By Jon Kalb
As co-founder of the excursion that found Lucy, and chief of lots of the first site-surveys within the Afar melancholy in Ethiopia, Jon Kalb has years of expertise with the sector, its politics, and the scientists serious about the excavations. A player himself within the "bone wars" that observed those discoveries, Kalb recounts the cutthroat pageant and again stabbing that have been usually a part of the media-highlighted race to discover the oldest hominid fossil. He weaves this tale within the wealthy textile of Ethiopian society and politics, the plight of the areas peoples, and the overseas maneuverings for regulate of the fossil reveals.
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Extra resources for Adventures in the Bone Trade: The Race to Discover Human Ancestors in Ethiopia's Afar Depression
4 The next lecture was by a member of Tazieff’s team, Enrico Bonatti of the University of Miami. He offered convincing evidence that (1) the northern Afar was indeed a tectonic depression associated with Red Sea rifting and (2) the East African Rift came to a halt at the triple junction well short of the Danakil Alps. He described the Alps as part of an elongate splinter of ancient crustal rock that had been ripped off the African mainland with drifting and was left straddling the southern end of the Red Sea.
Thus gold was added to the list of reasons to work in the Afar. I would spend my own time on pursuits in the Awash Valley, a dual arrangement to which the Geological Survey agreed. If my financial situation took a turn for the worse while I was in the country, I could rely on backup support from family holdings in Texas that gave me a modest income. In late February 1971, I kissed my wife and cherubic daughter good-bye with plans to send for them if all looked well in Ethiopia. En route to Addis Ababa, I met with King in New York, flew to London to meet more geologists and pick up a volume on Red Sea geology just published by the Royal Society, and then flew to Paris.
Traveling north from Camp Arba on the freshly bulldozed dirt track, I could see towering volcanoes to the west on the Ethiopian escarpment. These peaks rise to 3700 meters and are separated from one another by chasms formed by rivers tumbling off the highlands. Similar peaks loom to the southeast on the Hararghe escarpment. Certainly, during my first venture into the Afar that November, I sensed nothing of the “hell-hole of creation” that I had read about. The Afar nomads that we encountered were friendly, and the daytime “winter” temperatures reached only about 35°C (95°F), while the evenings were cool and breezy.