As Promised….Parc Safari Pet Cemetery

As I left things hanging a bit in my last post I guess it is only fair to fill in the missing pieces before moving on to something else. This requires me to back track a bit first….

In September of 2007 I moved my life to Montreal to start graduate school. On my very first day, literally the morning after I moved into my tiny apartment, I strolled into campus to meet my MA supervisor, the same individual that is now one of my PhD co-supervisors. I barely made it through the door of his office before he asks me to take a look at this amazing e-mail he just received. It was from the director of zoology at Parc Safari, an African animal park south of Montreal in Hemmingford, Quebec. The park had decided they needed an educational display in their entrance building and the perfect complement would be some articulated skeletons of African wildlife. Logically this meant they should contact the McGill archaeology department and ask them to dig up the park’s cemetery and then articulate the skeletons they found, particularly hoping for an elephant or rhinoceros. This is exactly what was in the e-mail my new supervisor read to me, only to follow it with his plan to turn it into an undergraduate field methods and zooarchaeology course. All this before I even got a chance to introduce myself. Regardless, I was sold and so began the first year, we’re now in the third year, of the Parc Safari field methods class.

If you want to get caught up to date on the past two seasons you should swing by the McGiil Zooarchaeological Field School blog that is put together by the students each year. This year’s group is ironing out some details and will be posting updates really soon, so keep an eye on it. As a taste I will tell you that last Friday we mapped and removed approximately 75% of a large male watusi. We know it is large and male because we excavated and re-articulated a complete female watusi during the first season.

Parc Safari 2009

Don't be fooled by the scenery...under this surface lies a cemetery for African wildlife

Although it may sound like just fun and games there is in fact a lot research going on at the site in addition to those fun and games. We are looking at the taphonomic impact of decomposing cadavers, vegetation reflectance signatures that can help in the identification of clandestine mass graves, 3-dimensional reconstructions of excavation pits, and more. Don’t take my word for it though, go see what the students think about it all.

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