Luiz Simao’s Diary

Thursday, August 11, 2005 Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Tuesday, August 9, 2005 Monday, August 8, 2005
Sunday, August 7, 2005 Saturday, August 6, 2005
Friday, August 5, 2005 Thursday, August 4, 2005
Wednesday, August 3, 2005 Tuesday, August 2, 2005
Monday, August 1, 2005 Sunday, July 31, 2005
Saturday, July 30, 2005 Friday, July 29, 2005
Friday, February 18, 2005 Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Thursday, August 11, 2005 It is time to go home with memories. I’m missing the new friends but proud of what we were a part of and what we learned.
Some lessons learned:
  • It is hard work, not leisure time, but it could be a very good experience to remember.
  • To be with different people for many days could be hard or a unique opportunity to learn and grow.
  • Everybody is different, but it is possible to live in peace.
  • Some people are changing the world, and to know them is a real pleasure.
  • The knowledge is available for those who are open to learning 

Wednesday, August 10, 2005 We traveled to Granada and enjoyed Alhambra, with its gardens, palaces, and towers from the Moorish period in Spain.

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 We cleaned and organized both sites to prepare them for new research. We also visited the mining museum “Las Matildas.”

Monday, August 8, 2005 This was the last day for excavations. Its funny how different we are compared to the beginning. I was working like a professional, spending much less effort and finding many more pieces.

Sunday, August 7, 2005 It was a normal day of work. 
Something difficult to explain is the feeling you get when you find an important piece and then you need to establish the exact point on the site. You really feel good.
Jose gave a presentation about all aspects of the research. This gave us an opportunity to talk with a researcher who launched and proved a new paleontological theory—not only about his scientific journey but also his personal adventures to prove this new theory.

Saturday, August 6, 2005 We visited the Orce and Venta Micena sites today. These sites are very important in this research, because a human cranium more then 1.5 millions years old was found in Orce in the 1980s. This is the one that proved humans came from Africa by Gibraltar.
This region is unbelievable. It is dry and hot. Just to understand, imagine a desert in the mountains of the southeast of Spain. We visited the cave houses in the area and the archeological/paleontological sites. At the end of this enjoyable trip to the past, we visited the castle “Castillo de Velez Blanco” in Almeria.

Friday, August 5, 2005 It was a normal day of work. 
In the afternoon, we were in a natural park that was an old mining area. Today, it’s a place to walk and look the sea and the entire region (you can hike on the cliffs in front of the Mediterranean).

Thursday, August 4, 2005 It was a normal day of work.
Another evening activity is to get small quantities of earth from the area rich in fossils and look at the dirt against a white surface to try and find small fossils.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005 It was a normal day of work. 
One activity that we do in the evenings is clean the pieces we found in the morning. With small brushes and water, we try to clean each without damaging it. It is not a difficult job, but it is important to catalog the pieces that we find.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005 We worked in the cave again today because it was raining. The job outside the cave could be more dangerous when it is raining.
After work, we had the opportunity to explore the galleries of the cave. The cave is huge and amazing to explore, but at the same time I cannot imagine how adults and children could have worked here for many, many hours a day doing the mining activities.
In the afternoon, we visited Cartagena to get to know the city and understand its importance to European history. There are some interesting buildings that show the Roman presence.

Monday, August 1, 2005 Finally, we were to dig in Cueva Victoria. We had three activities—dig in the area with the highest probability of finding fossils, transport the dirt to the sieves, and sieve the dirt to try to find important fossils (bones, teeth, etc.) of the animals that lived and died in the cave.
Our team found very interesting pieces, including some teeth and big bones (like a part of a horse leg and cranium).
Tonight, we had a fascinating presentation about the importance of the job we are involved with. The researches are looking for evidence for their thesis that man came from Africa to Europe via the Gibraltar channel. The opposite thesis is that the man came from Africa via Asia.

Sunday, July 31, 2005 This was our first really hard workday.
Our routine will be to wake up around 7 a.m., work on the sites between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., have lunch at 3 p.m., work at the house between 6 and 8 p.m., and have dinner at 10 p.m.
Today in the morning, my team worked outside the cave. The job was to remove the rocks inside the site and start to dig, sieving the earth to find mammal clues. This area is so interesting to excavate because there was a little lake here. It’s possible to find old bones and shelves.
In front of the site, we have the San Gine monastery, which is closed and partially destroyed. It’s one more example of the rich culture of this country.

Saturday, July 30, 2005 The team has 16 volunteers (one of us missed a flight and arrived on July 31). I am from Brazil, and the others are Americans (from different states). The researchers are Jose and Luis Gibert (father and son) from Catalunha and Alfredo from Galicia.
There are two sites where we will work. Part of the team will work in Cueva Victoria, and the others will be in an area outside the cave. The two sites are 200 meters (218 yards) apart.
The archaeological/paleontological sites are in the city of Cartagena. This city is famous for its history of wars involving Romans and Arabians. Today, it is an important Spanish navy port.
Mining had been the main economical activity since the 19th century. Cueva Victoria was a manganese mine, and even today it is possible to see traces of the work that was done there.
Cueva Victoria is important to this team’s research because more than 1 million years ago, it was a hyena den. These animals and others ate their food there. The question is, if some animals came from Africa to Europe more than 1 million years ago, why not the humans? This is what I learned visiting the research sites and the Cartagena Mining Museum

Friday, July 29, 2005 After many hours traveling through five time zones, I arrived at Granada, Spain. The first part of the group (eight people) met in the airport at 1 p.m. to go to our “home.”
The weather was really hot, and we had to travel about 300 kilometers (186 miles) by car. Near the sea, we had a big surprise—a traffic jam. Some farmers closed the entrance of a city to protest the lack of water for their agricultural activities. This city between Granada and Cartagena is a tourist attraction, and it seems that the water is not enough for both activities (an old issue at a new level).
After 36 hours of traveling, the best thing to do was sleep.

Friday, February 18, 2005 I received an expedition briefing for the project, and I carefully read it that same day. Here is a summary:

“The site at Venta Micena in Orce, Granada, southeast of Spain, is situated in the Altiplano region. The landscape has a desert aspect but is attractive at the same time with it canyons and small oasis. The temperature is high, and the humidity is very low. The volunteers will be accommodated in caves.

The work that will be done involve excavations, sampling, and surveys, and the subjects of the field training will be human paleontology and evolution, archaeology, and geology. In this area, 4 million years of history is written in the rocks, artifacts, and fossils.

The Granada region had a long period of Moorish influence, and some monuments of great beauty can be found, such as the Alhambra. Another interesting place is Sierra Nevada, with the highest mountains in Spain.”

After read this briefing, I am sure that will be a great time.

Tuesday, February 8, 2005 Today is the last day of the Brazilian carnival, a very famous party in my country. It is a holiday, but I decided to read my emails from home. I can’t describe my surprise and excitement when I saw the words “Congratulations….”
I am from Poços de Caldas, Brazil, and I have been working for Alcoa for 10 years. The last five years have been as an Alcoa Business System consultant.
When I filled out the application for the 2005 Alcoa Earthwatch Fellowship Program, I thought it was almost impossible to be chosen. Maybe, but sometimes the impossible happens.
The project is Early Man in Spain. What does it mean? Where is it in Spain? Who are the other Alcoa employees that will be going with me? So many questions in my mind that I couldn’t work. I decided to surf the Internet looking for information. I like history, but my knowledge about archeology is superficial. Let’s go study. I was in Spain (it is a beautiful country) in 2004 but only in Galicia. Let’s go look at the maps. I did this all day long—traveling in my dreams.

Earthwatch Institute

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Early Man in Spain

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