Mercifully, the tour was not all walking but was broken up by more of Mike’s anecdotes. At one site he found a mother and child diprotodon skeleton, just metres apart. When the local residents found out about the fossils and how they must have died together, they called it the Madonna and Child of Riversleigh. There were also stories told at previously worked sites like Camel Sputum (named by Henk, another palaeontologist, when he was in a particularly bad mood), and other curiously named localities, which together formed a loose history of the dig at Riversleigh. At each site, we saw bones peering out of the limestone, and proving that the ‘richness of the sites’ quoted in numerous articles wasn’t just hearsay.
We didn’t just learn about fossils though. The geologists were hard at work, seeking out flowstone – evidence of cave systems – that could be used to date the sites.
We saw more of the landscape – spinifex and acacia mostly.
And more of the trecherous limestone – I had to watch out for all those holes.
At lunch, our spider expert dug out a hairy native tarantula from under some Spinifex – in the name of research, of course – which became the prime attraction at the dinner table that evening.
All of this was very interesting, but for a person whose idea of exercise is a walk to the corner shop and back, it was also exhausting. I was ready for a big nanny nap. I might have an interest in palaeontology, but a field palaeontologist I was not meant to be.