Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Archaeological survey by mole rat?

FAUNAL-ASSISTED ARCHAEOLOGY: Blind, bucktoothed mole-rats just might be archaeologists’ new best friends. Israeli researchers propose a revolutionary new methodology in the field: Analyzing the mounds of dirt created by the mightily ugly, burrowing Nannospalax ehrenbergi (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
You could call them the ultimate excavators: Bulldozing dirt that’s 10 times their body weight, they can survive underground in thin oxygen, they work for literally peanuts, and, being remarkably resistant to cancer, they don’t even take sick days.

A team of Israeli archaeologists proposes that Middle East blind mole-rats, with their massive numbers and burrowing skills, be systematically harnessed for cheap labor. And in fact, analysis of their molehills just may constitute a revolution in archaeological best practices.

Instead of taking hours — or even days and weeks — to complete complicated and time-consuming surveys in search of hidden ancient sites, the Bar-Ilan University researchers propose systematically studying dirt from molehills, or other rodent dirt piles, to more efficiently and cheaply ascertain loci of human activity from the past.

This article is a follow-up to an earlier one on the archaeological use of mole-rat mounds at Tel ‘Eton. For more on faunal-assisted archaeology, see the links there.The proposal is to formalize the use of rodent mounds as part of archaeological surveys.

Commendably, the author resisted the temptation to include a joke about making mountains out of molehills.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.