University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The University of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Egstad, H. M. (ed.) / The Wisconsin alumni magazine
Volume 32, Number VII (April 1931)

Gillin, John
Explorin',   pp. 268-269

Page 268

The Wisconsin Alumni Magazine                                           
                        April, 1 93 I
                                                                 Desert Hardships
                                                                 By Bad 
   er Students on       Pond
John Gittin, '9-7
                                                         year than in any
similar period of investigation in the
Logan Museum Photo                                       past, and fifteen
incipient archeologists would have
             DESERT TRANSPORTATION                       been provided with
valuable training and a background
   Infant camel aboard its mother on caravan trip between Batna  of practical
experience which should help them in their
                      and Biskra.                        careers.
                                                           Throughout North
Africa the dark gray mounds of
F IFTEEN men sat on a dead man's chest. They         snail shells are found,
contrasting with the contour of
     were not pirates, nor undertakers, but archeolo-  the surrounding countryside
and with the color of the
     gists-college boys. And the dead man, whose     soil. Little attention
was paid to them until recent
     chest had sunk rather far into the snail shell mound,  years when it
was discovered that they contained bone
had been that way for some 25,000 years. If there was  and flint tools, charcoal,
and frequently the skeletons of
a bottle in evidence it was not the proverbial rum, but  animals, and of
men. After investigation, scientists de-
fine shellac which in careful applications is often useful  termined that
the escargotieres, as the mounds are
in cementing together a powdery cranium or a pre-    called by the French,
represented the refuse heaps de-
historic spine. For a skeleton in a museum case is worth  posited at or near
the camps of prehistoric communities
two in the closet to any good field archeologist. That is  probably 25,000
years ago. Knives, pins, awls, scrapers
what the boys were hoping to become-good field arche-  and other tools made
of flint as well as many articles of
ologists. And it was their job to get all the material  bone are found mixed
with the shells and with the ashes
discovered back to the museum in as nearly perfect con-  of the prehistoric
camp fires. The early inhabitants of
dition as possible. Their exploits constitute a significant  the region were
apparently nomadic hunters, and ate
episode in contemporary archeological and educational  landsnails as their
principal food.
experiment.                                                To determine the
connections existing between the
  When Alonzo W. Pond, Beloit College archeologist   ancient inhabitants
of this region and the early men of
and veteran explorer of Algeria, prepared to lead his  both Europe and of
South Africa is the problem of
fifth and largest expedition to North Africa early in  scientists working
in the country. The culture of the
1930, he determined to try a new plan. This plan was  shell heaps has been
identified with what is known as
to use college men as staff members of the expedition.  the Aurignacian type.
Fifteen students were chosen on the recommendation     The 1930 expedition
of the Logan Museum was the
of their professors from Beloit College and the Univer-  largest American
archeological unit which has ever
sities of Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Minnesota.    worked in Algeria, comprising
a staff of twenty, plus
Only a third of them, five of the fifteen, had graduated  two-year-old Chomee
Pond, daughter of the chief.
from college, and none had had previous experience in  Although it is yet
too early to estimate the final
field archeology. A problem in education was involved.  scientific value
of this year's campaign, several of the
Lauriston Sharp, '29, Sol Tax, '30, Alvan Small, '31, and  grosser results
are already apparent. A total of nearly
myself comprised the Wisconsin contingent.           36,000 flint tools,
showing definite evidence of having
  Almost any college youth would be glad to take a   been used by primitive
man, were found and classified,
trip to Algeria-"a swift dash across the South Atlantic  in addition
to about 800 specimens of good bone work,
for sophisticated travelers," and then the land of large  thirty-one
human skeletons, specimens of charred fruit,
eyed dancing girls and of moonlight sifting through the  and much charred
wood. The most unusual single
leaves of the oasis palms. But could untrained men be  specimen was a fabricator
made of a human arm bone
taught to sit eight or ten hours a day on a shell heap  showing evidence
of having been used as a tool for work-
directing native workmen, and carefully collecting all  ing flint.
evidences of prehistoric human life which the deposit  In recovering these
relics of a society which existed a
contained? Could novices used to the comforts of good  quarter of a hundred
milleniums ago it was necessary to
homes, and to the irregular life of college fraternity  dig eight trenches,
each large enough to be the cellar of
houses, find themselves content in green canvas tents,  a goodly sized house,
and to sift carefully and to pick
cooking their own meals, deprived of amusements other  over nearly 15,000
cubic feet of material. In the process
than those which they themselves could provide, alter-  of explorations forty-three
new prehistoric sites were
nately freezing and sweltering in the changeable moods  discovered and charted.
of the Algerian plateau spring? Mr. Pond believed that  The students worked
in teams of two, each team hav-
they could, and he was willing to try the experiment.  ing charge of one
diggings and several native Berber
If successful, a great deal more work could be done this  workmen. Each team
lived in its own tent, did its own
Page 268

Go up to Top of Page