
Here Malene Møhl (right) catalogues material and Emma McKay (background) powders bone samples in a clean cabinet.
On the first day of the excavation at Pyramid Valley, a new site was discovered during earthworks on "Rosslea" farm, about 4 km to the east. Some of the freshly-excavated material was sampled and dated to augment the samples from Pyramid Valley and Bell Hill Vineyard.
At right, Morten Allentoft is cataloguing moa tibiotarsi (lower leg bones) from Rosslea; these are the darkly-stained bones in the foreground.
At right, Morten is cutting a bone plug from a tibiotarsus using a sterile diamond core bit. The sample plug was then subdivided for the different analyses.
Precautions were taken to avoid inhaling bone dust and to minimise cross-contamination between bone samples (and therefore individual moa).