Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Seven Site: Background links to my in-progress report on the Seven Site. In a nutshell:

1. We think it’s the site where, in 1940, human bones were found together with a sextant box, remains of a woman’s shoe and a man’s shoe, a Benedictine bottle, and some corks on chains, near the remains of a fire with bird and turtle bones. Although the artifacts and bones have disappeared:

a. Measurements taken on the bones at the time are consistent with their being from a woman of Earhart’s height and ethnicity;
b. Numbers on the sextant box strongly suggest that it once contained a sextant that was in the inventory of the U.S. Navy at the end of World War I, possibly having been modified for aviation use and quite likely sold as surplus; and
c. The corks on chains could have been stoppers from desert water bags, two of which were aboard Earhart’s plane.

2. Gerald Gallagher’s telegrams about the discovery report that the cranium was buried by its finders; he then dug it up. There’s a hole in the ground at the Seven Site that makes little sense as a well, cellar, or much of anything else; we think it may be where the cranium was buried and then excavated.

3. In 2001 we re-excavated the hole and its backdirt with no success, but on the nearby surge ridge that bisects the site on a NW-SE axis, we found fire features with fish, bird, and turtle bones together with two piles of giant clam shells, a concentration of butterclam shells, and a number of enigmatic and not-so enigmatic artifacts. In 2007 we found more features and artifacts. In summary, it appears that:

a. Somebody camped at the site, collecting and cooking a rather unselective sample of fish from the reef and/or lagoon, along with a few birds, at least one adult sea turtle, some baby turtles, and clams.
b. This somebody didn’t consume the heads of the fish, as indigenous island consumers would have;
c. This somebody didn’t know how to open giant clams, tried to pry them open from the hinge side as one would an oyster, and then busted the bejeebers out of them with rocks;
d. This somebody tried to do something with bottles in one of the fires, perhaps attempting to distill or purify water;
e. The site was subsequently used by personnel from the nearby 1944-46 US Coast Guard Loran station for informal target practice and perhaps bird shooting, resulting in a scatter of M-1 cartridges and objects probably used as targets (plates, etc.).
f. At some point or points in time the island’s colonists built a small house on the site, installed a steel tank to collect water, brought in a good deal of corrugated iron, and planted coconuts, which failed. They also probably cut down some large hardwood trees and dragged them off the site.
g. Someone, at some point, lost or discarded:

i. A woman’s compact from the 1930s;
ii. An article of clothing with an American-manufactured zipper from the 1930s;
iii. An article of clothing with a snap;
iv. An article of clothing with a large button;
v. A bottle containing some kind of crème or lotion
vi. Something (or things), probably made of wood, containing American wood screws, a small pin, and two small hand-made aluminum items with teeth;
vii. A thin, laminated ferrous metal box(?) about 40 cm. on a side;
viii. Some other ferrous metal items we’re working on identifying (they’re all reduced to tiny pieces of rust).

Here’s a map of the site, and an overhead photomosaic made in 2007 using kite aerial photography (KAP). As you can see from the photomosaic, the site is ordinarily covered in Scaevola frutescens, a really nasty shrub that we remove (with care and considerable effort) using pneumatic loppers, chain saws, and bush knives. Disposal of the detritus is always a problem.

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