Tag Archives: Anthropology

11/19/2014 The Columbia Mammoth Tusk (Day 23)

Did someone say, MAMMOTH!?  Oh wait, that’s just me…ok, so maybe YOU too.  🙂

Even though I tend to work for HOURS on end in the lab, being all science-ee, I know that my successes are only in leaps & bounds from my perspective.  Sure, I know you’d hope as an archaeologist, I’d dig up a mammoth, find a lost city and discover the fountain of youth all in one week.  Sounds awesome to me too.  But in my REALISTIC life, things move a little slower…okay, so A LOT slower.  But you’re here to see updates & that’s what I’ve got for you!

Yes, it still looks painful, I know.  Imagine how I feel?!

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What I’ve worked on here looks a lot like the previous update, I know.  But if you’re super meticulous (like me), then you’ll see that we’ve cleaned the tusk a little bit more.  Cleaning it always is a bit of a crap shoot.  I’m stuck in the wonder of…Will it fall apart if I clean this more, or Will this look super awesome?!  It’s never an easy guessing game.  And truth be told, after today’s cleaning, it did a little of both.  But I’ll let you be the judge.  I’ll soon be using the Paraloid on this so as to freeze all the loose pieces into place.

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See how the tusk looks like rings of a tree?  In the same fashion, that’s how you can tell how old a mammoth is.  This tusk isn’t nearly so easy to read from this vantage point or the degradation.  But I can tell you that this was a juvenile, since the tusk’s circumference is smaller than all the mature mammoths I’ve studied.

Oh, btw, my favorite part about the photo below is that when I walked into the lab, SOME IDIOT WAS TOUCHING THE SANDBAGS!!!!  Of course I jumped all over him.  (Scared him a little too…that was funny!)  😉  I plan on putting this tusk in a flat housing that will contain all the mammoth dirt and tusk flakes that fall away.  The plastic drop cloth was good for when we were plastering, but it’s gotta go!  I will say that just to scootch the tusk around the table is a major event in its self since it is SOOOO heavy now.  I gauge about 80 pounds.  Once I was able to carry it across both arms.  Now?…Errrm….Not so much!

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I’m taking off for Thanksgiving, so I won’t be working on this until next week.  Forgive me?…

Again, I don’t want to expose much of this to the air without treating it more.  I use acrysol at 10% just like last week.

Tools used: 10% acrysol, sandbags, the cleaning solution of 50% alcohol & 50% distilled water, synthetic brushes, metal tools, wooden tools, 5cm arrow for size reference, and aspirator.

Time spent in the lab was about 4 hours.


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11/5/2014 The Columbia Mammoth Tusk (Day 21)

Brought in some assistance from the Foothill Anthropology’s Osteology Club, as well as from my colleague, Dan Cearley to help with the prepping and plastering today.  Inside the cardboard box on the table, there sits the mammoth tusk just like you’ve seen in previous posts.  We are prepping to line the walls and the top (for now) surface of the tusk with tinfoil.  Creating a seal will keep the plaster from making contact with the tusk directly.

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I have anticipated this day for sooooooooooooooo long.  I never thought I’d have so many wonderful assistants to make this happen with me!

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Sure, we had the option to wear gloves, but WHY!?  Just wait till you scroll further & realize that it just LOOKS LIKE they’re wearing gloves!

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I have a sneaking suspicion we’re going to be needing a weeee bit more than just that.  But this is a great start!

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Okay….One layer down….NEXT!…. (notice we laugh at the use of gloves now)

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I have a sneaking suspicion that this again…will still not be enough plaster….

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Sooooo…..Apparently playing in plaster brings back child-like joy.  Not a bad side-effect!

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But back to work!  (bwahahahahahaha!)

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And there was much rejoicing….

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Ta da!  Inception meets fruition!

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Successful day!  We’ll revisit this in a week, giving it time to set.

Tools used: 12 gallons of water, 30 pounds of plaster, the assistance of 3 students, 1 lab director, 1 lab researcher (me), 1 professor (aka, “adult supervision”…cough cough cough!), the mammoth tusk in its little plaster house, LOTS of tape (painters & duct), cardboard, plastic drop cloth, plastic containers and a good sense of humor.

Time in lab was about 3 hours.

*Pssssst!!!!….Next week, WE FLIP THE MAMMOTH!

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4/9/14 The Columbia Mammoth Tusk (Day 13)

Yup, more playing catch-up.  I admit, I was working on a lot, but not updating.  Bad Kanya!  I’ll make it up to you, I promise.  Just know that today was a day of magic!  Yes, this is my lab…no, I’m not making anything that will burn the place down.  But I did have to wear a sexy respirator & goggles & make sure that no one else was around.  Don’t want to burn my eyes, or skin, or anyone else!  Safety first!

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So, remember that teaser about me having to make archival liquid plastic?…Yup, here it is.  Everyone, welcome to Paraloid B-72.  By itself, they are these plastic beads that are no larger than 1x1cm each.  They are harmless enough until you add acetone.  You’ll see cheesecloth and mason jars in the photo too, which I’ll explain.

Mason Jar #1 has just acetone in it.  I am using it to thin out my solution if needed.


Mason Jar #2 has acetone in it, with the Paraloid B-72 beads wrapped in cheesecloth that is suspended just a little above the bottom of the glass jar.  These Paraloid B-72 beads will melt overnight & become a clear solution.  Crossing my fingers!!!!

Acetone #2

Weighed out acetone & Paraloid B-72 in math that’s going to change, so I’m not going into greater detail.

Tools used were glass beakers, scales, glass pipettes, acetone, Paraloid B-72, mason jars, cheesecloth, respirator, gloves, goggles and a lot of prayer.  I think the sandbags qualify as “tools”, right?…I hadn’t thought about them till now.

And STILL haven’t blown anything up!  (knock on wood)

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Posted by on 11/17/2014 in Mammoth


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4/8/14 The Columbia Mammoth Tusk (Day 12)

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Late posting, I know!  I need to play catch-up so that you can follow along in my adventure!

Working on the cleaning of the mammoth tusk, but also I’m working on creating an archival glue that will be strong and yet not degrade the tusk in the meantime.  Never thought I’d be creating liquid plastic!  But I digress.

Cleaned the mammoth tusk on the proximal end (that’s the far right end of the tusk in the photo).  There’s a lot of cracking going on, which is why I hadn’t cut that back. the plaster on that end very much.  But SOON!

Used 5cm arrow for size reference. Continued using the cleaning solution of 50% alcohol & 50% distilled water. Tools used to clean the ivory tusk are synthetic brushes, metal tools, wooden tools, aspirator and acrysol of varying percentages.

Spent 6 hours in the lab since a bunch of that was exploring this liquid plastic that will be in my next post!

*Teaser note: I did NOT blow anything up…(knock on wood)*


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More Mammoth-ing Coming Soon!

Just me in the lab working on the tusk.

Just me in the lab working on the tusk.


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I’m a Featured Speaker, April 12th at Santa Clara University’s Research Conference!!!!


41st Annual Western Departments of Sociology and Anthropology Undergraduate Research Conference

Presenting my curation work on the mammoth tusk I’ve been working on since last year!!!  Very excited about this!!  Sure, you could replace the word, “excited” & insert the word, “nervous”….Either way, I’m feeling awesome!


CONFERENCE SCHEDULE:  (psssst….I’m in Session IX)






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3/17/2014 The Columbia Mammoth Tusk (Day 11)

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This tusk has been through a lot.  I’m happy with where we are considering where we were not too long ago.  Did you see the drama?  It was scary!  I think we’re in a good place now though, especially with new techniques in play.

Used 5cm arrow for size reference. Continued using the cleaning solution of 50% alcohol & 50% distilled water. Tools used to clean the ivory tusk are synthetic brushes, metal tools, wooden tools, aspirator and acrysol of varying percentages.

Sections & their percentage of Acrysol used:

Section 1 – 4: 5% Acrysol

Section 5 & 6 : 10% Acrysol

Section 7: 5% Acrysol

NEW Section 8 has been cleaned!: 10% Acrysol

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Thought I’d give you another perspective on what the scale of CRAZY is that I’m working with.  I can’t see the whole thing all the time, so often I pray that what I’m doing on one side isn’t going to horribly effect the other.

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Remember these in the box in the previous post?…Sure, I wouldn’t be holding these with my bare hands if it was something that I was truly trying to preserve.  No worries!  I wear gloves all the time.  But I had to touch these piece of ivory that we tested this new archival bonding agent on.  So far, so good.

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Ever wonder what’s in my magic bag when I’m in the lab?…….

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Ta Da!!!


(7 hours in lab)

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Posted by on 03/21/2014 in Mammoth, Tusk


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