Written by Paul Sereno   |   September 19, 2000

Hi, this is Paul Sereno, leader of the 2000 expedition to Niger, reporting at the end of Camp 3.

Our Camp 3 now winding down, and we’re setting up for our final Camp 4, as we move toward the 90-million-year-old beds, the end of the dinosaur era as it is recorded in Niger. Before we left Camp 3, however, a major discovery.

We expect to find dinosaur bones when we come into the field, but sometimes you find something you’re not expecting. We had seen beautiful rock engravings on some of the desert rocks that we are walking among to find dinosaur bones. Who were these people? They are people that lived here between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago here in the desert. The rock engravings, sometimes incredibly beautiful, are found on the cliffs that we are searching for dinosaur bones. They lived among these same rocks so many years ago. Their bones are rare.

It just so happened, at the end, the very last day, of our prospecting from Camp 3—the very last few minutes, in fact—we would come across a major site. It started with the discovery of some crocodile bones, bones that didn’t match anything that we had gotten from the dinosaur level. Then, someone stumbled on the back end of a fossilized cow skull. What, we asked, was a cow skull doing in the middle of dinosaur beds? And soon, an anthropology graduate from the University of Chicago with a big smile on his face, [unintelligible] bone of an ancient human, fossilized, ceramic in its sound, thousands of years old.

Well, a few minutes later, the photographer in our group wandered a couple hundred yards away. He came back to report the discovery of a major find. Perhaps as many as a dozen or more skeletons of humans, coming to the surface with artifacts, jewelry, and all sorts of other indications of their lifestyle and the animals that lived with them, preserved on the surface of the desert. It was a major discovery, and I’ll report it to Nigerian archaeologists. It dates back probably about 5,000 years and may become the classic site for documentation of what is known as the Tenere culture.

This culture, people that lived 5,000 years ago, was a Stone Age culture. We have many of their stone implements, they were using harpoons, and the environment was oh-so-different than today. There were large lake beds and streams in the vicinity, wildlife around it. Animals like crocodiles, enormous turtles, and fish could be found among the remains of the humans at this site.

So, in closing, discoveries that we did not expect to make, archeological in nature, a major Neolithic find, highlighting the end of our stay at Camp 3. Tune in for more discoveries from Camp 4. This is Paul Sereno, leader of the 2000 expedition to Niger, checking out.