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Monday, July 24, 2006

MEGENITY CAVE DIG
Day 8, July 24, 2006

Another beautiful day to be hangin’ out in the woods. All the more so because it’s a Monday and not a Saturday. Blue sky, 80 degrees, gentle breeze. Life is good.

This is my 18th season at Megenity. I’d been at the Museum for a couple months in the summer of ’86 and I didn’t even know we did this kind of stuff, so I missed Pig Dig I. Last summer I was returning from a break in Carolina when I got a cell call to pull off the cave trip and head straight to the Bothwell Mastodont dig near Hebron, Indiana. In between I joined the crew in Crawford County every summer for 17 years. It’s good to be back.

As familiar as it is, it’s a lot different cave than it was the last time I was underground. We’ve dug out past the Squeeze, past the chasm where I fell and broke my left elbow in a moment of spectacular stupidity a few years back. All the way to the Twilight Room where you can see a hint of daylight coming in from the cave mouth. It’s a bit surreal . . . familiar, yet foreign.

I got in on Saturday and some of the others had already been here 5 days. I understand the last couple have been more of the same – pulling off the Holocene rubble that washed in from the cave mouth to get down to the Pleistocene bone bed. 80, 3.5 gal. buckets of mud and rock today. It’s a little tedious. You don’t see anything sexy at the digging – no skulls, or jaws, or carnivorous incisors, not even a good femur now and again. Not much in the screens, either – unless you count muskrat skulls or rabbit pelvises. Tomorrow should be a good bone day and if not tomorrow, the day after. In the meantime . . .

I’m feeling a little guilty. The work to get the sediment out of the cave isn’t near as hard as it was when we were digging in deep pits at the back of the cave and we have a pretty big crew this year – 10 to 12 every day. So far, I’ve had kind of the wuss job. In the morning, I catch the buckets as they come out of the cave on a roller system and hook them on a tram that takes them to the base of the rock shelter where they’re carted about 100 yards to the screens for washing. Only about a bucket every 5 minutes, so mostly I sit on a rock and listen to the thrush who’s not happy to have me there, look around the woods and daydream. It ends up being about 1,000 pounds of lifting, but it’s spread out over 3-4 hours . . . kind of the wuss job.

In the afternoon, I trade with the guy pulling buckets up a slope from the dig site to the cave mouth – about 25 feet – by rope. A little more work, but not much. At least I’m in the cave. Don’t put too much stock in that feeling guilty crock, though.

Don’t ramble – more tomorrow. Uber volunteer John Waddell brought his I-Pod & we had tunes for the first time – Zeppelin, Meatloaf, Annie Lennox (I’d say Eurythmics, but I don’t know how to spell it). Pretty sweet. Bill got stuck in the Bat Room entry passage and Rex had to get him out. More than a little funny. I got suckered into exploring the “new” passage between the Squeeze and the Wood Rat Room. Exhilarating. More tomorrow.

R. Dale Ogden
Chief Curator of Cultural History
Indiana State Museum & Historic Sites