This is a blog of ongoing projects starting with: 1) Antarctica -Dec. 2006 - February 2007 2) Work made from the experience 2008 3) Nevada Feb. - Oct. 2008

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sunday 9th and Monday 10th, Nirox

I have been here 3 days now and Nirox appears to be somewhere with a lot going on beneath the surface. It is an exclusive place owned by the wealthy and seen by an invited few. It is mostly white and mostly Afrikaans: a lawyer, a developer, an old school land owner, and a black telecommunications owner. Then there is the manager, the curator and the families of black workers who garden, cook, clean, etc. Just two of them are black South African the rest are migrant workers from divers areas of the subcontinent.

Maria, who looks after us in the house comes from Malawi and lives nearby with her husband and 4 children. Most of these workers have their families with them and live in small houses within Nirox. Alpheous is about to be married and has just had the all clear on an HIV test.

It is a place of hidden dimensions and interesting. It is of course the cradle of humankind and I am beginning to think about revealing the human side of all this, of stripping away the layers and revealing what lies beneath - of doing this on many levels and in many ways. Using story, language and image from both people and place. Of stripping down to essentials and revealing a reality.

Into all this comes the wonderful Professor Lee Berger, The paleontologist from Georgia in The US. The guy we saw and talked to today at The University of Witswatersand in Joburg and who captivated us for two hours with tales of his remarkable find in the Cradle. This is the man who, bored with a law degree, left his Ivy league university to do a degree in Geology and Paleontology at a small university in the Southern States, with an enthusiastic teacher. His PhD was in the bones of the shoulder. His amazing journey, from working with Leakey at Olduvai, to his post in South Africa, which lost all its funding, which meant he spent his free time ranging the hills of the Cradle with his son and dog. Eventually he discovered some 500 possible sites which had never been excavated by looking at cave patterns on Google Earth.

So there he is one day in August 2008 with his 9 year old son Matthew and his dog, standing by a cave hole in the dolomite rock and he says to his son "lets go look for fossils". Within 3 minutes there is a yell from Matt who is standing several metres away from the hole holding a stone. Better humour him thinks his dad as he walks over. Then in his own words everything went black and white and in slow motion. From 5 yards away he can see a hominid clavicle sticking out of the rock his son is holding and he swears. This is the man who, if you remember, did a PhD on the bones of the shoulder, so he knows what he is looking at.

He takes the stone from his son, and turns it around. Protruding from the other side is a complete hominid jaw bone with teeth.These are teeth which are hardly worn because they are the teeth of a 12 year old child. The rest is history - Google 'Malapa Fossil site' and you can read more about it. In the end they found two complete skeletons, which look like they are a cross between Australopithecus and a hominid dated very precisely to within 300,000 years to just under 2 million years old. The missing link if ever there was one! There is even evidence of food on the teeth and perhaps even skin!

He took us into the lab, opened up the boxes and showed us what they had excavated to date. So remarkable and powerful are these objects, that what he was handling and showing us; fitting joint to joint, sacrum to pelvis, will be objects that in a thousand years from now will be treated with awe and reverence by all who see them because they changed the knowledge of our origins.

So yes Lee Berger adds a whole new dimension to Nirox.

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