While I went about my normal routine and moved through my day as if nothing unusual were taking place, the images that filled my head were from a documentary I had seen a day or two earlier. A paleontologist, named Dr. Paul Sereno, from the University of Chicago, had taken some fellow scientists on an expedition of the Sahara Desert in search of dinosaurs back in 2000.
The whole story and wonderful photos by Mike Hettwer are available on several sites on the Internet for anyone curious about the details. While they did not unearth dinosaurs on that trip, they did find bone fragments of several animals and in subsequent return trips with additional experts, they discovered, and had shipped back to the labs in Chicago, several individuals from a human burial site they found. The story is quite remarkable, but most touching for me was the finding of a woman buried with two young children, who were five and eight years old. The three were believed to have drowned together and in death, the mother’s hands were crossed at the wrists, and extended toward the children.
This gesture and the placement of the bodies together, so poignant to me, I thought about them for a couple of days. These people lived between 10,000 – 5,000 years ago, according to Dr. Sereno, and here we are studying their skeletons and the brilliant paleontologists reconstructing their culture from tiny shards of pottery and the smallest of details to tell us how the area we see today sand-locked, looked then.